One of rock’s most beloved personalities, “Moon the Loon” left in his wake a legacy of wildly-extravagant capers that included chucking furniture out of hotel windows, plotting fake kidnappings on the streets of London and of course, depositing perfectly good automobiles into various bodies of water.
A “lead drummer,” by his own reckoning, Moon was a whirling, combustible percussive force, whose adrenalised approach to drumming made him a focus of the Who’s live gigs. For years, his ravenous appetites for amphetamines, alcohol and tranquillisers were lustily celebrated in the media, but by 1973, the wheels were already coming off.
That year, at a gig at San Francisco’s Cow Palace in front of 14,000 fans, Moon passed out mid-show after downing copious quantities of brandy and animal tranquillisers. A fan famously hopped up on stage to finish the show for him. The ensuing years saw the erstwhile-exuberant drummer spiral deeply into alcoholism and addiction — a condition that he would not survive.
This video captures Moon’s final television interview – a highly-publicised appearance on Good Morning America with host David Hartman, on August 7, 1978. The Keith Moon of years past would have salivated at the opportunity to unleash a siege of chaos upon GMA’s unsuspecting host as all of America looked on in horror. But here we see a very different Keith Moon.
Moon and Pete Townshend are promoting their forthcoming new album, Who Are You and straight off the bat, it’s clear that Moon is under the influence of something. Sprawled on the couch in a red silk shirt, black dinner jacket and white pants, Moon looks like a washed-up lounge singer. At 1:54, Hartman asks Keith if he feels that he’s in control of his life at all, to which Moon replies, “Certain days...”
“What are you like the other days?”
“Quite, quite out of control,” Moon stutters. “Amazingly...drunk...”
It’s not a laddish, wink-at-the-camera moment; instead, Moon sounds genuinely confused. Hartman’s attempts to spread his questions evenly between the two further reveals Keith to be a shell of his legendary self. Throughout the entire interview, Moon is unable to summon the wit and roguish charm that had once so effortlessly endeared him to the public.
When Hartman asks, at 6:52, if the band will be together when they’re in their fifties, Keith fumbles through an answer that, in hindsight, is both heartbreakingly optimistic and ill-fated.
Exactly one month later, Keith Moon and girlfriend Annette Walter-Lax would attend a midnight screening in London of The Buddy Holly Story, hosted by Paul McCartney. Throughout the next eight hours, Moon ingested cocaine, a bit of alcohol and over thirty tablets of Heminevrin — a drug that he had been prescribed to curb his alcohol cravings, which he had been heavily abusing.
Side effects included forgetfulness and docile behaviour, possibly explaining his demeanour on Good Morning America. This final, highly-excessive dose would prove fatal. The next afternoon, on September 7, 1978, Walter-Lax found him unresponsive in bed. Rock and roll’s greatest drummer had passed away at the age of 32.