Flashback: The Who's Final Performance With Keith Moon - Rolling Stone
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Flashback: The Who’s Final Performance With Keith Moon

Watch the group play ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ four months before drummer died

On May 25th, 1978, a very rusty Who entered London’s Shepperton Studios to film a mini-concert for their career-spanning documentary The Kids Are Alright. They’d been off the road for nearly two years, though they did reform for a one-off in December of 1977 so director Jeff Stein would have new performances for his movie. Stein knew he needed amazing takes of “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and he was displeased with the 1977 footage. Reluctantly, the Who agreed to give it another try.

Keith Moon was only 31 at the time, but his endless partying had taken a severe toll on his body. He was bloated and out of practice. Nevertheless, the Who powered through a nine-song set that wrapped up with John Entwistle’s signature tune “My Wife.” They went to their dressing room sweaty and exhausted, but Stein wasn’t done with them. The director still wasn’t happy with “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and he told Pete he didn’t feel like it had a “definitive end.” “A definitive end?” Townshend reportedly said.  “What do you want me to do? Go out there and fall asleep on stage? Maybe I should go out there and die during my last solo? Or maybe I should hit that motherfucker who’s been yelling for ‘Magic Bus’ over the head with my guitar?”

Video: Pete Townshend Trades Quips on ‘Letterman’

The Who ultimately agreed to play the song one more time. This time Townshend leaped in the air during the climax, did a knee slide and bounced around the stage. He wrapped up with some windmills before lifting his guitar over his head, bouncing it off the ground and then using it to knock some cymbals across the stage. Stein was pleased, and the performance wrapped up the documentary.  

Just a few weeks earlier, the Who had finished work on their new album, Who Are You. It came out on August 17th, 1978. Keith Moon died less than a month later after mixing the alcohol withdrawal drug Clomethiazole with alcohol.  

The Who have toured with three different drummers over the past four decades. The last song ever performed by the original lineup is the retake of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” from Shepperton Studios. 

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