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Keith Moon’s 10 Wildest Pranks

No drum kit, hotel room, trousers department or small British village was spared the drummer’s sense of mischief

Keith Moon circa mid 1960s

Keith Moon circa mid 1960s


The Who’s Keith Moon was not only (as he loved to boast) “the world’s greatest Keith Moon-type drummer,” he was also the greatest prankster in the history of rock & roll. The man they called “Moon the Loon,” who died on September 7th, 1978 from a Heminevrin overdose at the age of 32, played practical jokes the same way he played the drums – with manic intensity, flamboyant flourishes and zero concern for potential collateral damage.

While Moon’s reputation for destroying hotel rooms was certainly well earned, he was also fond of pranks that required considerable planning, forethought and creativity. Here, then, are 10 memorable Keith Moon pranks that went well beyond the usual “TV into the swimming pool” brand of rock star barbarism.

[Editor’s Note: A version of this list was originally published March 2016]

From Rolling Stone US

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The Trouser Test

In the fall of 1969, Moon teamed up with “Legs” Larry Smith of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band to pull a twisted practical joke on the venerable British retailer Marks and Spencer. First, Smith entered the store’s trouser department and asked to be shown their most durable work trousers; then, having examined the pair, Smith expressed concern that they might not be strong enough for his purposes – whereupon Moon entered the shop and cheerily offered to help him test them. Each taking a leg, the two men proceeded to completely tear the trousers in half, causing the freaked-out staff to call for the store detective. Then, right as Smith and Moon were about to be led away by the authorities, their limo driver appeared on the scene. “Are those one-legged trousers?” he asked. “They’re just what I’ve been looking for!” (“He paid for the trousers, and everyone calmed down,” Smith later told Moon biographer Tony Fletcher. “And we asked for each leg to be wrapped separately!”)


The Kidnapped Vicar

Unlike the rest of his bandmates, Moon had no “off” switch – so when the Who were not on tour or in the studio, their drummer had to find other ways to perform. He loved to go out in public dressed in costume, especially if it meant getting a rise out of unsuspecting passersby. One of his favorite getups was that of a bald vicar, who would frighten old ladies by suddenly screaming torrents of obscenities at them. Once while Moon’s “vicar” was strolling down London’s crowded Oxford Street in the middle of the day, two “gangsters” set upon him and dragged him kicking and screaming into a waiting Rolls-Royce; the kidnapping was completely staged – members of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band were reportedly involved – but it looked convincing enough to cause a police car to immediately intercept the Rolls (which actually belonged to Moon) before its occupants could even make their getaway.


Dark Side of the Moon

Moon’s sense of humor had a tendency to push the boundaries of taste – and there was no more cringe-inducing example of this than the time in 1970 that he and former Bonzos frontman Viv Stanshall dressed up as Nazi officers for a record company photo shoot, and then went out drinking while still wearing the uniforms. The two men found the reaction to their public goose-stepping so satisfyingly negative – Moon and Stanshall were even physically evicted from one German Bierkeller – that they decided to remain in uniform (and in character) for the better part of the week, even hiring an open-top Mercedes for an ill-advised trip to the heavily Jewish London neighborhood of Golders Green.

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Ride the Wild Waterbed

Keith Moon destroyed so many hotel rooms that the incidents tend to blend together into one big ball of devastation. One incident that particularly stands out, however, occurred on the afternoon of August 25th, 1972, when the Who were staying at a luxurious hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark. Moon, fascinated by the waterbed in his suite, attempted to enlist Pete Townshend to help him lug its water-filled mattress into the elevator, whereupon they would send it down to the lobby; unfortunately, it burst before they could extricate it from its frame, unleashing foot-high waves out into the hallway. It looked like the Who were about to be on the hook for tens of thousands in damages, but Moon (realizing that the best defense was a good offense) quickly rang the manager, told him that the bed had burst and destroyed all of his expensive stage clothes, and huffily asked what he planned to do about it. So good was Moon’s act that the manager not only apologized, but also moved him to the hotel’s antiques-filled Presidential Suite – which the Who, true to form, would completely demolish later that night.

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Mess With the Ox, You Get the Horns

The Paris stop of the Who’s ’72 European tour saw Moon’s hotel room get demolished, as well – though for once he actually wasn’t the culprit. While the band were staying at the plush George V hotel, the drummer drunkenly invaded John “The Ox” Entwistle’s room just as the bassist was sitting down with his wife to a lovely French repast. Oblivious to his intrusion, Moon ate some of Entwistle’s steak, poured a bottle of vintage Bordeaux out onto the carpet and pissed against the wall of Entwistle’s room before finally passing out. This was too much even for the typically unflappable Entwistle, who responded by trashing every last piece of furniture in Moon’s room, depositing his unconscious bandmate amid the rubble, and storming off. Moon awoke the next morning with no memory of the previous evening; but the carnage around him was so convincingly Moon-esque, he went to his grave believing he’d been the one who destroyed the room.

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Welcome to the Club

Moon and Oliver Reed became fast friends during the filming of Tommy; though Reed already had the reputation of being something of a hell-raiser, the British actor would later tell Moon biographer Tony Fletcher that “Keith showed me the way to insanity.” In 1975, Reed was walking the red carpet at a Hollywood film premiere when he was suddenly hit in the face by a lemon curd pie; as he wiped the mess from his eyes, the actor was approached by a stranger who handed him a card and an envelope. “Pie in the Face International,” read the card. “You have been selected by Mr. Keith Moon to become a member.” In the envelope was a certificate that read, “You are a member, sponsored by Keith Moon.”

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Dine and Dash

Not all of Moon’s pranks were destructive, offensive or at someone else’s expense. During the filming of Stardust, a 1974 rock flick in which Moon had a small part, the generous-to-a-fault drummer made a big show of paying for everything whenever the cast went out on the town together. Karl Howman, a young actor on the film who Moon had taken under his wing, finally insisted upon covering an evening’s revel himself – only to discover to his horror at the end of the night that the final bill was going to cost him a month’s wages. Moon, seeing his distress, suggested that they “do a runner”; and Howman, though utterly mortified about leaving the check unpaid, dashed with the rest of the actors to a waiting limo. The next day, Moon took Howman aside and informed him that he’d quietly paid the bill while the actor wasn’t looking; the mad dash from the club was just his way of capping the evening with a bit of extra excitement.