Memo to London Olympics organizers: The Who’s Keith Moon is still dead

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Forgive 2012 Olympics organizers for wanting to get the most bang for their buck. Having already secured the services of surviving Who members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, London officials made a special request: Could Keith Moon sit in?

Of course, Daltrey and Townshend still tour as the Who. But Keith Moon has been dead for 34 years, having passed at just 32 after ingesting an accidental overdose of prescription medicine.

Moon played on each of the Who releases from the 1964 single “Zoot Suit” through to 1978’s Who Are You, released just three weeks before his death. Since, the Who used Kenney Jones — set for induction as part of the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class as a member of the Faces — as well as Simon Phillips, Zak Starkey, among others, on drums.

Still, Moon’s reputation for drumming dramatics continues: Just last year, readers placed him at No. 2 on the Rolling Stone magazine list of best drummers of all time. Daltrey was also said to be producing a biopic about Moon, called “See Me Feel Me: Keith Moon Naked for Your Pleasure.”

None of it is bringing Keith Moon back, though.

So, the Who’s long-time manager Bill Curbishley was left to break the bad news to Olympics organizers: “I emailed back saying Keith now resides in Golders Green crematorium, having lived up to the Who’s anthemic line ‘I hope I die before I get old,'” Curbishley told The Times. “If they have a round table, some glasses and candles, we might contact him.”

Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on the Who. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

SOMETHING ELSE! FEATURED ARTIST: THE WHO: In a way, the Who has no one to blame for a slow and steady slide into overlooked rock-god status. There were simply too many concert jaunts between its most recent releases of new material in 1982’s It’s Hard and 2006’s Endless Wire, cash-ins that forever connected the band with oldies tours. They lost a generation of fans, and became a conversation-piece antique along the way. Before that, weighty pretensions surrounding sprawling projects like Tommy, and replicating their success, had already slowed the Who. Then the group lost both drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle. Yet there’s no denying, if you dig into the stacks, this band’s shuddering energy — equal parts speed, raw fury and rangy emotion. (Oh, and a little nudge-nudge humor here and there, too.) We decided to start digging.

ON SECOND THOUGHT: ENDLESS WIRE (2006): Not everyone’s going to be convinced this is the Who. There were more shades of Townshend’s solo career than of his old band here, aside from obvious and questionable nods to “Baba O’Riley” in the album opener “Fragments.” And there were theatrical elements Townshend certainly would have liked to have pulled off with the Who but they wouldn’t have let him when all four were alive — such as the unintentionally comical vocals of “In The Ether,” where Townshend attempted to channel Tom Waits (and failed, miserably) and the overly emotive and, again, oddly sung “Trilby’s Piano.” But then there were songs where the spirit of the old Who shines through, such as on “Fragments” (after the “Baba”-derived opening, that is), and the “Who Are You”-ish “Mike Post Theme,” among others.

THE WHO – WHO’S NEXT (1971): If you haven’t heard Who’s Next, you owe it to yourself to hear one of the few albums in my collection that is worth the hype it has had heaped on it. What I will say is those formerly angry Who-philes must have been happy, indeed: This remaster felt both warmer and somehow more crisp than the previous issue. I could find no fault in this new mix. What was in the previous issue has been improved upon, but it’s obvious that there was a much more spacious soundstage present. Drums reflected the cavernous room they were recorded in, vocals vibrated as if they’re right there next to you (one moment in “Bargain,” where Pete Townshend takes over lead, seems to almost float in mid-air), guitars have a more immediate, sharp insistence, while John Entwistle’s bass bobs and weaves more clearly in the background. (Always a good thing, Entwistle being one of the most fascinating bassists I’ve ever heard.) Be warned, though: The live material is rough; these takes are some of the earliest representations of the Who’s Next material before it had the edges smoothed off and kinks worked out.

THE WHO – LIVE AT THE ISLE OF WIGHT FESTIVAL 1970 (1996): You’re to be forgiven — even if you were there — for missing this one. Seems, because of lengthy set overruns by the bands that preceded them, the Who didn’t take the stage at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival until the no-kidding hour of 3 a.m. (The bill that year included, among others, the Doors, whose frontman Jim Morrison was on a five-day bail after an obscenity charge.) This recalled the Who’s memorable pre-dawn performance stateside at Woodstock, when morning actually broke as the group worked toward the thematic climax of its celebrated rock-opera “Tommy.” The middle of the night, in retrospect, feels like the perfect setting for a then-dangerous rock conglomerate whose sound was never accurately replicated inside the confines of any recording studio. This is the Who in all its ragged glory, before time took drummer Keith Moon and John Entwistle, before “Tommy” became a triumph-turned-millstone that dragged the band under.

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