Here’s a sad little piece of rock and roll history: the last television interview of Keith Moon, mercurial drummer for The Who. It was broadcast live on the morning of August 7, 1978, exactly one month before Moon’s death from a drug overdose at the age of 32.
Moon and guitarist Pete Townshend had flown into New York the previous day to promote The Who’s eighth studio album, Who Are You. In addition to a couple of radio interviews, Moon and Townshend stopped by the studios of Good Morning America for a TV interview with a stiff and humorless David Hartman. Moon appears bloated and unhealthy. At one point he makes a joke about not being in control of his life.
“Are you in control of your life at all?” Hartman asks.
“On certain days,” says Moon.
“What are you like the other days?”
“Quite out of control. Amazingly…ah…drunk.”
Moon’s various addictions had caught up with him by 1978. “Musically,” writes Townshend in Who I Am: A Memoir, “his drumming was getting so uneven that recording was almost impossible, so much so that work on the Who Are You album had ground to a halt.…[The Who] had just about enough tracks for a record, with very little additional material to spare. ‘Music Must Change’ was completed with footsteps replacing drums.”
On the night of September 6, 1978, Moon and his girlfriend Annette Walter-Lax attended a party in London, hosted by Paul McCartney. During the party, and at the midnight premier of The Buddy Holly Story that followed, Moon took Clomethiazole, a sedative prescribed to help him cope with alcohol withdrawal. When he got home, he took more. Walter-Lax found his lifeless body when she checked on him on the afternoon of September 7. An autopsy showed that Moon had taken 32 tablets of Clomethiazole. His doctor had told him not to exceed three per day.
In a public statement following Moon’s death, Townshend wrote: “We have lost our great comedian, our supreme melodramatist, the man, who apart from being the most unpredictable and spontaneous drummer in rock, would have set himself alight if he thought it would make the audience laugh or jump out of its seats. We have lost our drummer but also our alter-ego. He drove us hard many times but his love of every one of us always ultimately came through.… We loved him and he’s gone.”
For something to help us remember Moon’s contribution to The Who–both his musicianship and his personality–here is a video featuring his isolated drum track from “Who Are You,” the title track on Moon’s final album: