In 1975, Keith met the second major love interest in his life: Annette Walter-Lax, a Swedish model whose resemblance to Kim was oft-noted. Moonie unceremoniously terminated a brief fling with the no-doubt-descriptively-named Joy Bang and set off for L.A. with Annette. It was the beginning of a two-year binge in the City Of Lost Inhibitions (not that Keith had any to lose). Apparently, most of Moon’s time was devoted to harassing his neighbor, Steve McQueen, and carousing with the crew of L.A. rock wastrels led by Ringo and Harry Nilsson. There were more forgettable film and album projects – including., alas, Keith’s own solo record, 1975’s Two Sides Of The Moon.
1975 was also he year when Ken Russell’s film of Tommy was released, with Moon at his leering best as the pederast Uncle Ernie. It’s also the year when The Who By Numbers came out. The album is the frequently painful document of a band in big trouble. Not all of its problems can be laid at Moon’s door – far from it. But his drumming had begun to degenerate into a halfhearted parody of itself.
Things only got worse. At the Boston opening of 1 1976 U.S. Who tour, Moon collapsed two songs into the set – the result of an overdose of the tranquilizer Mandrex. And by ’77, when The Who convened to record Who Are You, Moon was in sad shape, despite the fact that he’d moved back to England and checked himself into a health farm. That same year, the band placed him in charge of public relations for their new company, Who Group, Ltd., based at London’s Shepperton Film Studio. It was a thinly disguised first move toward phasing Keith Moon out of The Who.
He spared them the trouble. On September 6, 1978, Keith and Annette attended a midnight debut screening of The Buddy Holly Story, continuing on to a premiere party thrown by Paul McCartney at the London restaurant Peppermint Park. At the festivities, Keith and Annette announced their plans to marry. They returned to their Curzon Place flat around 4:30 on the morning of the 7th. By 4:30 p.m., Keith Moon was dead of an overdose of Heminevrin, a sedative he’d been taking to help curb his drinking.
As the ’60s gave way to the ’70s, Keith Moon’s mercurial public excesses had gotten more famous than his drumming. He became – he was – Moon the Loon: a sort of unholy cross between Bacchus, Puck, and Charlie Chaplin, with the Marx Brothers, Monty Python, and Dadaists thrown in for good measure. But the most important thing he did wasn’t to stuff a waterbed into a hotel elevator, or blow up a few toilet bowls in the Waldorf Astoria. It was what he did behind a drum kit. That changed the nature of rock drumming forever, making it worthy of the music’s larger claims to rebelliousness, perpetual youth, and crazed energy.