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40 Years Ago: Keith Moon Collapses Behind His Drum Kit in Boston

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An accounting of Keith Moon‘s antics could fill a handful of books. From the lunacy of driving a car into a swimming pool, to dressing up in Nazi gear and/or in drag for a night on the town, the Who‘s late drummer was a case study in anything goes. Unfortunately, some of his actions were far more dangerous than sight gags.

“I think he actually believed himself indestructible,” the late Who bassist John Entwistle told Rolling Stone in 1978. “I mean, I’ve seen him tumble down 30 stairs, and get up as though nothing had happened and begin a conversation.”

Oddly enough, one of Moon’s most infamous on-stage mishaps wasn’t – at least initially – chalked up to his consumption of drugs and alcohol. Instead, the Who said he was felled by symptoms from the flu just after taking the stage in front of a sold out crowd of more than 15,000 fans on March 9, 1976 at the Boston Gardens in Massachusetts.

The Who kicked things off with two early classics, “I Can’t Explain” and “Substitute,” when Moon collapsed. “We’ve got a little bit of a problem,” bassist John Entwistle announced. “Keith Moon is in very, very bad shape. This is no bull–, really. So, we’re gonna go and try and work something out.”

Singer Roger Daltrey tried to poke fun at the situation. “Why do our tours always start like this?!,” he asked the crowd. “Anyway, Keith Moon is really ill. He tried to come up tonight and play, but he’s got the flu. He’s out of it. There’s no way.”

Daltrey added that the Who would work with promoters to book a return trip – “probably the day after tomorrow. Hopefully Keith will be better by then,” he said. “We’ll make it up. Nobody wants to play more than the Who, I’ll tell you that now, but we don’t want to kill Keith Moon, right?!”

Fans, however, were less than enthusiastic about the idea of rescheduling, showering the band with boos. “Alright, we won’t come back,” Daltrey shot back. The Who did, however, return on April 1st to make up the cancelled date. Moon was back on track and the band delivered a “manic, frenzied performance” according to the Boston Globe.

Only later was it revealed that Moon’s downfall that evening was not the flu, but instead “a near-lethal intake of brandy and barbiturates,” according to Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere: The Complete Chronicle of The Who. The Boston concert came less than three years after a similar incident at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, when Moon passed out onstage after taking horse tranquilizers. He was replaced by a member of the audience that evening.

“We knew three different people,” Entwistle lamented. “There was the straight, normal Moon; the belligerent, posh-voiced Moon; and the completely unreasonable maniac – the one who argued in circles.”

Word was that the Who subsequently tried to put Moon on a tighter leash, removing all of the liquor from his dressing room and keeping closer tabs on him. Unfortunately, Keith Moon would be dead by 1978, having overdosed on pills meant to help him with the symptoms of withdrawals from alcoholism.

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