See You On The Dark Side Of The Moon

People have told me I march to the beat of a different drummer.  I’ve usually responded “Yes, I do.  He was Keith Moon”.

The right people get the joke.

It was forty years ago today that Keith Moon died – too  young, but also probably later than he should have.

I had just barely discovered The Who at the time.  Pete Townsend was a self-obsessed overdramatic post-adolescent with a flair for the dramatic.  And I was a self-obsessed overdramatic adolescent.  It was a match made in heaven.  Ask anyone I knew in high school – I was a Who fanatic.

And I don’t think I’m overstating it – The Who died forty years ago today.  Townsend’s pompous mini-operas needed the raw, unpredictable, “what’s gonna happen next?” power of Moon’s inimitable style to seem like anything but the caterwauling of a guy griping about getting old without dying first.

Moon had been declining for a while, as his legendarily-dissipate lifestyle had been

Even close to his soggy, saggy, alcohol sotted, drug-sodden end, though, Moon still had distilled blasts of pure brilliance:

And the band onstage desperately needed the comic relief Moon provided.

Townsend, Roger Daltrey and (for another 25 years or so) John Entwistle played on, and even made the occasional good/great song.  And Townsend made a couple of essential solo albums in the next decade and change – but those were written around the styles of different drummers.  Great different drummers – Mark Brzeziczki, Simon Baker, Jason Bonham and a who’s who of other great British sidemen played on Townsend’s solo records, all of them superb in their own way.

But without Moon, The Who always felt like a nostalgia band.

The Kenny Jones edition of the band was the first big-time rock concert I ever attended, in October of  ’82 at the old Saint Paul Civic Center (29th row tickets on the floor, $15).   I loved the show – I loved the event, really – but for The Who, there really was no going back.


8 thoughts on “See You On The Dark Side Of The Moon

  1. I try not to make heroes out of people who destroy themselves. That’s kind of a faux-alienated Lefty thing.
    It’s not like Moon sacrificed himself to save others.

  2. Also a fellow Who fanatic. And completely agree with your Who synopsis, although I thought It’s Hard had a couple respectable moments with Eminence Front and Athena.

  3. He’s no hero. Just a great drummer whose demise left one of my favorite bands a shadow of its former self.

  4. Moon was a great drummer & rock’n roller, MBerg. I always feel bad about the rockers who didn’t make it. A lot of pain to escape, I suppose, though sometimes it is hard to believe the pain was justified. Jim Morrison was the son of an utterly typical upper middle class family from Virginia. Morrison left home for the West Coast and broke off all contact with his parents. Sometimes he told people that they were dead.
    And of course there is the case of poor old Syd Barret.
    I suppose what saved a lot of those old time rockers was there professionalism.

  5. It’s interesting, talking to/reading accounts from people who got their “drug-soaked adolescent with lots of royalty money” phase. Sometimes it’s professionalism; sometimes it’s just growing up; sometimes its the proverbial hitting rock bottom; sometimes it’s just waking up and realizing it’s time.

  6. “And who was playing the organ, a ghost?”

    The Who has always used a tape of Townsend’s original organ part, with a click track sent to the drummer (via the headset that Moon always wore while playing this song) to keep the beat.

    And it amazed me, a few years ago, to learn that it was an organ (filtered through a synth module):

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