From the sixties through to the eighties, rock was known for its excesses, the mystical vibes surrounding the bands, and the wild behavior of its icons.
November 20th, 1973, Cow Palace Arena, San Francisco.
Just one of the most important British bands of all time, The Who, which according to Rolling Stone magazine, are the best live performers of all times.
Our story begins with a concert of this notorious quartet, comprised by John Entwistle (bass player), Roger Daltrey (lead singer), Pete Townshend (guitar and voice), and Keith Moon (drummer). This anecdote has passed into legend, becoming one of the most unbelievable stories in the history of rock.
Keith Moon’s euphoric personality was always reflected in the way he played. The band’s performance was so appealing thanks to the perfect combination of Townshend’s frenzy, Entwistle’s fluid bass sound, Daltrey’s hoarse voice, and Moon’s over the top shenanigans.
This madness wasn’t only reserved for the limelight, minutes before the Cow Palace gig started, Moon ingested two horse sedatives mixed with half a bottle of brandy, and he languorously positioned himself behind his drum set.
The band performed with their characteristic energy until, at the end of “Won’t Get Fool Again,” Moon collapsed and fainted over his drum set. The manager of the band dragged him to the dressing room and after a quick cold shower, the drugged drummer returned to the stage. However, just as the band started playing “Magic Bus,” Moon fainted again.
In front of the confused and concerned fans, the roadies carried him off stage. In this flurry, Townshend came up with a quick solution. He grabbed his mic and asked the audience if someone knew how to play the drums.
When Scott Halpin attended the show he didn’t imagine for a second that he was going to be offered a unique opportunity, so when Townshend asked, he unconsciously raised his hand. The manager immediately asked him to get onstage. Townshend gave him some instructions and someone shoved him a glass of brandy to calm his nerves.
Halpin was only 19 years old and had played in bands that would never be part of rock’s hall of fame. His performance with The Who gave him a weird and yet amazing distinction from the Rolling Stone magazine: he became the best drummer selected by its readers.
Despite Halpin’s lack of experience, he managed to follow the band’s indications. While no one could match Moon’s adrenaline and stamina, Halpin came out triumphant from this surreal experience. His fame may have lasted for 15 minutes, but he was invited backstage to hang out with the band. He received a ‘The Who’ jacket signed by all the members (except by Moon who was still unconscious), but unfortunately, it was stolen by some bikers outside the arena.
Halpin returned to his normal life and peacefully died in 2008 surrounded by loved ones. Although many bands, like Foo Fighters and Green Day, have invited fans to play with them, Halpin’s story is one of the most surreal and touching ones in the history of rock.
This music genre has been an inexhaustible source of anecdotes, historical moments, controversies, etc. Even from the politics point of view, rock has had decadent and polemic moments that are worth analyzing to understand their complexities, and importance in the collective imaginary.
Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards