Keith Moon: 1947-1978

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Whatever the band does, no permanent replacement for Moon will be sought. Apparently, the plan is to recruit specific drummers for specific projects. But what the loss of Moon might also mean would be an increase in instrumentation if the Who should do live dates. "We'd need two drummers to replace him," Entwistle said, and he wasn't joking. More likely, the group will add a keyboardist for future concert appearances – if there are any.

Daltrey and Entwistle would both like to tour; Entwistle, in fact, says it's essential. "I suppose playing in the recording studio, you get a reaction from other people sitting there listening," he said. "But I couldn't stand a career without appreciation. Besides, I play fifty times better onstage; as a musician I don't feel fulfilled without playing onstage."

Townshend is apparently still determined to avoid the road, for reasons outlined last issue. In any event, the group has a full slate of projects before it. The Kids Are Alright, the documentary history of the group, is nearly completed; filming has begun for Quadrophenia, based on Townshend's second rock opera: and at least two other films, Daltrey's McVickar and Townshend's and Entwistle's Lifehouse, are in the planning stages. Although Moon left no will, settling his estate will not delay any of these ventures, according to Curbishley.

One of the central ironies of Moon's death is that the response to Who Are You had already assured that it would be their best-received album, commercially speaking, in several years. Since its release August 15th it had already gone Top Ten in both the U.S. and Great Britain, and the title song seems about to become the band's biggest seller.

London was a strange place to be the week after Moon's death. Although his demise made frontpage headlines for several days, it was treated with atypical gentleness even by the tabloids. Journalists seemed more prepared to mourn "Moon the Loon," as they call him, than to exploit another rock drug overdose. (Ironically, again, the paper with the most sensitive obituary, the Guardian, also ran the most exploitative "rock drug death" sidebar.) But the treatment was gentle for a reason: Moon was a sort of national hero in Britain, one of that country's long line of eccentrics who are loved for their excesses rather than in spite of them. Several people told me that their mothers were among the most upset at the news of Moon's death. His contributions to rock, in that sense, are overshadowed by his accomplishments as a comedian. "He was an institution," Daltrey said passionately, and then in a spirit Keith might have appreciated: "He should have been nationalized."

London's rock community greeted the news of his death with a mixture of fatalism and disbelief. Given Moon's lifestyle, the fatalism was predictable. But on September 9th, backstage at the Knebworth pop festival, disbelief was predominant. The only mention of Moon onstage came from an American group, the Tubes, who closed their show with a medley of Who numbers. Elsewhere, the same story held: the only other onstage dedication to Moon came from Clement Burke, drummer for Blondie, another American act. Burke kicked over his kit at the end of the show Saturday night, saying, "That's for Keith Moon, the greatest drummer in the world."

The greatest impact of Moon's death was on the Who as individuals. Although the band is famous for its internal spats and fistfights, and all the members claim to feel little social obligation to one another, all were clearly deeply disturbed by the loss. Both Daltrey and Entwistle referred to Moon as a "brother." When I saw Pete Townshend briefly September 12th, five days after the shock, he was still bleary eyed.

"We all feel very weird: Keith has always appeared so close to blowing himself up in the past that we've become used to living with the feeling," Townshend said in his statement. "But this time, Keith hasn't survived, he hasn't come round, he hasn't thrown himself off the balcony and landed in one piece."

Entwistle's reaction was the strongest; he was perhaps the closest of all to Moon, and for years in the early days, they shared hotel rooms on the road. "At first, when Pete called to tell me, I thought it was some elaborate joke," he said. "I was halfway through an interview with some Irish press people when the bulletin came on the radio, and then I knew it was true. But it didn't sink in until a couple of days later, when I spoke to his mother and Annette.

"But I also felt really angry that it happened in that way – a stupid accident. The last few weeks, Keith seemed really happy again. I'd seen him the week before, when he came in to do a few cymbal splashes for the Quadrophenia soundtrack, and we had a few laughs."

Indeed, as Moon said last issue, he felt that the Who's increased productivity gave him new direction. Townshend, Daltrey and Entwistle all have outside projects and they all have families. Moon had made a solo album, Two Sides of the Moon, in 1974, but most of his work outside the Who consisted of small parts in movies. In addition to his role as Uncle Ernie in Tommy, Moon appeared as a flying nun in Frank Zappa's 200 Motels, in David Essex's rock films That'll Be the Day and Stardust, and in Mae West's unreleased Sextette (he played a dress designer). But since the breakup of his marriage in 1975, Moon really only had the Who. Perhaps as a consequence, Entwistle points out, "He enjoyed the side of the rock business the rest of us shy away from in favor of homelife. There was no balance for him between the rock business and reality."

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