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.

by | Permalink | Comments (5) |

Support Open Culture

We’re hoping to rely on our loyal readers rather than erratic ads. To support Open Culture’s educational mission, please consider making a donation. We accept PayPal, Venmo (@openculture), Patreon and Crypto! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (5)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • 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.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.