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Happy Birthday, Keith Moon: We Miss the Mad Man Still!

Arguably the greatest rock drummer of all time, Keith Moon had a talent that was surpassed only by his penchant for mischief and mayhem. Born Keith John Moon on August 23, 1946, but famously nicknamed "Moon the Loon," he would have been 65 today had he not succumbed on September 7, 1978, to an accidental overdose of a sedative prescribed to wean him off his alcohol addiction.

Moon's exploits with the Who, many of which will hopefully be documented in a

bio flick singer Roger Daltrey's supposedly producing for release next

year, have become the stuff of

legend over the years. His propensity for destruction -- he had a remarkable flair for

explosives, resulting in the destruction of countless hotel toilets as

well as his drum kits -- as well as acts of sheer recklessness -- he was

said to have driven a car into a swimming pool on the occasion of his

21st birthday, and he once made a grand entrance into a backstage

dressing room by digging his way through the ceiling above it -- helped

heighten his wacky reputation. His tendency to pose in a variety of

guises, be it in drag, as a Nazi officer, or in nothing at all, made for

some indelible images that still seem shocking today.

Sadly, there was also a dark side to this Moon, one that detracts from the impish persona with which he's been portrayed. When he blew up his drum kit at the conclusion of the Who's appearance on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967, he injured himself when a piece of cymbal became embedded in his arm and caused permanent damage to guitarist Pete Townshend's hearing in the process. A hopeless alcoholic, he battled with addiction for the latter part of his life and became a menace to himself as well as others. He became violent with his girlfriends and, later, displayed abusive behavior toward his wife, Kim.

Attempting to escape a crowd of onlookers outside a local pub in 1970, he allegedly jumped into the driver's seat of his Bentley and ran down his chauffeur, Neil Boland, resulting in his driver's death. Throughout the '70s, his health was frequently suspect as well. After a concert at the old Miami Baseball Stadium, he was taken to a local hospital, where he remained for several days. But that was nothing compared to what transpired at a gig at San Francisco's Cow Palace in 1973 when, after digesting a large quantity of horse tranquilizers and brandy, he passed out at his drum kit, forcing Townshend and company to recruit a substitute drummer from the crowd in order to finish the gig. 

Although these scenarios are fairly well-known, there are also certain curious facts surrounding his legend. For example... 

• Moon was a huge fan of the Beach Boys, and when he became paranoid that the Who were about to dump him, he thought of approaching them for a gig. He also sang lead on the Who's version of "Barbara Ann" for the Who's Ready Steady Who EP in 1966 and later recorded the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby" for his sole solo album, Two Sides of the Moon

• It was Moon who gave Led Zeppelin its name, after he famously suggested that a proposed supergroup featuring him, Who bassist John Entwistle, and Jimmy Page would go over like a "lead zeppelin." Page retained the moniker, changing the "lead" to "led." 

• Moon did more than merely drum for the band, although his slashing style helped define the Who's style. His was the lead voice on such tracks as "Bell Boy" from the album Quadrophenia, and he also sang high harmonies on "Pictures of Lily." Although it's widely believed he sang "Tommy's Holiday Camp" on Tommy, it's actually Townshend singing lead, although Moon did perform the song live and in the film of the same name.

• Moon might have become a prodigious actor. He played a nun in Frank Zappa's infamous film 200 Motels and acted a straight role as drummer J.D. Clover in the film That'll Be the Day and its sequel, Stardust.

• Moon died in the same London flat where Mamas and Papas singer Cass Elliot had succumbed to a heart attack four years earlier. 

• The Who's final album prior to Moon's passing was Who Are You, released three weeks before his death. On the cover, he's pictured seated sitting backward in a chair that has the words "Not to be taken away" printed on its support. Sadly, those words weren't heeded.

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