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Pete Townshend interview in Rolling Stone 1968

201303-pete-townshend-x306-1363624638From Rolling Stone

1968 Rolling Stone Interview (by Jann Wenner)

For his first full-length Rolling Stone Interview, Jann Wenner picked Pete Townshend, and for good reasons. “The Who,” he says, “were one of Rolling Stone’s original favorite bands. I saw them at their American debut at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, and later that year at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.” The Who were still comparatively unknown in the United States and Wenner recalls the band being “squashed in the middle of a rather dumpy concert, one of those eight-act packages that used to tour the country.” After the show, he interviewed Townshend for an article in issue number four.

In the fall of 1968, the Who were back. By now they were a sensation, and this would be their second time headlining a three-night stand that year in San Francisco (first, in February, at the old Fillmore; now, in August, at the Fillmore West). This time, Townshend did the Rolling Stone Interview.

“Peter Townshend was twenty-three years old when we sat talking at my house in San Francisco into the dawn hours,” Wenner has written. “And a year or two later, Townshend told me that during our interview he articulated to himself, for the first time comprehensively, the basic plan for what became Tommy. And that brought back to my mind a remark he had made at the time, which I had edited out. We’d been drinking orange juice, and in the middle of a long and wandering answer he asked if I had spiked his drink. Those were the halcyon hip days in San Francisco, and when I asked him what he meant by ‘spiked,’ he said he felt as though he were beginning an LSD trip. I hadn’t slipped him anything.”

THE WHO {guitarist Pete Townshend, singer Roger Daltrey, drummer Keith Moon and bass guitarist John Entwistle} are the most brilliant expression of the most influential “youth movement” ever to take Great Britain, the Mods. Their career began in Shepherd’s Bush, a lower-class suburb of London, and took them through such places as Brighton-by-the-Sea, scene of the great Mod-Rocker battles of the early Sixties. Their first big recording was “My Generation.” Pete Townshend, the well-known guitarist, is the group’s main force, the author of most of the material, the composer of most of the music and the impetus behind the Who’s stylistic stance.

The Who’s generation has gotten older, and the change is seen in their records: “The Kids are Alright” to “Happy Jack”; and from “Happy Jack” to girls and boys with perspiration, pimple and bad breath problems. And, as can be seen from the interview, the changes continue.

This interview began at 2:00 a.m., after the Who’s second 1968 appearance at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. Nobody quite remembers under what circumstances it was concluded.

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WENNER: The end of your act goes to “My Generation,” like you usually do, and that’s where you usually smash your guitar. You didn’t tonight – why not?
TOWNSHEND: Well, there is a reason, not really anything that’s really worth talking about. But I’ll explain the pattern of thought which went into it.

I’ve obviously broken a lot of guitars, and I’ve brought eight or nine of that particular guitar I was using tonight and I could very easily have broken it and have plenty more for the future. But I just suddenly decided before I went on that if there was anywhere in the world I should be able to walk off the stage without breaking a guitar if I didn’t want to, it would be the Fillmore.

I decided in advance that I didn’t want to smash the guitar, so I didn’t, not because I liked it or because I’ve decided I’m going to stop doing it or anything. I just kind of decided about the actual situation; it forced me to see if I could have gotten away with it in advance. And I think that’s why “My Generation” was such a down number at the end. I didn’t really want to play it, you know, at all. I didn’t even want people to expect it to happen, because I just wasn’t going to do it.

WENNER: But Keith still dumped over his drum kit like he usually does.

TOWNSHEND: Yeah, but it was an incredible personal thing with me. I’ve often gone on the stage and said, “Tonight, I’m not going to smash a guitar and I don’t give a shit” – you know what the pressure is on me – whether I feel like doing it musically or whatever, I’m just not going to do it. And I’ve gone on, and every time I’ve done it. The actual performance has always been bigger than my own personal patterns of thought.

Tonight, for some reason, I went on and I said, “I’m not going to break it,” and I didn’t. And I don’t know how, I don’t really know why I didn’t. But I didn’t, you know, and it’s the first time. I mean, I’ve said it millions of times before, and nothing has happened.

WENNER: I imagine it gets to be a drag talking about why you smash your guitar.

TOWNSHEND: No, it doesn’t get to be a drag to talk about it. Sometimes it gets a drag to do it. I can explain it, I can justify it and I can enhance it, and I can do a lot of things, dramatize it and literalize it. Basically it’s a gesture which happens on the spur of the moment. I think, with guitar smashing, just like the performance itself; it’s a performance, it’s an act, it’s an instant and it really is meaningless.

WENNER: When did you start smashing guitars?

TOWNSHEND: It happened by complete accident the first time. We were just kicking around in a club which we played every Tuesday, and I was playing the guitar and it hit the ceiling. It broke, and it kind of shocked me ’cause I wasn’t ready for it to go. I didn’t particularly want it to go, but it went.

And I was expecting an incredible thing, it being so precious to me, and I was expecting everybody to go, “Wow, he’s broken his guitar, he’s broken his guitar,” but nobody did anything, which made me angry in a way and determined to get this precious event noticed by the audience. I proceeded to make a big thing of breaking the guitar. I pounded all over the stage with it, and I threw the bits on the stage, and I picked up my spare guitar and carried on as though I really meant to do it.

WENNER: Were you happy about it?

TOWNSHEND: Deep inside I was very unhappy because the thing had got broken. It got around, and the next week the people came, and they came up to me and they said, “Oh, we heard all about it, man; it’s ’bout time someone gave it to a guitar,” and all this kind of stuff. It kind of grew from there; we’d go to another town and people would say, “Oh yeah, we heard that you smashed a guitar.” It built and built and built and built and built and built until one day, a very important daily newspaper came to see us and said, “Oh, we hear you’re the group that smashes their guitars up. Well, we hope you’re going to do it tonight because we’re from the Daily Mail. If you do, you’ll probably make the front pages.”

This was only going to be like the second guitar I’d ever broken, seriously. I went to my manage, Kit Lambert, and I said, you know, “Can we afford it, can we afford it, it’s for publicity.” He said, “Yes, we can afford it, if we can get the Daily Mail.” I did it, and of course the Daily Mail didn’t buy the photograph and didn’t want to know about the story. After that I was into it up to my neck and have been doing it since.

WENNER: Was it inevitable that you were going to start smashing guitars?

TOWNSHEND: It was due to happen because I was getting to the point where I’d play and I’d play, and I mean, I still can’t play how I’d like to play. Then was worse. I couldn’t play the guitar; I’d listen to great music, I’d listen to all the people I dug, time and time again. When the Who first started we were playing blues, and I dug the blues and I knew what I was supposed to be playing, but I couldn’t play it. I couldn’t get it out. I knew what I had to play; it was in my head. I could hear the notes in my head, but I couldn’t get them out on the guitar. I knew the music, and I knew the feeling of the thing and the drive and the direction and everything.

It used to frustrate me incredibly. I used to try and make up visually for what I couldn’t play as a musician. I used to get into very incredible visual things where in order just to make one chord more lethal, I’d make it a really lethal-looking thing, whereas really, it’s just going to be picked normally. I’d hold my arm up in the air and bring it down so it really looked lethal, even if it didn’t sound too lethal. Anyway, this got bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger until eventually I was setting myself incredible tasks.

WENNER: How did this affect your guitar playing?

TOWNSHEND: Instead I said, “All right, you’re not capable of doing it musically, you’ve got to do it visually.” I became a huge, visual thing. In fact, I forgot all about the guitar because my visual thing was more about my music than the actual guitar. I got to jump about, and the guitar became unimportant. I banged it and I let it feed back and scraped it and rubbed it up against the microphone, did anything; it wasn’t part of my act, even. It didn’t deserve any credit or any respect. I used to bang it and hit it against walls and throw it on the floor at the end of the act.

And one day it broke. It just wasn’t part of my thing, and ever since them I’ve never really regarded myself as a guitarist. When people come up to me and say like, “Who’s your favourite guitarist?” I say, “I know who my favourite guitarist is, but asking me, as a guitarist, forget it because I don’t make guitar-type comments. I don’t talk guitar talk, I just throw the thing around.” Today still, I’m learning. If I play a solo, it’s a game to me because I can’t play what I want to play. That’s the thing: I can’t get it out because I don’t practice. When I should be practicing, I’m writing songs, and when I’m writing songs, I should be practicing.

WENNER: You said you spend most of your time writing songs in your basement.

TOWNSHEND: A lot of writing I do on tour. I do a lot on airplanes. At home, I write a lot, obviously. When I write a song, what I usually do is work the lyric out first from some basic idea that I had, and then I get an acoustic guitar and I sit by the tape recorder and try to band it out as it comes. Try to let the music come with the lyrics. If I dig it, I want to add things to it, like I’ll add bass guitar or drums or another voice. This is really for my own amusement that I do this.

The reason “I Can See For Miles” came out good was because I sat down and made it good from the beginning. The fact that I did a lot of work on arrangements and stuff like that doesn’t really count. I think that unless the actual song itself is good, you know, you can do all kinds of incredible things to it, but you’re never gonna get it, not unless the meat and potatoes are there. Although I do fuck around in home studios and things like that, I think it’s of no importance; I don’t think it’s really got anything to do with what makes the Who the Who.

WENNER: Does what you write in your home studio ever out on records?

TOWNSHEND: Most of it gets out, but the recordings I make myself in my own studio don’t. They might in the future, but they would only come out if they had the Who on them. To put out a record of me banging away on a guitar or bass drums collectively and generally being a one-man band wouldn’t be a very good idea. I’d like to use my studio to record the group because interesting things happen in small environmental sound-recording situations like Sony tape recorders, for example, which don’t happen in studios. It’s a well-known fact.

WENNER: When you work out an arrangement and figure out the bass line and the various voices, is that just directly translated onto a record that would be released?

TOWNSHEND: More or less, but then we don’t really take it that grimly; I mean, what happens is I will suggest the bass riff on the demonstration record; John takes up and goes from there. But the bass (line) I would suggest on the demo, as I said earlier, would be very simple; it would be economical, tasteful and just a vehicle for the song, making the bass line, and, if I use the them, the piano or drum, as simple and effective as possible in putting the song across to the group.

Instead of me hacking my songs around to billions of publishers trying to get them to dig them, what I’ve got to do is get the rest of the band to dig my number. If I’ve got a number that I dig, I know that I’ve got to present it to them in the best light. That’s why I make my own recordings so when they first hear, it’s not me stoned out of my mind plunking away on a guitar trying to get my latest number across. It’s a finished work that might take me all night to get together, but nevertheless it’s gonna win them over.

I’m working on the lyrics now for the next album. When we get through that, all the lyrics cleaned out, we’ll start to work through the album. We’ll probably have do to it in short sections, like fifteen-minute sections. Ideally, I’d like to record one backing track for the whole album whether it lasts for two hours or two days. We sit down and we do it in one go, and then okay, we spend the next two years adding tarty voices or whatever it is that it takes to sell the record. But at least you know what’s happening in the background is real meat and immediate meat, and it’s part of the present.

The whole thing about recording is that a man feels slightly cheated anyway, because he’s getting a recording of something which has happened, so he feels like he’s getting something secondhand. If he thinks he’s being fucked around already, this is a whole different thing. A lot of people, I’m convinced, that buy records don’t realize what happens when a group records on an eight-track machine. They don’t realize that they record half of it one time, and then another eighth of it another time. They record it in eighths at different locations, and this ceases to become music to me.

WENNER: What other ideas in this field do you have?

TOWNSHEND: Well, the album concept in general is complex. I don’t know if I can explain it in my condition, at the moment. But it’s derived as a result of quite a few things. We’ve been talking about doing an opera, we’ve been talking about doing like albums, we’ve been talking about a whole lot of things, and what has basically happened is that we’ve condensed all of these ideas, all this energy and all these gimmicks, and whatever we’ve decided on for future albums, into one juicy package. The package I hope is going to be called “Deaf, Dumb and Blind Boy.” It’s a story about a kid that’s born deaf, dumb and blind and what happens to him throughout his life. The deaf, dumb and blind boy is played by the Who, the musical entity. He’s represented musically, represented by a theme which we play, which starts off the opera itself, and then there’s a song describing the deaf, dumb and blind boy. But what it’s really all about is the fact that because the boy is “D, D & B,” he’s seeing things basically as vibrations which we translate as music. That’s really what we want to do: create this feeling that when you listen to the music you can actually become aware of the boy, and aware of what he is all about, because we are creating him as we play.

Yes, it’s a pretty far-out thing, actually. But it’s very, very endearing to me because the thing is . . . inside; the boy sees things musically and in dreams, and nothing has got any weight at all. He is touched from the outside, and he feels his mother’s touch, he feels his father’s touch, but he just interprets them as music. His father gets pretty upset that his kid is deaf, dumb and blind. He wants a kid that will play football and God knows what.

One night he comes in and he’s drunk, and he sits over the kid’s bed and he looks at him and he starts to talk to him, and the kid just smiles up, and his father is trying to get through to him, telling him about how the other dads have a kid that they can take to football and all this kind of crap, and he starts to say, “Can you hear me?” The kid, of course, can’t hear him. He’s groovin’ in this musical thing, this incredible musical thing; he’ll be out of his mind. Then there’s his father outside, outside of his body, and this song is going to be written by John. I hope John will write this song about the father who is really uptight now.

The kid won’t respond, he just smiles. The father starts to hit him, and at this moment the whole thing becomes incredibly realistic. On one side you have the dreamy music of the boy wasting through his nothing life. And on the other you have the reality of the father outside, uptight, but now you’ve got blows, you’ve got communication. The father is hitting the kid; musically then I want the thing to break out, hand it over to Keith – “This is your scene man, take it from here.”

And the kid doesn’t catch the violence. He just knows that some sensation is happening. He doesn’t feel the pain, he doesn’t associate it with anything. He just accepts it.

A similar situation happens later on in the opera, where the father starts to get the mother to take the kid away from home to an uncle. The uncle is a bit of a perv, you know. He plays with the kid’s body while the kid is out. And at this particular time the child has heard his own name; his mother called him. And he managed to hear the word: “Tommy.” He’s really got this big thing about his name, whatever his name is going to be, you know, “Tommy.” And he gets really hung up on his own name. He decides that this is the king and this is the goal. Tommy is the thing, man.

He’s going through this, and the uncle comes in and starts to go through a scene with the kid’s body, you know, and the boy experiences sexual vibrations, you know, sexual experience, and again it’s just basic music; it’s interpreted as music, and it is nothing more than music. It’s got no association with sleaziness or with undercover or with any of the things normally associated with sex. None of the romance, none of the visual stimulus, none of the sound stimulus. Just basic touch. It’s meaningless. Or not meaningless; you just don’t react, you know. Slowly but surely the kid starts to get it together, out of his simplicity, this incredible simplicity in his mind. He starts to realize that he can see, and he can hear, and he can speak; they are there, and they are happening all the time. And that all the time he has been able to hear and see. All the time it’s been there in front of him, for him to see.

This is the difficult jump. It’s going to be extremely difficult, but we want to try to do it musically. At this point, the theme, which has been the boy, starts to change. You start to realize that he is coming to the point where he is going to get over the top, he’s going to get over his hang-ups. You’re gonna stop monkeying around with songs about people being tinkered with, and with Father’s getting uptight, with Mother’s getting precious and things, and you’re gonna get down to the fact of what is going to happen to the kid.

The music has got to explain what happens, that the boy elevates and finds something which is incredible. To us, it’s nothing to be able to see and hear and speak, but to him, it’s absolutely incredible and overwhelming; this is what we want to do musically. Lyrically, it’s quite easy to do it; in fact, I’ve written it out several times. It makes great poetry, but so much depends on the music, so much. I’m hoping that we can do it. The lyrics are going to be okay, but every pitfall of what we’re trying to say lies in the music, lies in the way we play the music, the way we interpret, the way things are going during the opera.

The main characters are going to be the boy and his musical things; he’s got a mother and father and an uncle. There is a doctor involved who tries to do some psychiatric treatment on the kid which is only partly successful. The first two big events are when he hears his mother calling him and hears the word “Tommy,” and he devotes a whole part of his life to this one word. The second important event is when he sees himself in a mirror, suddenly seeing himself for the first time: He takes an immediate back step, bases his whole life around his own image. The whole thing then becomes incredibly introverted. The music and the lyrics become introverted, and he starts to talk about himself, starts to talk about his beauty. Not knowing, of course, that what he saw was him but still regarding it as something which belonged to him, and of course it did all of the time anyway.

It’s a very complex thing, and I don’t know if I’m getting it across.

WENNER: You are.

TOWNSHEND: Because I don’t feel at all together.

WENNER: I know you don’t look it, but you’re coming on very together.

TOWNSHEND: Good.

WENNER: This theme, not so dramatically, seems to be repeated in so many songs that you’ve written and the Who have performed – a young cat, our age, becoming an outcast from a very ordinary sort of circumstance. Not a “Desolation Row” scene, but a very common set of middle-class situations. Why does this repeat itself?

TOWNSHEND: I don’t know. I never really thought about that.

WENNER: There’s a boy with pimple problems and a chick with perspiration problems and so on.

TOWNSHEND: Most of these things just come from me. Like this idea I’m talking about right now, comes from me. These things are my ideas, it’s probably why they all come out the same; they’ve all got the same fuckups, I’m sure.

I can’t get my family together, you see. My family were musicians. There were essentially middle class, they were musicians, and I spent a lot of time with them when other kids’ parents were at work, and I spent a lot of time away from them when other kids had parents, you know. That was the only way it came together. They were always out for long periods. But they were always home for long periods, too. They were always very respectable – nobody ever stopped making me play the guitar and nobody ever stopped me smoking pot, although they advised me against it.

They didn’t stop me from doing anything that I wanted to do. I had my first fuck in the drawing room of my mother’s house. The whole incredible thing about my parents is that I just can’t place their effect on me, and yet I know that it’s there. I can’t say how they affected me. When people find out that my parents are musicians, they ask how it affected me. Fucked if I know; musically, I can’t place it, and I can’t place it in any other way. But I don’t even feel myself aware of a class structure, or an age structure, and yet I perpetually write about age structures and class structures. On the surface I feel much more concerned with racial problems and politics. Inside I’m much more into basic stuff.

WENNER: You must have thought about where it comes from if it’s not your parents. Was it the scene around you when you were young?

TOWNSHEND: One of the things which has impressed me most in life was the Mod movement in England, which was an incredible youthful thing. It was a movement of young people, much bigger than the hippie thing, the underground and all these things. It was an army, a powerful, aggressive army of teenagers with transport. Man, with these scooters and with their own way of dressing. It was acceptable, this was important; their way of dressing was hip, it was fashionable, it was clean and it was groovy. You could be a bank clerk, man, it was acceptable. You got them on your own ground. They thought, “Well, there’s a smart young lad.” And also you were hip, you didn’t get people uptight. That was the good thing about it. To be a mod, you had to have short hair, money enough to buy a real smart suit, good shoes, good shirts; you had to be able to dance like a madman. You had to be in possession of plenty of pills all the time and always be pilled up. You had to have a scooter covered in lamps. You had to have like an army anourak to wear on the scooter. And that was being a mod, and that was the end of the story.

The groups that you liked when you were a mod were the Who. That’s the story of why I dig the mods, man, because we were mods and that’s how we happened. That’s my generation, that’s how the song “My Generation” happened, because of the mods. The mods could appreciate the Beatles’ taste. They could appreciate their haircuts, their peculiar kinky things that they had going at the time.

What would happen is that the phenomena of the Who could invoke action. The sheer fact that four mods could actually form themselves into a group which sounded quite good, considering that most mods were lower-class garbagemen, you know, with enough money to buy himself Sunday best, you know, their people. Nowadays, okay, there are quite a few mod groups. But mods aren’t the kind of people that could play the guitar, and it was just groovy for them to have a group. Our music at the time was representative of what the mods dug, and it was meaningless rubbish.

We used to play, for example, “Heat Wave,” a very long version of “Smokestack Lightning,” and that song we sang tonight, “Young Man Blues,” fairly inconsequential kind of music which they could identify with and perhaps something where you banged your feet on the third beat or clapped your hands on the fifth beat, something so that you get the things to go by. I mean, they used to like all kinds of things. They were mods and we’re mods and we dig them. We used to make sure that if there was a riot, a mod-rocker riot, we would begin playing in that area. That was a place called Brighton.

WENNER: By the sea?

TOWNSHEND: Yes. That’s where they used to assemble. We’d always be playing there. And we got associated with the whole thing, and we got into the spirit of the whole thing. And, of course, rock & roll, the words wouldn’t even be mentioned; the fact that music would have any part of the movement was terrible. The music would come from the actual drive of the youth combination itself.

You see, as individuals these people were nothing. They were the lower, they were England’s lowest common denominators. Not only were they young, they were also lower-class young. They had to submit to the middle class way of dressing and way of speaking and way of acting in order to get the very jobs which kept them alive. They had to do everything in terms of what existed already around them. That made their way of getting something across that much more latently effective, the fact that they were hip and yet still, as far as Granddad was concerned, exactly the same. It made the whole gesture so much more vital. It was incredible. As a force, they were unbelievable. That was the Bulge, that was England’s Bulge; all the war babies, all the old soldiers coming back from war and screwing until they were blue in the face – this was the result. Thousands and thousands of kids, too many kids, not enough teachers, not enough parents, not enough pills to go around. Everybody just grooving on being a mod.

WENNER: How do you think that compares with what’s called today the American hippie scene?

TOWNSHEND: I think it compares. I think the hippie thing compares favorably, but it’s a different motivation. There are beloved figures. There is pot, there is acid, and there is the Maharishi, there is the Beatles, where is being anti-the-U.S.A., there are a whole lot of red herrings, which aren’t what it’s all about. What it is all about is the hippies, you know, what’s what it’s all about. The people, the actions, not the events, not the tripping out or the latest fad or the latest record or the latest trip or the latest thing to groove to. The thing is people.

This is what they seem to overlook. You see, this is the thing about the media barrage – you become aware only of the products around you because they’re glorified, and so that when somebody gets stoned, what they do is that they don’t groove to themselves, really, they just sit around and they dig everything that’s around them. They perhaps dig other people. They dig the way the room looks. The way the flowers look, the way the music sounds, the way the group performs, how good the Beatles are. “How nice that is.” This is the whole thing: they’re far too abject in outlook, they’re far too concerned with what is feeding into them and not so much with what they are. This is the difference between the mod thing in England and the hippie thing over here. The hippies are waiting for information, because information is perpetually coming in, and they sit there and wait for it.

This is the incredible thing about the States, man. To get stoned in England is an entirely different trip. I’m not saying that you get stoned and you dig yourself or anything. What you would do is you would get stoned, perhaps you’d walk out and look at a tree or a matchstick or something and come back and have a cup of tea and then go to bed, man. But over here, you just carry on regardless. You to go Orange Julius and you have an Orange Julius, and you watch TV and then you listen to some records, played very, very loud, and you know, it’s a whole different pattern, a whole different way.

The acceptance of what one already has is the thing. Whereas the mod thing was the rejection of everything one already had. You didn’t want to know about the fucking TV. “Take it away,” you know. You didn’t want to know about the politicians, you didn’t want to know about the war. If there had been a draft, man, they would have just disappeared. If there had been a draft, there wouldn’t have been mods, because something like that – the thing was that it was a sterile situation, it was perfect. It was almost too perfect.

Over here it’s imperfect, it’s not a sterile situation. The group themselves can’t become powerful because they can be weakened at so many points. They can be weakened by their education, by their spirituality, by their intelligence, by the sheer fact that Americans are more highly educated. The average American and the average Englishman, and the Englishmen I’m talking about are the people that probably left school when they were fourteen or fifteen. Some of them can’t even read or write. But yet they were mods, they were like – you see something nearer, I suppose, in what it’s like to be a Hell’s Angel, but not as much flash, not as much gimmicking, much less part of a huge machine.

WENNER: Can you pin down some of the elements that make rock & roll what it is, starting with the basic elements . . . it’s got the beat.

TOWNSHEND: It’s a bigger thing than that. The reason it’s got to have a beat is the fact that rock & roll music has got to have bounce; it’s got to have that thing to make you swing; it’s got to swing in an old-fashioned sense; in other words, it’s got to undulate. It’s got to have a rhythm which undulates. It can’t be a rhythm which you count down in a long drone like classical music. It doesn’t have to be physical because when you think of a lot of Beatles music, it’s very non-physical. Like Sgt. Pepper’s is an incredibly nonphysical album. If I hear something like the Electric Flag album, I jump up and dance, and I hardly get to hear the music because I’m so busy jumping up dancing.

But when I hear something like “Summertime Blues,” then I do both, then I’m into rock & roll; then I’m into a way of life, into that thing about being that age and grooving to that thing that he’s talking about which is, like, summertime and, like, not being able to get off work early and not being able to get out in the sunshine and not being able to borrow the car because Dad’s in a foul mood. All those frustrations of summer so wonderfully and so simply, so poetically, put in this incredible package, the package being rock & roll.

There’s the package, there’s the vehicle. Not only is it about some incredible poignant experiences, but it’s also a gas. The whole thing about rock & roll dynamism, in many ways, is the fact that if it does slow down, if it does start to review itself, if it takes any sort of perspective on life at all, it falls. As soon as someone makes any comment, for example, musically on something they’ve done before, they collapse.

WENNER: You talked about maturing and settling down. How has this affected you?

TOWNSHEND: It gives me a far more logical time aspect on the group. I’m not as frantically working as I used to. I always used to work with the thought in my mind that the Who were gonna last precisely another two minutes. If the tax man didn’t get us, then our own personality clashes would. I never would have believed that the Who would still be together today and, of course, I’m delighted and love it. Nothing can be better really than waking up in the morning and everything is still the same as it was the day before. That’s the best kind of thing you can have in life, consistency of some kind.

It always amazes me. As an individual, it’s given me incredible freedom and all. I know that I don’t have to do things like I used to Our manage will create artificial pressures to try and get me to operate, but I know they are artificial so they don’t work like they used to. “My Generation” was written under pressure; someone came to me and said, “Make a statement, make a statement, make a statement, make a statement, make a statement,” and I’m going “Oh, okay, okay, okay,” and I get “My Generation” together very quickly, like in a night – it feels like that. It’s a very blustering kind of blurting thing. A lot of our early records were. “I Can’t Explain” was a blurter and a bluster, and “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere,” which was our second record, was just a brag, like, you know, nothing more. “Substitute” was a takeoff on Mick Jagger or something equally banal.

The whole structure of our early songs was very, very simple. Now, with less pressure, I have to create pressures for myself. I have to excite myself by myself. I have to say this is what we’re going to do, this is what you mustn’t so, this is what the Who are going to do, this is what you’ve got to get the Who to do, this is what you’ve got to ask the Who to do for you. You set yourself these pressures so that now the important thing is that the Who are the impetus behind the ideas, rather than the pressure of pop music being the impetus behind the music that we used to play, whereas now our music is far more realistically geared to the time in which our audience moves.

Pop audiences and pop musicians are geared to different time structures; they lead different lives entirely. They say it’s very difficult to go and see a group and feel totally in with that they’re doing because they’re on a different time trip. They are doing one gig out of a hundred gigs, whereas to the fan this is a very important occasion, like this is the only chance he’s gonna get to see, say, the Cream and never again in his life.

For the group, it’s another gig, and they’re going to be on the road in another ten minutes, and the fan is going to catch a section of something which as a whole is a complicated network to them. This is important to us in our compositions. The point is not to belittle each thing. It’s all very well to say, “Oh, well, it’s good to have the pressure because it’s the pressure that makes the music move and wild and groovy,” but the music becomes thrown-out, tossed-out ideas which aren’t really good. They are as much as you can give out. They are not a hundred percent.

If you slow down just a little bit and gear yourself to your audience, you can give them once hundred percent. If you do a slightly longer set on the stage, you can give all instead of having to cram a lot of unused energy into guitar smashing, for example. Unchanneled energy or misdirected energy is incredible in pop music, incredible. Like the Beatles know how to channel their fucking energy. I’m convinced that there’s not a lot actually coming out, it’s just that we get all of it. We get a hundred perfect Beatles album. We don’t get any halves; they know that they are in a position and they’re got it together and they do.

WENNER: What groups do you enjoy the most?

TOWNSHEND: It’s difficult to say. I always forget the groups that I really dig. I like to watch a band with a punch, with drive, who know what they’re doing, with a tight sound. I used to like to watch Jimi Hendrix; sometimes he worries me now because he often gets amplifier hang-ups and stuff. I can’t stand that, it kills me. I used to like to watch Cream until they got sad and fucked up. I still dig to watch a group like the Young Rascals, who just walk on with their incredibly perfect sound and their incredibly lovely organ and they’re so easy, the way their numbers flow out, just to watch a group stand and go through their thing so beautifully. I dig that. I dig a guy like Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin. She’s been standing still and singing the blues all night, and then when she’s really into it she’ll do a tiny little dance and just get her little feet going, very slightly; just a little jog, and in terms of what she’s doing with her voice, it’s an incredible gesture and really goes mad. I dig Mick Jagger, who I think is an incredible show, and Arthur Brown I think is an incredible show, too. What I dig in a performance, in an event, is essentially to be communicated to, to feel part of an audience. I always feel like an audience because I am an audience if I am watching anything, but I like to feel alongside the other members of the things, I like to feel a part of the audience; I like to feel that I’m being effective as a member of the audience. I don’t mind being asked to clap my fucking hands, let’s get that straight. I like to clap my hands, and it doesn’t get my uptight if someone says clap or sing or shout or scream or do what you want to do. That’s exactly what I want to do, and if I feel like jumping up and down and dancing, I don’t want everyone telling me that I’m bringing them down or that they can’t listen to the music or something. People should be an audience, and if it’s time-to-get-up-and-dance-time, everybody should do it at the same time.

This happened when Otis Redding appeared, that’s what happened. When he wanted them to sit down he said, “And now we’re going to play a soulful tune,” and sang in a soulful way and was dead still, and when he wanted them to get up and dance he said, “Come on, clap your hands, get up and dance,” and they did, man, grooved right along with him.

When you’re listening to Ravi Shankar, you know what you’ve got to do. When you’re in the Who’s audience, you know – I like to know where I am. I like to go and see a group and know what my role is. I like to know whether or not I’m supposed to listen attentively, whether I’m supposed to groove, whether I’m supposed to do anything constructive, whether I’m invited up to jam or what. I like to know where I’m am. It’s usually the most professional groups that give you this feeling.

WENNER: Performers like Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, the Who, all are tremendously physical, tremendously sensual, tremendously involved with very sexual things. Does this characterize rock & roll?

TOWNSHEND: It must! It must. I mean, it does. Period. It embodies it, it’s part of its life. Life revolves, of not around it, within it, if not within it, without it, but definitely along with it. Something about rock & roll has to do with sex and everything to do with sex, like becoming together and the parting and this kind of thing. The whole thing about polluting a chick and then waving goodbye. The whole process of sex is embodied in just the rock & roll rhythm – like gospel music or like native chants or something. Just banging on the table is like it’s the demand, and it’s also the satiation as well. You bang on the table and in the same process you masturbate, you know. At the end of the show you’re finished, you know, you’ve had it. You’ve come your lot, and the show’s over.

“Rock me baby until my back ain’t got no bone.” That is the line. Man, it’s such a funny line, I can never believe it. I imagine some very skinny, wizened old Negro blues singer singing that in a very frail old voice: “Rock me baby ’til my back ain’t got no bone.”

WENNER: I forget if I read this or whether it is something Glyn Johns told me. You and the group came out of this rough, tough area, were very restless and had this thing: You were going to show everybody; you were a kid with a big nose, and you were going to make all these people love it, love your big nose.

TOWNSHEND: That was probably a mixture of what Glyn Johns told you and an article I wrote. In fact, Glyn was exactly the kind of person I wanted to show. Glyn used to be one of the people who, right when I walked in, he’d be on the stage singing. I’d walk in because I dug his group. I’d often go to see him, and he would announce through the microphone, “Look at the bloke in the audience with that huge nose” and of course the whole audience would turn around and look at me, and that would be acknowledgement from Glyn.

When I was in school the geezers that were snappy dressers and got chicks like years before I ever even thought they existed would always like to talk about my nose. This seemed to be the biggest thing in my life: my fucking nose, man. Whenever my dad got drunk, he’d come up to me and say, “Look, son, you know, looks aren’t everything,” and shit like this. He’s getting drunk, and he’s ashamed of me because I’ve got a huge nose, and he’s trying to make me feel good. I know it’s huge, and of course it became incredible, and I became an enemy of society. I had to get over this thing. I’ve done it, and I never believe it to this day, but I do not think about my nose anymore. And if I had said this when I was a kid, if I ever said to myself, “One of these days you’ll go through a whole day without once thinking that your nose is the biggest in the world, man” – you know, I’d have laughed.

It was huge. At that time, it was the reason I did everything. It’s the reason I played the guitar – because of my nose. The reason I wrote songs was because of my nose, everything, so much. I eventually admitted something in an article where I summed it up far more logically in terms of what I do today. I said that what I wanted to do was distract attention away from my nose to my body and make people look at my body instead of at my face – turn my body into a machine. But by the time I was into visual things like that, anyway, I’d forgotten all about my nose and a big ego trip, and I thought, well, if I’ve got a big nose, it’s a groove and it’s the greatest thing that can happen because, I don’t know, it’s like a lighthouse or something. The whole trip had changed by then, anyway.

WENNER: What is your life like today?

TOWNSHEND: Mainly laughs, actually, mainly laughs. The Who on tour is a very difficult trip: it’s a delicate one, and it could be dangerous. So it’s best to keep this on the humorous side. If we take this situation seriously, we tend to feedback. Like one person gets a slight down and the rest of us get a slight down, and so we have to keep spirits up even if it’s false, even if it’s jokes that aren’t funny, just in order to get someone to laugh. That is what it’s all about to me now.

WENNER: What is going to happen to rock & roll?

TOWNSHEND: I’m looking to a couple of people. I’ve heard some of the Rolling Stones’ tracks, and although I dig them I don’t think they’re anything more than what they are which in incredible, delicious and wonderful rock & roll and well overdue from them. The Rolling Stones should always be a nonprogressive group. I don’t think that the Rolling Stones should be concerned with what they’re doing in pop. That’s what I dig about them.

Dylan, for example, could create a new thing. I think if he made his next record with the Big Pink, that could be interesting. That might create some new things in rock & roll. Dylan’s thing about writing the lyric and then picking up the guitar up and just pumping out the song as it comes out is a direct guide to what will happen in music.

People are going to want music to be more realistic, more honest and more of a gift from the heart, rather than a gift from the lungs, as it were. Instead of wanting to go and watch Ginger Baker run six miles before your very eyes, you’d rather dig what he’s doing. I think this is what’s happening.

WENNER: People are always trying to find a parallel with jazz. Do you see what happened to jazz, happening here?

TOWNSHEND: No. Jazz totally absolutely boiled down to a different kettle of fish. Because of the audiences. Audiences were a different breed entirely. If you’re talking about the days when the people used to do the Black Bottom, then maybe you’re getting nearer to what pop music is equivalent to today.

Pop is more than the Black Bottom; pop is more than short skirts. The effect pop has on society is incredible. It’s a power thing. It’s now in a position that if everyone that was thinking in pop music terms were to stand end to end, they’d go around the world ten times. This is what pop music is about. Pop music is basically big. It concerns far more than the twenty-year-olds. It concerns everybody now. It’s lasted too long.

Jazz, in its entirety – modern jazz, progressive jazz – hasn’t had the effect on the world in fucking twenty-five years that pop has had in a year today. Geniuses like Charlie Parker are completely unrecognized by the world, and yet groups like the Rolling Stones – very normal, very regular guys – are incredibly well known. This is true of everything. The whole system is a different thing entirely. The audiences then were smaller; they became snobbish, racist. They were pompous jazz audiences. They became slow to catch on to new ideas. They became prejudiced, dogmatic, everything bad. While pop music is everything good.

Pop is everything; it’s all sugar and spice, it really is. Pop audiences are the cream of today’s music-listening audiences. They’re not the classical snobs who sit by their poxy Fisher amplifiers and listen to Leonard Bernstein conducting. Not knowing that Leonard Bernstein is completely stoned out of his crust and grooving to high heaven, thinking, “What a fine, excellent recording this is, really fine,” and not knowing what the fucking hell is going on.

This is what the jazz listener was like. Okay, he’d have a few beers and he’d go down to the fucking Village Gate and shout one “yeah” in a night, when he thought that someone had played something quite clever. But he didn’t know what they were into. I just about know what they’re into today, listening to some recordings that Charlie Parker made nearly twenty-five years ago. God knows what people thought then.

Pop’s audience is right alongside; they know what’s happening. Pop hasn’t confused anybody, it really hasn’t. it’s kept with the people, it’s kept in time with the people. It’s going out now; the panic now is that the people feel it going out of step. They felt it go out of step in England and completely rebelled.

People just felt that pop was getting out of their hands; groups like the Pink Floyd were appearing, scary group, psychedelic. So they completely freaked out. Nothing like the down-home Rolling Stones who used to have a good old-fashioned piss against a good old-fashioned garage attendant. This Pink Floyd – what were they all about? With their flashing lights and all taking trips and one of them’s psycho. “What’s this all about? That’s not my bag.”

So they all turn over to good old Engelbert Humperdinck who is a phenomenon of out age in England. Yet it’s a sign of the revolt; it’s a sign of the fact that the music got out of step with the people.

WENNER: Why did it happen in England?

TOWNSHEND: Europe is a piss place for music, and it’s a complete incredible fluke that England has got all the bad points of Nazi Germany, all the pompous pride of France, all the old-fashioned patriotism of the old Order of the Empire. It’s got everything that’s got nothing to do with music. All the European qualities which should enhance, which should come out in music, England should be able to benefit by, but it doesn’t.

And just all of a sudden, bang! wack! zap-swock out of nowhere. There it is: the Beatles. Incredible. How did they ever appear then on the poxy little shit-stained island? Out of the Germans you can accept Wagner; out of the French you can accept Debussy; and even out of the Russians you can accept Tchaikovsky. All these incredible people. Who’s England got? Purcell? He’s a gas, but he’s one of the only guys we’ve got, and Benjamin Britten today who copies Purcell. There’s so few people.

And all of a sudden there’s the Beatles, with their little funny “we write our own songs.” “Don’t you have ghost writers?”

It’s difficult to talk about rock & roll. It’s difficult because it’s essentially a category and a category which embodies something which transcends the category. The category itself becomes meaningless. The words “rock & roll” don’t begin to conjure up any form of conversation in my mind because they are so puny compared to what they are applied to. But “rock & roll” is by far a better expression than “pop.” It means nothing.

It’s a good thing you’ve got a machine, a radio that puts out good rock & roll songs, and it makes you groove through the day. That’s the game, of course: When you are listening to a rock & roll song the way you listen to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” or something similar, that’s the way you should really spend your whole life. That’s how you should be all the time: just grooving to something simple, something basically good, something effective and something not too big. That’s what life is.

Rock & roll is one of the keys, one of the many, many keys to a very complex life. Don’t get fucked up with all the many keys. Groove to rock & roll, and then you’ll probably find one of the best keys of all.

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January 17, 2014 Posted by | Pete Townshend Interview In Rolling Stone 1968 | , | Leave a comment

Pete Townshend interview in Rolling Stone May 14th 1970

PeteLoRes copyFrom Rolling Stone May 14th 1970

Rolling Stone #58 – Thursday, May 14, 1970
Pete Townshend Interview by Jonathan Cott

Pete Townshend’s quiet and unassuming 18th century house stands on the Thames Embankment in Twickenham facing Eel Pie Island where, eight years ago, the Stones, Aynsley Dunbar, Acker Bilk, et al., first used to blast music out of the island’s club where the floors bounced in all directions. “Free were on the other night,” Townshend told us. “I opened the double frame windows and listened and they sounded good.”

The gardener was pruning the roses in front of the house when Jan Hodenfield and I arrived. Boats were grounded in the low tide riverbed, scores of gulls resting on them. “When spring comes, the birds fly to the sea,” he told us as we waited for Townshend to return home. It was one of those lazy afternoons when spring promises and river scents set you in the mood for an 18th century English gardener to say something like “Sir, I for my part shall almost answer your hopes, but for this gentleman that you desire to see has stretched his legs up to town.”

Pete Townshend soon stretched his legs back down to the house, invited us into the living room where, hanging just above scores of little wooden animal figurines on the mantel, Meher Baba’s smile floated off the wall out through the windows across the river and into the island. Townshend made tea and then we talked about his plans and ideas since exhausting the performance possibilities of Tommy.

Afterwards, we went down the hall to Townshend’s home studio where he played us tapes: “A Normal Day for Brian, A Man Who Died Everyday,” which Townshend wrote and recorded after Brian Jones’s death:

I used to play my guitar as a kid wishing that I could be like him but today I changed my mind I decided that I don’t want to die But it was a normal day for Brian Rock and roll’s that way. It was a normal day for Brian A man who died every day

“Accidents,” a song from the forthcoming Thunderclap Newman album which Townshend produced and on which he plays bass, about “little kids having terrible accidents, falling down holes and being run over by cars”; “There’s a Fortune in Those Hills,” a slow wailing country song; “I Don’t Even Know Myself,” a dazzling song which begins with riffs out of “Gimme Shelter,” shifting into a gentle mountain music chorus and brilliant instrumental solos. These last two songs will appear, re-orchestrated and including the other members of the Who, on the second of the Who’s forthcoming two LPs, the first being The Who Live at Leeds.

Townshend explained how he recorded those songs in his studio: “This is just a two-track tape recorder, but it’s got self-syncing on it. I can put something on one track and then put something on the other directly parallel to it. Then I can get those two tracks, which were in this case voice and acoustic on one track and drums on the other, mix them together adding a bass guitar and put it onto one track of another tape recorder. Then on the other recorder I’ve got guitar, voice, drums, and bass together and I put a piano on the next track of that recorder. And then I mix those two tracks down onto the other recorder again in stereo, adding a guitar.” Which is how Townshend becomes his own one man band.

When we left, Townshend presented us with a privately released Meher Baba birthday LP featuring Alien Cohen, Ron Geesin and Pete Townshend singing solo: “The Seeker,” “Day of Silence,” “The Love Man,” and, if you can believe it, Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine.”

What kind of songs will you be playing on your next tour?

Well I’m still on a kind of a Self with a capital S trip, you know. It’s a bit difficult, writing heavy when you really want to write light or when you really want to write devotional, you know? It’s like a period which I know lots of other people have already gone through. I know the Beatles went through it, and quite possibly the Stones for a while. I’ve just done a thing of getting out of that trip, Tommy got it out of my system. I’m getting a balance now between “straight head” and “clear head,” getting back to the point now where I realize that if you want to get anything done you’ve got to actually Do it, you know, with a capital D, and not wait. So the kind of stuff we’re doing at the moment — have you heard “The Seeker”? It’s a bit like back-to-the-womb Who, not particularly very good, but it’s a nice side, it’s good because it’s probably the only kind of thing we could do after something like Tommy, something which talks a little bit about spiritual ethics, blah blah blah, but at the same time is recapturing the basic gist of the thing.

The first thing I associate with self and quiet in terms of rock are groups like the Incredible String Band or Donovan. That’s where the tone of the thing equals the con-tent, right? Whereas the Who is a rock and roll sound basically.

Yeah, but it’s roughly the same thing, it’s just that I’m saying it in a different way. I’ve written something quite similar called “I Don’t Know Myself,” which is kind of blaming the world because you’re fucked-up. It’s very much like “The Seeker” in a way. I kind of dig that, I think that, you know, the world is responsible. You can blame a lot on society, and you can blame a lot on yourself in society, and that’s good, but I rather think of myself as something tender which has got to be sorted out and be found. I think that the self is an enemy that’s got to be kicked out the fucking way so that you can really get down to it. Most of the songs that I’m writing now are a bit like that — “Don’t pretend that you know me because I don’t even know myself.” Things like, “don’t send me to war because I’m too busy fighting a battle with me,” that kind of thing.

Well, that can be an excuse, too. It’s a half put-down of yourself, isn’t it?

Well, it’s a half put-down, but it’s only a half put-down of one bit.

There are some people who think you really can get what you’re after. The idea of asking the Beatles and Timothy Leary for guidance because they’re “stars” might seem to some people just like reading a lot of newspapers. How do you feel about that guy in the “Seeker” song?

He’s just like a whirling dervish. It started off as being very much me, and then stopped being very much me. It’s very personal, but then the whole thing is that, as soon as you discover that songs are personal, you reject them. It’s what happened with “I Can See for Miles.” I wrote it as a personal song at first, and as soon as I sussed out that that was what was going on, I completely pushed it away.

Quite loosely, “The Seeker” was just a thing about what I call Divine Desperation, or just Desperation. And what it does to people. It just kind of covers a whole area where the guy’s being fantastically tough and ruthless and nasty and he’s being incredibly selfish and he’s hurting people, wrecking people’s homes, abusing his heroes, he’s accusing everyone of doing nothing for him and yet at the same time he’s making a fairly valid statement, he’s getting nowhere, he’s doing nothing and the only thing he really can be sure of is his death, and that at least dead, he’s going to get what he wants. He thinks!

I wrote it when I was drunk in Florida. We were in the middle of an American tour and me and the production manager went out to Tom Wright’s father’s pad in the middle of the jungle to get some sun, and because we were only there for like five days, this guy was a very good friend of mine, he got in lots of steaks and lots of booze, and he like overdid everything and it ended up with us, him and the production manager getting completely stoned every night and me being the only person that could stand up, playing, and we were just standing amid the sand spurs one day, I was just covered in sand spurs, I kept falling and they stick in your skin and you can’t get them out, screaming with pain and singing this song and it just came out, “I’m looking for me, you’re looking for you, we’re looking at each other and we don’t know what to do.”

Sometimes there’s three of you in a room, it happens very rarely, three or four people maybe, and you get to a certain state, you might all be on completely different trips but what you really want to do is like hug one another. But you know it wouldn’t do any good, all you want to say is, “You know, I think you’re really a great guy.” You know that drunken thing that you might go through when it makes that come out. Makes a stranger your friend. It just was a good way of expressing it. Tom Wright was going, “It’s gotta be your next single.” It is. And they carried on to do the rest of the verses. By some miracle I remembered it all.

Was “The Seeker” done here or in—?

I did a version of “The Seeker” which appears on an album which we did for Meher Baba’s birthday celebrations, which I still dig more than the version done by the Who. But I normally do, in an egotistical way I always prefer my demos to what the Who does. But, this is just my own trip. Usually you find that when the Who does it, it’s completely heavier, whereas with “The Seeker,” I felt that the group was just being whipped into shape, and that what I really want to do when we record in the future is to allow the song to emerge as we’re actually recording it, something which I’ve threatened for years and years and years.

You see, recording is really, it’s the recording of a process of discovery. It’s shifted, it shouldn’t be just a performance going down on the tape, it should also be people discovering lyrics for the first time or maybe a song evolving. It’s like when I listen to something like, say, the very first demo of “My Generation,” the second demo of “My Generation,” the third demo of “My Generation,” the group’s first try at it, the group’s second try at it, and then the final try, you know. Then the reduction of that try and then the cut of that try, and then the pressed recording of that try, and you listen to the two things together and they’re worlds apart. One has class; it’s ridiculous, but I mean the finished thing is kind of polished and slick and it hasn’t got too many bum notes in it, that kind of thing. But the demo, it’s scruffy, it’s hissy, it’s lousy, it’s distorted, and nobody would be able to listen to it; but none the less, it’s got something which the finished one hasn’t, and vice versa. The thing is to bridge that gap.

And I mean, no matter what people say about the Band — I know a lot of people really think they’re kind of frigid — but I think the reason why so many people dig them is because they’ve done that. I mean, while they’re making sounds, they’re discovering things; they’re practically writing as they’re going along, and it’s all being recorded as they’re doing it. It’s like someone picking up a guitar in a room and playing something. Well no, it’s not like someone picking up a guitar in a room at all, I mean they’re conscious of a heavy performance trip.

Have you ever thought of putting out one side of a record with all the takes of a particular song? You’d put it in free as a bonus record.

Yeah, I tried it once. I did this thing with a friend of mine who’s a lecturer at an art college, he said come down and play some tapes. And everyone was on holiday. I took a system down and I took a load of tapes, and I was going on about the thing that I’ve been going on about, the difference between the finished thing and the demo, and trying to bridge the gap, just talking about the difference in generations, as it were, in copy dullness that you get between an artist having his work printed and a musician having his work recorded and then fucked about with and perhaps copied and then buggered about with in other countries and so on. And I was playing them this song that’s on the Thunderclap Newman album, it’s called “Accidents.” The original demo’s just a guy with a twelve-string going and someone was hitting a cardboard box in the background. But I mean, the first time I heard it, it completely blew my mind. I just knew it was incredible. Then it went into another phase and then into another phase and then a kind of a crisp recording, and I played them all three. And they flipped for the finished thing. Nobody even mentioned the early one.

It sounds like they’re brainwashed to me — terrible.

Maybe you’re right: Maybe if you did allow people the time to digest — no, that’s wrong, it’s wrong, it’s not true. The thing is, if you give them three versions, they’re going to make a choice. If you give them the one version, let’s face it, I was lucky, because first I heard the first version, got hip to that; then I heard the second version, got hip to that; then I heard the final version, so now I’m hip to them all. You play them all bang-bang-bang — like that — and it doesn’t happen. There’s no evolution there, because you’re not working towards anything, it’s all finished material. I don’t think it would work. Young musicians would find it interesting, maybe, to see how songs evolved.

How much interested are you in the effect your songs have? Like the effect of’Tommy’ on people listening to it?

I’m very worried about the effect of Tommy because we wanted to avoid so many of the things that actually happened with people. I don’t mind, for example, a kid coming up and saying, “Something very incredible happened to me while I was listening to Tommy and I felt a spiritual a-wakening” or anything — I mean, that’s cool, because if I could have got at someone like Dylan or the Beatles in the past, or in my case it would probably have been the Stones, I probably would have said similar things to them, particularly to Brian Jones, whom I used to see a lot, who used to come and look at me with boss eyes and wonder what I was talking about. I don’t mind that, but what I do mind is a situation when people hear about that kind of thing and expect it to happen part and parcel with the music. I don’t think kids take that kind of journalism seriously; but you’ve got to admit that most of the stuff that was written about Tommy was fantastically unbalanced, without exception, it was all unbalanced. I think the thing is that there was nothing real about the criticism of it, but there was something very real about what we were trying to do; we were trying to fuck the criticism from the word go, so that the whole thing was watertight.

But because the structure was loose, a lot of things could be read into it, too.

Exactly, I mean, this is what I suddenly realized. The thing was we wanted it to work on lots of levels. We said, well, you know, we want to turn on the spiritually hip, we want to turn on the fuckers and the streetfighters and everyone, we just want to turn on the whole gang. We want to turn on the opera lovers but also we want to turn on other people as well. And we succeeded in turning on a lot of people that weren’t included before, but what we also succeeded in doing was confusing a lot of people. Let’s face it, the Who were the Who before they did that, and that’s the key, that’s where the thing clearly went out of balance. It’s very strange to be talking about something like Tommy as a kind of failure, but I think the thing itself, everything we intended to do, we did.

I believe rock can do anything, it’s the ultimate vehicle for everything. It’s the ultimate vehicle for saying anything, for putting down anything, for building up anything, for killing and creating. It’s the absolute ultimate vehicle for self-destruction, which is the most incredible thing, because there’s nothing as effective as that, not in terms of art, anyway, or what we call art. You just can’t be as effectively self-destructive if you’re a writer, for example, or a painter, you just can’t make sure that you’re never going to fucking raise your head again; whereas if you’re a rock star you really can. And of course, all this choice is always there. There’s always musicians who say, “Well, I’ve had enough.” There’s always somebody there saying, “Really?”

How do you control the situation, then, if you don’t want that?

Well, it’s not a matter of being able to control it because it’s a matter of it being always a situation where you’re aware of the possibilities and you make a rough choice. Let’s put it this way; I suppose it is controllable. The thing is, you can look at something like a song like “My Generation” and say that the intentions of that were quite obvious, it worked all the way down the line. It repulsed those it was supposed to repulse, and it drew a very thick line between the people who dug it and the people who wouldn’t dig it. Well, what if we say we want to make that line disappear, and we don’t want to repulse anyone, but what we do want to do is fuck everyone, as it were, what we want to do is to stimulate everyone and take away their preconceptions about us. We say, we’re the Who, and we’ve been blah blah blah up to now, we’ve been guitar specialists, we’ve been people that wrote such and such type rock lyrics. But we want to get to a position where we want to break down people’s conceptions of what we’re doing by doing something like Tommy, right? This wasn’t the original plan, it wasn’t to do something like this, it was more of a heavy kind of neoclassical thing that I was into, thinking, just go from the sublime to the ridiculous, just completely twist.

And then just when everybody’s like trotting up behind you, turn ’round and get out the whip, and say, “Right, now we’ve got you, now listen to this, because this is what’s really happening.” The only thing that happens is that you break down people’s preconceptions, but as soon as their preconceptions are gone, it opens a door, and the thing which broke down their fucking preconceptions instigates a new lot. It really did escape me that in fact the first thing people are going to hear after listening to Tommy is, of course, Tommy again. So as soon as it breaks down what they know the Who to be, the Who take their next big step — what’s next? Obviously we’re not going to be able to make the record change immediately in nature and then present ourselves — ha ha! — out of the cupboard.

Well, maybe the best thing for the Who is just to embody what’s going on, because that’s apparently the way people finally take it.

Well, absolutely, I mean, the whole trick really of rock is to be a reflection of what’s happening anyway.

Of course if what’s happening is just chaotic, then you can’t do much to change it, can you?

No, not really. But I mean, the thing is this: You can make an order out of chaos by calling it chaos — do you know what I mean? Say, well okay, everybody’s fucked-up, right, we’re fucked-up again — you know, that’s it, and then everybody’s quite happy to be fucked-up. It’s when you don’t know what you are and when you don’t know what situation you’re in that you can’t bear it, or when you’re pretending to be something that you’re not or pretending to be the other thing.

I really got very heavy over Tommy, I really thought I was doing the world a service at one stage. The thing that hit me about Tommy looking back on it, is that it wasn’t very Who, you know. Let’s face it, I could have walked up to any group, even a group like the Kinks or the Stones or the Beatles and said, “Look, here’s Tommy with all the songs and the demos, just sort it out, Ringo sing this” and blah blah — you know what I mean?

But the harmonies and the phrasing were all the Who?

Yeah, but I still resented slightly the way it came out, because I feel that the Who have got to be on top of it, otherwise they don’t shine. You can’t accept our recorded sound unless the group is really on top of what it’s doing, because our recorded sound isn’t good enough. We’re getting on top of it slowly, but it’s like so miserable waiting, like it was miserable waiting for the Stones to get on top of their recordings. But they did it, I think, with Beggars’ Banquet, they were on top of it then, like when Charlie hit the deep tom-tom it sounded like a fucking deep tom-tom, and not like a cardboard box.

The production of our records has got nothing to do with sound. It’s got to do with trying to keep Keith Moon on his fucking drum stool and keep him away from the booze. And through that period it was to do with keeping me from fucking out on some kind of other dope. I’m very good now, I sit there waiting for each tape, but there was a whole period when Kit Lambert was just keeping us from really fighting. We’re a dreadful group to record.

How does Meher Baba come to be involved with your music?

It’s getting to the point where the whole thing is relaxing quite a lot because I’m beginning to see something quite simple. If you want to get your head together, right, or your soul together, or whatever it is you’re trying to get together, there is no necessity to go ’round changing the color of the walls and changing the carpet that you’ve got on the floor, and cutting your hair off, and stopped smoking or any of those trips, there’s no need for that. It’s the translation of what’s happening and the way you get into what’s happening that is the thing. And so I’ve just got to the point now when I’ve suddenly realized after a long time that writing and things like that shouldn’t change; and subsequently this is why musically I feel I’m moving a little bit back to the position we were in before Tommy, which wasn’t very healthy, actually.

It’s kind of peculiar, in other words it’s like going back into a position where we were in a decline. And I prefer that alternative rather than following up Tommy. I’m sure the Beatles were faced with it after the height that went on after Sgt. Pepper. I just feel that that’s the best thing to do, you’ve just got to own up to what’s happening, you can’t fuck around. It would be very very difficult to follow up Tommy, and I don’t want to do it, and I don’t think people really want it anyway.

RS58-RSWhat’s on your new live album?

This was incredibly lucky. On our last tour of the States we recorded every night on a stereo machine taking feeds from the guitars and the drum kit and the P.A. onto a rough stereo picture (the road manager was doing the balance), with the theory that in 80 performances, or whatever it was we had, we must get a good show. We go over there, we do like 80 fucking good shows, you know, some shows incredible shows. We come back, some of the tapes are bad, some of them good, some of them sound all right. Suddenly someone realizes there are 240 hours of tape to be listened to. You know, now who’s going to do this? So I said, well, fuck that, I’m not gonna sit through and listen, you’d get brainwashed, let’s face it! So we just fucking scrapped the lot, and to reduce the risk of pirating we put the lot on a bonfire and just watched it all go and we said, right, let’s get an eight track.

So we got a Pye eight track and we said take it to Leeds, and we went to Leeds and it just happened to be a good show and it just happened to be like one of the greatest audiences we’ve ever played to in our whole career, just by chance. They were incredible and although you can’t hear a lot of kind of shouting and screaming in the background, they’re civilized but they’re crazy, you know, they’re fantastic. And we played it in their own hall. And the sound is all right, it’s a good atmosphere.

Do you know what songs are on it?

Yeah, we’ve just gone for the hard stuff. The first number in the show, which was “Heaven and Hell,” was something written by John Entwistle which was something I was very keen to get on, but it didn’t come out well enough. So it starts off with “I Can’t Explain,” then it’s got “Young Man Blues” and it might have “Fortune Teller” on it as well; “Young Man Blues,” then “Substitute,” “Summertime Blues,” and “Shaking all Over” on one side. Then on the other side it’s got a long version of “My Generation” and then an encore with “Magic Bus.” It’s kinda groovy actually. I like it. It’s where we are today musically, and when you listen to it, it ain’t very far, quite honestly!

What hits you when you listen to it is you realize how much you need to see the Who. You know, I’ve never seen the Who, but it makes me realize how much you need to. Because I know that people wouldn’t rave about us so much if they could just hear that tape, but I’m sure what happens is that the kids that’ll buy the live album will probably be kids that will be able to remember us when they’ve seen us and they’ll compensate. But there’s all kinds of bits where sticks are obviously in the air when they’re supposed to be on the drums and arms are spinning when they’re supposed to be playing solos. And there’s a bit like when we are all doing “Dooby de doo doo” like scissor kicks and you can hear halfway through, where, although I’m playing in time, I’m landing in the middle of the beat. A kind of weird lumpy noise. They did a terrible job on the recording. They fucked it up incredibly. It’s the Pye Mobile set up. They did Air Force and Delaney and Bonnie and they did all right with them but they fucked up on ours, they got crackles all the way through, horrible crackles. But I’m just going to put it out anyway.

Can you say anything about the record Brian Jones made in Morocco that Track is supposed to release?

I haven’t heard it, but I remember when he was making it. He’s done a lot of film music as well you know, which I heard tracks of, for some French guy or some Dutch guy, which he did with all these weird instruments which he used to play. You know there’s something really escapes people now, and I miss it when I hear Mick Jagger play the harmonica, and that’s Brian Jones’ harmonica playing. Brian really was a good harmonica player. He was into quite a lot of ethnic stuff. I wrote a song about Brian Jones dying. A lot of people on the day he died rang ’round and said, “What have you got to say ’bout it?” And I got one from Peter Cole of the Daily Express and it was about ten o’clock in the morning arid I didn’t really think about what I was saying, it was the first I’d heard of it and it just seemed very normal you know — well, Brian Jones has died, rock singer’s death, good stuff, you know, he had to go and like he was dead already kind of thing, so I just said “Oh, it’s a normal day for Brian, like he died every day, you know,” and he said, “Thank you very much,” put down the phone and I thought, “Fucking hell,” then I got a phone call from the Rolling Stones’ publicity man, Les Perrin, saying, “This is terrible,” so on and so on. And I got all upset about it and to back up my words I wrote this song, “A Normal Day for Brian, the Man who Died Every Day,” and it really came out very good.

You’re not going to release it are you?

I don’t think I will, but I think it might not be too late. I did it and recorded it so I could put it out that day.

Maybe it’s too soon.

Yeah, perhaps. I used to know him quite well. Fairly well. I know a lot about the vibes that were about. The Stones have always been a group that I dug very much. Dug all the dodgy aspects of them as well, and Brian Jones has always been what I’ve regarded as one of the dodgy aspects. The way he fitted in there and the way he didn’t fit in, I always felt was one of the strong dynamics of the group. And I felt that when he stopped playing with them that dynamic was going to be missing, but somehow it seems to be still there. I credited him with a lot. I think the thing is that the Stones have just managed by some miracle to kind of replace him somehow. Not with Mick Taylor, I mean, he’s like a musician, but they’ve kind of filled the hole. Either that or the fact that he’s dead has made that dynamic that was there when he was alive permanent.

What about the Keith Moon episode, the chauffeur business?

Keith is going to come back from his holiday to a bit of a shock, because he’s been charged with drunken driving and being in charge of a vehicle without a license. His solicitor says that the police did it so he gets the chance to clear his name, which sounds very suspicious. But they kind of did the inquest or whatever it is, and it made him feel better because nobody actually pointed a finger at him and said, “You killed your best friend.” But that was the thing that went through his head, and it took a lot of heavy thinking on his part to straighten himself out. Because what basically he must have felt like is that there was trouble and he ran away, which is the exact opposite of what was true. I mean, he thought in fact that this guy had run ahead and he was actually driving ahead to get him. But it was just pointless, the whole thing was pointless.

Especially coming after Altamont.

Yeah, it was probably some kind of moon thing going on.

How do you feel about Altamont and Woodstock now?

Well, the Woodstock thing I’m still very unhappy about. Altamont I don’t know about, because I wasn’t there. At first I was a bit repulsed by the way ROLLING STONE wrote about it, because I felt like it was written by a whole batch of writers who seemed to be unanimous in the decision that it was the fault of rock and roll or the fault of the Stones. But what I really felt was wrong with the whole thing was the fact that there were murderers in there. And I mean I know there’s murderers everywhere. I think it’s just as silly for Keith Richard to say it wouldn’t happen in this country, because, let’s face it, it did happen to Keith Moon’s chauffeur. Somebody killed him; somebody kicked him under the fucking car. They arrested what, like four 14-year-old boys? There are reasons why kids do things and there are reasons why grown men do things, and they’ve got a lot more to do with rock and roll than they’ve got to do with anything else. But at the same time I felt that with a little bit of care, a little bit of thought in advance, you can avoid things like that.

What didn’t you like about Woodstock?

Quite honestly, I mean knock for knock, everything Abbie Hoffman said was very fair. Because I did hit him, he must have felt it for a couple of months after. I didn’t like Woodstock for one reason because I took my wife and the baby, and you know when women are pregnant they go through a whole thing where if they get in a crowd they freak out. Well, I was kind of like that, paternally, people coming up to me — “You’re going to Woodstock? You’re crazy. Turn back, go home, there’s millions of people there, the food’s poisonous and the water . . .” Well, I immediately got into an incredible state and I rejected everyone. I wouldn’t talk to anyone. And I was telling really nice people like Richie Havens to fuck off and things like that. And it just got to a point where when we finally did get out of the helicopter and the helicopter never arrived and we eventually got in a queue of cars it took about six hours to get there. Well, we got there and then we waited another ten hours in the mud; the first cup of coffee I had had acid in it. I could fucking taste it. I took one sip and threw it away because I really can’t play if I’m tripping. Can’t trip if I’m playing, as it happens. Like I thought I was going to be up by the time the trip had gone through, it was only a little trip, you know, a very bad one incidentally, but I mean it’s just a little thing, went up/down in the space of say three or four hours. But there was another six hours to wait before we got on the stage and we got there at eight o’clock at night.

And people came up and said “It’s all right for you fucking rock groups, flying in by helicopter,” but we had to walk a mile through the mud from the car, then we got there and just started to pick up vibes that were just great. I must admit if you went out of the section where the musicians were, forgot that you were there to work, it was great, but every now and then you’d think, “I’m part of the sideshow, I’m selling the soft drinks here” — No one else was doing his fucking job — no one was supplying water, no one was cleaning the lavatories, no one was supplying food. But the groups played. I know that’s what people were there for, but it’s a whole trip.

People picked on the Who as the group to criticize because you demanded money, is that right?

That was because we were leaving the morning after, you see. I expected this as we were fucking asking for it. They were giving us such a lot of bullshit. This geezer said, “I invited you to play as a friend and now all this distrust,” and we said, “Look, man, we’ve come from England to play your shows specially. We want our fucking money. Want to take it back and spend it. You know, we’re in debt.” And they said, “Well it’s very difficult.” They had to get a bank manager in the middle of the night to sign a check. So we did it, and then everyone else started to do it. They said, “What’s the trouble?” So we said, “We just got our money, it’s all cool.” So Creedence did it, Grateful Dead did it, Santana did it, all the bands that were on that night tried it on. We went and the Jefferson Airplane came up and said, “Did you get your money in advance?” So we said, “Yeah and you should,” so they said, “We already have. Paid six months ago.”

Everyone felt it wasn’t the spirit of the thing to ask for money.

Oh yeah, I mean in a way it wasn’t the thing. Oh fucking hell, Woodstock wasn’t what rock’s about, not as far as I’m concerned. When the sun came up I just didn’t believe it. I was giving a little prayer, you know, I was saying, “Look this is a disaster, we’re playing and Abbie Hoffman and company are spreading their peculiar vibes about and I’ve done the wrong thing,” and the vibes were well down. Tommy wasn’t getting to anyone. Sly and the Family Stone had just whipped everyone into a frenzy and then kind of walked off. Everyone was just silent and then we went on and all the bad vibes, and all the photographers all over the stage. I had to kick about ten photographers off the stage to get on.

By this time I was just about awake. We were just listening to the music and all of a sudden, bang! The fucking sun comes up! It was just incredible. I really felt we didn’t deserve it, in a way. We put out such bad, bad vibes. But like it started for that bit and then we went into “Summertime Blues,” “Shaking All Over,” “My Generation,” and as we finished it was daytime. And it was just incredible. We just walked off, got in the car and went back to the hotel. It was fucking fantastic. Still, if people offer us festivals now, we say no before we say yes.

What are you doing with the opera tours now? Is that all over?

We pulled out of that really because it was we were going and playing in fucking opera houses, you know like thousands and thousands of kids were coming to see us and then only about a hundredth of the kids who wanted to see us could. And we’d go in and play and like the first 20 rows would be Polydor people. Or Prince Rainier and his royal family, and honestly it was such a bad scene. We were going to play the opera houses in Vienna, Moscow and the New York Metropolitan, but I just thought that was the biggest hype bullshit I’d ever heard of. We blew it out.

The thing I didn’t dig about it is that we didn’t play big enough places. The opera houses over there are very small. There are 1500 people usually and you could see every face. But you can’t win them over. Say there’s an old guy in a bow tie out there, he’s come to write up a review in some opera paper or some serious music paper and most of the night he sits there with his fingers in his ears. It’s just impossible to work when someone’s doing that.

You were talking about the next step for the Who.

Well, I was talking about it then in terms of a film and I think a film would be the ideal thing. A film, a bit in nature like the Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus thing. Only a feature. Something which was about rock but was about a lot of people in rock. The Stones scooped, as far as England was concerned, Taj Mahal and Jethro Tull and people like that, and at the same time gave a good reflection of the kind of music they dug, gave a good performance of their own and had some oldies but goodies like the Who on, and had some fun at the same time. If this could be done — but where the balance was one where you were actually filming something turning on its axis or doing a spiral upwards or doing something incredible, say a whole picture including a whole lot of groups, filmed from the viewpoint of the Who maybe or just using it as an excuse. I think this is yet to be done. It’s very vague, but there are people, and I am one of them, who have got a lot of ideas in that direction, for a rock film which is not a documentary and not a story and not a comedy either, but a fucking Rock Film. A film which is the equivalent of a rock song, only lasting an hour or longer.

Why did you write to The Sunday Telegraph about drugs?

Because the guy that wrote the article, Lionel Birch, who’s a friend of mine, asked me to write a letter backing up saying that Meher Baba had caused some people to stop taking drugs, and I got into the letter and got carried away and wrote a lot of stuff as well. I just feel that the whole thing is that if there is such a thing as a drug problem and if there are people who get fucked-up because of drugs, and there are many who don’t but quite a lot who do take drugs get fucked-up — it’s because they’re looking for something and they’re desperate and even if they don’t know they’re desperate themselves, they are. I mean even if you’re not taking drugs, you’re still fucking desperate.

The first thing that hit me about stopping . . . you see the first thing Meher Baba says, which is logical, is that drugs like acid and STP, the psychedelic drugs, right, are harmful mentally, physically and spiritually. Fair enough. Who am I to say they are not? In fact it was probably the harm they did that I dug. But then he says that it is all right for a sincere seeker to have been stimulated by them but not to continue use of them in the light of that. In other words if you get a buzz from something and then you dwell on it, it’s the equivalent of like getting in a mood. It’s like seeing something fucking incredible like a daffodil and then just looking at it till it wilts and dies. Do you see what I mean? He just put it in a way which got to me.

And I just stopped using acid straight away, just the words got me. But I went on smoking pot, and coke, and I started to get heavily into coke and other things and then all of a sudden when I did that long Rolling Stone interview, I was very hyped up on coke because we went round to the Jefferson Airplane pad in the middle of the interview, which was a silly thing to do. The day after I did that interview, a Baba lover came to see me in San Francisco and he was talking about drugs and things and what Baba says about it, and he says, “Of course you’re not still smoking dope, are you?” So I said, “Yes, sure. What’s Baba said about dope?” “Didn’t you know that it’s been proved now that pot’s an hallucinogenic drug, so it falls into Baba’s teachings?” he said. So I just stopped. Just because I felt more keen about getting into Meher Baba than I felt about being stoned all my life.

And then as it started to go down I started to realize how much I credited to drugs. I used to think, “Well, man, I can’t play the guitar unless I’m stoned, I can’t write a song unless I’m stoned, I can’t be happy unless I’m stoned, I can’t listen to records unless I’m stoned, I can’t do anything unless I’m stoned. Because if I’m not stoned it’s not as good.” Well, I’ve just kind of got out of that, and I can get just as much now out of everything perpetually 24 hours a day as I used to out of that high. It’s like that thing in the hearing, they call it A.G.C., like if you hear a very loud sound, very quiet sounds are inaudible, but if you play a very quiet sound, other sounds become audible. In other words if you’ve got the loudspeaker on, you don’t hear the doorbell ring, but if you’ve got it on quietly then you do hear the doorbell ring. I think it’s a lot like that with dope. When you’re on dope, it’s so extreme it dulls a lot of other aspects. You dig what you’re focused on, but you miss what you’re not focused on.

Well, your music works the other way, doesn’t it?

What do you mean?

You go to a Who concert and couldn’t hear the doorbell ring if you wanted to.

That is, of course, an old pre-dope thing, where in fact we used to be a mod group and we’d go on the fucking stage and we’d literally get heckled. You go and play a really tough town like Glasgow and you get bottles thrown at you, so the thing was you just turn up your amplifier. It’s good, it’s good, I still like it loud.

January 11, 2014 Posted by | Pete Townshend Interview In Rolling Stone May 14th 1970 | , | Leave a comment

The Who Live In Texas ’75

The-Who-Eagle-Rock-EntertainmentFrom popmatters.com

It was a transitional yea, for The Who and for rock music. On the precipice of the punk-led detonation, it was increasingly fashionable to kick sand on arena acts that dominated the early years of the decade. Certainly progressive rock bands like Yes and ELP were falling out of favour (and starting to fall apart, of their own accord), but old-school giants like The Rolling Stones and The Who were still alpha dogs in the industry.

In hindsight, it’s easy—and accurate—to suggest that The Who were entering the early stages of decline, but in truth, all was well, relatively speaking, in 1975. When they hit the road to promote their seventh studio album, The Who By Numbers, it was a Top 10 seller. If their previous tour (behind their masterpiece, Quadrophenia) was at times shaky, epitomized by Keith Moon nodding off behind his kit during one gig, the band was still fit and full of fury.

So as 2012 winds down (with surviving members Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey taking Quadrophenia for a premium-priced victory lap) one might wonder: why this tour, from this year? Questions like those, however legitimate, require a reiteration of what many of us already know. We live in a time where every member of any audience is capable of capturing raw footage in real time, making it available, instantly, online. This is, for the most part, a good and welcome advancement.

It’s also a simple reminder that this combination of accessibility and ubiquity is a very recent phenomenon. When it comes to classic acts from the great old days, footage is all too frequently rare, spotty or redundant. Any tape, therefore, of any worthwhile act is precious and should be acknowledged as such. In short, to have The Who, still the reigning champs of live transmission, is a considerable blessing.

The Who Live In Texas ‘75 is footage taken from a concert in Houston, the opening night of their US tour. As incredible as it is to realize, the band had “only” been around for ten years at this point. While they established—and embellished—their reputation early on by destroying their instruments and being as flashy as possible, practically any recorded video from 1965 on confirms that no matter what they were wearing or doing, the music came first and The Who acquitted themselves admirably at all times. By the time they got to Texas, they had nothing to prove except the undeniable impact they could still make, any place, any time.

There is no fanfare, no introduction: the band comes out, plugs in and away they go. For newbies it should be a revelation while for diehards it must be a… revelation to actually see these guys in action. Yes, Daltrey with his hippie curls and bell bottoms, swinging his microphone like a bear having a seizure, is magical. Sure, Pete Townshend’s never-static stage presence, merging an ideal mixture of frenzy and control, remains the gold standard (his shoulder already had more mileage courtesy of those ceaseless windmills than most retired Cy Young winners).

But it’s seeing the glorious studies in contrast of the rhythm section that still does the trick, all these years later; naturally the fact that they are no longer with us adds considerable import. Rock’s ultimate yin-yang: Moon, the excitable sprite behind the drum set and John Entwistle—The Ox—mute and still like the Tin Man in need of oil. The eyes will smile but the ears never lie: the sounds these four men make is full, focused and a synthesis of style and substance that has never been equalled in rock.

The show commences with muscular and meaty (the beaty, big and bouncy would come later) versions of “Substitute” and “I Can’t Explain”. Then, from 1965 to 1975, they launch into a spirited take on the big hit from the new album, “Squeeze Box”. The band then alternates old and new to nice effect, mixing in obscure pieces like “Boris the Spider” with selections off The Who By Numbers such as “However Much I Booze” and “Dreaming from the Waist”.

A particular highlight is Moon heckling Entwistle during the introduction of “Boris the Spider”, illustrating what a hilarious and endearing figure he was. For a band that could not help taking themselves too seriously at times, Moon always managed to lighten everyone—and everything—up, and it was his persona as much as his musicality that the band could never compensate for or replace. And let the record be clear: Moon was not in any way diminished at this point in time; he is on point at all times, never sloppy or uncertain.

The remainder of the two-hour set list covers their catalogue, including an extended suite from Tommy which features a scorching rendition of “Amazing Journey/Sparks” and tiny surprises like “Fiddle About” and “Tommy’s Holiday Camp”. During the encore (after obligatory show-stopper “Won’t Get Fooled Again”) they turn “Magic Bus” into a chugging blues romp. Throughout the proceedings they manage to be almost surprisingly supple, convincing and fresh, proving that The Who was far from a spent force in the mid-‘70s.

The band’s sprawl toward near-oblivion came fast and hard, but there is utterly no evidence of it, here. Anyone who needs additional evidence should see, feel and hear this worthy addition to an already remarkable canon.

January 10, 2014 Posted by | The Who Live In Texas '75 | | Leave a comment

The Who Live At The Isle Of Wight (1996)

3762From johnmcferrinmusicreviews.org

It would be hard to think of another band where even the most hardcore fans could reasonably claim that two live albums recorded within months of each other would each deserve consideration as one of the greatest live albums of all time (Maybe Grateful Dead fans would argue with this; hopefully Pearl Jam fans wouldn’t).

For a very long time, the traditional debate of “greatest live album ever” tended to center around Live at Leeds and The Rolling Stones’ Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!, but the moment this performance was unearthed from the archives in 1996, this jumped into the thick of the discussion. For me, despite the fact that it’s an archive release, this is the best Who that money can buy and the greatest live album ever, just a tick above Leeds.

That doesn’t mean fans of Leeds will necessarily love this one, though. While the two concerts were recorded only about six months apart, Leeds depicted a very different kind of concert from this one. Leeds was performed at an indoors theater for a bunch of college students, and it showed the band as a well-oiled machine, firing on all cylinders; it’s a great live album for anyone who likes the combination of noise and precision that the band could produce, and it’s an album that rewards a great set of speakers. It also showed them playing a little more conservatively than might have been desired, which isn’t shocking given that they’d just gotten back from the US and were a little tired. Aside from the band members, Roger wasn’t at his very best, and might have even been a little under the weather.

In contrast, The Isle of Wight festival was a gathering of a few hundred thousand totally stoned teenagers and young adults who just wanted loud music and a lot of pot (and who spent much of their time complaining that it wasn’t free), and the band adjusts its playing accordingly. One major improvement comes from Roger, whose singing here, in contrast to whatever issues may be on Leeds, is probably his greatest recorded work. I wouldn’t go as far as I used to in saying that this is my favorite (over a whole album) rock vocal performance from anybody, but it’s still way up there.

As for the other members, the playing is a little less clean and crisp than at Leeds (Moon, for instance, seems to be noticably off in a handful of spots), but it’s compensated on the whole by the way it seems like Pete is trying to execute the audience with his guitar playing. Yes, he goofs on a couple of the more intricate guitar parts, and misses some chords here and there, but his rhythm playing on this album is spectacular, and besides, the guitar tone is awesome. Wait, no, that won’t do, let’s try that again. The guitar tone is awesome. It’s the greatest guitar tone I’ve ever heard. For some, this trade (relatively speaking) of conservative precision for energetic sloppiness won’t be a worthwhile one, but it’s one I’m willing to make just fine.

The concert can be divided neatly into three parts, and all three are fantastic. The pre-Tommy portion opens with three tracks that were on Leeds, and overall they sound surprisingly different from there. Heaven and Hell suffers a little bit from Keith losing the beat a bit with his drumming (one of the few times I’ve ever heard that from him) in the beginning, and from Pete making the mid-song guitar solo section much less like the (effective) Jimmy Page aping on Leeds and more like a caveman crushing a tiger with a rock, but it ends up working fine.

I Can’t Explain immediately shows that Roger’s voice is in top form, and then there’s Young Man Blues. There are a couple of moments of sloppiness in the start-stops in the first part, but they’re minor, and they’re more than made up for by the mid-section. Pete goes absolutely insane in here, bashing and thrashing and squeezing all sorts of heavenly feedback noises out of his guitar, and basically blows away the Leeds version of this section.

The band then takes the opportunity to introduce the audience to two Lifehouse tracks, which ended up condemned to rarity status but which are quite great. I Don’t Know Myself features a fun riff and some great lyrics along the lines of the title, and Water gets extended from its standard 4 -minute length to a monstrous 9-minute epic, featuring some terrific soloing and some of Roger’s best singing on the album (the way he sings those opening lines is just glorious). Of course, if you’re feedback averse at all, you should probably stay away from Water here, but if that’s the case, why are you listening to this album in the first place?

And then we have the main attraction: Tommy. If you have never heard a great live version of Tommy (and no, the Leeds rendition was not great, only good), you haven’t lived. As on Leeds, the acoustic guitars are gone, leaving in their wake a furious assault as only The Who could provide. The star of the show is, as you might expect, Pete; I know it might seem monotonous to keep bringing up his riffing, but I don’t think it can be emphasized enough here.

Also, it becomes completely obvious at times how much passion he has for this, his brainchild, even after performing it over and over and over again (which he alludes to in the introduction); listen to his triumphant playing in the extended coda of Overture or his singing in It’s a Boy or the absolutely 100% perfect riffing in See Me Feel Me (my favorite part on the whole album by the way) and you’ll know what I mean. There are guitar lines in See Me Feel Me, in particular, that make me absolutely weak in the knees. Roger is awesome in this part as well.

The post-Tommy sequence is fantastic as well, featuring a non-stop Summertime Blues/Shakin’ All Over/Spoonful/Twist and Shout/Substitute/My Generation/Naked Eye (another Lifehouse song, one of my very favorites)/Magic Bus medley. All of the songs sound different from any version I’ve heard before, even for somebody like me who knows Leeds basically by heart. Summertime Blues is sloppier than the perfect Leeds version, but Shakin’ All Over/Spoonful/Twist and Shout obliterates the Leeds version (“LIIIIIIIIIIIIES about you”), so that competition largely ends up a push. Plus, there’s the additional bonus of when you hear Pete’s gutiar start to give out near the end of Magic Bus. Rarely have I ever heard anything cooler than what are essentially the guitar’s deathbed moans. The one and only drawback is that it stopped him from playing more (reports say that he was furious when his guitar broke because he wanted to play even more, but whatever).

For what it’s worth, Pete himself always said that this was one of their best nights, and I’d have to assume this is true. Somebody who already has Leeds may not see the worth in shelling out money for this as well, but as somebody who loves Leeds, there was nonetheless a long time where I probably listened to this twice as much as any other Who CD. It’s not just the way this album displays the eternal genius of The Who, their ability to bring cacaophony and beauty together and fuse them into one overwhelmingly moving and powerful force, better than any other album by them. No, it’s more than that; this live album, more than any other I know, is the perfect symbol of where rock music stood at the crossroads between the 60’s and the 70’s. That is, a decade or so into its life, with one foot still firmly in the past, and one foot moving tentatively into unknown, “artsier” territory. It is a celebration of rock’s past, and a show of optimism for its future, and that vibe can’t help but make it even better to me.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | The Who Live At The Isle Of Wight | | Leave a comment

The Who Live At Hull 1970 (2013)

thewholiveathull1970cover1-1360266083From rockguitardaily.blogspot.com

Pete Townshend never quite gets his due – maybe because for whatever complicated reasons, he often comes across as an unmitigated ass. I get it, believe me, there have been times when I wanted to hate everything he did, just because he came off as such an insufferable twat. However. He’s also as great an artist as rock has known.

Live At Hull 1970 is the long lost and unloved sibling of Live At Leeds, but while both have their benefits, I am here to tell you that this is one of the best live documents I’ve ever heard. Keith Moon sounds like God’s drummer on this record (which Pete may interpret as a demotion) and Townshend’s guitar tracks are sublime – if there is a better guitar tone primer than that of the second disc (the Tommy set), I’ve never heard it. Moon’s drums sound perfect, but more importantly, his performance is transcendent – truly one of rock’s greatest.

Much has been made of the fact that the bass tracks for the first four songs were lost and replaced by Leeds tracks, but if you didn’t know, you’d never know, and while I wish I hadn’t been told this, it really doesn’t matter. Again, the real point is that this is an amazing live set from one of the best rock band’s in history, and a must own by any measure.

By 1970, The Who were a fearless live band, brave enough to kick off their shows with a song sung by their bassist, and Heaven and Hell is far from a commercial tune. It is, however, brash, brilliant, and a fiery set starter. Can’t Explain follows and this is a Townshend/Moon manifesto. A close listen will reveal that the rhythmic flourishes provided by the two are why every cover of this classic comes across as dull and lifeless. Entwistle’s bass is exceptional as always, regardless of where it came from, and Roger Daltrey is a singer who’s greatness is so well known that sometimes we take him for granted.

Fortune Teller is another deep catalogue favorite, and with it’s staccato rhythms and Beatles-esque harmonies it’s another brave choice for early in the set. Pete switches gears rapidly, going from pristinely clean arpeggios to slamming power chords, and back again. Tattoo was forty years ahead of its time, explaining tattoo culture way ahead of its later arrival. The sophistication of the band is incredibly evident, and they segue from pop to proto-metal without a blink. One of my favorite Who tunes.

Young Man Blues, and Substitute slam past brilliantly like freight trains, and then it’s Happy Jack – one of rock’s great moments and the only difficulty is for me to figure out which band member is shining most brilliantly. It’s a toss up, but Moon? Holy hell, this set is the best Moon I’ve ever heard. Same with I’m A Boy – simple pop tune? Nope. Brilliantly written, conceived and performed rock miracle? Yup.

A Quick One, While He’s Away is more sheer Townshend brilliance, and his guitar playing and sound are magnificent. By now Townshend had shed any desire to be an R&B/pop hitmaker, and he’s into intricate operettas. I hate to beat a dead drum, but Moon is again beyond friggin’ fabulous, and Entwistle’s loping basslines create the perfect pad from which to launch Pete’s awesome strumming. Pete’s as good a rhythm player as Keith and John Lennon – cool thing is they all play completely differently. What was in the English water supply post WWII?

Muscular rock closes out CD one with Summertime Blues, Shakin’ All Over, and one of the greatest 15 minutes of sheer rock bliss I’ve ever heard, a truly mind bending My Generation that stops and visits See Me, Feel Me, and a few other Tommy reprisals, before Pete Townshend goes off on a guitar tangent that in my estimable opinion should sit next to Hendrix’s Machine Gun as an archetypal rock performance – this track is easily worth the price of the set, and every person who loves rock should own this. It’s actually the final track of the night, and I wish they had stayed chronologically correct here. It is maybe the ultimate set closer, maybe even more so than the set closing Magic Bus from Leeds.

CD 2 is the whole of Tommy, and for my money, this is the only version to which I shall most likely ever again listen. Townshend’s genius is presented in preposterously large fashion – strummed, picked, sang, and slung across the stage in a fashion never repeated by any guitarist. I don’t know that any rock guitarist ever had a better hour. The range of his repertoire is what is commonly called, a vocabulary. The dynamic expanse of his emotional and sophisticated composition is astounding. I wish I could give this to you as an assignment, just to make sure you understand just how great rock can be. I don’t mean to sound condescending, or authoritarian, but this is just so damned powerful, and good.

Like I said at the beginning, Townshend sometimes doesn’t get his due, but this sure makes the case. He is as great a musician as we have known – a masterful writer, player, singer, and a practically unparalleled conceptualist, who just happened to be in a band with three other gentlemen who were as good as any at their jobs.

Live At Hull 1970 is a tremendous addition to The Who’s catalogue, and even if you own, love, and swear on Live At Leeds, this is equally essential, and again, for my money, I’ve never heard Moon and Townshend better in sheer sonic terms.

January 3, 2014 Posted by | The Who Live At Hull 1970 | | Leave a comment

The Who The Dutch Seduction (Amsterdam, September 1969)

Gr820From collectorsmusicreviews.com

Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands – September 29th, 1969
Disc 1 (60:23): House announcement, Heaven And Hell, I Can’t Explain, Fortune Teller, Tattoo, Young Man Blues, A Quick One While He’s Away, Substitute, Happy Jack, I’m A Boy, Overture, It’s A Boy, 1921, Amazing Journey, Sparks, Eyesight To The Blind (The Hawker)
Disc 2 (63:05): Christmas, The Acid Queen, Pinball Wizard, Do You Think It’s Alright?, Fiddle About, Tommy Can You Hear Me?, There’s A Doctor, Go To The Mirror, Smash The Mirror, Miracle Cure, Sally Simpson, I’m Free, Tommy’s Holiday Camp, We’re Not Gonna Take It, Listening To You / See Me Feel Me, Summertime Blues, Shakin’ All Over, My Generation

The Who’s Tommy wasn’t the first rock opera or even the first sustained narrative in rock form. But it was eagerly anticipated before it was released (Pete Townshend hyped Tommy in his first Rolling Stone interview in the summer of 1968) and was met with enthusiastically positive critical reception when it finally was made public in April 1969.

It had an interesting and personal premise and showed the possibilities of rock being a serious art form (along with work by other artists the same time). The Who incorporated a bit portion of the work into their live set immediately when they toured the UK that spring and the US that summer.

The Who chose the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, for the first performance of the work in continental Europe. It is one of the most acoustically perfect venues in continental Europe and would lend an air of authority to the performance. AVRO, a Dutch broadcasting company, owned the most sophisticated recording equipment in Europe at the time and recorded what would be one of rock’s classic performances.

The band would present their complete concert set. Beginning with John Entwistle’s “Heaven And Hell,” the first third of the show would be devoted to their older songs including “A Quick One While He’s Away,” their first attempt at a rock opera. The middle of the show would be an almost complete Tommy, and the finale of the show would be more older songs and their famous jam sessions.
The recording has been released many times before dating back to the days of vinyl.

It also became a perennial on compact disc. Some of the best releases include Amazing Journey on Hiwatt (NL-69 A/B) (which has amazing sound quality but with the songs in the wrong order, Unbelievable Fantastic (Rockmasters RMC-007AB) and The Complete Amsterdam 1969 (Seymour Record-014/15), both with great sound and in the correct running order.

The Dutch Seduction is Godfather’s first Who release and sounds just as good as Rockmasters and Seymour. It is quite simply a beautiful recording with unbelievably fantastic dynamics, presence and atmosphere. Even casual Who fans need a copy of this in the collection. Since the two Japanese releases are hard to find, this is a welcome title.

After the announcements (in Dutch and English) the band hit the stage with “Heaven And Hell” and “I Can’t Explain.” Townshend introduces “Fortune Teller” as a song that the Rolling Stones among others have also covered. The performance segues effortlessly into “Tattoo.”

Before “Young Man Blues” Pete explains, “A couple of people have asked us why we chose to play in Amsterdam for the first major opera house performance of Tommy and the answer quite simply is we like it. Not being at all factitious. It’s probably more average of what Europe is like than London…You are the first.”

The Mose Allison cover follows in its bombastic glory. Townshend gets into a long exposition about “A Quick One,” trying to explain what a girl guide is and the plot of the story. Keith Moon is looning behind him, acting like a lech at the very mention of the girl’s blue knickers. When Townshend gets to the end of the explanation, speaking about the forgiveness part, he jokes about how modern that is.

After “Substitute” and “Happy Jack,” they start the Tommy suite. Some of the tracks are played out of sequence in reference to the official studio version with “Pinball Wizard” being moved up after “The Acid Queen” and “Tommy Can You Hear Me?” placed before “There’s A Doctor.”

Much of the piece has been played live since the spring and is very tight and exciting. But the newer pieces are a bit shaky. This is especially true for “Sally Simpson” which has a very tentative vocal performance by Roger Daltrey.

Only after the main event of the evening do the band relax a bit and deliver a startling version of “Shakin’ All Over” (which also contains a reference to “Smokestack Lightening”) before Townshend begins his feedback windmills over Moon’s violent beats. “My Generation” is played as a rare encore with a reprise of “See Me/Feel Me,” “Pinball Wizard” and other leitmotifs from the rock opera to bring the concert full circle before leading into a haze of distorted atonal fuzz and a restatement of the Tommy theme.

After this show the band would fly to New York to start another tour of the US but would return to continental Europe in early 1970 for further concerts including another date at the Concertgebouw on January 30th, 1970. The Dutch Seduction is packaged in a tri-fold gatefold sleeve with a groovy cover! Let’s hope Godfather will keep The Who concerts coming!

December 28, 2013 Posted by | The Who The Dutch Seduction | , | Leave a comment

The Who Little Billy Relaxes At The Fillmore (Fillmore East, April 1968)

Gr907From collectorsmusicreviews.com

Disc 1 (79:01) Fillmore East, New York City, April 5, 1968: Summertime Blues, Fortune Teller, Tattoo, Little Billy, Can’t Explain, Happy Jack, Relax, A Quick One, My Way, Shakin’ All Over, Boris The Spider, My Generation. Capital Theater, Ottawa October 15, 1969 (1st Set): Heaven And Hell, Can’t Explain, Fortune Teller, Tattoo, Young Man Blues

Disc 2 (66:04) Fillmore East, New York City, October 22, 1969: Bill Graham Introduction, Heaven And Hell, Can’t Explain, Fortune Teller, Speech, Young Man Blues, Speech, Overture, It’s A Boy, 1921, Amazing Journey (cuts within), Sparks, Eyesight To The Blind, Christmas (fragment only cuts off) See Me Feel Me (fragment only cuts in), Summertime Blues, Shakin’ All Over. State University of New York, Long Island (Stonybrook) October 18, 1969: Overture, It’s A Boy, 1921, Amazing Journey, Sparks (fade out)

Godfather’s second Who release is like a companion piece to their first title, The Dutch Seduction (Godfather Records GR 820/821) the brilliant Amsterdam Soundboard from 1969. This new title is from a similar period in history and collects together four recordings, three of which have been released prior and are now gathered together, in superb quality for all to enjoy.

The first disc has the Fillmore East show, often attributed as April 6 1968, the quality is superb soundboard recording and has seen many releases over the years, beginning with vinyl on Fillmore East (TMOQ 71071), and the various vinyl permutations such as Fillmore East (K&S RECORDS 014), Fillmore East (Koine V880805), Fillmore East 1968 (LXXXIV SERIES 40), Fillmore East 1968 (TMQ 71071), Furious Prelude (WPOCM 0888B008-1) and Live At Fillmore East (EXIL LP-EX-002), ultimately on CD under such titles as Live Over 20 Years (Live At The Fillmore East) (Koine K880805), Fillmore East 1968 (Back Trax CD 04-88007), Furious Prelude (WPOCM 0888B008-2), Live At Fillmore East, 1968 (Living Legend LLRCD 010), Live In New York (Black Panther BPCD 034), Who Were These Masked Men? and Shakin’ All Over (Gold Standard), and most recently as Fillmore East 6 April 1968 (Sunrise SR-0012).

There is no new tape as the cuts in “Relax”, “A Quick One”, and “My Generation” are still present but the band’s performance more than makes up for any short comings. What makes the performance so intriguing is that the band melds their early pop sensibilities (“Can’t Explain”, “Happy Jack”) with stage favorites that give them the ability to improvise (“Summertime Blues”, “Shakin All Over”, “My Generation”) plus a couple new songs from the Sell Out record. The version of “Tattoo” is particularly enjoyable, the trading of lyrics between Townshend and Daltrey is perfect and the lyrical content is funny yet disturbing. As most already know, this is an essential tape to have.

The remainder of the disc is a 20 minute fragment of the first five songs from the bands set at the Capital Theatre in Ottawa Canada. It has seen previous releases as Pure Rock Theatre (Hiwatt ZA59), Roulette Rock and Tangled In Tommy. The quality is excellent soundboard and well balanced but has a small amount of top end distortion and it is most unfortunate that the tape is so short as it seems that the band is playing with gusto. They hit the stage with “Heaven And Hell”, Entwistle’s song that was the B-side to “Summertime Blues”, it makes a good opener and features some great bass runs from The Ox.

After a quick “Can’t Explain” Roger introduces “Fortune Teller” as something from Benny Spellman, the song seems to be a 60′s favorite amongst bands and one The Who would most certainly make their own. The version here simply swings with swagger and fierce playing, it segues into another strong version of “Tattoo”, the lines about the Dad beating Mom who beats the brother is stunning. Pete’s introduction to “Young Man Blues” is quite quiet and he gives the history of the song originating from Jazz musicians. I remember getting my first taste of this song from The Kids Are Alright record and being amazed by the playing, certainly a vehicle for improvisation, Pete’s guitar has a great fuzzy and nasty tone to it that give a real thick sound.

The second disc begins with the Fillmore East soundboard fragment from October 22, 1969, the recording has seen previous releases as Accept No Substitute on Big Music (Big 011), Sparks On The Bay on Oil Well (RSC CD 044), The Who Live (Mojo 058), and Live At The Fillmore 1969 (Rockmasters RMC-009). The quality is excellent, well balanced and most enjoyable recording and has the best bottom end of all the recordings on this set. What can be debatable is the introduction, it is attributed to Bill Graham but to my ear does not sound like his voice but certainly has his catch fraises, I love the “Mad master of the skins” intro.
The band easily creates an intimate feeling at the 2,700 seat venue, during Pete’s introduction to the speech prior to “Young Man Blues” the tale of stage gremlins has the crowd chuckling. While the band’s playing is tight and professional it is certainly not as spirited as the Capital Theatre gig on the previous disc.

Tommy is unfortunately the most fragmented part of the tape, Pete gives a fine introduction to the piece and you are immediately swept in as they kick into the “Overture” and by the time the are in an incredibly heavy “Sparks” you can really appreciate Entwistle’s amazing playing. Sadly a large portion of Tommy is missing but the music seems to invigorate the band and by the time the music fades back with the closing moments of “See Me, Feel Me” the group is in full swing and “Summertime Blues” is full of energy and the band finish with an epic “Shakin’ All Over” with snatches of “The Seeker” and “Spoonful” for good measure.

The final fragment of tape is attributed to the State University of New York October 19, 1969; the sound is most similar to the other soundboard on this tape and is very clear and powerful with virtually no hiss or other tape issues. Clocking in at just over 15 minutes the recording contains the first few pieces of Tommy, all songs are complete save for “Sparks” that has a tape cut at 22 seconds and fades out at the 3:50 mark. A nice tape but frustratingly short.

The tri gatefold is beautifully adorned with live shots of the band and artwork based upon graphic from a Fillmore East program, there is also a 4 page booklet with liner notes from Ian Iachimoe. While this material has seen many prior releases it is certainly nice to have it all collected in one volume and the excellent sound quality make this a very worthwhile release, I for one am looking forward to more Who releases from The Don.

December 23, 2013 Posted by | The Who Little Billy Relaxes At The Fillmore | , | Leave a comment

The Who ‘Live at Hull’- Monday 16th February 1970 By Malcolm Holt

From thisisull.com

tommyI know that it has taken a long time to write a gig review from over 38 years ago, but rest assured that the memories are just as vivid now as they were back then. I was a young 17 year old and I spent 15s (that’s 75p in real money) to see The Who perform Tommy live at Hull City Hall on 15 February 1970.

The Who had released the double album in May 1969. It was the story of a ‘deaf, dumb, and blind boy’ and was the first piece of work to be called a rock opera.
The band featured the classic line-up of Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon. Tommy was of course sold on vinyl in those days and being a double album, it featured four playable sides.

2The Who had embarked on a world tour to promote the album and during August 1969 they performed at the Woodstock music festival. This was not without controversy, with the band allegedly only agreeing to appear after being paid. Their set was interrupted by activist Abbie Hoffman trying to give an impromptu speech before being persuaded to leave the stage by Townshend.
The set ended with Townshend throwing his battered Gibson SG into the crowd where it was caught by a guy called Kurt Pfeiffer. Apparently the guitar was later retrieved by a roadie for salvage. Townshend’s guitars were regularly retrieved and repaired for future use.

When the band returned to England at the end of 1969, they wanted to release a live album from the tour. They had no desire to sift through endless hours of recordings to find the best bits and it was rumoured that Townshend actually destroyed the tapes to prevent bootleggers making a fortune. However, Roger Daltrey later stated that this was not true. Instead the band decided to record two specific gigs for the planned live album and these were Leeds University and Hull City Hall.

3The gig at Hull City Hall was absolutely awesome, with Daltrey swinging his microphone with venom, Townshend showing off his windmill style of guitar playing, Entwistle looking as cool as ever, and Moon drumming like a man possessed. The noise was the loudest I had ever experienced.

They took us through the drama that was Tommy and threw in the classics Substitute, Summertime Blues, My Generation, and Magic Bus.
Photograph by Chris McCourt
For those younger readers, you will not find Who tracks called See me, feel me and Listening to you, they are parts of the song We’re Not Gonna Take It.

To the subsequent dismay of everyone living in Hull, it was later reported that there had been ‘technical problems’ with the recording at the City Hall. It was announced that the bass playing had not been recorded, due to some wiring slip-up, so the Leeds gig would be used for the live album instead

The band members themselves had agreed that the acoustics in the City Hall were superior, but they had no choice but to use the Leeds recording.

4The Who’s Live At Leeds album was released in May 1970 and became an instant success and the rest, as they say, is history. Well, not quite. Since the album’s release, the conspiracy theorists have been busy trying to find evidence of a cover-up.

It was widely rumoured that some of the album did actually feature material recorded at the Hull gig and some believe that the album was in reality all recorded there, with the record company thinking that ‘Live At Leeds’ would be more marketable than ‘Live At Hull’.
To add insult to injury, The Who returned to Leeds University in June 2006 to replicate that famous night.

5The Who’s band career has always been more of a soap opera at times and sadly two of the original line-up were casualties of their own success. Keith Moon died in 1978 from an accidental overdose of medication prescribed to prevent seizures brought on by his withdrawal from alcohol. John Entwistle died of an alleged drug-induced heart attack on the eve of the band’s US tour in 2002 in his room at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas.

There is little doubt in the minds of all those who were at Hull City Hall on that February night in 1970 that they were robbed of the opportunity to have been part of a great milestone being achieved in the recording industry.

6The album was a huge success and received critical acclaim. It helped to put Leeds on the music map and left Hull out on a limb, which was not unusual at that time.

For The Who the year 2009 will mark the 40th anniversary of the release of Tommy and a year later Live At Leeds will reach the same milestone. It has been well-documented that the Hull City Hall gig was considered to be the better of the two used for recording the live album and only a ‘technical hitch’ deprived the city of its place in musical history.

7Well, a lot of water has flowed past the city in the Humber since 1970, but to the fans who were there at the City Hall that night, Live At Leeds should always have been Live At Hull.

However, like the thousands of other fans who turned out that night, on 16th February 1970, to see The Who, I can proudly say ‘I was there’.

As for the true story behind the making of the Live At Leeds album, I guess if you asked Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend about it today, the obvious response would be ‘I can’t explain’.

December 23, 2013 Posted by | The Who Live At Hull 1970 | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, The Who and the Birth of the Mega Rock Tour (Book Excerpt)

This story first appeared in the Aug. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

In the classic rock movie Almost Famous, set during the spring and summer of 1973, rock critic Lester Bangs laments “this dangerous moment” in rock history when fame and money threaten to “strangle everything we love about rock.” In an exclusive excerpt from his new book, What You Want Is in the Limo: On the Road With Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper and The Who in 1973, the Year the Sixties Died and the Modern Rock Star Was Born, THR contributing editor Michael Walker uncovers the facts beneath Cameron Crowe’s thinly veiled fiction.

72_Led Zeppelin North American Tour 1973_iocero_2013_04_27_17_37_43_05fc64507551e729fb1e385It was the year the concert business went big time with the stadium tour. The crowds were bigger, the travel more decadent, the groupies more eager and the behavior of the stars more outrageous. Into this came three legendary acts touring to promote three career-defining albums: Led Zeppelin with Houses of the Holy, The Who with Quadrophenia and the original Alice Cooper band with Billion Dollar Babies. The Who, the last of the great British Invasion bands, was a critical darling after such albums as 1968’s rock opera Tommy. Quadrophenia, another concept album, was its attempt to grow and connect with a new generation that missed 1965’s “My Generation.”

Led Zeppelin, formed in England in 1968, was a commercial success (the band’s 1971 fourth album sold 32 million copies) but was dismissed by critics. Houses of the Holy, its fifth album in as many years, was its first to feature all original material. Alice Cooper the band was just coming into stardom in 1973. Like Zeppelin, it was reviled by critics — for its outrageous stage-show theatrics, including fake blood and live snakes, that anticipated David Bowie’s outre-glam and Kiss’ demonic makeup. Unlike Zeppelin, Cooper’s first two albums were commercial flops.

The 1971 hit “I’m Eighteen” and 1972 follow-up “School’s Out” changed that trajectory. With its themes of decadence and power, Billion Dollar Babies captured the zeitgeist of a country about to be engulfed in the cynicism of the Watergate scandal and reached No. 1. Shifting to an all-stadium tour, Alice Cooper grossed $4.5 million (when tickets were $6.50), drawing a then-astounding 820,000 fans and paving the way for modern tours like Lady Gaga’s $181 million-grossing Born This Way. In 1973, these three seminal acts would herald the transformation of the rock concert into the rock concert business. — Andy Lewis

OPENING LICKS
Led Zeppelin crashed into the United States in May 1973 fresh off a string of European shows with Houses of the Holy on its way to No. 1 on the Billboard charts. By design, the first two dates of the tour — held in outdoor stadiums to capacity crowds in Atlanta and Tampa — were meant to convey the band’s new world-beating status and generate the respectful press that had gone to The Rolling Stones the previous year. Peter Grant, the notoriously blunt manager for Zeppelin, made as much ominously clear to Danny Goldberg, the band’s new publicist. Goldberg seized upon a brilliant strategy to link Zeppelin to rock’s ultimate touchstones. Tallying the capacity audience at Tampa Stadium, he noted that, at 56,800, it slightly exceeded the attendance for The Beatles’ record-­setting 1965 Shea Stadium show. “Of course, the contrast with Shea Stadium was a reflection of the size of the stadiums, not the relative popularity of the groups,” Goldberg later acknowledged, along with the fact that rock festivals like Woodstock had drawn far larger audiences. “But I figured those crowds had been drawn by multi-artist packages rather than single headliners.” Goldberg typed a press release declaring that Zeppelin had broken the attendance record set by The Beatles for a single-­artist concert and dropped it off at the local UPI bureau — “where it was a slow news night.” The next day newspapers around the world ran stories with headlines blaring that Led Zeppelin was now “bigger than The Beatles.”

The Who arrived in San Francisco to open its American tour at the 14,000­seat Cow Palace on Nov. 20. The band traveled with 20 tons of custom sound and lights and other staging that required three 45-­foot trailers and a 12­-man crew. Tickets for the show — as with every city on the itinerary — sold out in hours, and anticipation for the band’s first concert in America since 1971’s Who’s Next was acute. But within minutes of the group striking up “Magic Bus,” drummer Keith Moon appeared vacant-eyed, flailing at his cymbals, before passing out face ­first into the tom­-toms. As the band played on, he was hoisted as if from a fishing net and carried offstage, limp and pale as a mackerel. “When Keith collapsed, it was such a shame,” Pete Townshend later recalled. “I had just been getting warmed up at that point … I didn’t want to stop playing.”

Such was Townshend’s mind-set when he turned to the audience and half quipped, “Does anybody play the drums?” A cheer went up. “I mean somebody good.” In the audience near the stage was Scott Halpin, a 19­-year­-old Iowa transplant who had paid for a scalped ticket and was attending with a friend. When his pal heard Townshend’s request, he got the attention of stage security and, indicating Halpin, shouted “He can play!” The next thing Halpin knew, he was backstage downing a shot of brandy someone handed him and being escorted to the drum set. As he settled in, Townshend reached through the cymbals to shake his hand. “I’m in complete shock,” Halpin recalls.

Given the circumstances, Halpin acquitted himself reasonably well before joining arms with Townshend, Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle for the curtain call. Backstage, Daltrey gave Halpin a tour jacket and pledged to pay him $1,000. Whereupon Halpin climbed into his VW Beetle and drove himself back into obscurity. Townshend sent him a thank-you note after the tour moved to Los Angeles, but the thousand dollars Daltrey promised never materialized.

BIGGER, BETTER, LOUDER
Before the early ’70s, bands seldom toured with their own PA­ systems — it was the promoter’s responsibility to provide one. As late as 1970, says Cooper’s road manager David Libert, “even big bands would show up, and there would be a sound system they had never seen before. But [good] sound systems were just coming in — there were companies forming at that time.”

One of them was Heil Sound, founded by a pipe organist and electronics geek with no affinity for rock but a keen appreciation for the dynamics of sound in a live environment. In 1966, Bob Heil opened a music shop in his tiny hometown of Marissa, Ill., where he sold Hammond organs. As it happened, rock bands at the time were repurposing the Hammond B-3, a favorite of jazz and blues musicians, into a screaming lead instrument on par with the electric guitar. When Heil heard the pathetic sound systems bands played through, he scavenged two huge Altec A-7 speakers from St. Louis’ Fox Theatre and paired them with radial horns, ring tweeters and thousands of watts of amplification. In 1970, the Grateful Dead’s sound system was impounded while the band was en route from New Orleans to St. Louis, and Heil took a call from a panicked Jerry Garcia. Heil trucked his creation to the Fox and mixed sound at the concert. The Dead took Heil and his PA to New Jersey and on the rest of their tour. Word of Heil’s “really big PA” spread, and The Who ended up commissioning Heil’s unprecedented quadrophonic sound system, used on the U.K. dates of the 1973 Quadrophenia tour.

As Cooper’s band rehearsed for its tour, a massive set was being constructed on a Warner Bros. soundstage in Burbank. Built on multiple levels, the stage comprised two steel cages flanking a Busby Berkeley-inspired staircase that, per Alice’s request, lit up with each step he took. Silvered bodies hung from the superstructure, and a gilded sarcophagus with lasers that shot from its eyes loomed behind center stage. Aside from Alice, the bandmembers were not consulted on the design. On a tour that would increasingly be fraught with unspoken tension over Alice’s emerging superstardom, the stage’s design had the effect, intentional or not, of diminishing the instrumentalists. “I do believe that the stage really made the band look like Alice’s backing band,” says guitarist Mick Mashbir.

THE PARTY NEVER ENDS
When The Beatles toured in 1964, their contract for backstage amenities stipulated: “In all dressing rooms for The Beatles, the purchaser must provide four cots, mirrors, an ice cooler, portable TV set and clean towels.” Minus the ice cooler and TV, that’s more or less what the average jail cell provides today.

The entitlement that would come to define rock stardom in the ’70s — and the ostentatious luxury that embodies it — gained its first foothold in the big tours of 1973. Witness this sample from Alice Cooper’s backstage hospitality rider: “Purchaser shall provide three (3) cases of Budweiser, three (3) cases of Michelob, one (1) gallon of apple juice, one (1) gallon of orange juice, two (2) cases of Coca­-Cola, one (1) case of ginger ale and assorted fruit. This is to be placed in a cooler with ice in Alice Cooper’s dressing room. … The Michelob beer must be in bottles and the cases of Budweiser must be in cans. In states where the sale of beer must have an alcoholic content of less than 6 percent (i.e. 3.2 beer), the beer must be imported from another state.”

Bob Gruen photographed and traveled with dozens of acts in the early ’70s — Led Zeppelin, Cooper and The Who among them — and witnessed firsthand the creation of the rock-­star mind-set. “It’s contempt for everybody,” Gruen says. “It was just, ‘We’re special, we’re gods, everybody adores us and we deserve whatever we want.’ ”

On the Billion Dollar Babies tour, says Libert, “Everybody was living in this bubble. Think of it: You put your bag outside your hotel room, and then the next thing you know, it’s outside your hotel room in the next city. You go downstairs, you hop into a limo, it takes you to your own airplane, the airplane flies you to the next city, you hop out, you hop into another limousine, it takes you to the next hotel. You don’t really touch reality, and there’s people to keep everybody else away.”

One of Danny Markus’ first tasks when he joined Zeppelin’s ’73 tour was to stock the band’s suites at Chicago’s Ambassador East with stereo equipment. After going to some trouble to assemble audiophile­-level gear, Markus stopped by the hotel to check on his charges. “So I’m up in Robert Plant’s room, I think Jimmy Page was there, and I’m looking around, ‘What happened to the stereo? Did it work out?’ And Robert says, ‘Come here.’ And we go down to one of the guest bathrooms in the suite and there it was, in the bathtub, in like a foot of water.”

Gruen was struck by the immensity of Zeppelin’s success and their eagerness to indulge it. “They had the plane, they’re playing a stadium — that was something that I don’t think the bands of the ’60s would have
dreamed of,” he says. “Being in a band in the ’60s was about having fun. Rock and roll was a way to get a free drink and meet a girl. You weren’t expecting to make a lot of money, but you could have fun.” Adds Peter Rudge, The Who’s co-manager, “Woodstock made everybody aware of what the commercial potential was of what up until that time had been, essentially, an alternative culture and in many respects a cottage industry.”

The Kids Are AlrightDave Otto was a Cincinnati entrepreneur whose contribution to rock ‘n’ roll came when he perfected a technique for printing on flexible rayon with an adhesive backing. Thus was born the modern backstage pass. In short order, Otto’s backstage passes became the industry standard and a potent symbol of the stratification of rock culture as the audience-performer dynamic shifted to star-supplicant. “There was a mystique about them,” acknowledges Otto. “A backstage pass was more valuable than a front-row seat ticket.” Before long they became pseudo-­currency, and groupies deduced that the fastest route to the backstage sanctum was through a pass proffered by a roadie rounding up talent for the post-show party. And sometimes that pass would require … extra services, earning them the crude sobriquet “knee pads.”

As for groupies, “Some people took it more seriously than others,” Libert says. “One of the things these guys would do to entice a girl would be to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to such-and-such a town the next day, stick with me and I’ll take you with me on the plane.’ So I had to institute the following rules: If you take a girl on the plane, if there’s room, she had to be 18 and prove it. Rule number two: You owed her a plane ticket back to where you got her from. And if you refused to pay, you got fired. We had to protect Alice. It could jeopardize the whole tour. It wasn’t that I was so gallant.”

CHARIOTS OF THE GODS
Although the 1973 rock ‘n’ roll tour was nominally subject to the laws and customs of whatever municipality or sovereign state through which it passed, it created its own law inside the traveling party. Behavior unacceptable to civilians was tolerated or actively encouraged within the entourage if it boosted camaraderie — a private plane is a powerful bonding device for rich young men interested in no one’s agenda but their own. “Sure, it’s expensive,” Cooper manager Shep Gordon said of AC-­1, the charter for the Billion Dollar Babies tour, “but having our own plane is good for everybody’s morale. We don’t have to f— around waiting in airports, and we can do what we want once we’re on the plane.”

Zeppelin flew the first leg of the ’73 tour in a Falcon 20, a snug French business jet. After the plane encountered severe turbulence after a gig in Oakland and terrified the entourage, Grant leased the just-­commissioned Starship, a former United Airlines Boeing 720­-B owned by teen heartthrob Bobby Sherman. Retrofitted at a cost of $200,000 with tacky-­chic ’70s delights including a water bed, shag carpeting, brass-trimmed bars and a video library stocked with everything from Deep Throat to Duck Soup, the Starship was a hit with nouveau riche rockers who could afford it — Zeppelin paid $30,000 to lease it during July 1973. “There was nothing like it on the face of the Earth,” says Libert. “It was sort of like Air Force One, but rock ‘n’ roll.”

Compared to the mighty Starship, the Lockheed Electra that transported Cooper and Co. seems barely airworthy: The four-engine turboprop couldn’t climb above 29,000 feet, which led to spectacular turbulence. Nevertheless, it was beloved by the entourage for its crash-­pad aesthetics and practicality.

MORE MONEY, MORE PROBLEMS
A new generation of tour managers like Gordon entered the business, and they questioned the wisdom of delegating blind trust to local promoters. By carrying their own sound and lights instead of relying on sketchy rentals, they enhanced the quality of their productions while taking a profit center away from the promoters and turning it into a recoupable expense. “We would bring our own sound and lights and charge the promoters, and the promoters would go crazy,” says Libert. ” ‘I can get that for half the price!’ Well, take it or leave it.”

As arena rock took off, the managers pushed back. Flat fees gave way to guarantees and percentages. Zeppelin’s opening show at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium with 49,236 in attendance, half of them sprawled on the baseball diamond’s grassy infield, grossed $246,000 (the same show would earn more than $1.2 million at 2012 ticket prices).

Selling out 17,000­-seat arenas gave the new managers the leverage to demand transparency from notoriously opaque box-office accounting. Earlier in his career, Tom Ross booked Olympic figure skater Peggy Fleming into municipal arenas and got to know the building managers. When rock moved into those same arenas in the early ’70s, he was uniquely qualified to call bullshit on promoters who were padding their expenses. “A lot of the costs that promoters would charge us — ­for catering, for limousines –­ were actually companies they started and owned,” Ross said. “So they were making a profit from little ancillary businesses that they used to farm out.”

Chip Rachlin worked for ICM as a booking agent in the ’70s, where his clients included The Eagles and Billy Joel. “I was leaving the agency business and my last show date was in D.C.,” Rachlin says. The promoter was Jack Boyle, whom Rachlin knew well. “Charming rogue, great guy, used to hang out with the Kennedys. He said, ‘I’m going to let you ask me any question you want tonight. Just one. I said, ‘Show me where you cheated.’ ” Boyle led Rachlin to the dressing room, where the post-show catering was laid out. “At the center of the dessert section was this five­-gallon tub of ice cream. You wouldn’t think anything about it. He said, ‘Take a spoon. Put it into the ice cream.’ So you get it down about half an inch and you scoop that into the bowl. He says, ‘Try and get ice cream below the half inch.’ You couldn’t — it was plaster of Paris. He said, ‘That put three kids through college.’ ” Rachlin observes, “The ice cream would show up as a $74 charge. If you do 200 shows a year … who knew how many other cement ice creams he had around the building? I guarantee you, no tour accountant, nobody would catch that.”

THE AFTERMATH
The ’73 tours had consequences that changed the lives and careers of all three acts. The rest of the ’70s were an unfolding nightmare for Zeppelin. In 1975, Plant and his family were severely injured in a car accident in Greece, forcing the cancellation of an American tour and delaying their seventh album. Before a New Orleans show in 1977, Plant received the news that his son, Karac, had died suddenly of a viral infection. The band never again played in the U.S. In the summer of 1980, Zeppelin planned a month­long return to America in October to promote In Through the Out Door, but during rehearsals, drummer John Bonham was discovered in bed at Page’s home, having choked to death on his vomit after consuming, it was later determined, more than a liter of vodka. He was 32.

Cooper’s band had scarcely unpacked from the Billion Dollar Babies tour before they were back at work recording a follow-up. Alice’s isolation was now exacerbated by an aggressive bodyguard who shadowed him everywhere. The band decided to take a one-year hiatus, and Alice recorded 1975’s solo effort Welcome to My Nightmare. After that, there was no more talk of the original band regrouping. “Now what do you got?” says band publicist Bob Brown. “You got a person named Alice Cooper and a band named Alice Cooper.”

The Who played out the ’70s after Quadrophenia amid personal upheaval and public and private tragedy. Townshend wrestled with drink and drugs. The Who by Numbers was released in 1975 to indifferent reviews and sales. After a three-­year hiatus, the band recorded Who Are You, but within a month of the album’s release, Moon died suddenly after an overdose of the drug meant to wean him from alcohol.

Excerpted from What You Want Is in the Limo by Michael Walker. Copyright (c) 2013 by Michael Walker. All rights reserved.

December 22, 2013 Posted by | Book What You Want Is In The Limo by Michael Walker | , , | Leave a comment

Michael Walker On Rock Stars And ‘What You Want Is In The Limo’ (2013)

Photo of Robert PLANT and LED ZEPPELINFrom LATimes.com

By Christine Rendon
July 26, 2013, 10:12 a.m.
The year 1973 was a wild ride — three wild rides, actually, according to “What You Want Is in the Limo.” The book by Michael Walker details the tours of three enormous rock bands — Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, and the Who. Groupies, jets, managers, buses, crystal balls of cocaine: Walker’s got a backstage pass to them all.

Walker, the author of “Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood,” will be reading from “What You Want Is in the Limo” at Book Soup on Saturday at 4 p.m. He spoke to us via phone about his new book.

One of the bands you focus on is Alice Cooper. You wrote that he had a great rapport with the press. How did that come about?

The band had a meeting early on with a publicist named Pat Kingsley. And Pat Kingsley went on to become the most powerful Hollywood publicist in history, but back in 1970 or whatever it was, when Shep [Gordon], Alice Cooper’s manager approached her, she was just a publicist starting out. She met with the band, and said, “Shep, tell the guys to step outside for a few minutes.” And she said to Shep, “Look, five guys named Alice Cooper, I don’t know what to do with that. You give me one guy named Alice Cooper, that I can sell.” So Shep went out into the hallway and said, “One of you guys has to be Alice Cooper.” And the guy that got the nut was Vincent Furnier — he was already the lead singer, but everything they did going forward would concentrate on him and the Alice Cooper character because it’s an easier story to sell to the press. There’s a band that was working the press from day one. In the ’73 tour Shep had the road manager tell the rest of the band they weren’t welcome at press conferences anymore because they didn’t know how to get good press, they didn’t know what to say. So Alice became the personal superstar and they kind of got left behind.

Why do you think Led Zeppelin had a bad relationship with the press? You say their music didn’t resonate with Rolling Stone?

The big rock critics at Rolling Stone venerated the ’60s bands a lot: Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, the Jefferson Airplane — all the great ‘60s bands were what they knew, what they approved of. They did not approve of Led Zeppelin at all.

The fan age of Led Zeppelin was far younger than they were accustomed to and Led Zeppelin was commercially successful independent of them. Here comes Led Zeppelin who, in their opinion, is doing pretty crass music — crass, commercial, just unredeeming. They thought the music was bombastic, simplistic, it was way too derivative of stuff that had already been done and better by bands they liked.

Simultaneous with Led Zeppelin’s arrival around 1969 and 1970 was the rise of the FM radio. FM radio hadn’t really existed before, at least for promoting rock ‘n’ roll, and it came on in a big way. Led Zeppelin very insidiously courted FM radio; they didn’t court the rock press, they just went completely around them. They got their album on the radio without the help of the press.

The third thing that hurt Led Zeppelin was they signed with Atlantic Records for what was at the time a very large amount of money, a $200,000 advance I think, and therefore they were a hype band. Back in those days that mattered –the fact that they extracted such a large amount of money out of Atlantic Records, they were automatically suspect.

what you wantRobert Plant cultivated his stardom very, very carefully and really, really wanted it. Robert Plant was way too earnest, and that’s kind of what also killed it. Because reporters want to be in on the joke, and Alice Cooper let them in, he basically said, “This is all ridiculous, we couldn’t get arrested three years ago, now we have the No. 1 album in the country. You do the math.” He was a really charming guy, I interviewed him for the book, he’s hilarious, he knows exactly what to say.

You write that in the 1960s, the music industry was free and open, while in the 1970s the industry refocused to being more about money and consumption. What do you think caused this shift?

That’s one of the reasons I wanted to write about the year 1973 — I think it is a dividing line between the values and culture of the 1960s and the 1970s. What interested me about that year is that the ’60s aren’t quite over yet.… At the same time the decade the ‘70s would become wasn’t quite invented yet; it was starting to get there, you’re seeing signs of it. So you have this year that’s got one foot in the ‘60s and one foot in the ‘70s; I thought it would be interesting to take three bands that were formed in the 1960s and were helping define what the 1970s would be.

In the late ‘60s, Woodstock happened, and no one had really known how big the audience was for rock music until that show — 300,000 people show up on a side of a hill in New York: it opened everybody’s eyes. What had been a cottage industry, the record business back then, it didn’t sell that many albums… in the early ‘70s record companies began to consciously go after money in ways they had not before.

There was another thing…the second half of the baby boom generation was coming of age in the early 1970s — 18 million people had been born in 1957, which made them 16 in 1973; all of the sudden teenagers have allowances and part-time jobs and they’re buying albums as never before. There’s also a change in attitude, when the big money started coming in, people at the record companies began to realize how big this business could be and it changed things.

Also, the drug menu was changing. In the ‘60s it had been marijuana and acid, drugs of inclusiveness and sharing; cocaine was coming in in 1973, and that was the opposite.

In the book you mentioned that one of the music PR firms displayed a crystal ball of cocaine.

Yeah, that was Gibson & Stromberg in L.A., it was a cut crystal ball — the only rule was you couldn’t take it with you. You couldn’t scoop it up and use it later that night.

Can you explain how women were involved? This time in history they seem caught between the sexual revolution and this male-dominated industry.

I very much wanted to include what women were doing on these tours and how women were being treated in the industry at that time — and it turned out there was more involvement than I thought. There were women publicists who weren’t fantasizing about sleeping with Robert Plant, they were there to work for him. There was Mary Beth Medley, the right-hand to road manager Peter Rudge, and she ran the tours as much as he did. Women were not just being groupies, they were working it. There’s a part of that in the book.

Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times

December 22, 2013 Posted by | Book What You Want Is In The Limo by Michael Walker | , , , | Leave a comment