“Keith was an eccentric player, and seemed to be showing off all the time, pointing his sticks up in the air and leaning over the drums with his face thrust forward as if to be nearer the front of stage. But he was loud and strong. Slowly too we realized that his fluid style hid a real talent for listening and following, rather than just laying down a beat."— Pete Townshend, on how Keith Moon’s 1964 entrance into The Who transformed the band, in Who I Am: A Memoir (2012)
Keith Moon, The Who’s drummer in its prime—and, as more than one account of the band will tell you, its lord of misrule—was born 70 years ago today in Wembley, England. His antics would land on every short list of rock ‘n’ roll excess, and, of course, it all caught up with him at age 32, when he died of an accidental prescription drug overdose.
However, although the wild aspects of Moon’s life hold obvious storytelling appeal (e.g., Rolling Stone’s ranking of “Keith Moon’s 10 Wildest Pranks”), I’m not going to repeat them here. Any college frat-boy can go on a spree like his, but that doesn’t warrant awe or admiration.
Fans think of Moon—no, celebrate him—to this day because of his theatrical, galvanizing performances. Instead of reading about his wildest pranks, try the “Top 10 Keith Moon Who Songs” compiled by Ultimate Classic Rock—from Quadrophenia’s “Bell Boy” to “A Quick One While He’s Away” (from the 1979 documentary The Kids Are Alright).