September 20, 2020

’67 Melody Maker interview with Pete Townshend

Pete discusses The Who Sell Out as well as the year of ‘Love Philosophy’ and LSD

Pete Townshend is as unpredictable as a badly made Roman candle. He fizzes and spurts, showers light and occasionally explodes. His mind races at furious speed, often one jump ahead of himself. Sometimes he is content to call a halt and let others talk. He will listen intently or let them babble, waiting to spring back with some new, and far more interesting, subject for discussion.

While being jostled by hordes of beer-drinking fat men in a London pub, Townshend talked about the new LP ~ ‘The Who Sell Out’ and, added some thoughts on Radio 1 and the demise of the flower scene.

"We had a lot of tracks for an LP," said Pete, "But there was no theme, just tracks from the past and present. Then we had to do an instrumental track for a Coca-Cola ad, and we got the idea of doing the album as a commercial with jingles and advertising copy."

Will The Who have trouble with the inclusion of old Radio London jingles?

"At least one BBC DJ has promised to squeeze in a jingle. But as far as album airplay is concerned, Radio 1 is not going to do us any good. "All Radio 1 has done is slash pop into two scenes -one basic and one art, and we fall into the middle. There should be a whole new formula for pop radio. Sling out the rubbish producers and keep the guys who matter.

"It’s so easy to knock Radio 1 – almost too easy. But people genuinely seem to like it. There is nothing people like more than being dictated to and having things rammed down their throat.

"I’m worried because once pop was progressing and now it’s static. The 13-year-old kids who want to dance have to go to their local groups who play last year’s Beatles hits because they can’t play today’s music. Apart from groups like The Herd and The Tremeloes, nobody is catering for the audience. They are good pop groups who go out and entertain, but who will they turn to when they want to hear something better? I think they might go into blues, or modem jazz or even – dreadful thought – traditional jazz.

"I think the kids could understand modern jazz better than what The Beatles are doing now. I can understand what they are doing, but there is so little I ENJOY now. Enjoyment is the basic ingredient of pop, and I don’t care if people understand it or not. I like people to enjoy and be entertained by what we put over, not teach them something and send them to school.

"The kids don’t want to go back to school so they rebel and turn to what their old man sings when he’s pissed out of his head in the pub, because the song has only got three notes and that’s all he can remember. And it’s just old dears buying all these ballad hits; it’s the young marrieds."

How did Pete view the year of Love Philosophy and LSD?

"A lot of people in pop have taken acid and all of them have softened up and lost a lot of drive and basic ambition. Life can only be seen by being involved in real life, and not a lot of nebulous and ethereal ideas. Love is an aggressive and possessive thing – it’s not just ‘Forgive thy neighbour and be nice to everyone.’

"Youth got out of the society that supports them, then suddenly wanted to get back in, saying ‘We love you’. But dressing up like a lot of cream cakes only earned them dislike.

"I like colourful clothes and don’t see why everybody should have to wear grey suits. But when kids say people who wear them are conforming, they should remember they only dress like that to earn mutual respect. As a fashion idea, flower power was very valid. But it was all misinterpreted by the press. The flower people were on one side, the average man on the other and the press in the middle, taking pictures of girls taking their clothes off and calling it a ‘Love-In’."

"If you did a survey of Greys and Flower People, I bet you find the Greys get more than any of the Flower People."