Keith Moon, Drummer of The Who, Passes Out at 1973 Concert; 19-Year-Old Fan Takes Over

In Novem­ber 1973, Scot Halpin, a 19-year-old kid, scalped tick­ets to The Who con­cert in San Fran­cis­co, Cal­i­for­nia. Lit­tle did he know that he’d wind up play­ing drums for the band that night — that his name would end up etched in the annals of rock ’n’ roll.

The Who came to Cal­i­for­nia with its album Quadrophe­nia top­ping the charts. But despite that, Kei­th Moon, the band’s drum­mer, had a case of the nerves. It was, after all, their first show on Amer­i­can soil in two years. When Moon vom­it­ed before the con­cert, he end­ed up tak­ing some tran­quil­liz­ers to calm down. The drugs worked all too well, not least because the tran­quil­liz­ers actu­al­ly end­ed up being PCP. Dur­ing the show, Moon’s drum­ming became slop­py and slow, writes his biog­ra­ph­er Tony Fletch­er. Then, halfway through “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” he slumped onto his drums. Moon was out cold. (Watch a con­densed ver­sion of the whole affair, from start to fin­ish, above. Or watch anoth­er take below.) As the road­ies tried to bring him back to form, The Who played as a trio. The drum­mer returned, but only briefly and col­lapsed again, this time head­ing off to the hos­pi­tal to get his stom­ach pumped.

Scot Halpin watched the action from near the stage. Years lat­er, he told an NPR inter­view­er, “my friend got real excit­ed when he saw that [Moon was going to pass out again]. And he start­ed telling the secu­ri­ty guy, you know, this guy can help out. And all of a sud­den, out of nowhere comes Bill Gra­ham,” the great con­cert pro­mot­er. Gra­ham asked Halpin straight up, “Can you do it?,” and Halpin shot back “yes.”

When Pete Town­shend asked the crowd, “Can any­body play the drums?” Halpin mount­ed the stage, set­tled into Moon’s drum kit, and began con­fi­dent­ly play­ing the blues jam “Smoke Stacked Light­ing” that soon segued into “Spoon­ful.”  It was a way of test­ing the kid out.  Then came a nine minute ver­sion of “Naked Eye.” By the time it was over, Halpin was phys­i­cal­ly spent.

The show end­ed with Roger Dal­trey, Pete Town­shend, John Entwistle and Scot Halpin tak­ing a bow cen­ter stage. And, to thank him for his efforts, The Who gave him a con­cert jack­et that was prompt­ly stolen.

As a sad foot­note to an oth­er­wise great sto­ry, Halpin died in 2008. The cause, a brain tumor. He was only 54 years old.

The video at the top shows where The Who asks for a drum­mer in the audi­ence and Halpin takes over. The sec­ond video shows Moon pass­ing out before­hand. You can watch the com­plete con­cert on YouTube here.

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Comments (11)
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  • wyclif says:

    “Smoke­stack Light­ning”, two words not three.

  • ML says:

    Halpin was the guy for the job, right time, right place– once in a life­time event on film! Amaz­ing. What a mem­o­ry.

  • Francisco Avendano says:

    Who? Inter­est­ing sto­ry, I like their music. Leg­endary rock band.

  • rick says:

    that dude mustve had balls of steel to get up there and fill the shoes of one of the best drum­mers of all time

  • Rachael says:

    I was about 10 rows from the stage and about 50ft from that kid Scott? Did not know him but I can remem­ber hear­ing Pete clear­ly say Can any­body play the drums? and this kid with his own sticks raised them up!! Great night…great mem­o­ry„, Long live rock!! :)

  • Toni says:

    Great video, but that’s not the whole thing at all. I was hop­ing to see Halpin play! :,-( Poor Kei­th. Kind of hard to believe he kept it togeth­er as long as he did — both at this con­cert, and in his life in gen­er­al.

  • Julie Biddle says:

    I was at a Preser­va­tion Hall Jazz Band con­cert at Massey Hall in Toron­to a few years ago. They did the first set with­out drums — their drum­mer had sprained an ankle some­how get­ting off the bus. He was across the street in the Emer­gency room at St. Mike’s Hos­pi­tal get­ting it checked out. The sec­ond set a fan sat in and I’ve nev­er seen a grin that big in my life. I’m sure it was an absolute dream come true for him.

  • Rui says:

    but in videos drums are so low I can’t hear :’(

  • DCooper says:

    Paint­ing which cel­e­brat­ing this — Sub­sti­tute — Moon / Horse / Cow

  • THC4 says:

    I remem­ber read­ing about this in the SF Com­i­cal and see­ing it on chan­nel 2 news. At the time I wasn’t quite old enough to appre­ci­ate the his­tor­i­cal aspects. After watch­ing the video for the first time I’m amazed and blown away by the whole thing. A piece of rock his­to­ry.

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