Today is Keith Moon’s birthday and my Facebook friends, I’m certain, are sick to death of hearing about him. But I can’t help it. There are a handful of rock musicians that I honestly love: John Lennon, Roger Daltrey, Ringo Starr and Moon.
Moon, because he was crazy. Because he was the supreme manifestation of the id. Because … he was a fucking genius.
Ringo was the reason I wanted to be a drummer. Moon is the reason I want to stay one. Watching videos of him onstage is elevating; he was at once so happy and so mad. He was a remarkable drummer. For all his histrionics, you can see the concentration in his face in concerts like the Isle of Wight. The speed of his hands, the precision of everything he did, even when he fucked up. He was a serious musician who honestly loved his instrument, who made it an extension of himself. He was the original showman drummer, but he was not the lesser musician for that. There’s nothing like the happiness on his face; it’s a release, a channeling of his supposed madness. He’s having a great time; what’s more, he wants everyone else to have one too.
All too often stars like that vanish underneath the weight of their celebrity. Moon was a wild man offstage and that sometimes is all we remember. How he drank himself to death, how he blew up toilets, destroyed hotel rooms, drove cars into pools. Courted chaos at every turn. But, if Townshend and Entwhistle and Daltrey and almost anyone else who knew him are to be believed, he was also a genuinely kind, genuinely loving person.
In the end, though, none of us now can know Keith Moon, or assess who he really was. All we have left is the music. And what music it is.
Happy Birthday, Moonie.