The Tragic Truth Of Keith Moon's Car Accident

On January 4, 1970, Keith Moon, the drummer of the British rock band The Who, accidentally ran over Neil Boland, his chauffeur and bodyguard, with his Bentley, killing him. 

As Far Out Magazine describes, Keith Moon, who didn't drive ever, his wife, and a party of friends including Neil Boland visited the Red Lion pub in Hatfield as a favor for his neighbor, whose son owned the place. However, they were driving a Bentley and Keith Moon preferred brandy over beer and, like other members of The Who and the Mod fanbase, dressed well, which would have been fine in a London discotheque but drew the attention of the skinhead crowd to themselves.

Confronted with the worsening situation, the party clambered back in the Bentley, readying to leave, only to be surrounded by the drunk, angry skinheads who started pelting the Bentley with coins, preventing their departure. Boland exited the Bentley to diffuse the situation but Moon, who, again, didn't drive and was quite drunk, bolted behind the wheel and attempted to drive the others to safety. During this, in events that no one remembers, Boland somehow ended up underneath the wheels of the car.

Keith Moon pleaded guilty to drunk driving, driving without a license and driving without insurance. However, as a contemporary Rolling Stone article titled "Keith Moon Gets Off Easy", the judge threw the charges out: "You had no choice but to act the way you did and no moral culpability is attached to you."

Gets off easy?

The Rolling Stone verdict, that Keith Moon gets off easy, comes off a bit harsh considering reports, like the one Pamela Des Barres, a big-time seventies groupie, gave The Sun while promoting her memoir: "One night when we were in bed he broke down and started to cry, calling himself a murderer... He would wake up screaming." It seems he still suffered even without the jail sentence.

The other reason why it may be unfair to say he got off easy is that he might not have actually driven over Neil Boland. As Ultimate Classic Rock reports, Boland's daughter believes that it was Kim Moon behind the wheel, not Keith because of an email she received from a Peter Thorpe who claimed to have been one of the lads pelting the car: This directly contradicts the story Jean Battye, a member of Moon's party that night, gave to Tony Fletcher for his book Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon: "He literally thought he was saving our lives by driving us out of that car park." 

This tragedy, however, also serves as part of a broader series of tragedies that, as Drummer World notes, included the breakdown of Keith Moon's marriage as well as a descent in to drug dependency and alcoholism. In 1978, Keith Moon died from an overdose of Heminevrin.