Wild Facts About Keith Moon, The Rock And Roll Animal

May 6, 2024 | Byron Fast

Wild Facts About Keith Moon, The Rock And Roll Animal

As a member of The Who, Keith Moon found an outlet for his two passions: playing the drums and causing mayhem.

1. He Was The Greatest

As The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon may have been one of the greatest rock and roll drummers of all time, but his lifestyle made him one of the greatest train wrecks of all time. His boozing and pill popping fueled a life of dangerous pranks, out of control stage pyro-techniques and failed relationships. He lived life to the fullest, but sadly, it ended with his unforgettably tragic and untimely demise. 

Keith MoonMichael Putland, Getty Images

2. He Was Bad At School

Keith Moon was born on August 23, 1946 and grew up in the London Borough of Wembley. Moon had trouble in school—and his teachers showed their disdain in the most unprofessional way. One teacher went as far as to say he was bordering on disabled when it came to art and “idiotic in other respects.” His music teacher thought he was a “show off”.

Well, Moon didn’t need school. He had his own way to learn about the world.

Keith MoonEvening Standard, Getty Images

3. He Was Explosive

Like many children, one of Moon’s pastimes was playing with chemistry sets. Unfortunately for his parents, Moon seemed to only focus on one aspect of chemistry. This was making things explode. Young Moon loved to smash objects into little pieces. This destructive fascination would turn into a very expensive pastime.

Keith Mooneddie sanderson, Getty IMages

4. He Walked Away

With all his troubles in school, it was no surprise when Keith Moon walked away from it altogether. As part of his master plan, Moon studied radio repair and used his earnings to invest in his first set of drums. He then hired a teacher—Carlo Little—who had a reputation for being the loudest drummer around. Moon was ready to perform and wasted no time getting into trouble onstage.

Keith MoonMichael Putland, Getty Images

5. He Fired On Stage

Moon’s first band was The Beachcombers—and he came up with a shocking way to make his early performances memorable. During a show, he brought out a starter pistol and scared everyone by shooting the lead singer. It was all fun and games, but Moon was actually quite serious about being a musician—and he was about to be put to a very serious test.

Keith MoonGisjbert Hanekroot

6. He Met Them At The Exact Right Time

Keith Moon took a day job in a lumber yard, but it did little to tame his wild energy. He was itching to quit—and that’s when fate stepped in. Moon went to a show and saw an up-and-coming band called The Who. As luck would have it, The Who were performing with a temporary drummer because they’d just fired theirs.

With orange-dyed hair and a monochromatic orange outfit—certainly a memorable look--Moon walked up to the band.

Keith Moon The WhoMichael Putland, Getty Images

7. He Had A Lot Of Energy

Determined to make his mark, Moon walked up to the band and made a brave claim. He boastfully said that he could play better than the session drummer The Who had hired. To show them, he stepped behind the drum set and, during his brief but intense audition, tore the drum skin and broke the drum pedal.

The Who saw this destructive behavior as unbridled enthusiasm and asked him to join them at their next gig. Moon was a mystery to them. They had no idea how he would permanently change the course of The Who.

The Who in 1975Jim Summaria, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

8. He Was Moody

The Who now had a new drummer—and he was unlike anyone they’d ever worked with before. Moon had a peculiar habit when it came to playing the drums. The speed he played a song at depended on his mood. If he was happy, it would be fast, and if he was sad, it would be slower. This was great for Moon, but made playing with him more than a little challenging.

Clearly, Moon was not your typical drummer. One of his pet peeves clearly put him in a league of his own.

Keith MoonAnwar Hussein, Getty Images

9. He Didn’t Like It

Keith Moon soon became famous for hating something most drummers loved: drum solos. In 1974, The Who decided to play a little pranks on Moon. During a show at Madison Square Gardens, Pete Townshend and John Entwistle decided to just quit playing the song, hoping Moon would fill in. he quickly realized what was up and just yelled “drum solos are boring” and refused to continue.

Clearly, Moon was not afraid to express himself on stage, even when it cost him a fortune.

Keith MoonJack Kay, Getty Images

10. He Joined In

During one live show, Townshend accidentally broke his guitar and, since it was clearly no longer usable, Townshend decided to smash it on the stage. The audience went wild for this destructive behavior, and Moon had to get in on it. For the audience's pleasure he violently kicked his drum kit over. This soon became a repeated—and rather expensive—habit for Moon.

Sadly, Moon had a few even more destructive habits.

The WhoMichael Ochs Archives, Getty Images

11. He Had A Strange Diet

Another habit of Moon’s was the use of illicit substances He once told the NME that French Blues were his favorite food. This was actually an amphetamine called Dexamyl which housewives, mods and even a British Prime Minister had used for various purposes. Moon also mixed the pill use with booze, which led to some shocking behavior.

Keith MoonJack Kay, Getty Images

12. He Focused On the Toilet

The first time Ketih Moon trashed a hotel room was when The Who were playing in Berlin. While this was pretty standard rock star behavior, Moon took it to the next level. Remembering his chemistry set days, Moon stuffed the toilet with explosives and gleefully watched the catastrophic results. Some estimates say that repairing these toilets set him back close to $500,000.

While most of his room thrashing was spontaneous, some seemed scarily well planned out.

Keith MoonGeorge Wilkes Archives, Getty Images

13. He Forgot Something

One time, when The Who was on their way to the airport, and Moon announced that they absolutely had to return to the hotel because he’d forgotten something. When they got to their room, the band soon realized that Moon hadn’t forgotten anything. He’d just neglected to throw the TV into the swimming pool. He did it, and the band resumed their journey to the airport.

Moon was trying the band’s patience, and it was about to get very, very tense.

Keith MoonGAB Archive, Getty Images

14. He Made Him Mad

In 1966, Keith Moon had the opportunity to hang out with one of his idols, the Beach Boys’ Bruce Johnston. The two got on so well that Moon forgot he had a concert that night. He arrived late and joined the guys already on stage. Townshend didn’t care that they were in front of thousands of fans—he hit Moon with his guitar.

But it didn’t end there. Moon came up with a plan for revenge.

Keith MoonIvan Keeman, Getty Images

15. He’d Had Enough

Keith Moon had had it with Townshend and announced he was leaving The Who. He was also, apparently, taking Entwistle with him, cutting the band in half. It would have been the end of an era—except it didn’t happen. Moon saw what he was giving up and quietly rejoined the band.

Of course this didn’t mean that Moon was going to behave himself. Nope, not a chance.

Keith MoonThe VisualEyes Archive, Getty Images

16. They Got More Than They Bargained For

That same year, The Who was performing on the US variety show The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Tom and Dick Smothers certainly had an edge and also a reputation for being subversive. The brothers knew that Moon was an “explosive” talent and were hoping for a little bang for their buck.

What they got was much more than what they bargained for.

Keith MoonKlaus Hiltscher, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

17. He Went Around The Rules

Keith Moon wanted to do his exploding drum kit prank, but felt for US television it was a situation of “go big or go home”. There were rules about these kinds of things, but Moon allegedly paid a stagehand to make the explosion 10 times larger than usually allowed. At the end of their second song, Townshend smashed his guitar, and Moon ignited his drums.

What followed was absolute mayhem. 

Keith MoonJim Summaria, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

18. He Filled The Studio With Smoke

Soon the studio audience experienced a bright flash of light followed by an earthquake-like tremor. As the studio filled with smoke, the camera caught Townshend with his fingers in his ears and looking like he was in agony. Tommy Smothers walked on stage with an acoustic guitar in hand, and Townshend grabbed the guitar and smashed it.

Clearly this was not typical Smothers Brothers entertainment, and it resulted in some serious repercussions.

Keith MoonMCA Records, Wikimedia Commons

19. There Was Permanent Damage

Moon was closest to the explosion, and shrapnel from his cymbal actually went into his arm. But it was Townshend who got the worst of it. He later said that his hair caught fire, and he suffered permanent hearing damage. Sadly, it wouldn’t be the last time that Moon’s destructive antics hurt one of his friends.

Moon was clearly out of control—but he was about to settle down in at least one way.

Keith MoonKlaus Hiltscher, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

20. He Tied The Knot

Early in 1965, Moon started dating a model named Kim Kerrigan. At the end of that year, Kerrigan was pregnant and the two tied the knot—without much glamour—at a local register’s office. In July 1966, Kerrigan had the baby, which they named Amanda. But for years, Moon hid his marriage and family from the press, only owning up to it in 1968.

This secrecy didn’t prevent Moon from being an obsessively jealous husband.

Kim KerriganRoger Jackson, Getty Images

21. He Wanted Her To Himself

Though his wife was a model, Keith Moon didn’t want anyone noticing her. If a man commented on her looks, Moon would heartlessly take it out on Kerrigan. Moon also wanted his wife to give up her career as a model. This was particularly strange, because at the same time Moon was embarking on his own modeling career.

One day his jealousy just went too far.

Keith MoonLarry Ellis, Getty Images

22. She Locked Herself Up

Kerrigan was often in fear of Moon. On one occasion Moon got so angry that she had to lock herself in the bathroom to get away from his violent behavior. This wasn’t about to stop Moon. He got a knife from the kitchen and attempted to cut through the door to get to her. It was clear that Kerrigan was not safe with Moon, as it turned out, neither were his fellow musicians.

The Who in 1965KRLA Beat/Beat Publications, Inc, Wikimedia Commons

23. They Had Him By The Legs

While on tour with Peter Frampton, Moon was looking out the dressing room window and messing with the fans down on the street. He then asked Frampton to also look out the window. Before Frampton knew what was happening, he was dangling out the window. Moon and bandmate Entwistle had thrown him out and were holding him by his legs.

Moon’s acting out behavior was definitely leading to something and it came to a climax in Flint, Michigan.

George Marino and Peter FramptonDmileson, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

24. He Was Ready To Party

In 1967, The Who was on tour with Herman’s Hermits and when they arrived in Flint, Michigan, it was Moon’s 20th birthday. Since the drinking age in America is 21, Moon lied and said he was actually turning a year older than he was. Nobody bothered to check Moon’s ID when he ordered drinks.

What happened next went down in rock and roll history. 

Keith MoonJean-Luc, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

25. He Got 200

Keith Moon started drinking as soon as they arrived in Michigan, and by the time they went on stage, Moon was completely inebriated. He got through the concert, and then they went back to the Holiday Inn. Here they found that fans had sent them 200 birthday cakes. Not trusting cakes sent by random fans, none of the musicians felt comfortable eating them.

But Moon found a way to make sure they didn’t go completely to waste.

Keith MoonKlaus Hiltscher, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

26. He Threw It

Moon immediately took a piece of cake and started a food fight, which everyone joined in on. When officers appeared at the hotel, they got a face full of cake from Moon who was now down to his underwear. When his bandmates, trying to escape the law, rushed Moon out of the hotel, he fell and knocked out a tooth.

It was off to the hospital, and what happened there was classic Moon.

Keith MoonJean-Luc, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

27. He’d Had Too Much

The doctors quickly figured out that they would have to remove what remained of Moon’s tooth. There was one huge problem. Moon had had too much to drink for them to administer anesthetic. As the story goes, the doctors went ahead and removed the tooth anyway. This should be the point where Moon went and slept it off. But no, he was just getting started.

Keith MoonDecca, Wikimedia Commons

28. He Trashed It

Back at the Holiday Inn, Moon decided it was time to trash the place. He and other band members started throwing objects—and apparently some guests—into the pool. They also discharged fire extinguishers to add to the mess. Just when they were destroying a piano, the officers arrived. This party had finally come to an end.

Of course, Moon was not going to get off without a punishment.

The WhoUeli Frey, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

29. They Had To Pay

According to the Holiday Inn, the band members owed the hotel $24,000. They also banned the band from ever staying in a Michigan Holiday Inn again. There was a rumor that Moon actually drove a car into the pool, but Roger Daltrey later said that he didn’t see the car—but he did see the cost of removing and repairing one.

Next, Moon’s crazy antics would turn lethal.

Roger DaltreyTony Barnard, Los Angeles Times, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

30. He Had To Protect His Car

In January 1970, Moon was in a UK pub and realized that some of the customers were outside damaging his Bentley. Moon had had a lot to drink, but still got behind the wheel to save his car. In the mayhem, Moon struck his bodyguard, driver, and dear friend Neil Boland. The consequences were horrifying.

Boland did not survive the crash. Even though Moon got off scot-free, this accident left a devastating mark on him that would haunt him for the rest of his life. And there was still more trauma coming Moon’s way.

Keith MoonGeorge Wilkes Archive, Getty Images

31. They Took A Break

Despite his crazed antics, Moon really did love playing with The Who. In 1971, the band decided to take a year and a half break, which left Moon completely lost. He solved this by introducing cocktails to his breakfast routine. During this time Moon wasn’t playing drums—or getting any other exercise—and his health suffered.

When The Who finally started playing again, Moon was eager to get back at it. Perhaps a little too eager.

Pete TownshendCenter of the Universe, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

32. He Took Too Many

During the 1973 US tour for Quadrophenia, Keith Moon took some tranquilizers and washed them down with shots of booze. This proved to be a nasty combination and, in the middle of the concert, Moon suddenly stopped playing. The other three members of the band looked back at Moon and saw that he had completely passed out.

This was intense. The Who had an arena full of hyped-up fans and no drummer.

The Who in HamburgGladstone~dewiki, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

33. They Carried Him Off

The roadies carried Moon offstage, where he should have seen a doctor. But that didn’t happen. Someone made the decision to give Moon a cold shower and a shot of cortisone. Once Moon was conscious, he wanted to get back on stage. They propped Moon up behind his drums and hoped for the best.

What they got was the worst.

The WhoHunter-Desportes, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

34. They Needed A Replacement

Moon once again passed out behind his drums. The roadies took Moon backstage, but this time The Who tried to do some songs without him. They soon realized they needed a drummer. Townshend bizarrely chose to ask if there were any drummers in the audience. A very frightened—and inexperienced—fan finished the show for Moon.

This fan had saved the day, but something was becoming clear. Moon’s behavior was damaging The Who’s reputation.

The WhoTimur Y, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

35. He Was Bleeding

A couple of years later, The Who was putting on a show at Boston Garden. After just two songs, Moon passed out, and the band had to cancel the show. The next night, Moon somehow had enough energy to do his usual trashing of the hotel room. The band’s manager, Bill Curbishley, later found him passed out amongst the rubble on the floor.

This was pretty normal for Moon, but then Curbishley noticed that Moon was bleeding—and not just a little.

Keith MoonRaph_PH, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

36. He Rushed Him To The Hospital

Curbishley made an emergency trip to the hospital to get Moon stitched up. Curbishley later admitted to saying some angry things to the unconscious Moon. He told Moon that he wanted to get the doctor to fix him up so he could break Moon’s jaw. According to the doctors, angry or not, Curbishley had saved Moon’s life.

By now, Moon’s bandmates were at the end of their collective ropes with him. 

Keith Moon The WhoJean-Luc, CC BY-SA 2.0

37. He Wanted To Meet Him

In 1974, The Who was ready to make a film version of their album Tommy. They cast movie star Oliver Reed for the film, and Moon really wanted to meet him. You see, Reed’s reputation as a party boy exceeded even Moon’s. To meet Reed, Moon knew he had to do something spectacular.

Let’s just say, Moon went quite literally over the top.

Actor Oliver Reed in white shirtJohn Springer Collection, Getty Images

38. He Made A Stunning Arrival

Oliver Reed, who had leapt to stardom in 1968’s Oliver!, was having a bath when he heard the unmistakable sound of a helicopter overhead. Reed’s reaction was bizarre. He grabbed an antique sword, went to the roof and started swinging. When the near-naked Reed saw that it was Keith Moon in the chopper, he put down his weapon, grabbed two drinks, and a friendship began.

One thing was clear. These two party boys would not be good for each other.

English actor Oliver Reed (1938 - 1999), circa 1962Silver Screen Collection, Getty Images

39. They Were Two Peas In A Pod

While filming Tommy, Keith Moon enlisted Oliver Reed to help him with his usual throwing of TVs out of hotel room windows. In LA, Moon and Reed kidnapped filmmaker David Puttnam and took him on an unwanted trip on the Pacific Coast Highway. In a Hollywood restaurant, Reed insisted that Moon remove his pants so everyone could see that he was uncircumcised.

This naughty behavior made the two very close friends. Eventually they brought a very strange third into their friendship.

Oliver Reed in sweaterkate gabrielle, Flickr

40. He Was A Little Slow

When Moon and Reed were having a drinking party, they were sometimes joined by a tortoise, which actually had a function. The two men used their sluggish friend to pass drinks from one to the other, and in this way slowed down their drinking. They also used it to hide their private parts while streaking down the hall. We can only assume this was not a fast streak.

It seemed that these two would be boozy friends to the end, but then one of them came to his senses.

Oliver Reed in blackR. Mitchell, Getty Images

41. They Had To Part

When The Who moved to California, Keith Moon went with them. Some say Moon did it in hopes he could quit drinking—something he couldn’t do with Reed around. It was a sad farewell between these drinking buddies, and Moon left Reed two things. An enormous rhinoceros made of fiberglass, and Moon’s dog Beanbag. Reed had instructions to take care of both.

They parted ways, but Moon kept their friendship alive in a shocking way.

Oliver Reed in stripped shirtReg Innell, Getty Images

42. He Made Him A Member

In 1975, Reed was walking down a red carpet at a film premiere when a stranger thrust a pie in his face. The thrower of the pie then gave an outraged Reed a card. The card said that Reed was now a member of Pie in the Face International, courtesy of Keith Moon.

Moon had parted ways with Reed to get sober—but he just found other bad boys to hang out with.

Oliver Reed And Kitten readingChris Ware, Getty Images

43. He Tapped On The Window

The story goes that Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead was watching TV in the Navarro Hotel in New York City when he heard a “tap tap tap” on his window. He was on the 42nd floor, so this was more than a little disconcerting. Garcia pulled back the drapes, and saw Moon clinging to the window ledge begging to be let in.

Tragic Lives Of Musicians FactsWikimedia Commons

44. He Got Locked In

As it turned out, Keith Moon had been in the next room and, in a haze, and forgotten how to unbolt his hotel room door. To remedy the situation, he went out on the ledge and shimmied over to Garcias’ room. Garcia let him in and the two decided to go out on town. Moon went down the hall to get back in his room, but—duh—the door was still locked from the inside.

Moon needed to get back in his room, and he’d do anything to do it.

Jerry GarciaCarl Lender, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

45. He Was a Human Mole

Moon went back into Garcia’s room, and did what he thought was best to solve his dilemma. Garcia found him in his closet using his mouth and hands to try and get through the wall into his adjoining room. He then progressed to using a hammer and chisel. There was a reason why Moon was so desperate to get into his room—and it really shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Keith MoonChris Morphet, Getty Images

46. He Needed To Get In

Moon’s stash was in his room, and this was what propelled him to get in. He was eventually successful at digging a hole between the rooms and only got into a little bit of trouble with the staff. You see, The Who owned a third of the hotel. Later that same night, Moon smuggled a huge tank of nitrous oxide—laughing gas—into the hotel.

He’d need the nitrous oxide, because what the doctors told him next was no laughing matter.

Keith MoonLester Cohen, Getty Images

47. It Wasn’t The Breakfast Of Champions

Moon’s marriage ended bitterly in 1975, and he picked up another model right after. This was with Annette Walter-Lex. She loved Moon, but only when he was sober. When she begged doctors to help him kick his many bad habits, they said that—because of his champagne and amphetamine breakfasts—he was a lost cause.

It was time for Moon to take charge of his life. Unfortunately, he did it in his own deranged way.

Keith MoonPryke, Getty Images

48. He Tempted Fate

In 1978, Moon rented the same apartment that Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas had infamously passed on in. Moon’s plan was to get off booze, and he found a doctor—Geoffrey Dymond—to prescribe him clomethiazole to help him with withdrawal symptoms. Dymond gave him 100 pills and instructions to not exceed three per day.

Given Moon’s track record, this was a huge mistake.

American singer Cass Elliot sitting on couch speaking to someoneMichael Putland, Getty Images

49. He Swore At Her

In September 1978—after a dinner with Paul and Linda McCartney—Moon went home with his girlfriend. He swore at her when she refused to make him lamb cutlets. Sadly, these would be his last words. Later that night, Walter-Lex later discovered his lifeless body and called for help.

The coroner found six digested clomethiazole pills in his body, which were enough to end his life. Shockingly, there were 26 more pills inside him that he hadn’t yet digested. At just 32 years of age, Moon had left us too soon. But his legacy lives on.

Ed Sullivan FactsFlickr, Bradford Timeline

50. He Was Uncle Keith

The Who tried replacing Moon with several other drummers, but none were quite right. They eventually found a more permanent replacement in a surprising place. This was Ringo Starr’s son, Zak Starkey. Starkey had known Moon as Uncle Keith, and it was Moon who had given him his first drum kit. You could call it a rock and roll circle of life.

B&W photo of Ringo Starr with beard looking at side - 1974Rossano aka Bud Care, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

51. He Had An Even Darker Side

Notorious groupie Pamela Des Barres had affairs with rock's biggest stars—including a steamy romance with Keith Moon. In her memoirs, she revealed that he had some wild proclivities: Moon wanted Des Barres to engage in a role play where she was a rich older lady looking for a steward. Bizarre? Yeah, a little. But he was about to reveal and even darker secret. 

Pamela Des Barres factsGetty Images

52. He Couldn't Get Over It

It wasn't just all bedroom fun between Keith Moon and Pamela Des Barres. During their time together, he revealed his deepest regret to herthe thing that caused him the most pain. Moon still carried immense guilt over the death of his bodyguard and friend Neil Boland. While the authorities had cleared him of any wrongdoing, Moon was still wracked with guilt, as he'd been high at the time of the accident.

Pamela Des Barres FactsGetty Images

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