The Who’s Keith Moon passes out at his drum kit only to be replaced by a young fan
On this day in 1974, something extraordinary happened. One of the world’s most fantastic and yet faltering musicians would see him some replaced by a 19-year-old amateur and write the event in the sands of musical history. Hear this most unlikely of tales below.
But while the lure of this behaviour can feel dangerous and daring, the root of this salacious viewing as enticing as it is hints at a darker side to all that partying. What goes up, must always, always come down.
With a huge tour ahead of them and a number 1 record Quadrophenia in their back pocket, one might expect The Who to feel at ease with their upcoming performance at California’s The Cow Palace in the winter of ’74. But one would’ve overlooked the crippling anxiety that was beginning to shroud the talented heartbeat of the band, Keith Moon.
As such, Moon was routinely self-medicating before shows and the escalating size of their American tour, their first shows on US soil in 2 years, was weighing more heavily than ever on his constitution. This often allowed the drummer to find time before the show to begin his process of self-medication and would often take a concoction of horse tranquiliser mixed with brandy. Already, with just the thought of such a cocktail, our eyes are beginning to feel heavy.
Moon would soon fall victim to the lethal drink and find himself a spot on the floor. The moment arrives when 70 minutes into the pulsating rock show The Who, in the middle of performing their iconic hit ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, are struck down from quartet to a trio as Moon’s drums fall to a weary end in the middle of the song.
Moon had passed out while sitting at his drum kit. As soon as the kit goes quiet the roadies on the tour quickly rush to his aid to wake him up. They momentarily succeed (while Townshend suggests punching him in the gut) rousing the drummer for approximately 60 seconds before he eventually succumbs to the heavy dose of liquor and meds. It soon becomes clear that Moon will not be returning and, in fact, he had already been taken to the hospital to have his stomach pumped.
Enter 19-year-old Scott Haplin.
A starry-eyed musician at the time, Haplin was a keen drummer and had scalped tickets on the day of the event so he could have a chance to see his idol, Keith Moon. Little did he know when entering the theatre that he would actually be playing his kit by the end of the night.
Back to our story as Moon has begun to sway following his first passing out and Haplin picks up the story from an interview with NPR: “my friend got real excited when he saw that [Moon was going to pass out again]. And he started telling the security guy, you know, this guy can help out. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere comes Bill Graham,” the great concert promoter. Graham reportedly asked Haplin outright, “Can you do it?,” and Halpin quickly replied “yes.”
Pete Townshend, with desperation in his voice, then announces to the crowd that Moon will not be returning. Sullen and somewhat defeated Pete asks the crowd, “Can anybody play the drums?” Halpin with the conversation with Graham ringing in his ear had already seemingly mounted the stage.
Eager and raring to go, it didn’t take long to settle into Moon’s drum kit, and began playing the blues jam ‘Smoke Stacked Lighting’ that soon segued into ‘Spoonful.’ With the vetting done, Haplin was tasked with a nine-minute version of ‘Naked Eye.’ The adolescent musician may have been a keen drummer but by the time the curtains closed on The Who’s energetic set he was a spent man. He may not have witnessed the glory of Keith Moon in ful flow but he did have himself a fairly decent night.
The night for Haplin ended with him and heroes Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, and John Entwhistle taking a bow centre stage.
Dreams can come true, it seems.
Watch the moment The Who drummer Keith Moon passes out on stage only to be replaced by a 19 year-old-fan
At 0:09 Keith’s drums come to a weak stop in the middle of the song. At 1:10 Pete tells the crowd that Keith Moon has passed out At 2:40 Keith Moon manages to wake up and come back on stage. At 3:50 Moon passes out again and the roadies carry him off the drum set. This time he is not coming back. At 5:00 Pete tells the audience Keith is finished for the night. At 5:27 Pete asks the audience if there is anyone who can play the drums At 6:30 THE DREAM COMES TRUE FOR SOME DUDE IN THE AUDIENCE NAMED SCOTT HALPIN.