45 years ago tonight, an Iowan took part in one of rock's wildest concert moments
Alice Cooper shares some wild stories about Keith Moon.
Rock ‘n’ roll legend says that Keith Moon downed a handful of horse tranquilizers before the gig.
It’s unclear how many, or if the drugs were actually just human tranquilizers, but when The Who took stage Nov. 20, 1973 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, Moon would soon find himself hunched over the drum kit he so liberally brutalized.
He passed out mid-show. Twice, actually — the byproduct of a substance abuse that would claim his life before the end of the 1970s.
The first time, following “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” the night’s 15th song, Pete Townshend told the audience that the band planned to revive Moon by punching him in the stomach.
“I think he's gone and eaten something he shouldn't have eaten,” Townshend said, per Rolling Stone. “It's your foreign food. The horrible truth is that without him, we aren't a group.”
Moon came back out and the British band kicked into “Magic Bus” only to find the fast-living drummer again out cold. Townshend then turned to the crowd and asked a question that would change change the life of an unsuspecting onlooker: “Is there anybody out there who can play drums?”
Enter: Scot Halpin, a 19-year-old Muscatine native who moved west after graduating high school in Iowa. Halpin told NPR that concert promoter Bill Graham pulled him on stage, where he brought the show home alongside one of rock’s most celebrated acts.
Or, as Halpin once said, "It's like one of the few times you could play royalty."
Halpin, who made a career out of illustrating children’s books and composing his own music, died in 2008. He was 54.
“To tell you the truth I was scared to death," Halpin, who scalped a ticket to the show, told Drum Magazine. "Everything was crazy. The size of the drums was ridiculous. ... I started out hitting with the sticks normally but I had to turn them over to the fat end because I wasn’t making any sound.”
Halpin played three songs — “Smokestack Lightning" and "Spoonful,” a pair of bluesy Howlin' Wolf covers, followed by Who original “Naked Eye” — forever cementing his name in rock music’s history books.
He finished the gig by taking a bow with the band. Teenage wasteland? More like teenage dream come true.
So, About That Time…, a series from the Register’s Matthew Leimkuehler, highlights Iowa’s obscure and overlooked musical moments. Have a story you’d like to share? Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 515-284-8358.
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