Keith Moon Plays Drums Onstage with Led Zeppelin in What Would Be His Last Live Performance (1977)

When Led Zep­pelin appeared in late 1968, they already had the mak­ings of a super­group, so to speak, though only found­ing mem­ber Jim­my Page was a famous rock star. Four equal­ly tal­ent­ed and sea­soned musi­cians, each inte­gral to the band’s sound. But it might have been oth­er­wise. Page first intend­ed to cre­ate a lit­er­al super­group, join­ing his fel­low for­mer Yard­bird Jeff Beck and The Who’s Kei­th Moon and John Entwistle.

Who knows what might have come of it? Moon sup­pos­ed­ly quipped that it would go down like a lead bal­loon, inspir­ing the name of the band that was to come. This his­to­ry makes all the more poignant the fact that Moon’s last onstage per­for­mance before his death was with Led Zep­pelin.

Moon joined the band dur­ing the L.A. stop of their 1977 tour to ram­ble drunk­en­ly into the micro­phone and sit in on a drum and tam­bourine with John Bon­ham dur­ing a near­ly 20-minute drum solo on “Moby Dick.”

Moon also joined the band dur­ing the two-song encore of “Whole Lot­ta Love” and “Rock & Roll.” See parts of those per­for­mances at the top in audi­ence footage. His brief moments behind John Bonham’s drums can­not be con­sid­ered rep­re­sen­ta­tive of what a hypo­thet­i­cal Kei­th Moon-backed Led Zep­pelin might sound like. Not only was he play­ing anoth­er drummer’s kit—a sig­nif­i­cant hand­i­cap for Moon—but also, the Kei­th Moon of 1977 was not the Kei­th Moon of 1968. These doc­u­ments of rock his­to­ry can’t tell us what might have been, only, for a brief moment, what was.

Moon has been regard­ed as one of the great­est drum­mers in rock for his huge musi­cal per­son­al­i­ty. “No drum­mer in a true rock & roll band has ever been given—has ever seized, perhaps—so much space and pres­ence,” wrote Greil Mar­cus in trib­ute when Moon died the year after his Led Zep­pelin cameo. Moon, “as Jon Lan­dau point­ed out years ago… played the parts con­ven­tion­al­ly giv­en over to the lead gui­tar.” Moon called him­self, with typ­i­cal sar­casm, “the best Kei­th Moon-type drum­mer,” an insight into just how sin­gu­lar his play­ing was. His total lack of restraint fit The Who per­fect­ly.

But his­to­ry would decree that Bon­ham become the ide­al Led Zep­pelin-type drum­mer. He played lead parts as well, but nev­er at the expense of rhythm. The pit­fall of a supergroup—or a group of equal­ly superb musicians—is that every­one can tend to over­play. Bon­ham was a superb musi­cian, but also a drum­mer who knew exact­ly how to accom­mo­date oth­ers’ virtuosity—building spa­cious rhyth­mic struc­tures that held togeth­er the bom­bast of Plant and Page in a coher­ent whole. Bon­ham could fol­low Page’s riffs just as often as he could deploy his own thun­der­ing hooks.

Kei­th Moon was at his best play­ing Kei­th Moon, sound­ing “as if he came out of nowhere to take over the world,” wrote Mar­cus. The Who’s “best sin­gles and album tracks not only fea­tured Moon, they were built around him,” Entwistle and Town­shend pro­vid­ing struc­ture while Moon sup­plied the fiery core. Hear him at his incan­des­cent best in the iso­lat­ed drum track for “Wont’ Get Fooled Again” above and read more about what made him so indeli­bly unique in Mar­cus’ eulo­gy for “the best drum­mer in the his­to­ry of rock ‘n roll.” Lis­ten to a full audi­ence audio record­ing of that 1977 con­cert just below.

via Jam­Base

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Iso­lat­ed Drum Tracks From Six of Rock’s Great­est: Bon­ham, Moon, Peart, Copeland, Grohl & Starr

Watch/Hear Led Zeppelin’s Ear­li­est Per­for­mances from 1968–69 & Cel­e­brate the 50th Anniver­sary of the Band’s Birth

What Makes John Bon­ham Such a Good Drum­mer? A New Video Essay Breaks Down His Inim­itable Style

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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Comments (5)
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  • Skip Press says:

    Oh bol­locks. Kei­th Moon was nuts. When I was room­mates with Nicky Hop­kins he told me about play­ing the Mar­quis club or some place in lon­don and Kei­th stripped off and start­ed walk­ing back and forth in front of the stage. I dat­ed Jen­na Andrews, who was liv­ing with Kei­th when he got her out of bed, took her on a wild dri­ve in L.A., then crashed the car into the pool and she almost drownd. I met him at a par­ty McCart­ney gave after the Wings Over Amer­i­ca tour and for once he was­n’t drunk and was enjoy­able. Good drum­mer but the best ever was Ringo because he did exact­ly what was need­ed (and still does).

    Quit wor­ship­ping these peo­ple — they did­n’t do a hel­lu­va lot of good for our gen­er­a­tion and made drugs the norm, and Moon might as well have dri­ven a car off a cliff, the way he lived.

  • JV says:

    Moon was nuts, but at his best, he was the most amaz­ing rock drum­mer ever, for my mon­ey. Check out The Who at Tan­gle­wood in 1970, the whole con­cert is on YouTube. He’s utter­ly fuck­ing amaz­ing. It’s too bad his addic­tion issues tend­ed to over­shad­ow his musi­cal tal­ents.

  • Jorge Azamar says:

    I must rec­og­nize these men­tions to mar­vel­lous Kei­th Moon by Open Cul­ture. He deserved this and more. It is so agree­able to remem­ber him though, Who’s music was so trascen­den­tal that from time to time at least, it’s need­ed a kind of review of it. These men­tions to him, his last per­for­mances, artis­ti­cal activ­i­ty, remind us of a tal­ent, one des­tined to sur­vive as a deep influ­ence and with huge val­ue in cul­tur­al sub­jects. Thank you to all, thank you Kei­th.

  • Frederick Schilling says:

    This was not Kei­th Moon’s last live per­for­mance. He played his last show with The Who at Kil­burn in west Lon­don on Decem­ber 15, 1977. The per­for­mance was filmed for the doc­u­men­tary The Kids Are Alright and lat­er released on DVD.

  • Andrew says:

    for the record his last live per­for­mance ever was not with Led Zep or with The Who at Kil­burn, but at Shep­per­ton Stu­dios in May of 1978. The gig at Kil­burn, filmed for the doc­u­men­tary “The Kids Are Alright” was deemed a hor­ri­ble per­for­mance by both the band and film­mak­er Jeff Stein. So Stein arranged to film a mini con­cert in front of 300 or so spe­cial­ly invit­ed fans at Shep­per­ton. The Who stored their tour­ing gear there and rehearsed their before going on tours (The album cov­er for Who Are You was tak­en at Shep­per­ton). They set up their tour­ing stage and light­ing rig inside sound­stage B at one end and let the fans in for a brief 6 song set. They end­ed the gig with “Won’t Get Fooled Again” , which Stein then used as the last scene of the doc­u­men­tary. When Moon climbed over his rack toms to join the band in tak­ing their bows as the end cred­its rolled, it marked his last ever per­for­mance.

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