September 18, 2020

1986-01-04 – The Age

1986 01 04 The_Age_Sat__Jan_4__1986_copy

HE HAS SEEN the lutute 01 rock n 'rull.
Pete Townshend says. and it frightens

“When Springsteen came to Europe. 1

crieoi Not because the show (in Ireiano)
was bad — It was fanmic. uplifting — i
cried at the pain on Bruce's lace when
they were pulling these kids and shoving
smelling salts in their lace and bashing
them in the ch95. (to revive them). He
dIdn't know how to handle it: and I
thought: 'Well now. this is a part 0! his
career and one 01 these kids could be
itea .'
One (111118111. in tact. did the and they
tashed two electric prongs in
and hang. back to hi i: again. 11's
a terrible thing to have to go through. a
bit of reality suddeniy coming into this
world of iantasy. VISIOD and hope"

Fantasy and reality. hope and despair
— tuw performers could tell the Boss
more ehout these occuptilioiiiil extremes
than chsnsh the charISIIIatic guitar-
ist.ct11etsongw. ter and lounder of The
' Three years ago. passing through
ingto'n‘on'what was billed as the
groups Irst larrwell tout. he 11 ed
weary end llaunl'd when he said: < important for somebody to go through rucs‘n‘mll amt come out alive and sane." One got the ieeliny he wasn‘t sure 'he whirl ii the DUI, ‘ ' e and well his age. rnlul pa- ”‘an‘ 'Tht‘ 1 11 .) U - ham ed In 19:13) toughtn oil dlug an al- ".d in ittdvu mist torent btgnn 1 1‘11: . t 51'") alh' t'olii:ctton 1.1 * startling. hes eu‘mr at the 01' mg firm 01‘ Fab Itlways artIcu i'i sclil ‘ . e rltat he: 1" going to brain: and deal with 11 our aim r nwn people it acknow- Were jil>1 1.111). tile
in church M10
can. they believe, the Wii'
change." he argues. "
we Confronted. but '
our own problem.
Io F(‘SUI'I ti) ritu .
iedgvd their deca .. ce hcing some-
:hirzcunicn wt vicaritiu njoyeti. .
out' luritl 1:10: a lnng-de-’
11. but the lesson. in the

111 h anthems as ‘1 Cant
' Anyhow. Anywherc‘

and Quadrophenin delivering to
roll as dense with princinle :55 it was
Wllh catharsis. and solidit ’ng the you
subculture in the proce
The “inn reigned. its in .
.iltsm fueled by Townshe
Dimer Chords and “£11K“? x
Roger. DalIrey' s nhonpt

on mnitii pt
7“» mend site 11111».
11(1 PfliEl’lfl- am»
' as a genre 14
potential for SD 11 .1.Itl artistic
provocation. The who cxp.oied (a
some tel: exploited) the as;- itati-yns. any
ger. tears and anxieties oi the young and
the working class. giVIng voice and legitiv
macy to those who. by tradition. had
been culturally disentrant‘hised. [i the
music was often loud and crude. it was
also visceral and bristling with integrity
and intelligence.

For years. Townshend was able to
overcome rock’s stylistic and commer-
cial limitations. but eventually — as the
group got older and its tans got younger
and less demanding -— he came to inhab-
it them. He had always defined rock as a
young man's game. but he was growing
old and rich inside it. a wearying hypoc-
risy. So it should not have come as a
surprise that as The Who grew to inexo-
rable enormity. Pete Townshend
seemed to spend more and more time
sell-tiestructing. feeling. as he once said.
like "a standing corpse. working for a

The cracks began to appear in the
mia-1970s after a decade of infighting.

The hand. compromised by its own suc»
cess acillated between Townshend 5

‘pop idealism and Daltrey's narrow prov

lessionalism. Moon. Townshend's closest
ally in the group and' his coconspimtor
in on-the-road mayhem. died ota drug-
alcohnl overdose in 1978. A new: drum-
mer was drafted and the show went on.
but it could not be the same. A year later.
11 tans were trampledto death before a
concert in C Inc1rnat1 once again the
show went on. but something had been
r11: from the heart of rock' n '.roll

Even while join in the band's hedo-
nis‘ic excess. Towns endhad managed
to avoid many at the traps of fame. But at
the turn of the decade. as The Who went
from the vanguard to the old guard. they
seemed to ensnare him all stone. The
unravelling of his marriage brought the
crisis to a head. Separated from the
woman he had married while still in an
school. he tound himself nearly bank-

Poie Townsltend. on his career in rock musm.

rupt and sank into his own downward
spiral of drug and alcohol abuse.

Suddenly it looked like rock‘s most ar-
ticulate idealist would line up to one 01
rock‘ 5 most tamous lines. w ich he had
penned for' My Generation‘: “Hepeldic
before 1 get 0111'

"1 just gave up i couldnt stand the
pressure.‘ hesays.'1°.round1978.1979.l
suddenly realised that this gawky kid
who had a hard time even looking in a
mirror was discovering a middle-ag
charisma which was hypnotising
women . .ljust huckied unuer It Itwas
a moral thing Ihat actually started to
make me collapse. i looked back at this
terrible. troubled. self-obsessed life that
I‘d had. and it wasn‘t the ugly duckling
turning into a swan. but the ugly duckling
turning into Rambo.

"1 enjoyed myself for about six weeks
and was then just crushed by guilt. and
the only way that 1 could ahsoive it was
by increasing the amount 1 drank. finally

By Richard Harrington

in New York
, .

drinking myself into DTs. and then turn-
mg to drugs. 11 nearly destroyed me. 11
also confused me. wondering whether it
had happened hecaiise ot a genuine per-
sonal emergence, because women love a
drunk. or because I‘m a supelstar or
there‘s a chance they might get their
hands on my money. "

The low point came in 1981 when
Townshend went to Club of Heroes. a
London nightclub and "somebody inject-
ed the with (heroin) and I just went into

a steep 0D immediately. Alter a delay at
an hour. my friends decided to take me
to the hospital. delivering me with a suit
in which everv pocket had some weird
drug The Icmhn who revived me was
somebody who had studied with Meg
Patterson. who 6 entually treated me for

"She saId: ‘ThIs is the guy lying in front
ul me who helped finance the research

at the Marie Curie Foundation?” For hef'
it was a terrible irony that 1 should turn

up. in front 01 her. blue.

'It wasnt growing old that was the
problem with me in The Who." Town-
shend sighs. "it was growing up." '

His personal faith may he strong. but

Townshend‘s faith in the church 01’

rock'n‘roll disappeared long agozwhich
is not 10 say he has retested the’idealism
of his youth .. only reevaluated its

“it wasn't Sit much misdirected as it
was perverted to start with." he explains.

in America its almost sa rilege to say
this. hut l teelalotot roc '
very. very very wonky.

"it' s something that s deeply rooted in
where rock began. its black room. the
idea of rhythmic. uplifting dance music
that contained stories of the slave trade
and the exploitation. humiliation and
degradation of the working man. Then
white talk came along and took that Inu-
sic over. later. in the 1990s. we realised
that we could also turn it into an ecclesi-
astical thing. We were actually using mu-
511‘ in its white religious Context: "Come
to the church of the stadium. :hear
the music. .loolt up and you see God

. look down and you see hell.

"Rock became a church. and the mes-
sage is still there, the uplitt and the hope
and the optimism. But I've 'come to de-
spise those words. hope and optimism.

‘a lot of rock’s idealism was very. very. very wonky?

they don't interest me any more, be-
cause hope and optimlsn-I is what is ex-
emplified in a power chord.1t's a
dramatic call. heroic ‘I promise you'. ”

.Townshend mimes one 01 his trade-

mark windmill guitar moves.
“And what does 11 promise them? You
don't promise them a better paycheck.
You don‘t promise them a better rela-
tionship with their lover. You,.don't
promise them anything . . . eitcep
another power chord " .
“The great thing about Live Atd."he

says 1"was that suddenly the pI’OIDLBBs“

that had been made by me! 'n'roli

weren 't being kept. but they wereat least .

‘ Being attended to .
“'Thats why I thin rock is in sheila
healthy transition at the moment; -It lot at
people are‘ disthrbed about the son or
flag- waxing that tends to go on and the
hypocrisy that happens when rock stars
unite for causes. But it‘s a much healthi-
er manifestation than the earlier tostival

his guitar and play. jus

syndrome. . it s acknowledging that
when ditterent [actions at this tndusr)
unite; we have a kind at power Amt its
an interesting power because 11' 5 demo-
cratic -— the people w ho have that power
have been voted in by having hit

Witch The Who stopped pertorrnlna.
Townshend says. the question tor him
“was how do 1 break this chain without
breaking the taith. how do 1 get away
from the machine without hurting the
people that 1 love who are still involved
in it?"

He remembers his bemusernent rend-
ing Roger Daltrey interviews right after
the breakup. “He'd say something like I
always believed that Pete would be able
to go on forever and its really broken
my heart tosee that he can t and now I'm
realising he's just an ordinary yuy.’

“1 could hardly believe it because If
anybody should have known. and it any-
body spent his whole lite dedicated to
reminding me that 1 was an ordinary
guy. it was him. “

The post- -Who Townshend hasn't been
less busy. simply — given his preoccupa-
tion wlth new media — less vBlhle.

The video of White City'. which he
describes as "a novel on mm." was shot
not on videotape but in 35mm. like a
feature film. "I wanted to keep it so you
had to live with it for a while." he says. A
35mm grim in Dolby stereo “really {eels
short. ut that‘s pan of the preconcep-
tion of that old cinematic form. which 1
think is dead. or at least as much of a
dinosaur as The Who were"

Townshend has been tnsclnated with
film and video since the late 19605: he
sees‘film as a way of reaching a wide
audience without the emotional and
physical costs of rock touts.

‘Horse’s Neck‘. To'wnshend's first book
is slim. only 129 pages. Its 13 storls are
as emotionally interconnected as any oi
th past song cycles. twisting between
tact and tlction. memory and fantasy.

Though Townshend has found a new
forum tor his imaginatlon and-wrlung
skills — enabling him to escape rock's
strait-jacket oi expectations — he has
had to give up his larger audience to do
so. ‘Horse's Neck' has sold 40,000 copies
since May. quite good for short fiction.
but about what a new Who album might
sell in a week.

"i was attracted to the idea at writing
prose because I thought that some
people are really going to listen," he
says. "The people 1 do reach in going to
be able to touch very directly. and the
leedhnclt that 1 get is going to be much
more acute."

Writing otters what The Who no longer
could - 11515.

M Faber & Faber. Townshend woriu a
couple of days a week. reading tout or

, five manuscrips. “The most intense part

and the mostihtensting part of my work
is sitting on the (weekly) editorial board.
pm 01 a group at ei t editors who yth-
er to discus what directions the compa-
ny is going to he going in creatively. 1
come in with Ideas and there's always a
mounting sense 01 excitement. like I‘m a
gladiator going into an arena It's so ex-
citing. bemg challenged to produce
ideas. 1 throw in my two pennies worth.

“l‘tn just a novice. but my opinion is

it once Pete Townshend wanted to die
before he got old — and it there was
another period where he seemed to want
to live long without ever ageing —- he
now seems to have tound a graceful
middle ground. He seems reinvolved in
the world. creatively and morally.

He‘s anchored again in his marriage to
the woman who witnessed — and sur-
vived — his transformation trom an stu-
dent to rock avatar. Karen Townshend
runs a home for battered wives: her bus
hand Is very involved with probation ser-
vices and anti-drug programs.

“Where 1 live and how 1 live is not

impoartlgn. t " he says.“1t's who 1 live with.

y I realised that. l changed tre-
meadously lhave this great. great 1!»
found respect and need tor my wife. and
whatever is the quality at my love tor
her. I'll leave her to judge. it was the
turning point in my life when l W
that 1 had not and that 1 want“ that. it
I sustain ine for the rest of my me. "
1|.lt‘s‘ doubtful that he has my
fidoneflmk: more Iiltely. he hns'hpt
recmfifi involvement. tie will edit-
none to mmnt usic and messages. even
it the delivery medium changes.

1’ It is not too n‘i’och to imagine oi Pete

Townshehd that someda a‘y he will pick up

like yesterday.
get down on his Knees and pray he will
not get tooled again.

— The Washington Put