Scott Halpin enjoyed fifteen minutes of fame—quite literally—on November 20, 1973. The Who were opening their Quadrophenia concert tour at the Cow Palace in suburban San Francisco, and Halpin, a 19-year-old who had recently moved to the area from Muscatine, Iowa, was there with a friend and the tickets they had scalped. They arrived to the show thirteen hours early so as to get good seats.
The Who opened the show with three of their earlier hits before launching into material from Quadrophenia, playing eleven of the album’s seventeen songs. Immediately afterwards, things began to get interesting onstage. Drummer Keith Moon, whose fondness for drugs and alcohol was legendary, began to falter during the next song, "Won't Get Fooled Again," slumping over his drum set and passed out. As the house lights went up, Moon was carried offstage by roadies, who placed him in a shower in an attempt to revive him. This was reportedly because Moon defiantly ate four times the amount of tranquilizers offered to him by a fan while remarking, "Of course I can take it. I'm Keith fucking Moon!" Their efforts worked, and Moon, after a delay of roughly thirty minutes, proclaimed himself fit enough to rejoin the show.
"Magic Bus" was next; the percussion of the song’s opening verses consisted only of Moon hitting two wooden blocks against one another. When the drums actually came in, Moon only had the ability to play for a few more minutes before passing out again. Again, he was carried off—this time not to return (guitarist Pete Townshend later said in an interview that Moon had consumed a large tranquiliser pill, meant to be shot at animals, with a large volume of brandy).
The remaining three band members, frustrated, briefly began ad-libbing, then played "See Me, Feel Me", sans drums, with vocalist Roger Daltrey adding a tambourine for percussion. The song received a huge response, and Townshend thanked the crowd for putting up with a three-quarter-strength band. Instead of leaving the stage, though, Pete asked the crowd, "Can anybody play the drums?" He repeated the question, adding forcefully, "I mean someone good!"
At this time, Halpin and his friend were at the left edge of the stage, and his friend began noisily telling the security staff, "He can play!" In truth, Halpin had not played in a year, but his friend had made such a commotion that he had attracted the concert's promoter, Bill Graham.
"Graham just looked at me and said, 'Can you do it?' And I said "Yes," straight out. Townshend and Daltrey look around and they're as surprised as I am, because Graham put me up there."
Halpin was given a shot of brandy for his nerves before sitting at his first drumset since leaving Iowa.
"Then I got really focused, and Townshend said to me, 'I'm going to lead you. I'm going to cue you.'"
Townshend introduced him as "Scott", and went straight into the riff of "Smokestack Lightning". This was a very loose blues jam, Halpin's drum work fitting in well enough, and it shortly became "Spoonful". Less successful, however, was his contribution to the more complex "Naked Eye", and he failed to provide the contrasting tempos despite Pete attempting to give him instructions. Halpin did not look at all flustered, though, and established a steady beat throughout. The show ended after "Naked Eye", and Halpin took a center-stage bow with Daltrey, Townshend, and bassist John Entwistle. Afterwards, he was taken backstage (with his friend) and given a Who concert jacket.
In later interviews, Daltrey praised Halpin's ability, claiming that the "papers missed it". Interviewed by Rolling Stone, Halpin credited The Who's stamina, admitting "I only played three numbers and I was dead."
Halpin now lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with his wife Barbara and child Jeff.
I remember reading that story in the Rolling Stone magazine back when I was a Sophomore in college. I was really pleased to see that a fellow resident of Muscatine got mentioned in a big name magazine.
Scott & I were in the same Muscatine High School graduating class of 1972. He sat in the row next to me in Archie Martin's history class. He was dating a girl (Pam Gjertson) that I had dated in Jr. High. That seemed to be a constant source of puzzlement for him because he was so cool, Pam was so gorgeous, & I was just your typical average guy.
I wasn't too surprised that Scott turned up at the Who concert in San Francisco. He was always into the Hippie/acid rock/free love kind of lifestyle. I'm certain that filling in for Keith Moon was a dream come true for him.
I had a dream once that I was playing guitar on stage with The Who. It was very vivid and very cool. That was 25 years ago and I still remember that dream. It was a stadium concert, the lights were bright. It was a hot summer night and I was working my ass off keeping rythm. I had a red Gibson SG and Pete was playing a gold Les Paul. The Ox had a Fender. Keith was still the drummer and I remember thinking as we played that he was going to die.
It's must have been fantastic doing it for real.
bump for the morning folks