45 Years Ago: Keith Moon Makes His Final Appearance With the Who
Keith Moon climbed over his drum kit on May 25, 1978, took a bow, shook hands with fans and then walked off stage – unaware it would be the last time he’d do any of it.
The Who had reconvened (after two years of not touring) at Shepperton Studios in England to record some pick-up footage for their documentary movie The Kids Are Alright. Some tension surrounded the session, which was performed in front of a small audience, because director Jeff Stein was unhappy with “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
He wanted the band to play it again, and after some complaints, they did, giving it the bombastic ending Stein wanted. No one could have predicted Moon would be dead within four months, at age 32, a victim of his larger-than-life lifestyle.
Scottish bassist Chris Glen of Michael Schenker Group, who knew Moon during the last decade of his life, says he still finds the footage difficult to watch. The pair first met when the Who played the Caird Hall, Dundee, Scotland, around 1969, and Glen’s band Tear Gas — which later morphed into the Sensational Alex Harvey Band — was the support act. The Who and SAHB would later tour the U.K. together.
“It’s very emotional, and sadly it’s far from his best,” Glen says of the filmed performance, in an exclusive interview with UCR. “He’d put on a lot of weight by that time … and the worst bit was that the Who hadn’t been together for a while. I saw him the week after the recording and he told me, ‘I wish we’d got together before it, just hung out together for a bit, and that would have made it better.’"
Watch the Who Perform 'Won't Get Fooled Again'
Despite all Moon's much-documented antics, Glen says the drummer "cared an awful lot about the music."
"As a bass player," he notes, "I was impressed with John Entwistle, of course, and one of the most impressive things was that it was John’s problem to take what Pete Townshend and Keith were doing and pull it together. That’s not easy – and God knows how Roger Daltrey managed to find a place to fit in! But Keith really cared about what he did, and I think it’s a shame that’s ignored by the general populace.”
Glen had first-hand experience of Moon’s legendary eccentricities, and recounts a number of the drummer's outlandish moments in his memoir Chris Glen: The Bass Business. In one instance, they were in a penthouse suite in a hotel in Glasgow, when Moon, who’d stolen a megaphone, opened the window and announced that there was a bomb scare in the building, leading to a police raid. Moon was arrested but released with a warning. Glen also remembers a story about Moon leaving a U.S. hotel only to return an hour later, because he’d forgotten to throw the TV out of his room window.
But Glen insists that not all of the drummer's legendary antics were Moon's idea. “Keith was a nicer, quieter guy than people think he was," Glen says. "He was just easily led. You hear stories, like he drove his car into the swimming pool, but it wasn’t his idea. People would say, ‘Come on, Keith, do a Keith Moon thing! Drive your car into the swimming pool!’ and he’d go, ‘Okay, I will then.’ It’s not that he didn’t find it funny, or that he regretted it, it was just that if no one had asked him to do it, he wouldn’t have done it.”
Returning to the clip of Moon’s final Who appearance, Glen says: “It’s worth watching to remember how good Keith was, even at his not-very-best.”
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