Why Keith Moon’s Death Was a ‘Shock’ to Pete Townshend: Premiere
"I think by the time Keith died, the shock was that he was well; he was cured," Townshend says in an exclusive excerpt, which you can hear below. "He wasn't drinking. He wasn't doing cocaine. He wasn't unhappy. For two weeks prior to the day that he died, he called me up every night at 11:30 and said, 'Pete, I love you, man. Sleep well.'"
Moon died on Sept. 7, 1978, at the age of 32 in a Mayfair, London, flat that he was renting from Harry Nilsson — the same place Mama Cass of the Mamas and the Papas died four years earlier. The drummer had been trying to curb his alcoholism and, in a cruel twist of irony, overdosed on a sedative meant to alleviate alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
"Keith, of course, was really trying as hard as he could to stay alive and not doing a particularly good job of it," Townshend continues. "So it was an incredible shock because I thought he was OK. And then it turned out that he'd actually overdosed on the very medicine that he'd been given to help him avoid convulsions, a drug called Heminevrin, which is an anticonvulsant. However, if you take 11 of them … ."
Townshend maintains that Moon's death was merely a result of his all-or-nothing personality. "Keith was one of those guys, if he said to you, 'I've got a headache. Have you got any aspirin?' You'd say, 'Yeah, sure, here you are, here's two.' And he'd go, 'Two?' and take half a bottle," Townshend says. "So it was probably just habit, but that's what happened."
The guitarist also admits that he's a "codependent," which he illustrates with an incisive quote from one of his friends. "As my friend Barney would say: 'Keith died from choking on his own vomit. Pete, what you've got to watch out for is dying choking on someone else's vomit.'"
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