The Keith Moon that stumbled onto the Shepperton Studios soundstage on May 25, 1978, was hardly the manic and unkillable Keith Moon that the world had come to know over the past 15 years. Somewhat improbably, Moon had made it to his 32nd year, but he looked at least a decade older. Paunchy and sweaty, there was little resemblance to the skinny and twitchy teenager that The Who stumbled upon 14 years earlier during a club gig.
Moon’s destructive habits had caught up to him. Hopelessly alcoholic, Moon had struggled to keep pace with his bandmates during the recording of Who Are You in the months prior, with his physical condition rendering the lightning-fast fills of Moon’s glory years almost entirely absent from recordings. Still, he pulled it together enough to complete the record, and his drumming still retained an excitable edge to it.
Concurrently, The Who were working on a documentary of their career assembled by a fan and first-time filmmaker, Jeff Stein. As The Kids Are Alright was being edited, it was realised that essential live footage of songs like ‘Baba O’Riley’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ were missing, so the band set about to restate the songs with a one-off concert attended by a select few. Led Zeppelin had done the same a few years earlier when footage was missing from their film The Song Remains the Same.
And so The Who dutifully took the stage on May 25 to round out some necessary live shots. Most of the band hadn’t changed much over the course of the ’70s; Roger Daltrey was still in remarkable shape, Pete Townshend was still deathly skinny, and John Entwistle retained his lanky, bearded Goliath look. It was Moon who had noticeably deteriorated. Wearing an open shirt that partially hid his protruding gut, there was a question as to whether Moon could keep pace for a live performance. The band’s last concert tour took place two years prior, and the number of shows that the band had played over in 1977 and 1978 could be counted on a single hand.
Despite the concerns, Moon handles the rigours of a live Who show well, even at his least healthy state. Behind a mammoth drum kit, Moon the Loon expertly wails away during ‘My Wife’ and ‘Summertime Blues’, showing that his skill and stamina hadn’t completely diminished. By the time the band careen to a chaotic conclusion on ‘My Generation’, the energy was so high that second attempts at ‘My Wife’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ are tried. They would be the final two songs that Moon ever played with the band.
The next few months would be spent refining the footage for The Kids Are Alright. Moon was able to see a rough cut of the film with Daltrey, during which the two reportedly experienced hysterical laughing fits. A few days later, on September 6, Moon and his girlfriend, Annette Walter-Lax, attended an early screening party for The Buddy Holly Story hosted by Paul and Linda McCartney. The next day, after having taken 32 tablets of anti-alcohol withdrawal medication, Moon was gone.
Check out the final performance of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, plus the setlist for the Shepperton Studios performance, down below.
The Who, Shepperton Studios, May 25, 1978 setlist:
- ‘Baba O’Riley’
- ‘My Wife’
- ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’
- ‘I Can’t Explain’
- ‘Magic Bus’
- ‘Summertime Blues’ (Eddie Cochran cover)
- ‘My Generation’
- ‘My Wife’ (Take 2)
- ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ (Take 2)