I watched an episode of Final 24 on some entertainment channel or other (I think it was E!) which covered the last 24 hours in the life of Who drummer Keith Moon.
Moon had been living in an apartment in London by 1978, owned by Harry Nilsson, and the place where Mama Cass Elliot died in 1974 of heart failure. He was on medication to help him curb his craving for alcohol, a problem which had reached a point where his position in the Who, as well as his other relationships, was in jeopardy of going south. The pills were prescription.
The quandary that Moon found himself in the day before was the fact that he’d been invited by Paul McCartney to the before-party and premier of the new film the Buddy Holly Story. It was an ‘everyone is going to be there’ event. Yet Moon was worried about being able to stay off of the booze. He decided not to go.
Unfortunately, Moonie also had a problem with cocaine, a package of which arrived the afternoon before his death. Rock stars can order cocaine as if they’re ordering a pizza, as one interviewee stated. After indulging himself, he changed his mind about the party, and he and his girlfriend, Annette Walter-Lax, went. Somewhere in there, he also ingested a few tablets of his anti-alcohol meds.
At the party, he was surrounded by friends (including Kenney Jones, the drummer who would replace him in the Who), who noticed that he wasn’t the Keith they knew. He was more withdrawn, and less than his “Moon the Loon” persona had once defined him. Eventually, he had a couple of glasses of champagne.
Part way through the film, Moon and Annette decided to go home for an early night, another uncommon thing in Keith’s life. He got home, watched a movie, took more anti-alcohol pills, ate a meal, and went to bed. In the night, he was restless. He took more medication, having lost count of the dosage by now. He went back to sleep. Because he began to snore, Annette left the room to sleep on the couch.
In the morning, Moon asked her to make breakfast, being uncommonly hungry as he had been the night previous. She did. He ate, and went back to sleep. And that was it. He died in his sleep. The coroner found 26 undissolved tablets in his stomach.
The thing that struck me about this chain of events was Moon’s own addictions to drugs was not the direct cause of his death. I think it was his addiction to maintaining his own sense of who he was supposed to be. People expected Moon the Loon, and he needed to live up to that, it seems. It’s possible that he would have fallen to a similar fate eventually. But the real catalyst was his need to live up to his own image, be at that party, be that guy.
It struck me too that he must have been very lonely too, not really allowing himself to give very many people a real picture of who he really was, and not really having the emotional maturity even to approach changing his outlook. The tragic thing was that Annette said that he was a very gentle, loving person at heart.
And that many told her afterwards that he was planning to ask her to marry him, that he had told many people at the party that he was going to do it the next day. Knowledge of that must be terrible. I know that the program may be aimed at those looking for salacious ‘rock star burns out for good’ type stories. But, I was left saddened.
Watch Keith Moon In Action
Moon is one of my favourite drummers – a totally chaotic approach to the drum kit, never settling on an obvious backbeat, yet keeping time and being musically interesting as well. His style is actually more like jazz drumming.
In the program, they showed side by side footage of Moon and Gene Krupa and the visual results are undeniable. Both drummers were reveling in their drumming, a visually dynamic display of prowess and showmanship. In terms of rock music and rock drumming, he was irreplaceable. Take a look at this clip of Keith Moon playing drums to see what I mean.
8 thoughts on “The Last 24 Hours of Keith Moon”
Moon was all over the place sometimes, and never lost the beat. Absolutely amazing stuff. He played drums like Entwhistle played bass.
Think I’ll drag out Quadrophenia…
I’ve always thought of the Who as a bunch of ‘leads’ – lead singer, lead guitarist, lead bassist, lead drummer – all trying to outdo each other. On paper it should be an absolute mess. Yet, listen to Live at Leeds and it’s astonishing, supernatural.
Hi, I really enjoyed the comments about the final 24 show, and I too found it sad how Keith Moon ended up passing away. It was an accident.
I was in the show, playing the role of Linda McCartney at the party along side Paul McCartney. Sadly I missed it when it aired on Jan 22nd.
Of course I would love to see it. I keep looking to see if it will be aired again. If you know when it will be shown again or have a copy I would love to know.
Thanks for your comments. It must have been slightly eerie to film that scene, I imagine. It’s a shame you didn’t get to see the episode on broadcast. I had it taped so that I could watch it after I put my daughter to bed. But once I watched it, I deleted it. If I had known that you and I would cross paths, obviously, I’d have kept it! 🙂
Thanks again for taking the time to make your comment.
Thanks anyway Rob. How did the party scene turn out? Did you see much of Paul and Linda? When we filmed it the director kept having Keith go in slow motion while we were all at normal speed. He wanted it to look like Keith was overwhelmed and caught up in his own world. It was fun because they cast me because they said I looked like Linda McCartney (plus I have acted for years!) and I never really thought I looked like her that much.
I hope it comes on again soon.
I loved your love song list without the cheese!
Hey again, Tamara!
One of the points which came out of the show which was made very clear was that Moon was going to be one of the key guests at the before-party thrown by McCartney. So, there was a fairly prominent party scene. To be honest, I don’t recall who is depicted, other than the actors who played moon and Annette. I remember thinking that the fellow who played Moon looked nothing like him, although in the end, it didn’t really affect the impact of the show for me. I’m sure there must have been a lot of Paul & Linda shots – it was at their table that all of the action unfolded at the party.
Can you not have your agent contact the production company for a copy of the show? I would have thought it would be of some use for future casting directors/agents. I don’t really know how these things work. Anyway, I hope you get your hands on a copy soon.
I’m glad you liked the love songs list. Stay tuned. I’ll be writing more lists in that series. I’m having a lot of fun with it.