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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October 21, 1976

I think that it's time for another Tuesday Timeline entry, don't you?

I tell you one thing.  Tuesday Timeline entries are some of my favourite ones to write because I learn so much about pop culture and other related topics.  And in this case, today's date marks sort of an end...before the end.  If that makes any sort of sense at all.

Don't worry.  I'll be explaining that a little bit later in this blog.  For now though, why not have a look at some of the major events that took place around the world on October 21.  A lot of interesting things happened on this date, you know?

1520 - Explorer Ferdinand Magellan discovers the Strait of Magellan or the same day that another explorer - Joao Alvares Fagundes - discovers the islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon

1797 - The United States Navy frigate USS Constitution is launched at Boston Harbor, complete with a 44-gun salute

1854 - Nurse Florence Nightingale along with thirty-eight other nurses are sent to the Crimean War

1861 - Colonel Edward Baker is killed during the Battle of Ball's Bluff during the American Civil War

1879 - Thomas Edison invents a workable light bulb at his Menlo Park, New Jersey laboratory which lasts a little over thirteen hours before burning out

1910 - HMS Niobe arrives in Halifax Harbour, becoming the first ship of the Royal Canadian Navy

1917 - Jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie (d. 1993) is born in Cheraw, South Carolina

1921 - George Melford's "The Sheik" debuts

1940 - The first edition of Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom The Bell Tolls" is published

1955 - Contemporary Christian artist Rich Mullins (d. 1997) is born in Richmond, Indiana

1959 - The Guggenheim Museum opens up to the public in New York City

1967 - More than one hundred thousand people gather in Washington D.C. to protest the Vietnam War

1971 - A gas explosion at a shopping plaza kills 22 people outside of Glasgow, Scotland

1973 - The kidnappers of John Paul Getty III cut off Getty's ear and is mailed to a newspaper in Rome

1978 - Australian pilot Frederick Valentich vanishes in a Cessna 182 over the Bass Strait south of Melbourne, Australia

1987 - In Sri Lanka, the Jaffna Hospital Massacre is carried out by the Indian Peace Keeping Force, killing at least 70

1994 - North Korea and the United States sign an agreement that requires North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program

1995 - Blind Melon lead singer Shannon Hoon dies of a drug overdose, aged 28

2003 - "What's Happening" star Fred Berry passes away at age 52

And birthday greetings go out to the following people;  Joyce Randolph, Whitey Ford, Manfred Mann, Rhoda Gemignani, Steve Cropper, Elvin Bishop, Judge Judy Sheindlin, Everett McGill, Tom Everett, Benjamin Netanyahu, Patti Davis, Charlotte Caffey, Eric Faulkner, Carrie Fisher, Ken Watanabe, Felicity Andersen, Jeremy Miller, David Clayton Rogers, Will Estes, Kim Kardashian, Matt Dallas, and Charlotte Sullivan.

So, what's the date that we will be going back to this week?

Well, let's take a trip back in time thirty-eight years ago to October 21, 1976.

That was the day that the British rock band "The Who" would wrap up their second of two tours promoting their 1975 album "The Who By Numbers".  And the final concert of the tour was a Canadian date, playing at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario.

Now, the final show of a concert tour is usually memorable for a lot of reasons.  In the case of The Who's October 21, 1976 concert, it was especially memorable as it ended up being one member's swan song.

Less than two years after he walked away from touring with The Who, he would end up dead following a massive drug overdose.

Of course, the writing was on the wall for a long time.  While The Who could easily be considered musical geniuses of their day with hits like "Behind Blue Eyes", "My Generation", "Baba O'Riley", and "Who Are You" making headway on the charts, their tenure as a band was certainly tumultuous at times.

And perhaps no member of The Who was more troubled than Keith Moon.  We'll get into the what, where, why, and yes, who about the story of Keith Moon a little later, but for now, let's focus on the when.

The when was October 21, 1976.  The who in question was Keith Moon.  The where was Toronto, Ontario.  The what?  Well, that was the date in which he played his final tour date before unofficially retiring from the band.

But why?  That is the question that still remains unanswered.  And to answer it, we should probably take a look at the events that took place prior to October 21, 1976.

Born in Wembley, London, England on the 23rd of August, 1946, Keith Moon seemed to be a bit of a problem child right at the start.  Being extremely hyperactive as a child, he would often have a vivid imagination and this would get him into trouble at school.  He had a fondness for practical jokes, and often found himself fascinated by explosions - the louder, the better.  Remember that point for later.

Moon joined the local Sea Cadet Corps band at the age of twelve to play the bugle, but when he couldn't figure out how to play it, he switched to playing the drums.  After leaving school at age fourteen, he enrolled at a technical college, leading him to get a job as a radio repairman, allowing him to purchase his very first drum set.

Now, how he came to join The Who is a frequently disputed story, but the facts we do know is that The Who needed a new drummer after the departure of Doug Sandom in early 1964, and Moon arrived at a concert given by the band with a session drummer filling in.  The most commonly believed story goes that Moon approached the band and told them that he could play much better than the guy who was playing for them.  The rest of the band gave him a chance, and Moon played with such vigor that he reportedly nearly destroyed the drum set that was at the venue!  Moon then became The Who's permanent replacement beginning in mid-1964.

And, with Keith Moon joining the band, it caused a permanent change in dynamics of the group.  You see, the band members of The Who played beautiful music together, but it was also widely known that the members of the band had terrible personal relationships with each other.  The feud between Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend often had clashes with each other, but back when Sandom was still in the band, he acted as peacemaker and would calm both Daltrey and Townshend down.  After all, Sandom was at least a decade older than the other members of The Who when he joined.

But here came this new guy, Keith Moon, with a hyperactive personality and uncontrollable temper, and all hell broke loose.  Remove the peacekeeper, and you have four band members all struggling to be heard no matter how badly they behaved.  At some point during Moon's tenure with The Who, he had clashed with Daltrey, Townshend, and John Entwistle.

And, let's just say that Keith Moon brought his own destructive behaviour into the band the only way he knew how to.  Here's a list of some of things that took place while he was a member of The Who.

- He and Entwistle were late for a gig that the Who were playing because they were hanging out with Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, leading to a physical altercation between Moon and Townshend, and causing Moon and Entwistle to quit the band - both rejoined a week later.
- He got a limousine to turn around and take the band back to the hotel they stayed at just so Moon could throw the television set into the swimming pool.
- Reportedly caused half a million dollars in damage during his lifetime by destroying multiple hotel rooms.
- He basically blew up every single toilet in the hotel rooms that The Who stayed in with cherry bombs and explosives, causing the band to be kicked out of every single hotel they stayed at.
- Moon's 21st birthday celebrations in August 1967 were a major disaster.  The band played in Flint, Michigan and stayed at a Holiday Inn where Keith knocked out part of his front tooth after starting a drunken food fight.  When Keith was getting his tooth removed, the rest of the party grew out of control with other guests being thrown into the pool, fire extinguishers being set off, and a grand piano getting destroyed before the police were called to stop the madness.  The band was presented with a $24,000 bill and told to get out of the hotel immediately.
- He accidentally killed his bodyguard Neil Boland in 1970 when Boland was struck by Moon's car while he was driving.  Although the death was ruled accidental, this incident affected him the rest of his life.
- During a 1973 concert, Moon passed out twice during a concert in Daly City, California, prompting the band to ask a random audience member, Scot Halpin, to fill in.
- He also passed out during a 1976 concert and the day after, destroyed everything in his hotel room, cutting himself.  Had his manager not found him in time, he would have bled to death.  This was the moment in which Daltrey and Townshend considered firing Moon, but decided against it because they thought it would make matters worse.

Of course, all of these instances could easily be explained.  While it's true that Keith Moon had a certain personality that was unlike most others, the destructive behaviour was linked to his dependence on drugs and alcohol.  He had been taking amphetamines when he joined The Who, and he gradually became addicted to both alcohol and drugs.  But while Moon's drug and alcohol abuse didn't initially seem to have an impact on The Who's music during the 1960s, it all caught up to him by the time he had destroyed his hotel room in 1976 and nearly died because of it.

By the time the band was midway through their 1976 tour, Keith Moon had already become sluggish and unable to concentrate.  He had gained a considerable amount of weight and couldn't keep up with the band as well as he used to.  He had been frequently in and out of hospital due to his dependence on drugs, and the rest of the band weren't sure that Moon would make it to the end of the tour.

So, that leads up to October 21, 1976.  The final stop on the band's 1976 tour, and the final concert show that Moon would ever play in front of a live crowd.  You now know the why.  Moon had to leave the band because he physically and emotionally couldn't do it anymore.  The drug abuse, the death of his friend, his body beginning to turn against him.  It all grew to be too much.

For what it was worth, that final concert in Toronto was memorable, as he finished the show without incident. 

Sadly, less than two years later, on September 7, 1978, Keith Moon died as a direct result of swallowing thirty-two clomathiazole pills at once - pills that ironically were used to help alleviate symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.  He was just 32 years old.

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