September 21, 2020

’65 Melody Maker article

Melody Maker – Saturday, July 3, 1965

Who guitarist Pete Townshend has a go at a definition.

What is pop-art? For weeks the hit- parading London group, The Who, have been at the centre of a big storm.

Some say it’s a lot of bunk. Others defend pop-art as the most exciting musical development since the electric guitar boom started.

Who guitarist Pete Townshend defined pop-art for the MM this week.

“It is representing something the public is familiar with, in a different form.

“Like clothes. Union Jacks are supposed to be flown. We have a jacket made of one. Keith Moon, our drummer, has a jersey with the RAF insignia on it. I have a white jacket, covered in medals.

“We stand for pop-art clothes, pop-art music and pop-art behaviour. This is what everybody seems to forget – we don’t change off stage. We live pop-art.”

Trowel-nosed Townshend, aged 20, was sitting in a high class restaurant wearing a loud check jacket, and an open-necked shirt.

The Who are frequently ridiculed for smashing pounds worth of equipment. Why do they do it? Pop-art?

Pete, the culprit wrecker answered: “I bang my guitar on my speaker because of the visual effect. It is very artistic. One gets a tremendous sound, and the effect is great.

“What annoys me, is the person who comes up after a show, and says: ‘Why didn’t you smash your guitar tonight?’ In fact it’s split right down the middle of the neck, but the audience don’t realize.

“If guitars exploded and went up in a puff of smoke, I’d be happy. The visual effect would be complete.

“Roger Daltrey, our singer, smashes his microphone on Keith’s cymbal.

“He does this every night, because it’s a sound. I use feedback every night. That’s a sound.

“But, if the audience isn’t right, I don’t smash guitars. They wouldn’t appreciate the full visual effect.”

What is pop-art about the Who’s music?

“Well, our next single is really pop-art. I wrote it with that intention. Not only is the number pop-art, the lyrics are ‘young and rebellious.’ It’s anti middle age, anti boss-class and anti-young marrieds!”

“I’ve nothing against these people really – just making a positive statement.

“The big social revolution that has taken place in the last five years is that youth, and not age, has become important.

“Their message is: ‘I’m important now I’m young, but I won’t be when I’m over 21.’

“Even London’s streets are making a massive anti-establishment statement, every Saturday night.

“This is what we are trying to do in our music, protest against ‘showbiz’ stuff, clear the hit-parade of stodge!

“We play,” continued Townshend,”pop-art with standard group equipment. I get jet-plane sounds, morse code signals, howling wind effects. Mind you near pop-art discs have been produced before.

“The Shangri-Las, with seagulls and motorbikes, and Twinkle’s ‘Terry.’