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Moon the Loon

Keith Moon, late drummer of The Who, died in 1978 and left behind a string of urban legends as a result of his erratic and comical behavior. Largely under the influence of drugs Moon is said to have blown up his drum kit on stage, allegedly damaging guitarist Pete Townsend’s hearing in the process, and then befriended a tramp in Soho before checking him into London’s Hilton Hotel and drinking with him until the early hours. Moon apparently then forgot all about the tramp, until the hotel phoned his record label over two weeks later to ask what they were supposed to do with the old man and who was paying the bill. The record label picked up the tab.

Despite being regarded by many as the finest drummer of his generation, Moon’s good-natured disruptions lead to his band mates barring him from the studio when the vocal parts were being recorded. One legend suggests that at the end of the recording of “Happy Jack” Pete Townsend can be heard shouting, “I see ya” in the background as he spots Moon sneaking in to let off fireworks. Whether any of these legends are true or not only those close to the band would know. But the one that is perhaps the most famous Rock urban legend of all time is definitely not true. According to author Steve Grantley (The Who by Numbers) Keith Moon definitely did not drive his Rolls Royce into the swimming pool either at his home, as is sometimes suggested, or at the Holiday Inn in Flint, Michigan, where it is also reported to have happened during the drummer’s twenty first birthday party. “What he did do though,” says Grantley, “is reverse it by accident into his garden pond one morning and then had to ask the AA to tow it back out for him.”

This would come as a surprise to English band Oasis, however, who have perpetuated the myth by featuring a photograph of a Rolls Royce submerged in the pool on the front of their 1997 album “Be Here Now,” and Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson drove a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow into the water in June 2005 as part of a TV stunt.

Other rock and roll legends include the time Peter Grant, charismatic manager of Led Zeppelin, was checking out of a hotel one day and was reeling off $100 dollar bills from a huge roll of cash to pay for the damage his band and entourage had caused during their stay. Nervously, the hotel clerk asked, “Excuse me, Mr. Grant, but what is it like to actually throw a television out of the window?” Grant looked down at the lad and after a short pause peeled off another $300 and replied, “Here you are, son, have one on us.”

Extract from The President’s Brain is Missing (And Other Urban Legends)

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