October 19, 2020

1986-04-11 – Rapid City Journal

1986 04 11 Rapid_City_Journal_Fri__Apr_11__1986_

Pete Townshend’s rock gifts are flowering without the Who

Mary Campbell

NEW YORK (AP) — Much as Pete
Townshend was applauded before -—
as creative genius of the Who, writer
of the acclaimed rock opera "Tom-
my" and a superstar rock guitarist—
his gifts are flowering even more.

With a book of short stories out and
a new record and video, he‘s working
for a British book publisher. enjoying
family life, involved in social causes
and eating well without bloating to
middle-aged bulge.

It wasn't hard turning 40 on May
19. Townshend recently said. “Being
40 has made me feel I don't have to
worry about naturally slowing down
a bit. I realize I've been running at
very high speed for some time."

He can still execute those high
kicks and airborne splits that were
once his trademark at Who concerts,
but they’re not quite as high.

In the early ’705, Townshend at-
tached a lot of “personal idealism" to
rock ‘n' roll. "I made it almost likea
consuming obsession that it might
one day help to make the world a bet-

ter place.
“Now I look at 25 years of rock 'n'

roll. culminating in Live Aid. It has
taken 25 years for the circle to be
closed, when rock all of a sudden
does have power to change things.
You change things by virtue of what
you do and not by virtue of what you
say in lyrics."

Townshend. who is involved with a
refuge for battered women in Lon-
don, has found charitable work
enriching since ending the Who 31/,
years ago.

“What was probably inspired by a
feeling of conscience has turned out
to help me understand things." he
said.

He recently filmed a concert in
London to raise money for a drug
rehabilitation clinic run by the Scot-
tish doctor who had helped him. “I
did old blues. early songs I'd written
that I’d never played live before,
material by (jazzmen) Miles Davis
and Charles Mingus."

Townshend met Dr. Meg Patterson
in 1976 when she treated a guitarist
friend for heroin addiction. ”As a
result. I started helping finance her
work. I called her for myself
Christmas 1981," he said.

“I was a heavy drinker but I used

Pete Townshend

to manage quite well. I went to a
clinic in London. What they gave me
in treatment quit working. I started
to use heroin. I suppose it was the

“I had to face up to the fact it was
time to leave the Who. The years of
the Who were great but the best of it
was gone.

“I had to face the {act I wouldn’t be
able to continue to meet contractual
obligations I had for records and
stuff and keep the quality up. There
was the feeling of letting the fans
down as well. You end up feeling a
great debt to the people who made
you wealthy and your life comfor-
table and you don't simply want to
turn your back on them."

In July 1983. Townshend became
an editor at Faber 8: Faber, the com-
pany where T.S. Eliot was an editor
for 30 years. "It was such a tremen-
dous contrast from my work in music
and also very enriching," he said.
“I’ve commissioned eight titles in
each year. about music. modern
playwrights, primitive poetry, things
1 have an instinctive understanding
of."

His own book of short stories,
“Horse's Neck." published in hard-
cover by Houghton Mifflin Co.. will
be out soon in paperback. Though
enormously pleased with it, he
thought his message could have

worked better as a sort of
autobiographical novel.

"At the time I didn’t have enough
confidence in the reader," he said. “I
didn't think people would read a
novel and forget who had written it."

Townshend simultaneously worked

, on his new video and Atco album.

both titled ”White City," from
November to August. He wrote the
script for the video and then wrote
songs to fit into it. Both cost about
$500,000 to make.

In the video, he wanted to talk
about what had happened to men
since World War II, in an increasing-
ly feminist society with fewer job op-
portunities. He set it in London's low-
income housing project called White
City. near Shepherds Bush, where he
grew up and the Who's career began
in the early '605.

“Some of the plot that I had written
out very explicitly became a more
poetic content in both lyrics and im-
ages of the film." he said. ”I'm call-
ing it, preposterously. poetry. I think
it’s where the future of music video
is." The “White City" video is 40
minutes, about the length of an LP,
but the "White City" album isn’t a

soundtrack.

“I was very anxious to get my teeth
into this stuff," said Townshend.
“The film. ‘Tommy,’ happened three
or four years after the record was
released. How different it would feel
if the two things happened at the
same time so that the images were
present in people’s minds when they
were hearing the record on the
radio."

His 16-year-old daughter, Emma,
is in the video. Her sister. Minta, 14,
was a clown in Townshend’s last one
in 1982. Both are interested in music.
”It is quite worrying when kids want
to get into the family business. You
know the good side and the bad side.”
he said.

Townshend truly enjoys family
life. “My father was a musician. I
hated for him to be away. I wanted
him around. I'm glad my kids have a
father.

“I don't know if my wife Karen
would like me saying this but I think I
married her years ago because of the
way she looked," he said. “Only in
the last three or four years I’ve
realized what a fabulous human be-
ing she is. That's a statement about

how blind men are. really."