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Music

Keith Moon: Television, drum solos and a mystery school of goldfish

The Who’s Keith Moon was one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most iconoclastic figures. A madcap genius who gave us many brilliant moments behind the drum kit, his life reads like a story of fiction and it is screaming to be made into a biopic. We now understand that, mentally, he never really grew out of childhood and that his imagination was what guided him throughout his adult life. From an early age, he had been a fan of science kits and pranks, and these, in tandem with his “overactive” imagination, would go on to give Moon and rock ‘n’ roll some of their most notorious stories.

Furthermore, Moon was so hyperactive that in a 2013 interview on the Howard Stern Show, The Who frontman Roger Daltrey opined that he thought Moon was perhaps on a social behavioural spectrum but was actually never diagnosed. Back in those days, it wasn’t a subject that was ever spoken or even widely known about. 

Regardless, Moon carved a mythos out for himself that has never really been matched. His laid-back yet visceral drumming style was unique and it endeared him to fans worldwide. Along with the equally as unique but just as brilliant Ginger Baker, Moon helped to popularise the double bass drum style that we now see ubiquitous in the heavier genres of alternative music. There is no wonder that for aspiring drummers, Moon is one of the essential tutors. His style covered every inch of the drum kit, making him a fine dynamic and dextrous example for younger players. 

Our story today, however, involves a sprinkling of both his incredible talent and his somewhat unorthodox approach to life. Today there are no tales of Lincoln Continental‘s submerged in swimming pools or toilets being blown to smithereens by dynamite. The event in question today occurred on October 8th, 1974 on the American TV show Wide World in Concert: Midnight Special

Appearing on the classic late-night TV show, Moon filled one of his clear Ludwig Vistalite series floor toms with goldfish, and even more strangely, donned a big cat styled face paint. Channelling his animal-like spirit, Moon acted as the evening’s “star host” and treated the audience to an extended drum solo, a hypnotic beat that got many on their feet as if at a karmic ceremony and sent into a trip-like state by Moon’s tribal rhythms.

Like an unhinged master of ceremonies, Moon’s onstage appearance that night is made even more strange by the random insertion of the goldfish. There is no way Moon’s odd decision to fill his tom with a school of the little orange fish would have happened today, and rightly so. Given the ascendance of animal rights campaigns, it is likely Moon’s performance wouldn’t have even made it to broadcast if filmed today. Regardless of the perceived animal cruelty, the clip is a brilliant example of his technical skill. He really was a rhythmic genius, able to create incredible beats off the bat, a testament to his legacy.

Additionally, that night Moon even treated the audience to a taste of his dry and surreal sense of humour. In another clip from the evening, when fielding questions from the audience, one asks him, “What happens with your goldfish?” and his reply is, “Well, I mean, you know, even the best drummers get hungry.”

It is safe to say, just like the holy grail, we don’t know what happened to the goldfish, and for you animal lovers out there it’s probably best not to think about it, particularly given Moon‘s previous offstage antics. Surely he couldn’t have eaten the fish? Could he? This might well be the start of another internet mystery, seeking to find out just what happened to those goldfish.

Watch a clip from the evening below.

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