Keith Moon: the most explosive rock star in history
From smashing up hotel rooms to blowing up toilets with dynamite, everything about The Who’s Keith Moon was explosive.Peter Iantorno January 13, 2015
Picture the scene, August 23, 1967, world-famous rock band The Who on their first North American tour arrive back at their hotel after a triumphant sell-out gig. It's the 21st birthday of drummer Keith Moon, so an impromptu party is thrown. Hilarity ensues, girls strip naked, fire extinguishers are let off, a giant cake is smashed all over partygoers provoking a huge food fight, and shards of porcelain are flying through the air after the toilet bowl is blown sky high with a stick of dynamite.
The police are called, a heavily intoxicated Moon misplaces his clothes and, upon hearing sirens, decides to leave the party in a hurry, hopping into a vacant limousine and releasing the handbrake, only to roll backwards into the hotel pool.
As he emerges from the water he's greeted by police at gunpoint, yet he still tries to make another break for it, this time slipping on the splattered cake and smashing his front tooth. He's finally apprehended, taken to county jail via a dentist and his tooth is fixed without any need for painkillers. The next day he's on a chartered plane to Philadelphia, ready to do it all over again.
Compare that to the likes of spoilt brat Justin Bieber and bland One Direction dominating today's mainstream music scene, and nowadays more than ever, we can really appreciate just how crazy the rock stars of old were.
The 1960s and '70s was a golden generation for English rock 'n' roll, with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and many more conquering the music industry and spreading their anarchistic message throughout the world.
Another band that that found success in the era was The Who. Formed in 1964, they went on to become one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century, selling more than 100 million records worldwide.
The classic line-up of lead singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist Pete Townshend, bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon were a massive part of the mod movement, and their free-spirited performances on stage resonated with young people the world over. The band were famous for their destructive style, often smashing up their instruments and destroying the stage setting after performances, but compared to the rest of his bandmates, Moon in particular was the one with a serious appetite for destruction.
Joining the band in 1964 before they recorded their first single, young drummer Moon gained a reputation not only as one of the best percussionists in the world, but also as an extremely loose cannon with a penchant for explosives.
Such was Moon's love of blowing things up, he used to carry around cherry bombs, M-80 fireworks and even sticks of dynamite, which ultimately became his weapon of choice. He blew up all manner of things simply to cause a nuisance and because he enjoyed the spectacle, but his absolute favourite prey was bathrooms, or more specifically, toilets. Moon took such pleasure in blowing up toilets that it became his calling card, and in every single hotel room he stayed in he'd make sure that before he left, the room was smashed up and the toilet had been blown to smithereens.
One time he's even reported to have instructed the driver of his limousine taking him from his hotel to the airport to turn around, claiming that he'd "forgotten something". As he arrived back at the hotel, he ran back to his room, grabbed the TV, threw it out of the window into the swimming pool and then jumped back into the limo saying, "I nearly forgot".
Moon was always the one who took things too far, and he did nothing to stop that reputation with his stunt when The Who appeared on American comedy programme The Smother Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967. The band had planned to end their performance of their hit single My Generation with their usual stage smash-up routine, but unbeknownst to his fellow members, Moon had planted a massive dose of gunpowder into his drum kit. At the end of the song he set off the charge, creating a huge explosion and giving Pete Townshend permanent hearing damage. (a video of the incident is below).
Moon's heavy drug-taking and alcohol-fuelled antics were bound to get the better of him sooner or later, and tragically his life was cut short when he overdosed on clomethiazole (a drug prescribed to alleviate his alcohol withdrawal symptoms). He was just 32 on the day of his death.
A flawed genius who died with the world at his feet, Keith Moon will always be remembered as one of the best drummers ever to walk there face of the earth... and a guy who simply couldn't get enough of blowing stuff up.