September 19, 2020

’66 Beat Instrumental Interview with Pete Townshend

Pete discusses The Who’s release from Decca, touring, and more.

THE WHO’s legal entanglements have been sorted out. Following Decca’s rush release from their LP, the first newie is a Pete Townshend composition called "I’m A Boy". "It’s very peculiar", Pete told me. "It’s also humorous. I’ve got no idea at all how it will go. The other side is called ‘In The City’ and was written by John and Keith."


Obviously Pete is relieved that there is a new single on the horizon. "It puts an end to a very depressing, nothing period", he said. "We were still getting a lot of work and drawing big crowds, but something was missing. We felt that there was nothing behind us, we lacked authority. The money situation was very depressing too. We had steady ‘pay packet’ money but there was nothing really big coming in on top of it. I’m afraid that there were audiences here and there who reminded us of the old days when we had just started. Because we were not chart successes at the time they were cooler. It was a case of going back to our old audiences—the ones which just stand around. Now and again, I thought, ‘We must be back in 1958’."


To make the situation worse for the recordless Who, many people in the business kept knocking them. Now and again, they would come out with statements which were little short of slander. The Who had done this, the Who had done that, what objectionable people they were. The major Who failing, so people reported, was their complete unreliability. If they didn’t make it to a booking then they were "doing a moody". Pete had plenty to say in the group’s defence. "We have an enormous amount of work", he said. "Sometimes we are playing seven dates a week with long distances to travel in between. We have always had to do a lot of appearances; people just don’t seem to realise this. We are not like the Walkers who only make two appearances a week. We might be dead on time for five bookings out of six but, if we are late for one, then we get the book thrown at us.




"During the last couple of months it has become harder and harder to keep going. None of us are particularly Spartan and the travelling has always taken it out of us. The Merseys, on the other hand, seem to wallow in it. A trip of 500 miles is nothing to them, but it is to me, and it shows in my playing and the way I get on with the rest of the group. I have to be relaxed and rested before I can do my best."




Are the Who going to start a new trend very soon? Possibly, but Pete, who would obviously be the instigator of any change in the group, is a little confused at the moment. "I feel that I am not limited in any way now", he explained, "the reason being that I’ve been called so many different things that they’ve all cancelled each other out. People don’t expect me to comply with any preconceived impression, so I’m free to do what I like. But this, I find, is frustrating. It’s like saying to someone, ‘Go into that big field over there and run about, anywhere you like, at any speed you like. They’d find that much harder to do than if you told them to run down a white line at any speed they liked. I’m free to do just whatever I please, but just what it’s going to be, I don’t know."


Who drummer, Keith Moon, has literally barricaded himself off from the problems which have surrounded the group. At the last count he was using two kettle drums, foot drums, four deep toms, four small toms and five cymbals. Not forgetting, of course, the two sets of sticks he always uses at the same time. John is trying out a new giant set-up which incorporates 15 in. speakers instead of 12 in. He seems well pleased. Pete has decided to settle down with his massive Marshall gear. "I went through a stage when I thought about designing and building my own set-up", he told me, "but I decided that it was a bit futile. It’s very hard to improve on established makes anyway.




"I had a lot of ideas about ‘tweeters’, but when I thought about it I realised that certain acoustic ‘high spots’ just behind the bridge of any guitar would give a very high screech. This isn’t feedback but an interaction. I tried a different amp from the Marshall for a while using it with Marshall speakers but although it gave a tremendous amount of power it was rather old and I had to keep changing the valves. After a while it got so bad that they were burning out in the middle of a performance so I had to change them twice a night. Eventually I gave it up as a bad job." That amp probably ended up in Pete’s home studio. He told me that he’s added to it since he did that home recording feature for "B.I.". "I’ve got an organ, another recorder, and a set of drums", he told me. "I’m still doing a lot of recording and writing. I seem to be doing ‘beatier’, simple stuff now. I think it will have more commercial appeal than the stuff I’ve done already. I’ll tell you for sure when I see how this one goes."