October 26, 2020

1980-04-10 – Des Moines Tribune

1980 04 10 Des_Moines_Tribune_Thu__Apr_10__1980_ 2

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Who at mid-career, from left: John Entwhistle. Roger Daltry, Keith Moon and Peter Townshend.

I

The Who generation

By Evan Roth

Fortunately for rock fans. The Who didn't die
before they got old. Pete Townshend. the group's
leader and chief songwriter. had expressed that
wnsh 15 years ago in the song “My Generation." but
has lived to take back his words.

The Who have achieved a longevity unequaled in
rock music They are. along with the Rolling
Stones. probably the only middle-aged rock band
around. Unlike the Stones, The Who have aged with
surprising grace. That‘s astounding when one thinks
that The Who were once telling adults where to
stuff it. Now The Who are telling kids that we all
have to grow up sometime and we can do it without
seliing out or losing our youthfulnessr

Iowans old enough to remember The Who when
they were Singing about the travails of their fellow
teen-agers and those so young that they think
"Who's Next" was the Who's first record can hear
this incomparable group Apr. ’29 at the Hilton
Coliseum at Arms [t is certain to be the rock event
of the season here

The concert will have special Significance to
those of us in our early 305. We grew up with the
band and matured along with it. The Who are as
fresh and creative and energetic today as they were
when they were smashing their instruments in
small clubs before mobs of Mod teen-agers
(Remember the Mods?) in 1965 and 1966. I'd like to
think he grown up as nicely as the band has

The Who evoke a nostalgia for a time when many
young Americans reawoke to the throbbing,
incessant beat oi rock and roll. Rock had been
dormant for the years between Buddy Hoiiy’s death
in 1959 and the rise of The Beatles in 1964.
Americans had little to listen to except Elvis
Presley. who was past his peak. 0r the saccharine
Philadelphia sound of the Frankie Avalons and
Dion and the Belmonts.

Groups such as the Beatles, The Rolling Stones
and most of all The Who brought back the small
and simple rock group comprising guitars. drums
and has. the type of primitive rock and roll band
that almost any group of teen-agers could easily
put together in a garage after school. The Who es-
pecially exemplified this new music. The four
original members — Townshend. singer Roger
Daltry, bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith
Moon (now deceased) — were working and middle-
class teen-agers from west London. They were not
poor kids or uneducated. They were. like nearly all
the kids of England and America. simply bored and
directionless.

Through The Who, rock and roll became less a_
product of businessmen and more a voice of its
natural audience - kids Unlike most rock and roll.
which tended to .al simplemindedly with love,
The Who sang about the pains of growing up, the
need for acceptance and the sometimes unhealthy
influence of peers. It was pop sociology.

The Who's most significant song. “My Genera-
tion." (by Townshend) sounds primitive and a little
dumb today. “People try to put us down talking

'bout my generation," ’cause we try to get
around" certainly ain't literature. But back in 1965
such words were strong stuff and explained modern
youth’s rebellious nature and conflicts with adult
society as cogently as any social scientist could, not
to mention far more entertainingly.

The Who's leader, Pete Townshend. is a tail
gangly man with a big nose, an arrogant nature and
a loquaciousness that a filabustering senator would
envy. The Who have always served as his instru—
ment. (An illustration of his domination is that
Townshend works out the musical arrangements by
playing and recording all the instruments himself
and then presenting a tape to the rest of the group
as a fail accompli. The group then comes the ar-
rangement ‘rom Townshend's preliminary tapei.

Townshend is the closest thing we have to a rock
intellectual. Probably no rock and roll star has
analysed rock as avidly as Townshend, nor has
explored so exhaustively rock‘s limits. Where a
novelist uses a book to explain his world view or
explore life’s dilemmas. Townshend uses The Who
and rock and roll. The 12 or so albums the group
has recorded is a long playing biography. tracing
the ups and downs of a rock and roll group in
general and one rock and roller in particular.

Back in 1965, Pete Townshend was warning
adults to back off. and he rued the day when he
would become an adult himself. His exhortations
were unequivical. his brashness grating. By 1968
and “Tommy." Townshend was meliowing out; his
egocentricity gave way to spirituality. By 1975 and
“The Who Byfiumbers“ Townshend explored the
irony of the guy who had wanted to “die before X
get old” but had reached 30 and was giving in as
most of us finally do. to adulthood.

The fact that a bunch of men in their 303 still can
perform “kids' " music without looking foolish is
testimony to the uniqueness of The Who. By closely
charting their career and seeking to come to terms
with change, The Who have been able to remain
surprisingly fresh and contemporary without
parroting the latest fads. The Who have remained
aloof from such trends as New Wave music which
is marked by its spare. small-group sound, snappy
tunes and social comment. New Wave. you'll find,
is really not so new; The Who were piaying just that
kind of music in the mid~Sixties.

Despite the confrontation with age, The Who play
with youthful vitality. They have never forgotten
the real nature of rock and roll. the reason for its
success. Townshend put it succinctly more than 10
years ago ,when he said: “Rock and roll makes you
groove through the day."

I‘ve grown up with The Who, and I still love them
although I'm supposed to be a serious adult and not
care about such trivialities as rock music or a rock
hand But they have helped me groove through the
days. I'm looking forward to that moment when
Pete Townshend starts jumping up from the Hilton
Coliseum stage. guitar in hand, and Roger Daltry
begins to spit out the words of “My Generation."
There will be 15,000 people packed into the arena.
but I'll know The Who are singing to and about me.

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