It was exactly 40 years ago today that Who drummer Keith Moon was found dead at a London flat owned by Harry Nilsson after overdosing on clomethiazole, which he was prescribed to alleviate his alcohol withdrawal symptoms. By tragic coincidence, it was the exact same apartment where Cass Elliott of the Mamas & the Papas died four years earlier. Moon was just 32, but his rampant drug and alcohol use and madcap lifestyle that earned him the nickname “Moon the Loon” had bloated his once svelte frame and made him look about a decade older in the period leading up to his death.
Just one month before the tragedy, Moon gave his final TV interview when he appeared on Good Morning America with Pete Townshend to promote the Who’s then-new album Who Are You. Speaking with anchor David Hartman, Moon joked about his bad habits when asked if he was in control of his life. “On certain days,” he says. “[But on other days] I’m quite out of control. Amazingly … ah … drunk.” Check out the full interview above.
On the final night of his life, he attended a preview of The Buddy Holly Story with Paul and Linda McCartney. After the movie, he went back to the apartment and watched the 1971 Vincent Price comedy The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Before going to bed, he took 32 clomethiazole tablets and was found dead hours later. Just weeks earlier, the Who released Who Are You. On the cover, Moon is seated in a chair that reads “Not to Be Taken Away.”
The Who were back on the road the following May with Kenny Jones of the Faces on drums. He lasted until 1989 when future Toto drummer Simon Phillips took over the position, and in 1996 Ringo Starr’s gifted son Zak Starkey got the job. He’s held onto it to this day, meaning he’s been the Who’s drummer for longer than even Keith Moon held the role. But Starkey would be the first to admit that absolutely nobody can fill the shoes of Keith Moon. He was irreplaceable and the group was never the same after his death.