September 19, 2020

1999-01-31 – The Dispatch

1999 01 31 The_Dispatch_Sun__Jan_31__1999_

Brilliant Moon eclipsed
by rock ’n’ roll lifestyle

‘MOON: The Life and Death of
a Rock Legend.‘ By Tony Fletch-
er. Spike/Avon, 608 pp., illus-
trated. $30

By Jim Sulllvan
The Boston Globe

On Sept. 6. 1978, the last night of
his life, Keith Moon went to a
London party hosted by Paul Mc~
Cartney, celebrating the movie
"The Buddy Holly Story." Moon
snorted a bit of cocaine before-
hand, but drank surprisingly lit-
tle at the party. Still, he was slur-
ry — the result, it turned out, of a
prescription drug called Hem-
inevrin, used in the treatment of
alcoholism. The drug mimicked
alcohol’s etTects; used with alco-
hol, as it shouldn’t be, it multi—
plied them.

Moon and his girlfriend An-
nette WalterLax left the party
early, around midnight. At home,
she cooked him lamb chops.
Then, says Walter-Lax, “He has
his usual glass of water and buck-
et of pills." Moon woke up one
more time. early in the morning,
and demanded she cook him a
steak. He ate and went back to
sleep. That was it. An autopsy re-

vealed 32 Heminevrin pills in his Who are they? Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon, Pete Townshend and

system.

John Entwistle made up power pop gods The Who. Hotel rooms

And thus. Keuh M00“ drum- were never safe when Moon, second from left, was around.

mer for the rock group The Who,
died before he got old. But not be-
fore he looked old. By the end, at
32, Moon resembled a caricature
of his young self.

Tony Fletcher’s “Moon: The
Life and Death of a Rock Legend"
is the literary equivalent of
manic-depression, a condition
from which Moon likely suffered.
He may also have suffered from
multiple personality disorder.
Moon. the youngest member of
The Who, was certainly the most
dysfunctional member of a highly
dysfunctional musical family.

He was not, on the surface, a
complicated man (his core philos-
ophy was hedonism), but he was a
sharply contradictory one.

Fletcher's long tome is hilari~
ous at times ~ Moon and his bud-
dies cruising neighborhoods in
his Bentley and announcing on a
loud PA, using proper upper-class
diction, a warning from their
“Conservative candidate for Par-
liament that a boatload of
refugees was about to move into
the neighborhood.” You can’t
help but laugh.

But then it gets harrowing —
Moon trying to chop down the
door to the bathroom to get at his
wife, Kim, a la Jack Nicholson in
“The Shining." There’s the story
of Moon being quite likely at the
wheel of a car that ran over and
killed a member of his entourage,
Neil Boland. (Moon was legally
cleared, but guilty in his own
mind, Fletcher writes.)

Moon’s life was one where the
gleeful exuberance and casual
miscreance of youth gradually
hardened into something harsher

and meaner, though not without
charm, over time.

You can't pinpoint the moment
the trajectory started to head
downhill. And the fact is, through
thick and thin Moon’s humor
often came poking through. He
relished sending up the opulent
rock-star lifestyle while he simu-
lataneously indulged in it.

Moon saw life as performance
art, every day a dress rehearsal.
His humor could go over the edge.

_—"—

Moon saw life as

performance art,

every day a dress
rehearsal.

Throughout his life he favored
Nazi regalia. He’d dress up as
Rommel in jodhpurs, binoculars,
knee boots, leather coat, and cap
and march up and down the
beach. Or show up like that at a
business meeting. Moon was a
megalomaniac; he was also the
most humble and approachable of
rock stars — everybody’s friend.
He was generous, abusive, hypo—
critical. He had an overwhelming
desire to get messed up. He snort-
ed heroin once, didn’t like it, got
sick. But just about everything
else was fair game —— he was for-
ever swallowing handfuls of what‘
ever he was handed. Pete Town-
shend, who declined to be inter-
viewed for the book, wrote Fletch-
er: “show business and

society...fed and rewards addic-
tive and ultimately suicidal be-
havior.” The author agrees. He is,
in fact, quite balanced in telling
the tale. It’s not a simple, drugs-
are-bad morality story.

Again and again, Fletcher cites
Moon’s insecurity —— his feeling
unloved despite being loved by
one and all.

At least when he was sober,
which he rarely stayed for long.
Moon’s ethos was “too much ain’t
enoughi’

Add to that the obscene amount
of money and fame, and the atten~
dant perks, and you get a man
whose routine consisted of hurl-
ing TVs out of hotel windows and
de rigeur room trashing. Is it a
rock star sending up con-
sumerism and establishment
mores or an example of sociopath-
ic behavior?

Fletcher pays a great deal of at-
tention to Moon’s early, pre-Who
life — when the highs were natur-
al and the music pure.

It is argued that the best time of
his life may have been while play-
ing with the Beachcombers, a

competent but unremarkable
cover group that gave Moon his

first taste of rock 'n’ roll as a ca-
reer. Fletcher also does a fine job
of describing Moon's chaotic bril-
liance.

Moon died shortly after the re-
lease of The Who’s album, “Who
Are You.” On the cover, the mem-
bers of The Who stood amid their
gear, Moon sitting in a director’s
chair emblazoned with the
phrase, “Not To Be Taken Away.”