When Keith Moon passed out on stage and The Who replaced him with an audience member
Keith Moon may well be one of the most talented people to have ever got behind a drum kit but he was also a man who lived life on his own terms, a factor which meant that he was often a liability to his bandmates. That infamous unpredictability once led to one instance in which his bandmates were forced to replace him with an audience member after he passed out on stage.
The night in question was November 20th 1973, when one teenage fan managed to live out his dream as the drummer in The Who for one night only at San Francisco’s Cow Palace in front of 14,000 fans. Scott Halpin didn’t even have a ticket beforehand and his friend made the trek from Monterey — but even after snagging a ticket from outside off a tout, however, what happened next was a fairytale for the 19-year-old.
That evening Moon apparently arrived at the venue with a young female fan on his arm and was nervous ahead of the first date of the US tour. It’s still not sure what he did take to calm his nerves, though it is alleged that it was some form of animal tranquiliser which he washed down with brandy — which certainly did the job and knocked him straight out.
From the moment that the set began it was clear to anyone in attendance that something was off with Moon and that he wasn’t all there. However, during ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, the drumming supremo stopped functioning. Rather than call off the gig and get him the help that he obviously quite urgently needed, Pete Townshend instead told the audience: “We’re just gonna revive our drummer by punching him in the stomach. He’s out cold. I think he’s gone and eaten something he shouldn’t have eaten. It’s your foreign food,” he light-heartedly joked.
After being revived backstage, Moon then returned to the stage but passed out yet again during ‘Magic Bus’ and was then taken away for the rest of the evening. The British rockers then immediately asked Artimus Pyle, the drummer from openers Lynyrd Skynyrd but, alas, he was too afraid of slipping up as he had never played the songs before. Townshend, on a whim, asked the 14,000-strong crowd whether there was a drummer in the house and Halpin miraculously then got the chance to drum for his favourite group.
Scott Halpin has said in the past that the final thing he remembered was seeing off a shot of brandy and being introduced to the crowd by Roger Daltrey which all felt like a vivid dream and, suitably, the amateur delivered the goods on the highest of pressurised situations.
Halpin went on to get married, manage a rock club and be a prominent figure in the Californian music scene but sadly passed away because of a brain tumour in 2008, aged just 54. Following his death, Halpin’s wife Robyn wrote to Pete Townshend’s office to tell him the news and to her astonishment, his response was the definition of classy.
“Scott is often in my mind and always with the greatest gratitude and affection,” Townshend wrote. “He showed such youthful courage and humour standing in for Keith Moon that fateful day. Scott played so well too. He played drums brilliantly, smiled and went home. I measure my life by great and good people I have occasionally met. Scott is one of the great and good ones. I worked that out in 30 minutes. That must surely say something about the man.”
For one night only, Halpin got to live out his ultimate fantasy of playing with his favourite band and had this outer body experience that is as wild as it gets.