Remembering The Who’s Keith Moon

Author: Jim Johnson

It was 38 years ago today (September 7th, 1978) that the Who‘s drummer Keith Moon died at age 32. Moon’s death, which was ruled accidental, was caused by an overdose of Heminevrin, a medication prescribed to help alleviate alcohol withdrawals, mixed with alcohol. According to police reports there were 32 pills found in Moon’s system, some of which were not yet dissolved. He died while staying in Harry Nilsson‘s London apartment — which coincidentally was where “MamaCass Elliott had died four years earlier. Moon was survived by his daughter Mandy and his fiancee Annette Walter-Lax.

On August 18th, 1978, the Who released their final album with Moon, called Who Are You. Earlier that month, Moon and Pete Townshend appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America to promote the new album. Although Moon was bloated and heavily made up, he tried valiantly to offer a positive spin on the band’s future as a live act when asked if he still had the urge to tour: “Yes I would, I enjoy going out on the road very much. But only under certain circumstances and certain conditions. I like to play certain halls and certain towns. Y’know, do a few gigs in London, some in the States.”

The night before his death, Moon and Walter-Lax attended a preview of the movie The Buddy Holly Story, thrown by Paul and Linda McCartney, on the eve what would have been Holly’s 42nd birthday. According to most reports, Moon, who was drinking white wine, was slightly subdued, in high spirits, and at no point seemed drunk or inebriated in any way.

At the party after the screening, he was photographed talking with McCartney and his future Who replacement Kenney Jones. Jones recalled his last meeting with Moon: “Keith and I just went straight into each other, just talking, ’cause we hadn’t seen each other for a while. I said, ‘How ’bout you Keith, what’ve you been up to?” He said, ‘Oh, I’m clean, I’m straight, I’m. . .’ He was telling me that he’d given up drinking for nearly six months, and he felt so much better.”

According to Walter-Lax, Moon had originally not wanted to go out that night in an effort to try to curb his drinking, but did snort a small account of cocaine before leaving their apartment.

Prior to his death, the Who were debating forcing Moon out of the band due to his debilitating alcoholism. Shortly after Moon’s death Townshend told the British press, “Keith’s death is something that we expected for 20 years, but when it happens you just can’t take it in. I’m very upset. I’ve lost a man I loved.”

Watch Keith Moon’s drum kit explode:

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