Townshend wrote these four columns, ostensibly about ‘rock music’, when he was but a wee lad.
I’M BEGINNING my first page of this bulky Journal in particularly strange surroundings. On holiday I am, far away from the sounds of London’s traffic and Keith Moon on an island in the Blackwater estuary called Osea, or "Ozee" as the locals pronounce it. There are so few locals in fact that they could all be counted on one ordinary hand.
The main figure is Jim Cricket, the village’s only all year round resident as far as I can make out. Osea Island was originally inhabited (so I gather) by the owner of some brewery in the 1900’s as a rehabilitation resort for inebriates (drunken wrecks similar to Keith Moon in most respects, excepting stamina). His conscience got the better of him one night as he stood watching his clientele pouring out of one of his pubs getting run over, falling In the canal, wounding one another with broken bottles and all the other enjoyable activities people get involved in on the way home from the boozer.
Jim Cricket lets our daughter Emma, who he insists on calling "him "- ride on his tractor and generally is very helpful showing me where to collect the cockles and muscles (sic) and oysters for tea and giving me historical notes.
The most exciting thing about Osea Island is probably the causeway that you have to drive over to reach it. It’s over a mile long and is just about revealed for a few hours each low tide for the milkman and postman to make a mad dash across, make their rounds and get back again. As you drive over the sea splashes over the front of the car and you feel a bit like a sea captain at the bridge as starfish and crabs come hurtling through the windows.
I’m hoping that the messenger who comes all the way from Melody Maker to collect this trivia doesn’t throttle me when he realises he’ll have to spend twelve hours looking at a ten acre caravan site before he can get back home again.
WHEN we tour England this October we will be working with an American group called the James Gang who could do fantastically well over here. We did several shows with the Gang on our last U.S. visit and have built up an addiction for their music. They are a three piece, Joe Walsh on guitar, Jim Fox on drums and Dale Stevens on bass. Jim the drummer formed the group about two years ago.
Joe Walsh is definitely one of the best guitarists in Rock that I’ve come across. His playing makes my neck tingle like only Jimi Hendrix has affected it before. He doesn’t move much, except to snake a lazy foot over from the fuzz box to the wah wah pedal, but his playing reaches heights that to my mind have only been reached before by the Claptons, Pages and Hendrixs of this world, and there are only three of them. I hear through the grapevine that Jimmy Page has seen Joe play and also rates him highly. It could be fair to say from the way I’m ranting that he’s one of your guitarists’ guitarists, but then most of the top players are universally dug by audiences and other musicians alike.
Joe Walsh and I spent many hours playing in the States, his style on the acoustic guitar is free and flowing with a lot of the characteristic country "drone" notes vibrating steadily in the bass strings like Eastern music. The James Gang have two albums available in the States, the first has been out here for a few months called "Yer Album". It’s on Stateside, and I hope they are quick to release their second, "The James Gang Rides Again" soon.
THE PETE TOWNSHEND PAGE #2
Melody Maker, 19th September 1970
ANOTHER FIGHT IN THE PLAYGROUND
FROM the cab of Maxine the Motor Home I begin this month’s essay.
Take a letter. Maxine is a large and lovely meat wagon with blood red striping, she comes from the US of A and is what we British would call a motor caravan.
I bought the thing to ride in at the Isle of Wight. You know, ask in the other groups for tea and cakes. That didn’t come together, but equally adventurous are the present daredevil expeditions into the unknown, we thought we should make full use of the safari-like facilities and go on a short camping trip.
Where to? What about mother-in-law’s garden, very devil-may care. Anyway that’s where I sit as I begin, in a buxom beast of a bus stuck out among the daffs. If you see me on the Kingston by-pass do drop in for a hot shower.
The week before the IOW Festival I got a call from John Sebastian, Stars and soap bubbles poured from the mouthpiece of the telephone as the fairytale world of Mr Tie Dye and his beautiful young wife leaked into our tasteful brown and cream living room. He came to stay. His socks and Y fronts are tie dyed too. ONE of their crazy days he and his lady bought bicycles mauve and green and cycled to Windsor Castle, only sixteen miles!
At the IOW Festival I met Mike Wadleigh the director and innovator of the Woodstock movie. It was greatly embarrassing for me to hear him announce that the cameraman’s bum I had kicked off the stage during our show at Woodstock had belonged to him. Bearing in mind that we have some great work done for us in the WHO sequence in the film I figure he cannot be a man that holds a grudge. Lesson for Abbie.
WHEN we first arrived backstage at the lOW there was a good, low class mood in the air. It was easy though to detect that it would have little to do with what was going on out in the audience. Before we left our cosy hotel the barmaid had noticed Keith’s white clothes and said, "You’re not going to wear those nice clean things OUT THERE are you?" As though he was off into battle.
The press had ruined a lot of people’s potential happy weekend by exaggerating reports of water shortage and security trouble. People are still amazed when thousands of other people gather. Billy Graham gets 200,000 every gig, so I hear. The Cup Final doesn’t do too bad either.
Nevertheless, I read the papers too and got nervous and we didn’t take the baby. When I got there I realised what a fool I was. This wasn’t a battle, or an invasion. It wasn’t a gathering of anarchists, nor even really a running gamut of tired Rock Artists in the usual festival tradition, It was a weekend on an island for a lot of young HUMAN BEINGS. Believe me, they were there. Sometimes I wonder how I noticed, they were only a 90 per cent majority.
We all seem to see the nastier events, like playing in a school playground for five years on the trot and never noticing kids outside of your own class except when two of them happen to have a fight. Then you notice them, gather round and encourage them to kick each others heads in. Daily newspaper editors must be like schoolboys. "Leave our Bobby alone! Rotten foreigners." The fact that the young people of today do things together in large numbers without the organisation of a field marshall is regarded suspiciously by all these days.
Admittedly, at the IOW the French kids got a bit heavy, but then the French government is heavy; banning all congregations of 200 or more people because of potential riots. If you force the riots off the streets they only end up in people’s back gardens. Well, the French anarchists ended up in our back garden and no-one was ready to make them welcome. It’s always handy to be able to blame things on anonymous foreigners, though.
IT’S not often that I get this chance, the chance to use an audience, or in this case a readership, to get feedback around an idea. I’m not expecting to get letters of reactions or question timer buzzes or anything like that; I do the talking and I also do the feeding back on your behalf. Kind of assumptive but really the way most things are done today.
Here’s the idea, there’s a note, a musical note, that builds the basis of existence somehow. Mystics would agree, saying that of course it is OM, but I am talking about a MUSICAL note. There is air that we breathe, we swim in it all our lives, we love it with our physical being and we watch it sustain the world around us. We seem adaptable and receptive to almost everything it produces; but most of all, and this has little to do with the essence of survival, most of us enjoy music. I’ve never been able to quite get to grips with how it all comes about, but artists and writers outside of music have noticed it too.
Many of them jealously observing how little education is necessary to enjoy music; how anyway music is completely versatile and even people with heavy preconceptions about sound can be entertained by music. It takes effort to be entertained by a painting, it can’t come to you somehow like music can, there is no beginning to the entertainment period, no end. There are hundreds of parallels between all forms of art obviously, but music is not really art until someone tries to make it art, until the patterns it creates are measured and received. This note pervades everything, it’s an extremely wide note, more of a hiss than a note as we normally know them. The hiss of the air, of activity, of the wind and of the breathing of someone near. You can always hear it.
Andy Newman told me once how people cannot bear to spend too much time in anechoic chambers because of the horror of complete silence. Anechoic chambers are not only completely silent but all sound that is produced within them is sort of swallowed up by absolutely non reflective walls and ceilings. You shout but you hardly hear yourself! I could well imagine that even the deaf hear this note. At midnight when you lay in bed, gently falling into sleep, it gets louder not quieter. It doesn’t seem to come through the ears and the air, but it is made up of elements that are. Finally, when it reaches deafening proportions you are asleep, drowned in sound, A bit like listening to the ‘oo. Must be why so many people fall asleep at our shows.
Do you hear it? I think you must, particularly the allegedly musical lot who read Melody Maker. Probably all musicians or music lovers, i.e.: people with trained ears waggle waggle. They all hear it. Musicians have to learn to listen before they can begin to learn to play. I think it’s the hardest part, the listening part. Probably why so many people involved in music are attracted to pot smoking, it helps one to listen. What it does decide is harder to find out of course.
The key to this unexciting adventure I’m leading you on, is that everybody hears it. Moreover I think everybody hears the same note or noise. It’s an amazing thing to think of any common ground between all men that isn’t directly a reflection of spiritual awareness. The hearing of this note is physical. Very physical, sometimes it’s so physical it hurts, but it also feels very good sometimes. Like when you’re in a deep bad mood, you struggle to get out, but the harder you try the deeper you get.
In the end you are moody with yourself for not being able to conquer the mood. when you do finally break THAT one up, what is there to welcome you. The note. It’s there, gently breathing and saying annoyingly that it was there all along undisturbed. Being whole again, however, you don’t mind listening and enjoying. It’s a note, it’s notes, it’s music – the most beautiful there is to hear.
- For anyone who would like to hear about Meher Baba the moment is right. Rick Chapman, a Californian who met Baba before he died is talking at the Baba centre at 3a Eccleston Square, S.W.3. (it’s behind Victoria Station) on next Wednesday and Saturday this month. The talks start at 6.30 p.m. Wed. and 3.30 p.m. Sat. Or write for information. – JAI BABA FOLKS!
THE PETE TOWNSHEND PAGE #3
Melody Maker, 17th October 1970
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
OUR show at Purley Orchid Ballroom was quite an experience I came closer to complete physical exhaustion than I ever have before at a performance and yet we are playing a slightly shorter show on this tour.
Am I growing old? Will I never live to see Keith Moon’s eightieth birthday party? Not the problem. I just suffered from a cough, but somehow with short breath and phlegm, where there should be air, my leaps and jumps led me to the fading world of fainting schoolgirls. Today I sit and type as a gentler form of exercise, passing out over the keys occasionally, which explains the odd "©£’4?" here and there.
The first two days of the tour were an education for me. I took my Motor Caravan and attempted to gypsy the gigs at Cardiff and Manchester. Defeat bitter on my lips I have to concede that caravan cooked roast chicken in a lay-by off the M5 all on my own is no consolation for a visit to the Blue Boar transport cafe with the lads.
After taking six hours to reach Cardiff I looked in at the Sophia Gardens where we were to perform to find out what time we were due on.
Finding out I had three hours to spare I decided to look for an AA approved caravan park that was close to the city centre according to my map. Off I went, driving for nearly an hour with no success. Eventually I drifted into a friendly cop shop where they gave roe complicated but explicit directions. I followed them carefully and eventually arrived at the site. Checking in, paying my seven and six and getting a set of keys to the bog I enquired how to get to the Sophia Gardens as I would be getting back late – and would the gates he open? "Oh, there’s no need to worry about the gates," the smiling warden said as I contemplated the last ninety minutes driving. "Sophia Gardens is right next door, in fact you can see it from here."
Despite this terrible indignity I hurriedly walked off to the gig with me boiler suit under me arm feeling like a local Welsh lad made good, and checked in. The James Gang were about to play and I went to watch. I got as far as their first few bars. The bassplayer’s amp stopped working after he’d played only three notes and the impact of their incredible opener, "Funk 49," was dampened. I didn’t watch anymore, feeling like maybe I was a jinx, and waited till they came off stage a little disenchanted with the equipment we had lent them. (BLUSH).
At their press reception at the Speakeasy they hadn’t been able to play because of equipment hassles, it really is a pointer to groups that despite financial losses it is worth any amount of effort to use your own equipment wherever you are going to play.
That was well and truly rammed home to us in Australia, where a conscientious promoter spent over £5,000 on gear to keep us happy but forgot about a microphone system. It was so funny, we nearly died.
Back to Cardiff. It goes without saying that we went on and didn’t have any trouble at all. You see, we have a special method for ensuring that our gear is always up to scratch. If it goes wrong we kill the roadie. Seriously, the crowd were incredible. It was the first airing of the now shortened TOMMY in Wales and we enjoyed the show as much as we have ever.
We have deliberately cut down our act to leave us more energy to cope with the most important part of the show. The finale. It doesn’t matter how well you play, if you don’t leave on the right foot you may as well not bother.
I feel this was demonstrated by the way our performance dwindled quietly and ineffectually away at the IOW. We had played far too long, nearly three hours, making it hard for Sly to follow playing to such a weary audience and leaving the stage on an anticlimactic note rather than an excited one.
We did manage to follow Sly ourselves at Woodstock. It was then, as searchlights scanned the three thousand strong audience yelling for more that we knew we would get revenge. Of course, we didn’t really plan it that way but it tends to happen that way with the Who. Instant Karma.
The road from Cardiff to Manchester goes through the most beautiful country in Britain, and it was the happy culmination to a good journey that the show went so well at the Free Trade Hall that night. The.James Gang played a superb set, free from equipment hassles, and their sound men were on top form. They included two acoustic numbers from the James Gang Rides Again album which added fantastically to the dynamics of the evening.
We can tell how the band before us go down by the audience response to our own opening. At Manchester it was just as exhilarating as Cardiff to feel the wave of familiarity and warmth from the crowd as we began. James Gang had clearly done a great show.
The Orchid Purley just wiped me out. Not just the physical exhaustion I talked of above, but also the place and the people. The last time we played there was so long ago I can’t remember, and as we walked through the audience to the stage, surrounded by bouncers, I heard elderly mods asking for I Can’t Explain and Substitute with such zest that I began to believe they were new releases.
From the stage however, the feeling was not one of nostalgia. Things had clearly changed. The crowd was a mixture of neat mohair suits and long shaggy Swedish army coats. The hall from this new aspect, (our roadie had a special ten foot high stage built over the existing one), took on the mood of somewhere like the Chicago Kinetic Theatre, or The Shrine Auditorium in LA. It really was amazing.
None of the psychedelic theatres in the States could come near it for colour. Plastic palm trees and all; it was pure heaven. On the way home, I drove a little bit daft and got stopped by some speed cops.
THE PETE TOWNSHEND PAGE #4
Melody Maker, 14th November, 1970
TV MIMING – WHO IS BEING FOOLED?
NOVEMBER, what a fantastic month. The smell of burning leaves and bangers going off all over the place. It’s my favourite time of the year, and it’s with some suspicion of my own nostalgic leanings that I say that all the nicest things seem to happen in November. To me that is, to my heart and brain, I hope it treats you the same.
There was an article in MM a couple of weeks ago carrying Tony Blackburn’s grievances about the underground groups who manage to drag their weary drug abused bodies on to the sterile stage of " Top of the Pops." It was interesting and upsetting.
In the past I have wondered whether our own behaviour on TOTP might have given the impression that we felt the show was "beneath" us. The format of TOTP is old fashioned, it was conceived many years ago, I think before the Who were even in existence, but it’s the only show of its kind to last as long as it has.
I remember the Who’s first appearance on the show, we replaced someone in the "tip for the top spot" who couldn’t make it.
In those days it was sent out live from Manchester, the studio was a converted church. We were all in love with Samantha, and her unqualified dumbness was tantalising beyond belief as she put on records that didn’t really play and nodded a head that didn’t think. That was Samantha the myth, she’s probahly less of a myth today. The disc jockeys then were sacred too. Jimmy Savile, Pete Murray, Alan Freeman, what a show!
The latter two would come up on the same plane with us often, talking about the exhilaration of their recent health farm visits. We used to laugh, until we too started to need a bit of weight lifting. It was exciting, you only got in the show, apart from the plug spot, if your record was in the charts, so it was instant status, and the doors of the studio were always surrounded hy lots of pretty young fans who were always waiting for some other hand, it seemed.
In those days we had to mime to our record, thus, it was a cinch. No worries about throats or atmosphere, or getting in tune, just about what colour pants to wear, or what silly outfit to put on to attract the camera’s attention.
Keith would get about 80 per cent of the camera time simply because the director was convinced it was a drummer led group. Every time the camera swung to me I would swing my arm like a maniac, and as soon as I did it would go off, the camera I mean.
I think we are a little less worried abut the status of chart success these days, we have had far too much success on the road and with our albums rec ently to worry any more but deep inside we an still a pop group.
Ready Steady Go is a programme people have forgotten to weep for. That was Rock television at its best. Most of the time was spent fighting to get American artists on the show, it’s the only one in the world that I’ve ever seen that managed a balance hetween either side of the ocean.
Before I burst into tears again, I remember that its definitely long gone and TOTP is all that’s left. I would he a liar if I said that I preferred the strict format of TOTP to the insanity and abandon of RSG but then sometimes one has to lie to protect one’s future.
WHEN we appear on TOTP today, we are subject to some of the new Musicians’ Union rules. They are designed to protect musicians and I think to prevent the public being misled into the impression that the performers on television are creating the music that the session men behind them are really working on.
I can appreciate this. But when it comes to plug a track like Summertime Blues from our Live at Leeds album you start to become aware of the shortsightedness of some of the MU hierarchy.
To have appeared on TOTP to plug our live track, we would have had to re-record it. Do it again. From the bottom up. At Leeds? Not necessarily, but we don’t want to fool the public.
We didn’t appear. And it looks like it could happen again and again like that. The TOTP team feels cramped by the restrictions, and artists like ourselves that spend weeks in recording studios at fantastic expense, don’t feel like going through it all again to get a plug on television.
But at the moment, with the Union, and may I say, the older musicians, getting tougher, we have to.
It’s a matter of time really. A normal orchestra working in the old fashioned way can rehearse and record a three-minute number in about an hour. When under pressure, in half an hour.
If they are really good, and can perform pre-written arrangements with spontaneity they could knock off maybe ten songs in an hour, many are expected to do this. But a group of four men, have to rely heavily on the efforts of sound engineers, to enhance and expand their sound, and their own talent and time to perform ALL the instrumental parts and choruses that would normally be done in one go.
It can take days, and can cost hundreds of pounds, but the results are more personalised, No outside musicians are employed, no musicians in or out of the Union (other than the group themselves) benefit, the man in the street thinks recording is a mystery anyway so what is the point of insisting that we go through it?
When Thunderclap Newman had "Something In The Air" in the chart the orchestra was added each time they appeared on TOTP on the night. The rest of the instruments were played by the boys at a special session paid for by Track. The vocals were put on on the day.
Now this makes sense, when we made the record we used thirty musicians or so to produce the orchestra track that enhances the group’s sound, when the group go on television, new music has to be produced otherwise musicians will be out of pocket. But on their new release, Wild Country, was it really necessary for them to have to mimic their own spontaneous sound that took hours of work to achieve in a studio, all over again? No outside musicians were employed to make the original recording, the group played all the parts themselves. Who is losing money? Who is being fooled? The public aren’t hearing the record that they go out and buy the next day I know that much.
Thank heavens the actual records are ALWAYS SIXTY TIMES BETTER THAN THEY SOUND ON THE BOX!
That doesn’t say much for the efforts of the sound men on the show I know, but then they are usually working against time with equipment built for music other than pop. They are experts but working against all the weight of the combined recording industry.
In ten minutes they are expected to produce, with their formal equipment, what took three weeks and all the technical expertise, experiment, creativity, and hard work of the finest engineers working in the best studios in the world to produce.
I think you get the picture. I believe that my union, the Musicians’ Union, is misrepresenting me, making rules that make me have to rerecord my own music each time I appear on television with no advantages to ANYBODY AT ALL. Not even studios gain by this re-recording, we have our own. It’s absurd.
As for Tony Blackboard, well apart from the fact that he’s one of the few jocks on Radio One that plays good records I have a bone to pick. Both Jimmy Savile and Tony Blackburn think of themselves as "professionals." As stars if you like. It is to Savile’s credit that when the orrible ‘oo are on TOTP, he can cope easily with the occasional side-on remark from Keith Moon withoul having histrionics.
Keith has, in the past, barged his way into camera without having histrionics.
As an opposite example, I saw Steve Marriott calling Tony Blackburn "Eammon" during an interview, and I must admit I laughed. Not at the gag, but at the way Blackburn handled it. It hurt, and you could see it hurt.
In fact if Blackburn had been a professional he would have hit hack I feel. But he is a bit like Eammon, too respectful of the miracle of the 19-inch screen. Too worried about the delicate minds of the millions of viewers at home, many of whom make Steve Marriott look like a chorus girl. (No offence Steve). Sometimes it’s as bad to embarrass your audience as it is to upset them in any other way. That little scene embarrassed me, and with a little theatrical grace, or a bit of Savile’s wit he could have handled it. Steve could have been a bit more cool in the first place too, I suppose.
TOTP is not really a vehicle for the new music, but if a few adjustments were made by BOTH sides, it could be. Obviously it must remain geared to the charts, that’s what has made it so consistently popular, but underground acts should not be ashamed being pleased at the prospect of being on pop television. The Who aren’t, maybe it’s the.excitement we feel whenever we get back in the studio that makes us over-do the informal idiot dancing behind the bars.
In the same way, guys like Blackburn who front the show should give a little. The announcer who called Pinball Wizard a record that "shouldn’t be allowed" on the air, should expect a rebuttal ON THE AIR. Not in the studio canteen or in the safety of a sterile TOTP interview. Thus, and we have since talked it out together and gotten rid of grudges, Keith Moon threw drum sticks at Tony Blackburn as he introduced us on the show. I don’t want him to feel intimidated by groups like us, but I don’t want him to be under the impression that when he knocks our work, which he has a perfect right to do, we will not knock back.
Stop treating underground groups as "dirty" hippies, and we’ll stop treating you like a refugee from Mrs. Dale’s Diary, Tony. Open up your mind a bit to our music and the music of other Rock bands and
underground bands and serious musicians will start treating YOU with respect. Not on an "I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine," basis, but for real. Respect, mutually achieved through understanding that all kinds of music has its audience, and that often, the most broad minded people you can find when it comes to music, are OUTSIDE the music business. Queuing for tickets.
There was a television programme on the other night, that put Top Of The Pops to shame in the embarrassment stakes. It was called, "Two girls in Hampshire." It was about an ordinary, "nice girl," and an ordinary "hippie" girl. The object of the film seemed to be to get both parties to slag off the other behind their backs and then effect a confrontation. The ensuing conversation between a group of square dancers and young pot smokers was terrifying in its awkwardness. The main topic seemed to be marriage and dope.
Obviously all the squares were virgins by choice, and all the hippies were virgins, not by choice. The hippies were against marriage saying that if the marriage turned sour the two individuals were tied together without love, and the squares said that marriage is sacred union and that separation is unthinkable because of the kids. One hippie boy announced that "we all sleep together" and two girls raised their eyebrows with "Oh! DO we now?" expressions.
The same guy said that he’d get rid of the police force because it’s evil. I’m not being unfair, that’s what he said. I don’t think he really cared whether they go or stay but he said it all the same. Funnily enough, I expected the square girl to come out on top, but she was so boring she didn’t stand a chance.
The hippie wasn’t too nice either, she spent a lot of time telling us how she told her parents lies to keep them happy. As if they didn’t know?
On the whole though they were all young and somehow very conventional. In the programme the hippies ended with the prime punch line, saying:
"We have the advantage, because we know what it’s like to live like you, we WERE you, but we’ve found a better way. You don’t know what it’s like to live like us."
I’ve got news for the lot of you, I’ve lived like all of you, the square and the hippie, and I’ve found a better way than both.
In between mate. In between.
THE PETE TOWNSHEND PAGE #5
Melody Maker, 12th December 1970
IS ROCK DEAD?
ENGLAND and America have ways of describing the coming doom for Rock, or pop if you like.
In American magazines it is often that you see articles bemoaning the demise of some or other old time rock act, or complaining that the newer rock people headed by the Beatles and Stones are declining even more rapidly than their original heroes.
The reason people are so quick to become disgusted with the leading edge of Rock whenever it loses its sharpness, is because of what always appears to fill the gap it leaves. Someone once said to me that they became a John Mayall fan afresh, each time nothing else was happening that was exciting in music, You could always rely on him to he there playing good music when others were going up and down like yo yos. Normally one has to put up with Bobby Vee or ageing singing comedians.
Recently American papers, have run full scale articles which run like obituaries. Talk of, "The lack of excitement in the air," and the "Mere human-ness" of the Stones. Obviously time has a lot to do with it. Unless one hides, like Dylan does, a Rock Star is not likely to keep all his original mystical power when people know him and his hang ups as well as the kid next door.
But there is a chemistry remaining, after the glitter has faded, which indicates that there is, and was, more to Rock than screaming kids and "House full" at the Liverpool Empire. That chemistry has remained for the last three years in my opinion. It’s that long since I was tempted to scream with delight at a concert, at one of my heroes (Jimi Hendrix on stage). Since the Stones stopped stage work, and the Beatles finalised their own public efforts at Shea, the onus of focus has been on records and interviews.
Magazines like Rolling Stone, Fusion, Crawdaddy, Melody Maker, and others with hip format and enough staff to deal with Rock without becoming mere diaries have run interview after interview with Rock heroes. Rather than go to see the man, we stroll up to the record shop, buy his album and read his words in the paper.
Rolling Stone once ran an interview with myself, or rather my oratorio, through eleven pages of their paper. At the time I figured it would be one of the best things that ever happened to me. Read it today, and you’ll see that most of the early excitement and feedback that was happening as we worked on Tommy was dissipated in that article. I had said so much of what I had wanted to say in Tommy, in print, and thus made it harder to say musically and get off on it.
One of the most incredible things about the sixties Rock was the fact that it took itself seriously enough to spread itself through eleven pages. How many kids actually bought a record because of the good sense made by the guy who made it? More like; "buy it because he’s a bastard."
Deep Purple have done far far better smashing guitars (and loving it) than bashing their musical heads against the elite musical analysts that make up the album market today. The Move and ourselves used similar tactics, you’ll remember. But we’re still here today, many others aren’t.
Some of the things that happened in the sixties are so heavy that I’m sure in ten years all of the present Rock hierarchy will remember the sixties with tears in their eyes. Hendrix, The Cream, The Band, Zeppelin, Crosby Stills and Nash, Woodstock, Shea Stadium, Albert Hall, Saville Theatre, Isle of Wight, Kinks, Cocker, Small Faces, Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick Tich? Was it that incredible?
Good bands abounding, and plenty of them pop biased with their eyes on the singles market, but aren’t all of them old men? Wasn’t Jimmy Page a session man before he became a teenie idol? Wasn’t Clapton wearing ivy league jackets and crewcuts before he played blues with Mayall? Weren’t The Band backing Dylan, rather badly, before their own mind blowing appearance? Rock is AIMED at young people, it hopes to tell them about themselves, it hopes to gather up the excitement of being young and frustrated and glorify it. It doesn’t usually mean that because the hunter gets his prey he becomes hunted himself, but you have heard of Karma? They’ll get you in the end. Rock is self destructive by its very nature.
A band like the WHO, for example, are only happy when they are reaching and stimulating a young audience. Like the Faces, we started fairly young and made good, our audience has grown with us. But a lot of them have found solace in an aspect of life that we can’t get off on. We have to be exploding, moving, smashing things, too loud, lairy, hairy, over intellectual even. It’s got to the point that we realise that even though five years ago we sang, "Hope I die before I get old," today we say, "We didn’t mean it." We did mean it. We didn’t care about ourselves or our future. We didn’t care about ourselves or our futures. We didn’t really even care about one another. We were hoping to screw the system, screw the older generation, screw the hippies, screw the Rockers screw the record business, screw the Beatles and screw ourselves. We’ve been most successful on the last account. I think that speaks for a lot of the groups in the sixties.
We didn’t really want to end up yabbering in pop papers about our hangups, we wanted to die in plane crashes or get torn to pieces by a crowd of screaming girls.It all began to change when Paul sang, "When I’m sixty four" SlXTY-FOUR? Of course, there is such a thing as living till old age, there is such a thing as leaving the rat race and settling down. See Paul himself – see Dylan.
In the seventies is there a different mood? My arse there is! The best new bands like Free for example sound incredibly 1965. Their sound is inspired so it seems by all the music that inspired the Stones and the Small Faces and ourselves. Elton John, who I must say has my approval, is also an incorrigible rocker. Leaping all over the stage like Steve Marriott yet making records that speak of the most fantastic nostalgia and feeling. But there are not half enough Frees and Elton Johns, Far too many are at first content with a rapid up and down pop 30 existence. Making a hit record and then finding it almost impossible to be taken seriously. When they are first in the charts they are apparently happy, but in the end the emptiness of a life focused on single sales is clear.
Dave Dee etc, The Trems, Fairweather Low, Love Affair, Mann, and so on all have suffered from top thirty boredom. Their fans were happy enough with them as they were. But the key is that their fans were looking at music from a different angle than their heroes. While little girls were comparing Steve Ellis’s angelic features to their favourite teddy bear he was at home listening to Cream albums and imagining himself as a kind of Leonard Cohen or James Taylor figure. In 1971 there is going to be a change. Rock musicians like ourselves are going to have to admit we are pigeon holed by our own past, and newer groups are going to have to realise that it’s bands like Free and Elton John that they have to whip, not White Plains, however much the fans may insist that they will "love you even when you’re not in the charts." Bloody liars they are. If you want to cause something new to happen in music it has to be made to happen, and it has to be new.
Rock is far from dead. Far far from dead. If life in the Who is anything to go by it’s just started. I hate to use such a zoot expression but its "own up time." Technology has advanced to a state where sound can be produced that is practically celestial – where a concert can sound as good as a recording or better, where machines are available that can invent sounds that the ear and brain have never heard before. When you boil it down, there is only one medium that can make use of it all, that can reflect the explosive media-saturated frustration that will be our millstone in ten years. Rock. Rock is music, but with a difference. It’s music WITHOUT A PAST. Once we become aware that Rock does have a past, that there is history, that there is an up and down, we have to close our eyes and look ahead. Something new is waiting. And we won’t see it if we are still asking questions like is rock dead? Burn this paper.
THOU SHALT NOT MULTI-TRACK
FOR those of you who were interested by my moans about TV miming, here is an excerpt from what looks like it might become a continuing saga.
Don Smith, a young and untypically together Musicians Union organiser read my grievances last month and we talked about it at his office. It seems that he is keen to get a better empathy going with group musicians, but he has the impression that groups that don’t use any outside musicians on their records are in the minority. Try FREE, MOODY BLUES, LED ZEPPELIN, PAUL McCARTNEY, TRAFFIC, FAIRPORT CONVENTION, FACES, CREAM, JETHRO TULL etc., etbloodycetera.
No, the point is that when the decision was made to ban TV miming and the use of backing tracks not made especially for the TV shows the decision was made with complete disregard of the fact that most of the popular rock albums and singles made in this country are made by groups, not solo artists.
By making rules to protect the cosseted session men in London they make it technically possible to blacklist group musicians from different bands that wish to appear with one another on TV. They can play with a group of their buddies on their record only if they appear on television too to plug it.
Don Smith is a clearly considerate man, but all the consideration and good will in the world does not alter the fact that even multi-tracking is against Union rules. Multi-tracking is common procedure in recording these days, but to protect a few starving session men from having to sell their Rolls’s it has been made an offence for a Union member to multi-track, i.e.: The whole of Paul McCartney’s album was made in defiance of the Union. In fact, every time someone multi-tracks they are supposed to send a letter to the Union asking permission! All you Union members with Revox’s better flog ’em, and learn to read and write music. That’s the only way you should really be able to end up with more than one instrument.
Also, all you studios making cheap demos for up and coming musicians should realise, only one track per instrumentalist thus making it impossible for -a hard up composer to make a decent demo without a £300 recording session.
Don Smith says that now that the wheels have been put in motion the only way that the rules could be modified so that session men remain protected without groups like ourselves suffering is to put forward a motion for change in the rules and get musicians throughout the country (there have to be a good number in each region) to get out to their branch meeting and vote on it.
Anyone that would be willing to vote for a motion relaxing the backing track and multi-tracking rules applied to TV and recording today should write to me c/o T.V Miming Question, Track Records, 70 Old Compton Street, W.1. If enough people get out to their branch meeting and vote the motion through, we’ll see more music on the box, see more music in the charts and hopefully, see more pop on television. I’m sure that we’ll hear better sound.
Or just send a postcard with your name and address, M.U. number and region. We’ll tell you when to put on top hat and tails and go to vote If you happen to be free.
THE PETE TOWNSHEND PAGE #6
Melody Maker, 16th January 1971
DO YOU SUFFER FROM MEDIA FRUSTRATION?
YOU can’t help wondering, can you? When the government of this country destroyed commercial radio several years back we at least were able to say that they were acting normally…belligerently ignoring the fact that a whole industry which made the country millions of pounds owed much of its success to pirate radio and its so called ‘minority’ audience.
That was very much in keeping with their normal democratic way of going about things.But the latest ideas we are getting from Mr. Chataway are even more obvious. Four years after the act they suddenly realise that there IS money to be made. They want some. They realise there IS an audience for commercial radio. They want their votes. It’s in the light of this kind of thinking that pop music and its offshoots are seen by sporty chaps like Mr. Chataway.
The pirate radio system was not really perfect, the format methods used by all of them were easy to rig and one could buy time for any record on the air.
The people who talk of the days when the disc jockey played exactly what he wanted should talk to John Peel. Peel is someone who passed through commercial radio into a position in Radio One that gives him more freedom than any other disc jockey with the BBC.
Not even the waxworks (Tony Blackburn) gets as much choice in what he plays. In pirate radio, which was run like American top forty radio, it was, of course, mainly the DJs who decided the format and the advertisers who paid the costs.
In a way though it had the same drawbacks as Radio One, in that it had to reflect the majority preferences, the mums at home would still be listening to a good helping of Tom Jones, Ken Dodd and Gerry Monroe, even if pirate radio was around today. The advertisers would not buy time unless they thought the maximum number of people were listening. Their products’ sales would tell them the stations with the biggest audience.
In the same way the BBC has to please the majority because it is a service which the public have to pay for, through licences, thus the programmes become heavily structured in chunks of nearly several months. The same records are played over and over again, because the majority of people are slow to catch on.
Many people only buy records once they are in the charts and probably never react to them when they are first played on radio. Nevertheless, the BBC in Radio One is holding a terrifying monopoly. If one isn’t polite to such and such a DJ or producer he can ruin your career.
It’s lucky that most of the DJs and producers on Radio One are not as aggressive as most of the groups! I’m always having goes at Tony Blackburn, for example. It’s a bit hard but then he is the epitome of the Radio One Disc Jockey. He is popular, friendly, clean cut and knows damn well on which side his bread is buttered. There are some very beautiful housewives in this country man! Ask any milkman.
WHAT Tony Blackburn does reflect is the way that an individual who gets such a lot of air space on the BBC like him, can influence the musical taste of thousands of people. That’s obviously unavoidable, and all the DJ can do is to try to be as up front as possible and take the pelting of the "minorities."
But surely the healthiest way to put Radio One and even Tony Blackburn into perspective is the way BBC television was put into perspective in the fifties by ITV…Competition.
The BBC is doing all right really, it has four channels of radio space (in actual fact it has hundreds when you include the world services), and manages to please nearly everybody. But Radio One IS NOT a Rock station. It’s an easy listening station.
These categories are defined in American broadcasting very clearly. If one is a housewife, one listens to stations that play music that is a little like, say, Terry Wogan’s show or Tony Brandon. If you’re younger than twenty-nine, however, you listen to good old Rock and Roll. Yards and yards of Beatles, Stones, Creedence, Steppenwolf, Zeppelin, Steve Stills and the rest. All the good soul and Tamla singles are played by these stations too. Not ALL Tamla singles, period, which seems to he the case of Radio One.
The two different listening I worlds all buy their records in the same shops and are represented in the same chart which is fair, the chart is really a money-spent graph, nothing else. For some reason it works out that two basic station types is enough, but then the days of big business with singles is numbered even in the States.
If you look back at old American albums, for example Tamla albums, you’ll he amazed to find how bad many of them are. They just used to concentrate on singles. Today Tamla albums are good track for track. The Temptations for example produce amazing albums as well as superb singles.
We will never he so money oriented in this country to have stereo FM radio playing Rock albums even before there is a demand. Unlike Americans we don’t understand the business theory of CREATING demands by allowing people to hear or see what it is they’re going to buy.
An act in this country could never sell enough albums to make it worth a record company’s while to buy advertising air space either. I think Dick James Music will have to admit this soon. They bought space on TELEVISION to advertise Elton John’s new album. It was only a few seconds a night but must have cost quite a packet. Even if Elton John is God he’ll never sell enough records in this country to buy his Rolls Royce. He’ll have to use dollars mate. So as we resign ourselves to the fact that we’ll never hear stereo Rock on the radio in this country we have to ask when we’re going to hear MONO Rock on the radio.
THE MOST endearing thing about Pirate radio was the fact that you could mark all the stations on the dial of you radio (at one time there were about six you could hear clearly in London), and turn off bloody Ken Dodd and listen to a good down-home WHO record, if you fancied. When the Who record finished and the new station played Ken Dodd you could switch him off yet again and possibly even find the Who again somewhere.
Of course there are people who did the opposite – switched us off and searched the air waves desperately for Ken Dodd, getting pastry crumbs all over the radio. All the stations were just as bad as Radio One is today, but you did have a choice, and you did get competition.
A year ago I would have jumped for joy at the news that the government was going to hand Radio One over to commercial interests. I would have revelled in the idea of producers and programmers having to THINK again about what they played rather than letting their own worn out BBC cloth ears decide for them. Today I’m nervous.
We’d lose Mike Raven and his Blind Blake records. We’d lose Pete Drummond and John Peel, Scene and Heard and What’s New. There are so many good things which are unfortunately outweighed by all the bad things, all the Light Programme type things which should really be on Radio Two.
I don’t think a commercial Radio station would operate in the same way somehow. I think they would work for MAXIMUM audience at all times of the day and night, and this means it will end up sounding like Radio One at its worst, perhaps with a few records you wouldn’t normally hear being bought onto the stations’ weekly format. The Rind of things you see on television are NOT reflections of Radio format or what it would like turn out. Discussions, live shows, interviews, specials, etc, are not heard on American radio for example.
Granted, FM Rock radio has done a lot to change this, but slowly and surely the advertisers get their clutches on the whole thing. They don’t want breathing space for their listeners, they want a killing floor. Television appears to have a lot of variety because it’s on for a fairly short time. Radio is on all day and the biggest audience period is during the morning and afternoon, when people aren’t really listening, when radio serves as background music.
A STATION in direct competition with Radio One and its present format would he fantastically exciting though. It would be limited to the same amount of needle time I expect, although the BBC has more trouble with Unions and Copyright bodies than other sections of the music world. Perhaps it would also attract some of the better DJs who can’t work with BBC, like Kenny Everett, even DJs from FM stations in America.
There are so many brilliant guys over there who would gladly get out of the rat rate to be in Britain. At least radio has little chance of becoming a political vehicle in this country. All stations in America are running anti-drug "commercial" spots in prime time, this is compulsory by Federal Law. What would be the most exciting aspect of all would be the possibilities of doing radio shows in studios designed to record ROCK, not Max Jaffa.
Perhaps they, the BBC, would let out the eight track recorder they have been threatening us all with and make some decent live tapes themselves. Stanley Dorfman is proving Rock can be properly recorded in live entertainment. Admittedly it is hard work when you have visual aspects to consider as well as acoustical separation problems, hut he’s doing all right.
The BBC can do it if they try. If they aren’t rushed, and if they’re pushed. Let’s have another radio station that has to fight the BBC for its audience, one that realises the good and the bad at Radio One and avoids making the same mistakes. The audience figures will decide just what is minority listening and what isn’t. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, it could be so incredible.
THE PETE TOWNSHEND PAGE #7
Melody Maker, 13th February 1971
CHANGE – BY TAKING PEOPLE UP
CHANGE. Is it really possible to change anything with music, or to even ease society into a position where what they listen to can change what they feel? Rock is capable of doing amazing things.
I speak only for myself, and as a listener not a musician when I say that. I have felt my whole state of mind go through incredible metamorphoses listening to the music of the Stones, Sergeant Pepper, Big Pink, King Crimson and hundreds of other recording entities that have fully used the power available to them as Rock musicians.
I’m not talking of power in the ordinary sense, I’m talking of the power of impact. The fact that a man doesn’t ever have to meet the President of the United States to know how much power he has illustrates the difference. When you listen to really good Rock you do meet the men with the power, good Rock comes right out and states its claim to fame. If you are bothering to think about who made the sounds, you are usually already stung.
I don’t imagine writing about it will change anything. Many sincere people try though. But I don’t read 0Z for example. nor IT, they send me Friends hut I only look at the dirty pictures. Apart from the fact that they’re all good papers they are trying to change things by worrying people. By taking people DOWN to realising how low they are. The papers give the impression that the men behind them are worried about life in this society, paranoiac about politics, usually very stoned God bless ’em and don’t like suburbans like me.
In the States the Panthers distributed leaflets at some of our gigs telling people bow much they didn’t like us making money out of our music, how much they were aroused by my argument with Abbie Hoffman at Woodstock.
It didn’t change me though. The irony is that we are behind them as a whole, but can’t help reacting as individuals to other individuals. The ethics are so broad.
In the States Hoffman and his friends went through hell, and I admire men like Richard Neville who edits OZ, for standing up against what is really an unnecessary purge the hierarchy are aiming at him. But I wouldn’t go through it. The only time I am spurred to action is when I feel that I can change the world through Rock, via the Who, via music. We want to change people by taking them UP.
On the McGuinness Flint album there is a song, dedicated to Big Boy Arthur Crudup, Elvis’ hero. It’s called "Let It Ride." Seems to me that’s what it’s all about. When Big Boy sings you are his slave. No doubt about it, but you don’t care, you dig it, and when he lets you go you feel sad, not happy.
I think Elvis probably learnt how to make the Rock world his slaves by listening to Big Boy Arthur Crudup. That’s Rock power, an easy power, and probably the only power in this world that is rarely misused.
Spiro Agnew would disagree, so would anyone else who didn’t understand how anything less that Beethoven could be regarded with relish.
Let it ride, hit it right or wrong and don’t worry about anything. But don’t lose interest either.
I think the frustration young people usually feel with ageing politicians is down to the fact that they too, in their years of learning only how to compromise, let a lot ride. It outwardly reeks of disinterest but I don’t think it is, necessarily.
Caroline Coon was talking in the MM about what she does. I think I could tell her one thing she could afford to stop doing – stop allowing the paranoia of those she helps, and those that SHOULD be helping, leaking into her own life. Don’t worry, be happy love. You can really do it, if you know that like Release you are contributing to a changing aspect of society.
It’s the politics that hurt I think. Funnily enough Rock has the same techniques as politics in a way. It can face up to trouble without giving a hint that it really is affected, and exhibits carefree attitudes on the surface, or maybe even deep down inside, at the same time it is CHANGING things. Usually for the better, unlike most political change.
It really doesn’t seem to be worth doing anything to me unless it can either do something for Rock or do something for its audience. The Who’s coming performances and film work at the Young Vic will do both. Nothing, can’t happen. Basically what we do could change our audience, our music, our status and even the way we walk. If it all doesn’t change anything else it will change me. That can’t be bad.
The Young Vic is a newly-built theatre in the same street as the Old Vic. It was built especially to cater for young audiences, and the mood it puts across is one of adventure.
Frank Dunlop, the adrenalin behind the place knows the limitations of regular theatre. We are beginning to feel the limitations of regular Rock. Frank was originally interested in doing a production of "Tommy." It was when we were discussing this possibility that we both realised that it couldn’t do what we wanted it to do. We wanted it to attract both Rock audiences, and the regular Young Vic theatre audience, but also break new ground, bring in totally new faces, young faces perhaps. Most important it had to freshen up the idea of audience.
"Tommy" might have been capable of doing that but we (The Who) didn’t really have enough energy to carry "Tommy " any further. We wanted something new, while we’re about it it might as well meet our needs and aims more fully.
The aim is change. A change of life style for the band, a change of focus for our audience and a change in the balance of power that Rock wields. The music we play has to be tomorrow’s, the things we say have to be today, and the reason for bothering is yesterday. The idea is to make the first real superstar. The first real star who can really stand and say that he deserves the name. The star would be us all.
The Young Vic becomes the "Life House," the Who become musicians and the audience become part of a fantasy. We have invented the fantasy in our minds, the ideal, and now we want to make it happen for real. We want to hear the music we have dreamed about, see the harmony we have experienced temporarily in Rock, become permanent, and feel the things we are doing CHANGE the face of Rock and then maybe even people.
There is a story connected with each person that will walk into the Life House, but for now we have made one up for them, until we know the real one. We have music that will stimulate them to stay with us through lengthy marathon concerts, and perhaps even boring filming. We have sounds ready that will push us a lot further than we have ever gone before, but what the results will he is still unknown.
Our hero is Bobby, the mystic-cum-roadie that puts all the fantasies in our heads into action, and gets results. He speaks for me now…
"Music and vibration are at the basis of all. They pervade everything, even human consciousness is reflected by music. Atoms are, at their simplest, vibrations between positive and negative. Even the most subtle vibrations detectable can affect us as ESP, or "vibes."
"Man must let go his control over music as art, or media fodder and allow it freedom. Allow it to become the mirror of a mass rather than the tool of an individual. Natural balance is the key. I will make music that will start off this process, my compositions will not be my thoughts, however, they will be the thoughts of others, the thoughts of the young, and the thoughts of the masses. Each man will become a piece of music, he will hear it for himself, see every aspect of his life reflected in terms of those around him, in terms of the Infinite Scheme. When he becomes aware of the natural harmony that exists between himself as a man and himself as part of creation he will find it simple to adjust and LIVE in harmony."
Serious chap this Bobby. He is a Superstar no less. He goes on to say…
"We can live in harmony only when Nature is allowed to incorporate us into her symphony. Listen hard, for your note is here. It might be a chord, or a dischord. Maybe a hiss or a pulse. High or low; sharp or soft, fast or slow. One thing is certain. If it is truly your own note, your own song, it will fit into the scheme. Mine will fit yours, and yours will fit his, his will fit others. You are what you are, and where you are, because that is what IS."
"To realise the harmony, that RIGHTNESS about your own note; even your own life, however you feel it could be improved by change, it has to be revealed. It can only be revealed by your own efforts."
The efforts of the super roadie and their astonishing outcome can be watched, and augmented by your own efforts at the Young Vic. I’ll tell you when.
When the Saints come marching in the Who will he doing a gig at the Young Vic and miss out on the big day. But then so will the men down the sewers. Someone has to clean up.
THE PETE TOWNSHEND PAGE #8
Melody Maker, 13th March 1971
LEARNING TO WALK – THE SECOND TIME ROUND
WHEN Zappa first talked to Keith and I about his film 200 Motels, he said it was "All about how touring makes you crazy." I said I felt the opposite. Touring keeps me sane, I said.
His lady friend laughed and at that point they figured, I suppose, that we’d already gone over the ridge last tour. I can’t help feeling, especially at times like this, with the group rehearsing, never appearing before an audience, how important it is to tour.
The WHO go insane when they aren’t touring. Maybe that would make a good film. "200 Rehearsals."
As usual everything is a year late, the songs, the script, the energy. The point is that if you’re doing gigs, playing halls, facing people, it somehow keeps you in touch with their stand towards you. You can feel their reactions and moods as a mass, and make decisions about your music
and how to make it say what people want it to say. I was in the toilet after our return to Leeds University last year, and I overheard this conversation.
"Bloody great weren’t they?" "They were all right I suppose, not as good as Deep Purple."
That was when I first got the urge to take another listen to a band I’d always admired as individual musicians, but not really taken much notice of lately. On another occasion. I talked to a load of kids at a gig at Hammersmith at the end of our last tour. They reminded us of songs we used to play years back that we’d forgotten about ourselves. One, "Baby Don’t You Do It," a Marvin Gaye number, we play again today. It beats Summertime Blues in the Who nostalgia stakes. Brings tears to my eyes.
Could the Beatles have been saved by touring? I don’t know enough background to comment really but I can hazard a guess. I think they would still be together today if they had broken that ice that built up around them, ice that collects around the nose and toes very very quickly in recording studios. Clearly they deserved the long break they took after their heavy American tours, they also needed to allow the heat to die down a bit with regard to audience hysteria.
Maybe they weren’t able to foresee that kids wouldn’t scream at them forever. I’m not suggesting that was big-headed of them, but at the time it was difficult to hear what any lead singer ever sang at a big show. It wasn’t just screaming kids, it was also the fact that a microphone system to get the sound above the new powerful guitar amps was not available.
I do remember though, about the time of Sergeant Pepper I think, talk of a new Beatles’ performance. Road show-come Circus. I heard rumours of orchestras travelling with them, tapes being used to recreate the recorded atmospheres, we were on the list as a band to go along, that’s where I heard a few stories. Brian Epstein was alive then, and despite the fact that I only met him about six times, I know how much of a link man he was for the individual Beatles.
I think we have reached a point in our stage career where, despite the fact that our recordings haven’t reached Beatles’ standard, we are facing the same sort of decisions about performing that the Beatles faced when they were thinking of touring again after their long rest. Two guitars, a few voices and a drummer can do a lot more, but there is a point where you reach the end of your limitations. You produce only variations on a certain sound.
Loud Live At Leeds, or soft Live At Leeds. The Stones broke their jinx. Mick Jagger rang me up just before they went on the road again, and wanted to know all the worst gigs.
Brian Jones had announced that he was to leave the group, and Mick wanted a guitarist too. He invited us to take our weary bodies out on the tightrope when the Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus hit the rails.
In other words, he had the same motivations as did the Beatles a while earlier. He wanted to get back on the road. Back on the stage, playing to people. Making records takes a long time, you don’t get reactions for months after you have performed. Making films takes even longer. You don’t get reactions for years sometimes. I think the Stones found that unbearable.
At least Mick did. Instantaneous reaction. That’s what everyone needs. I weighed up all the wasted time in my life the other day. I had ordered a machine for my studio, and was given a delivery date six months on. Six months is half a year. A year might be as much as a fiftieth of my life. So do I wait for the machine. How can I? This is one of the most important things to hit the Who during out rehearsals.
If you are going to develop new sound systems, they have to be designed and built. Then they have to be tested and proven. Only then can you decide whether they are worth using or not. Imagine the problems facing the Beatles and their six-group, two-orchestra, tape machines and sound effects road show. Dreams mate, Dreams.
Some of our new equipment has taken a full 18 months to reach stage maturity. Our new P.A. mixer has been growing steadily in size and reliability for a whole year. Special tape decks have been flown over from the States and mixing facilities designed to incorporate them into the system. I have been churning out demos and scripts like a coffee machine in the tea break.
Fiddling with three makes of Synthesiser and twenty brands of tranquilisers. Luckily the Stones have already built a superb mobile sound studio in a furniture van. We hope to record all the sound in our new film using it if it’s available. It was designed by Glynn Johns, Glynn will be working with us on the film when it begins this year.
Glynn engineered our first three records, in a sense he invented our sound, or at least that sound that emerged from Shel Talmy sessions. He was one of the few people to contain the recording of the Small Faces too. That partnership culminated in one of the best rock albums with a theme ever. If not period. Ogdens of course. We are looking forward to hearing the playbacks.
If nothing else, the past year’s preoccupation with electronics has bestowed on me an inate love of wire. The sight of a Moog Synthesiser smothered in patch cables brings me to a state approaching orgasm. A 13 amp plug starts my heart beating faster, and the inside of a television set is enough to reduce me to tears. My latest addiction is chewing solder. What a high man. Really burns me up. Keeps my mind in flux. Never get stoned on a dry joint, chew solder. Yuk.
We’ve done it though, Nearly. I think we’ve come closer to breaking up and nervous breakdowns than ever before in our careers, but we’re getting results. The point seems to be hammered home to us all the time. That no-one can afford to wait long periods of time to get their creative work finished. Film makers and classical composers amaze me. Their stamina and patience, is appalling, their courage incredible.
We can’t even wait for ourselves to catch up. I am in a peculiarly schizo position. One part of me says it takes time to write, I need time, touring burns time. The other part of me says I can’t write unless I’m alive, I’m not alive unless I’m touring. That isn’t to infer that we’d starve if we didn’t work. Our roadies would. Ha, Ha. But we wouldn’t, Tommy sees to that. It just illustrates that the only people what are able to come up with anything really new, are new people. With clear heads and no addictions to smoke filled ballrooms, or maybe they are free of the burden of continuous introverted recording sessions.
Year in year out, following one record with another. Trying to improve all the time, and needing endless studio time to do so. It’s no good making incredible records though, if you can’t enjoy people’s enjoyment of them. Sales mean nothing in that respect. They mean more money to make more recordings, but they don’t give a musician the feedback he so desperately needs.
Drunken crowds of jeering kids. They give you the feedback you need. Good on ’em. You can’t go wrong. You can’t fool yourself, you can’t pretend they like it for its deep, hidden spiritual implications when they’re jumping up and down to the heat of the music and shouting so loud they can’t hear the words anyway.
Touring does make you crazy, but recording makes you lazy.
P.S. Thank you, Andy Roberts for your tumultuous response to my campaign to bring back freedom to the musicians’ elbow. Got mime if you want it! Looks like the Musicians’ Union can go back to sleep, yours was the only letter of support I got. See you at the next Branch meeting, we can play darts, eh? – P.T.
THE PETE TOWNSHEND PAGE #9
Melody Maker, 14th April 1971
THINGS ARE DIFFERENT ACROSS THE SEA
ANY interviewer with any self respect will always begin his question and answer game with "How do audiences abroad compare with our own?" Well, how do you all compare with American audiences, and why do groups apparently prefer to work over in the States for long stretches?
There are so many differences between kids in the North and South, even within Britain, you would think perhaps that there are enough Rock lovers to go around. It makes it a lot easier to understand how refreshing it is to discover a new and hungry audience abroad, when you realise that despite the variety here at home, working more than once a week can land you up at everyone’s local hall once every few months.
That can’t work. A group can’t be expected to change its act more than once every six months. It takes about six weeks to do it properly, and usually audiences still want to hear all the oldies. I roared with laughter when I read that Ten Years After had gone off the road to revise their act, then gone hack on the road doing exactly the same set. It looks like it could happen to us.
The main reason that a group makes its first groping steps to America is usually a thirst for glamour. Money too. Unless you are top all the time you can’t make enough to live on, in a group over here. Lots of groups are done it for love, playing on half paid-for gear, and eating in transport cafes and out of baked bean cans.
America is the beckoning dream where, if you’re English, you get cheered for half an hour after your act because they love your accent. The Beatles did it, here and there. I imagine that a lot of groups sit and wonder, just as we did, why their hits in England didn’t automatically sell in the States. Americans are famous for their lavish spending on European goods, but they always insist on seeing what it is they are buying. They want to inspect the merchandise So over we go.
The first trip to the States of any major English act is always treated as a group’s big next step. They wave happily from the top steps of a VC 10 and set off to make their fortune. A couple of months later, after the most gruelling and exhausting work they have probably ever done in their lives, they return triumphantly home and start to tell lies. "It was great!" "We made thousands!" It went terribly, and they lost thousands.
A terrible indignity to have to suffer, particularly if your angry fans start making meat of your lies and tell you off for deserting them for money alone. Leaving debts abroad is a drag. When a group gets back and does do well, finally, it does maybe three or four tours paying off old debts and getting in the black. So why do they still insist on going?
It pays in the end, of course. The Faces are proving that yet again for the British contingent. But look at another aspect of the Rock scene which has its worldwide variations. Failure. In this country Thunderclap Newman had a number one hit with their first record, it took everyone unawares, but with the highest ideals in mind they went on to make an album which very few people bought over here. That is a kind of failure.
It’s not too hard to bear because in my opinion (I produced it, so my opinion isn’t worth much) it’s a bloody good album. An incredible first album. So now we sit around with our heads together determinedly attempting to hum up a number one song. It seems to be the only way – in England.
In the States it’s a totally different story. Not only did they not have a number one hit with their first record, "Something In The Air," but neither did they with any of the others. Big deal, you say, but you have to talk to the kids in the streets to get the feeling that exists around them in the States. They aren’t a big group, they aren’t a small group. They aren’t a group group. They are a myth. They make records, that when reviewed in a batch, have a mysterious and dreamlike quality about them. They have an album which, on the strength of the myth, and a lot of Atlantic plugging is beginning to sell. It will probably sell many more after their second album emerges. That is usually the way.
If they took a walk together in the street over here, they would arrive home feeling like it was all over. If they took a walk in the street in New York; they would feel like it was all beginning. I know, the WHO did that very thing about three years ago.
How come the British scene produces so many good musicians and bands, when it’s too small to make really big stars out of more than a few of them? Apart from the musicians who play what they want to play without aspirations of fame and glory, there is of course the chance of chart success. There are always twenty records in the top twenty; twenty different songs by twenty different people. All year round. There is a chance for everyone, in a way. The record has to be a certain type of record, and the BBC has to be favourable, but it is the simple ambition of many a pop star to get in the charts. Us included. Being a smaller scene than the US pop industry, gives the individual an advantage in a way. He stands to gain less if be makes it, but he stands a good chance of making it, if he is good.
No matter how good he is though, and this is the tragedy, the British scene cannot sustain him forever. Even Cliff and Hank, seemingly British to the core, with no US success to speak of, have audiences of considerable size in Japan, Spain, Israel and Europe. The Trems are huge in South America, the Marmalade in Thailand. It has to be. There just ain’t enough good vibes and lolly to feed the sweet aspirations of all our talent. We have too much talent, and not enough audience.
About those chaps who play for the joy of playing alone, and don’t really care about the bread? Ironically they usually make it big and end up owning huge mansions and six Ferraris. Even the Rock world respects ethnic sincerity. It shows its respect by buying albums.
To get down to the really big differences, you have to start looking less at charts and tours and more at people. America is a country with hang-ups. The general national trait seems to be one of sticking to one’s guns. Doing it the way you think it should be done, and expecting the rest of the people to follow suit. This is a life style maintained by the young as well as the old.
As a writer America is where I am. It’s where I write about. it’s where the hunger is. If you like, my home in London is really a country residence away from the hassle and trouble of the city I am writing about, away from the people I am writing for. I can stand back from the riots and earthquakes and make observations. Then when I feel able, fly over and stand on a stage and speak my piece. I met Steve Marriott for the first time for ages In New York last week. He said that my last words to him, almost two years ago when he moved out to the country, were "Dropout!"
There are advantages for the Americans. of course. Britain is a country where Elvis can remain a myth. It’s a country that loves Tom Paxton more than his own neighbours did. It’s a country that knows more about the American blues heritage, and its history, than even some of the old bluesmen themselves. A country where you can play the good old Albert Hall and make your name even if no one has ever heard of you. Make your name here, mates: but don’t expect to make anything else.
Whether it be your favourite British band going over there or your favourite American band coming over here; American audiences are paying the fare. The bands keep coming though, and we keep going. There must be something about us they like. There’s definitely something likeable about them.
JAI BABA FOLKS