September 21, 2020

2016-03-04 – Chicago Tribune

2016 03 04 Chicago_Tribune_Fri__Mar_4__2016_

N Chicago Tribune I On The Town | Section 5 | Friday, March 4, 2016 3

POP MUSIC PREVIEW

Townshend pedigree paved brothers’ way

BY STEVE KNOPPER
Chicago Tribune

Inevitably, Simon Town-
shend became a musician.
His father, Cliff, played
saxophone in the Squad-
ronaires, a London band
also known as the Royal Air
Force Dance Orchestra His
mother, Betty, had per-
formed with big bands, “an
incredible singer with a
beautiful voice.” And you
may have heard of his old-
est brother, Pete, founder,
guitarist and songwriter of
a rock ’n’ roll band called
The Who.

“We didn’t have ridicu-
lous amounts of money —
we lived in a very average
house in an average neigh-
borhood,” recalls Town-
shend, 55, a touring Who
singer and guitarist for
nearly 20 years. “Pete made
his fortune himself. My dad
worked a lot harder for a lot
less money a much hard-
er existence than smashing
your guitar onstage and
getting paid 1 million quid.”

Simon Townshend is the
youngest of three boys —
Paul is four years older, and
Pete, 16 years older, was
more like a famous uncle
than a brother. If Pete and
Simon ever lived together,
it was only for a year or
two, when The Who’s
founding guitarist and
primary songwriter lived
upstairs in a separate flat.
“Apparently, from what he
tells me, what I used to do
was follow him around the
house putting my fingers in
electrical sockets,” Town—
shend recalls. “What I do
have a memory of was
being very happy with my
parents, and the excite—
ment, and the music in the
house — surrounded by
music all the time.”

The youngest Town—
shend absorbed music at
first from his father, and the
big band trumpet, trom-
bone and keyboard players
who hung out at the family
home. Simon began writing
lyrics at 6 and played guitar
at 8. Around that time, Pete
brought him and Paul into

the studio where The Who
was recording its break-
through album “Tommy.”
Simon sang the “rise, rise,
rise” bit in “Smash the
Mirror.”

“My dad was immensely
proud of Pete, and Pete was
immensely proud of dad —
as we all were,’ ’Townshend
says. “(CliffTownshend)
was always pushing us to
write. He didn’t say,
‘Practice your scales.’ He
said, ‘Write, write, write,
keep producing music. ’ ”

Simon followed that
advice, putting out his first
album, “Sweet Sound,” in
1984. Pete produced it, and

Simon shares a high, wob—
bly timbre with his brother.

He has since put out anoth—
er eight albums, most re-
cently last year’s soft and
dark “Denial,” which deals
with grief and loss. “I want
to tell the story of a man
who thinks he can’t be
employed,” he sings in the
title track. “He lives inside a
body of a body that is

ne arly de stroyed.”

At the time, Town-
shend’s son Ben, a singer
and drummer, had lost one
of his twin babies, and his
daughter, Hannah, had
“gotten herself in trouble,”
he says. “Basically, every—
thing all around us was
falling apart, and the album

just wrote itselfvery quick—

ly,” he says. “Thankfully,

everything’s fine now. My
son’s got his daughter and
my daughter has a son of
her own now, and we’re all
really happy. But at the
time, it was kind of har .”
Townshend was, of
course, a Who fan as a
child, having watched the
band’s classic lineup, in-
cluding the late, great
drummer Keith Moon, 36
times in concert. By 1996
the band was making plans
to perform its “Quadrophe—
nia” album onstage, and the
band needed a second
guitarist and backup singer.
They enlisted Simon. “It
was trial by fire — I’ll tell
you, it really was,” he re—
calls. “I got a phone call

ALAN BARNES PHOTO
Simon Townshend, younger brother of The Who’s Pete Townshend, has toured with the legendary band for two decades.

from Pete. Things were
very different in those
days. Pete had hardly
played with The Who.
He’d kind of stopped per—
forming live and was doing
a lot more acoustic stuff
and didn’t want to play
electric (guitar) on the
shows at all. He said, ‘Can
you handle the electric
parts?’

“In the end, I’m playing
all the acoustic, and he’s
playing all the electric, but
it was kind of what we
needed to get everybody
on the road. He had really
bad hearing problems as
well that was a confusing
position to be in. It’s almost
like getting used to it, get—

Simon
Townshend

When: 8 pm. Wednesday

Where: Lincoln Hall, 2424
N. Lincoln Ave.

Tickets: $22; 773-525—2501
or www.lh—st.com

The Who

When: 7:30 pm. Thursday

Where: United Center, 1901
W. Madison St.

Tickets: $50450; 312—455—
4500 or www.united
centencom

ting back on the bike and
into the commanding posi—
tion everyone wants to see
Pete in.”

In 20 years of touring
with The Who — Pete
Townshend, singer Roger
Daltrey, drummer Zac
Starkey (son of the Beatles’
Ringo Starr) and bass play-
er Pino Palladino (who
replaced founder J ohn
Entwistle after his death in
2002) — Simon often
schedules solo concerts for
off-nights. In the past he
has toured with a full band,
but next week at Chicago’s
Lincoln Hall he’ll be a solo
singer—songwriter. Don’t
expect “Smash the Mirror,”
though, or “Miracle Cure,”
for which he provided the
“Extra! Extra!” bit on the
1975 “Tommy” soundtrack.

“Pete even tried to get
me into the film,” he recalls
of the movie starring Elton
John and Tina 'Durner. “We
did a day’s filming. It didn’t
work out. I don’t think it
was down to bad acting.
They had two other kids
and their management
caused all sorts of prob-
lems. They used scantily
clad women on a yacht.
Probably looks much better
than our ugly mugs.”

Steve Knopper is a fieelance
reporter:

onthetown@tribpub.com
Twitter @chitn‘bent