What are some things you can expect at a rock concert? The band showing up on time is always a good start. Depending on where you're standing, you might have to watch the show behind the sea of people holding their cell phones in the air. Lots of loud guitar solos, maybe a mosh pit here and there, the usual live concert routine. How about the band's lead guitarist asking the audience if someone could come up and play the drums? Yeah, not really a normal occurrence, but that's exactly what happened at the Who's 1973 concert at San Francisco's Cow Palace.
Accounts vary as to what actually happened that fateful night, but it's at least well known that Keith Moon, the Who's bombastic and borderline-unhinged drummer, was definitely walking on the wild side in the 1970s. While the whole band partook in, shall we say, "rock star antics," Moon the Loon was always known for taking the booze and drug use far enough to put down a horse. This might be why the drummer thought it was a good idea to try out drugs actually meant to put down a horse for a little bit of pre-gaming before the Cow Palace show.
With some horse tranquilizer and a glass of brandy for good measure in his system, Moon took the stage with the rest of the Who, kicking off the show like they had done every night on their Quadrophenia tour. Believe it or not, you can watch the whole show on YouTube (albeit with crappy sound quality), and it seems that things went surprisingly well for the majority of it. Trouble starts a-brewing around the hour-thirteen mark, when Moon straight up passed out in the middle of "Won't Get Fooled Again," leaving the band without the all-important backbeat. Once the song ended, guitarist Pete Townsend kept the crowd occupied, jokingly blaming the "foreign food" for Moon's sudden sickness. A half-hour (and one cold shower) later, Moon returned to stage for the song "Magic Bus," but by the end of that, he was again carried off the stage by the roadies, out cold for the rest of the night.
Down a drummer but with a concert to finish, Townsend nervously asked the crowd around the hour-thirty-nine mark, "Can anybody play the drums? We need somebody good!" Sure enough, 19-year-old Scot Halpin rose to occasion, making his way to the kit and becoming possibly one of the luckiest Who fans ever, in spite of the circumstances. Understandably a bit timid at first, Halpin actually does a pretty good job keeping up with the band, playing on "Smokestack Lightning," "Spoonful," and "Naked Eye" to wrap up the encore. The feat's especially impressive when you realize that Halpin hadn't played drums in about a year, probably making the whole endeavor that much more unbelievably terrifying. After the final song, the band brought Halpin center-stage to take a bow with the rest of them, likely thankful the concert didn't completely fall apart at the seams. The show remains an odd and infamous misadventure in the Who's history, and probably gave Halpin a hell of a story to tell around the water cooler. Keith Moon didn't really let up on his lifestyle after the incident, as he would sadly die from a drug overdose in 1978, but as far as we know, he at least stayed away from horse tranquilizer.