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Keith Moon drove a Rolls Royce into a swimming pool on this day in 1967. Or did he?

Keith Moon Getty
Keith Moon, photographed in 1976. (Image credit: Eddie Sanderson/Getty Images))

Keith Moon was a legendary prankster and storyteller. And maybe sometimes he'd exaggerate a story for comic effect - never more so than with the story of his 21st birthday party at the Holiday Inn, Flint, Michigan in 1967.

Talking to Rolling Stone in 1972, Moon recounted a tale of destruction that began with him starting to drink at 10am.

Later that day, The Who played a show, supporting Herman's Hermits, that Moon had no memory of, and when the after-show party at the hotel developed into a food fight, fire extinguishers were set off, and the police were called.

Confronted by the sheriff, Moon said: "I ran out, jumped into the first car I came to, which was a brand new Lincoln Continental. It was parked on a slight hill and when I took the handbrake off, it started to roll and it smashed straight through this pool surround [fence] and the whole Lincoln Continental went into the ‘Oliday Inn swimming pool, with me in it."

Stuck underwater as the car fills, Moon claimed that, "In a startling moment of logical I said, 'Well, I can’t open the doors until the pressure is the same . . .' It’s amazing ‘ow I remembered those things from my physics class! I knew I’d ‘ave to wait until the pressure was the same.

"When there’s just enough air in the top of the car to take a gulp, I fill up me lungs, throw open the door and go rising to the top of the pool. I figured there’d be quite a crowd gathered by now. After all, I’d been down there underwater for some time. I figured they’d be so grateful I was alive, they’d overlook the Lincoln Continental. But no. There’s only one person standing there and ‘e’s the pool cleaner and ‘e’s got to have the pool clean in the morning, and he’s furious.

"So I went back to the party, streaming water, still in me underpants. The first person I see is the sheriff and he’s got ‘is ‘and on ‘is gun. Sod this! And I ran, I started to leg it out the door, and I slipped on a piece of marzipan and fell flat on me face and knocked out me tooth. Ah-ha-ha-Ha-Ha-Hahaha!

"I spent the remainder of the night under the custody of the sheriff at a dentist’s."

The story grew, the Lincoln became a Rolls Royce, and the Rolls-in-the-swimming-pool has since become a mainstay of rock mythology, a perfect image of rock'n'roll excess. Oasis recreated the image for the cover of third album Be Here Now. But did it actually happen? Even the people who were there aren't sure.

DJ Peter Cavanaugh of WTAC Radio was at the party. "I heard the ruckus," he says, "and I went outside, and the first thing I saw was the vehicle in the pool. We’d all had several beers, and some other stuff too, so things can get a little cloudy, but I clearly remember seeing the vehicle in the pool."

Barry Whitwam, the drummer for Herman’s Hermits, remembers differently: "There was no car in the pool, only all the pool tables and chairs, and Keith never came back dripping water."

Peter Noone, the Herman's singer agrees: "That never happened. He would tell stories. He just forgot what happened."

By all accounts, Herman's Hermits were hit with a bill for $25,000 for new carpets, wallpaper and ceilings.

The Who's Roger Daltrey, however, remembers it differently: "I saw it," he says. "We paid the bill [for the damages]. It was $50,000. It’s vague now, but I just remember the car in the pool. But then I read in the biography [Dear Boy by Tony Fletcher] that never happened, so maybe I’ve been living someone else’s life, I don’t know."

His bandmate John Entwistle disagreed: "He never drove a car into the swimming pool," said Entwistle. "He couldn’t even drive."

Read the full story, by the people who were there.