October 28, 2020

1986-01-04 – The Age

1986 01 04 The_Age_Sat__Jan_4__1986_

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' - HE HAS SEEN the future of rock a '.roll
Pete Townshend says. and it frightens

him.

“WhenSpringsteen came to Europe. I
cried. Not because the show (in Ireland)
was bad -- it was fantastic. uplifting —— I
cried at the pain on Bruce‘s face when
they were pulling these kids and shoving
smelling salts in their face and bashing
them in the ches. (to revive them). He
didn‘t know how to handie it: and i
thought: ‘W'ell now. this is a part 0! his
career and one of these kids could be
13ead.‘

“One of them. in tact. di-I.l 1216 and they
actualiy 5111ashed two electric prongs in
1i; chest and hang. back to life again. It‘s
a terribie thing to have to go through. a
hit of reality suddeniy coming into this
warld of fantasy. vish; 11 and hope.“ '1

Fantasy and reality hope and despair
_. few performers could tell the Boss
more about these occupational extremes

than Townshend. the charismatic guitar- .

ist. chief songwriter and founder of The
Who. Threeyears ago. passing through
ii'ashin'gtoh"ott"wl1at 'was billed as the
group's;'-'firs't larcwell tour. he l1:1oi:ed
weary and haunted when he said: "it's
important for somebody to go through
rock'n'rnti and come out alive and sane."
One got the feeling he wasn't sure'he
could iii the biil. _
"1'11I.I1'11.5h-.'11d is 411 110W. alive and welt
and 11:19:: remit 51111113. lie :1- -1.1'«:5 his age.

but heairi: the strangely :1'10Ir niui pa-
trician fa. :._ hiehti-ghted b}. the famous
retinas)“ 1:1.1~e. He has r3tire1‘i from .iive

perfs1s'111ance ILThe Who 11 ticiainA dis
handed in 191431. {ought oft drug and al-
:1'1'11! 111:1 itetions (with the he. 1 of
eieCti-1'1acupuncture ano p5:1=:.1'1.1ther..;-I1
.1110 re~1o1e11 his failing 17111-111200. Hes
begun break ng new grant! in video
1 “L. ('11)) based on 111 most recent
st-io 'dtbllil'il aha pri n: 1‘ riot- e 5ieck.1

(.‘Oi't. (1‘00 ot‘short fit"! iEOI‘i . 1'". i i ‘11 '1: r1111.1"- ‘
.ttartiihg.he'st.1ken a para 11.12.111oh 215.1111

eduor at the prestigious Lun-Iien publish-
ing firm 01' Faber 6’. l'I'abt-I'.

Always articuia'. e and 51" :1'-:.-.-'1;. “1'11ch
he talks about rock {1 mil as a rat gion.

and himself '15 a kind of 1.1trr11e1‘
priest.
“We were just like. 11111.: .131'1i11 51 hit: 1.115

that sit in church who babe .2 . hat be-
cause they believe. the 1.1-1.1:3211 i< going to change." he argues. "We '11111'2ebrated and we camfronted. but we didn‘t deal with our own problems. We allowed our own people 111 die. we 1.111111ed our own people.- to resort to diugs We e en acknow led >1Id their decadence :15 beingI some
ihzr 111111i1: hwe vicariousi: enjoyed.

The words pour forth hke a 111115-1111:

toyed confession. but the :esson. in the
end. is a simple one.

'ithink ive had it with. 10911" 10%:

5h end 5.111: s quickl" ad:3' 11g: "i don:
51'1e11it tar anybody else."

it he speaks for himsest now. there
11:15 1.1 11.11.11;- wheu Townshend seemingly
spoke for a generation. i-ie fashioned
5111'h anthems as ‘l Can‘t Exhiaih'. ‘Any-
way. Anyhow. AnyWhere'. ‘My Genera
tion'. and ‘Won‘t Get Fooled Again' and
pioneering rock operas 5111.111. as 'Tommy‘
and ‘Quadrophenia'. delivering rock‘n'
roll as dense with principle 15.5 it was
with catharsis. and solidifying the youth
subculture in the process. i'oz' 15 years.
The Who reigned. its musir'ai sensation-
:111511'1 tueled by Townshezid's windmill
power Chords and trenetir scissor ieaps.

Roger Daltrey's whooping.- vocuis. John

Entwhisne's titundervstea'cx; boss and

Penn '1'11‘101'1'5 1'110110'1 permasiott.
Townshend 5111111111111; :‘zzi .'~'i111;.1i;, a:

power and entertainment. b1: :25 respon-
sibility as a 'genre 1'¢ie1'1:i1-.-5:yexpand-
ing its potential for social and amsth.
provocation, The Who ex'1 Died (ant.-
some felt e1ploited1 the 1.15'11rati- .3115. an-
ger. tears and anxieties of the young and
the working class. giving voice and legiti.
macy to those who. by tradition. had
been culturally disenfranchised. If 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 fans got younger
and less demanding —— he came to inhah~
it them. He had always defined rock as a

young man 5 game. but he was growing -

old and rich inside it. a wearying hypoc-

risy. So it should not have come as a1

surprise that as The'Who grew to inexo-
rable enormity Pete TownShend

~ seemed to spend more and more time .

self destructing, feeling, as he onCe said.
like a standing corpse working for a
machine".

The cracks began to appear in the
mid- 19705. after a decade of infighting.

The band compromised by its own suc-
cess. tacillated between Townshend 5

'pop idealism and Daltrey’snamwpm..-

tesionalism; Moon. Townshend’s closest
ally in the group and'his co-conspirator
in on-the-road mayhem. died ota'drug-
alcohol overdose in I978. A new.1drum---
mer was drafted and the showwent on.
but it could not be the same. A year later.-
it fans were trampledto death before a
concert in C 1 'tcihnati: ohce again. the
Show went on. but something had been
cut frcm the heart of rock‘ n ‘.roll

Even while joining in the band‘shedo—
niszic excess. Townshend-had managed
to avoid many-oi the traps of fame. But at
the turn of the decade. as The Whowent
from the vanguard to the old guard. they
seemed to ensnare him all atvonce. The
unravelling of his marriage brought the
1 'risis to a head. Separated from the
woman he had married while Still in art
school. he found himseh nearly banle

Pete Townshend, on 'his career in rock music:

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

Suddenly it looked like rock‘s most ar-
ticulate idealist would live up to one of
rock“ 5 most famous lines. which he had
penned for My Generation': “Hope i die
before i get old."

"i just gave 11p. I couldn't stand the
pressure.‘ he says.'A1'ound 1978. 1979 I
suddenly realised that this gawky kid
'who had a hard time eve 11 looking in a
mirror was discovering a middle-age
charisma Which was hypnotislng
women. . ljust buclued unuer 1t Itwas
a moral thing that actually started to
make me collapse i looked back 'at this
terrible, troubled. selt-obsessed life that

'- id had. and it wasnt the ugly duckling

turning into a swan but the ugly duckling

- turning into Rambo.

"I enjoyed myself for about six weeks
and was then just crushed by-guilt..ar1d
theonly way that! could absolve itwas
by increasing the amount I'drank, finally

By Richard Harrington
. ' in New York ' .

drinking myself into DTs. and then turn-

ing to drugs. it nearly destroyed me. It
also confused me wondering whether it
had happened because of a genuine per-
sonal emergence because women love a
drunk. or because I'm a superstar 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 me with (heroin) and I ju'st went l'n'to

>1_-"1..'.'~ .

a steep OD immediately. After a delay of
an hour. my friends decided to take me
to the hospital. delivering me with a suit
in which every pocket had some weird
drug. The 11. oman who revived me was
somebody who had studied with Meg
Patterson who eventually treated me for
drugs.

"She said: 'This is the guy lying in front
of me who helped finance the research
at the Marie Curie Foundation?‘ For her

it was a terrible irony that 1 should turn

up in front of her. blue

"it wasn‘t growing old that .was the"

problem with me in The Who‘.‘ Towin-
shend sighs. ‘11 was growing ups“ -'

His personal faith may be strong but
Townshend's faith
rock' 11 'roll disappeared long agQAWhieh
is not to say he has rejected the' idealism
of his youth — only re-evaluated its
process.

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

in the church of'

"in America it' 5 almost sacrilege to say
this. but I feel a lot of rock 5 idealism was
very. very very wonky.

“It‘s something that‘s deeply rooted in
where rock began. its black roots. 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 folk came along and took that mu-
sic over. Later. in the 1960s. we realised
that we could also turn it into an ecclesto
astical- thing. We were actually using mu-
sic in its white religious Context: “Come
to the church of the stadium. :hear
the music. . . look up and you see God

. look down and you see hell.

“Rock became a church. and the mes-
sage is still there. the uplift 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 optimism is what is ex-
emplified in a power chord, it’s a
dramatic call. heroic ‘I promise you‘. "

Townshend mimes one of his trade---~ 1

mark 'windmill guitar moves.

"And what does it 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
except); _.

promise them anything
another power chord "
" “The _g're'at thing about Live Aid.“

says, 1 was that suddenly the premises 1..

made by. wet it 't'oil- 7
weren t being kept but they wereat least ..

that had been
I-Tbeing attended to.-

’ "That' 5 why 1' mini. rock 1.1; in: sitch a"

healthy transition at the. moment A iot of
.p'eo‘p'le are disturbed about the sort or
flag-waving 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 festival

_ tmpogaht " he say 5. "It’ 5 who I live wtirtl; _

.00 n roll mgralist face to face wuth reality

syndrome. . Its acknowledging that
when different factions of this industry
unite.- we have a kind of power. And it‘ s
an interesting power because it's demo-
cratic — the people who have that power
have been voted in by having hit
records."
Wheh The Who stopped performing.
Townshend says. the question for him
“was how do I break this chain without
breaking the faith. how do I get away
from this machine without hurting the
people that I love who are still involved
in it. "

He remembers his bemusement read-
ing Roger Daltrey interviews right alter
the breakup. "He'd say something like I
always believed that Pete would be able
to goon forever and it‘s really broken
my heart to see that he can 'tand now l‘m
realising he‘ 5 just an ordinary guy.’

"I could hardly believe it because it
anybody should have know It. and it any-
body spent his whole lite dedicated to
reminding me that I was an ordinary
guy. it was him. "

The post-Who Townshend hasn‘t been
less busy. simply - given his preoccupa-
tion with new media — less visible.

The _video of 'White City‘. which he
describes as "a novel on film." 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 print in Dolby stereo “really feels
short. But that's pan of the preconcep-
tion of that old cinematic form. which I

' think is dead. or at least as much of a

dinosaur as The Who were."
.. Townshend has been fascinated with
film, and video since the late 1960s: he
sees him as a way of reaching a wide
audience without the emotional and
physical costs of rock tours.

‘Horse’s Neck'. Townshend‘s first book
is slim. only 129 pages. Its 13 stories are
as emotionally interconnected as any at
his past song cycles. twisting between

"fact and fiction. memory and fantasy.

Though Townshend has found a new
forum for his imagination anderitlng
skills — enabling him to escape rock‘s
strait-jacket of expectations — he has
had to give up his larger audience to do
so. -"I-Iorse 5 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 of writing
prose because I thought that some
people are really going to listen.“ he
says. “The people I do reach I'm going to

- be able to touch very directly, and the

feedback that I get is going to be much
more acute.”

Writing otters what The Who no longer
could -— risks.

At Faber 8: Faber. Townshend works a
couple of days a week. reading four or

1 five manuscripts. “The most intense part

and the mostinteresting part of my work
is sitting on the (weekly) editorial board.
part of a group of eight editors who gath-
er to discuss what directions the compa-
ny is going to be going in creatively. l
comein with ideas and there's always a
mounting sense of excitement. like I’m a
gladiator going into an arena. It‘s so ex-
citing. being challenged to produce
ideas. 1 throw in my two pennies worth

“I 111 just a novice but my opinion is
valued."

If once Pete Townshend wanted to die
before he got old — and if there was
another period where he seemed to want
to live long without ever ageing — he
now seems to have found 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 from art stu-
dent to rock avatar. Karen Townshend
runs a home for battered wives: her bus
band is very involved with probation ser-
vices and anti-drug programs.

“Where I live and how I live is not

I realised that, l chahaeii
meudously. l have this great. great pro
found respect and need for my wife. and

' whatever is the quality of my love for

her, I'll leave her to judge. It was the
turning bow in my lite when I ream
that I had that and that I wanted that. It
wl sustaiijt' .1111: for the rest of my lite.”
:till. it's' doubttol that he has truly
cloned min more likely. he hashtst
firectedltk ihvhlvement. He will edit:

tinue to make” 11111111. and mensweamn
ft the deliyer‘y inedium changes. -

It is. hot too dioch to lmagt “he of Pete
Townshend that someda heal will pick tip
his guitar and play. jus like yesterday.
get down on his knees and pray he will
not get tooled again.

- The Washington Post