Cow Palace, 1973: The Who's Keith Moon Passes Out From Drugs, And An Audience Member Fills In
Drummer Keith Moon (1947 - 1978) of English rock group The Who, 24th April 1973. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
November 20, 1973 was an unforgettable night for drummer Scot Halpin: Keith Moon of The Who passed out on stage, and Halpin stepped out of the crowd to take his place. What could have been more surreal and enticing for a fan than the sight of Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, and John Entwistle of The Who conferring upon you the sacred duty of maintaining the beat in the absence of their regular drummer? That night at the Cow Palace in Daly City, California, the first show of The Who's Quadrophenia tour, is one Halpin will never forget -- and as a rock-fan claim to fame, it's one of the coolest ones on record.
It Was The Opening Date Of The U.S. Tour
According to rock and roll legend, on November 20, 1973, during the first show of The Who’s “Quadrophenia” tour, Keith Moon passed out on stage after taking a handful of horse tranquilizers and washing them down with brandy. The amount and type of drugs are unclear, and some even claim that Moon’s drink was spiked.
Keith Moon Passed Out Mid-Performance
Moon had arrived at the show with a young female and was a bit jittery. She gave him something to calm his nerves. It does seem that whatever the two of them took, it contained PCP. Throughout his performance, Moon was erratic. His friend was rushed to the hospital after having a seizure.
Moon managed to put in a subpar performance until the 15th song. The Who then began playing “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and Moon ground to a halt before he passed out. The roadies carried him off stage and put him in a cold shower. Moon was also was given a cortisone shot while backstage. Pete Townshend joked with the audience that Moon was sick from the food and that he planned to revive Moon by punching him in the stomach. When Moon returned to the stage 30 minutes later, the band started playing "Magic Bus" -- but Moon again passed out, and the band played "See Me, Feel Me" without drums. Meanwhile, Artemus Pyle, the drummer for the opening band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, was backstage and explained that he couldn’t play with The Who because he didn’t know the songs.
Pete Townshend then asked the audience “Is there anybody out there who can play drums?”
An Audience Member Had More Than 15 Minutes Of Fame
Scot Halpin was a 19-year-old from Muscatine, Iowa, who had just graduated from high school and moved west. He had traveled from Monterey to the Cow Palace outside San Francisco to see The Who with a friend, and had waited in line for about 13 hours. He bought a scalped ticket and, once inside, made his way to the front to be close to the stage. It was too crowded up there, so he decided to move to the side of the stage -- a fateful choice. After Townshend’s announcement, Halpin's friend noticed that Moon looked like he was going to pass out again, and began shouting “he can play!” This caught the attention of Bill Graham, The Who’s promoter, who was standing nearby. Graham brought Halpin up on stage.
Halpin Was Left With An Experience He Would Never Forget
Halpin was terrified, and later confessed that he had to hit the drums with the fat end of the stick, because he was not making any sound on the very large drums with the preferred thin end. He played two Howlin’ Wolf covers: "Smokestack Lightning" and "Spoonful." His time as the band’s drummer ended with The Who original “Naked Eye.” After that song, Halpin took a bow with the band. For his performance, the band gave him a tour jacket. Unfortunately, the jacket was stolen. Although he only played for 30 minutes, he was wiped out and even more impressed with Moon’s abilities.
Scot Halpin's Life After That Night
Halpin went on to success as a musician, first getting his masters degree from San Francisco State University. He worked as a composer-in-residence for the Headlands Center for the Arts in the Bay Area and as an illustrator of children’s books. He died in 2008 at 54 from a brain tumor. His wife wrote to Pete Townshend to tell him of Halpin’s death, and Townshend responded with a letter that was read at the memorial.
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