October 21, 2020

Today in Whostory: 6/22/2020

1963 – The Detours played a wedding reception in Perivale at the Millet Arms. They were payed &pound:15.

1964 – The Who play the Glenlyn Ballroom in Forest Hill

1968 – The Who were guests of honor at the annual Greyhound Derby at White City Stadium where Yellow Printer and Camera Flash were running. Earlier in the month (11th) they had been photographed with Yellow Printer. Yellow Printer set a track record during a qualifying race, but was eliminated during the quarter finals. Camera Flash went on to win the Derby.

1968 – Record Mirror features an interview with Roger titled “The Who are Really Gentle People”. There is also a full page ad for “Dogs” which debut’s at #46 in their “Britain’s Top 50” chart

1970 – Pete gets dragged off by the authorities because he uses the word “bomb” on a plane. He tells the authorities it is British slang and he was only saying that their new album was going over “a bomb” (i.e.; very well). Three years later John tells what really happened. The Who had not only been stuck a long time in the plane waiting to take off but also had been annoyed by a high-pitched whine coming from the cabin speakers. Having had enough, Pete finally stands up and screams, “I’ll tell! I’ll tell where the bomb is!” As a result Pete is arrested, delaying the concert at the Atlanta Municipal Auditorium that starts late as The Who fly in at the last minute and rush to the stage.

1974 – Nigel Rogers in New Musical Express votes for Quadrophenia as the all-time best rock album, calling it the “greatest exposition of the rock ‘n’ roll ethic ever produced”.

1992 – Roger sings “Behind Blue Eyes” with The Chieftains on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Roger probably doesn’t know that his appearances spark a turf war between Robert Morton with Letterman’s show and Jay Leno’s agent Helen Kushnick. Her refusal to honor the industry protocol of not booking a guest right after his appearance on another network’s talk show is later presented in the book and TV-movie The Late Shift as one of the factors leading to her firing by Jay Leno.

1995 – Ringo’s All-Star Band featuring John and Zak play in Nagoya at the Nagoya Century Hall

2001 – Pete performs the first of two solo concerts at the Mandell Weiss Theatre in San Diego, California as a benefit for the La Jolla Playhouse

2001 – “A Walk Down Abbey Road: A Tribute To The Beatles.” featuring John play at Humphrey’s Concerts By The Bay in San Diego, California

2004 – Roger presents Mick Jones, representing The Clash, with an Inspiration Award at the MOJO Magazine Awards in London.

2005 – Pete is interviewed by the Daily Times Leader of West Point, Mississippi on Howlin’ Wolf and the opening of the new Howlin’ Wolf Museum in West Point. Pete is donating a signed guitar to the museum.

Daily Times Leader

Clay County native Howlin’ Wolf has influenced the greats in rock ‘n’
roll: Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and John Lennon are just a small few
of the lives touched by Wolf. The Who guitarist and accomplished solo
artist Pete Townshend is among those that consider Wolf’s influence to
have made a major impact on their lives.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Times Leader, Townshend
discusses the impact that a bluesman from Clay County and pop
culture-icon had on his life and career.

Daily Times Leader (DTL): As a young man in England, how were you
exposed to the blues music of America?

Pete Townshend (PT): At first it was a gentle thing, skiffle started
here as a craze around 1959. That led to the music of Country Blues
artists like Big Bill Broonzy, Leadbelly, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee
getting some of their records in the shops. I bought those first,
thinking of the music as a kind of exotic ‘world’ music, enjoying it,
but feeling it was a very long way away from my own world. I learned
quite a few of their pieces. It was hearing Leadbelly that made me
decide my first good acoustic guitar – a Harmony–would be a 12 string.

DTL: How did you obtain your first Howlin’ Wolf record and what was it?

PT: This came later. I was at Ealing Art school in 1961 and some time
in the following year I met a young American photography student Tom
Wright. He had a big collection of R&B, including Howling Wolf. I’m
afraid I can’t remember the album, but “Smokestack Lightnin'” was one
of the tracks. I have to say that I loved the guitar sound on these
records, and the drummer played in a New Orleans style I was unfamiliar
with until then.

DTL: How did hearing Howlin’ Wolf for the first time make you feel?

PT: Chilled. His voice sounded like it travelled across the universe. A
manly, powerful voice, but a true blues voice, from the heart:
vulnerable and appealing.

DTL: How did Wolf influence your early career? Were you,in the
beginning, attempting to mimic American blues?

PT: Yes. Roger (Daltrey) adored Howling Wolf and did a very, very good
impression.

DTL: Did you ever meet Wolf on Shindig or some other venue?

PT: Sadly not. We did “Shindig” here in the Uk where it was filmed.

DTL:Do you feel that it is important for Americans to preserve this
part of their musical heritage?

PT:Of course. It feels quite recent to us, but so is the work of Andy
Warhol and Diane Arbus. Howling Wolf is an American artist, a part of
the internationally recognized cavalcade of authentic American genius.
He is not just some guy with a band, he helped to change our view of
the world and to harden up this new way we have found to express our
deepest feelings. I am 60 years old as I write this: as a musician I
still feel like an ageless artist. When I listen to Howling Wolf I hear
music that will always speak for the late fifties, the sixties and the
years that followed, music that was not designed to sell cokes and
popcorn at drive-ins, but was equally uplifting, joyful and accessible.
Unlike the radio pop of that period Howling Wold had real teeth; he
showed us we could let our music be unapologetically masculine (as much
of British rock turned out to be) without being chauvinistic.

DTL: Why do you feel people like Wolf, and even Hendrix, were more
accepted in the UK than, initially, in the U.S.?

PT: America is huge. It has so much to offer. It is a rich,
cosmopolitan country with people gathered from all over the world. It’s
hard to live there and distill everything there is to see and hear.
From the UK we could see your musical heritage a little more
objectively.

2005 – A Tale of Summer in Two Cities

This is not strictly speaking a diary. I’m not sure why features such as this, on the websites of those like me who can afford to run them, are called ‘diaries’. ‘Wank-offs’ might be a better term. And so last week, in New York, Roger Daltrey and myself gathered in Gotham Hall – an old bank – an enormous, echoing oval room with a gilded ceiling as high as Penn station – to play to a gathering of four hundred men and women executives and friends of Samsung. My dressing room was next to the old vault, a massive safe with doors two feet thick, wide enough to allow entry in a Hummer. The fifty-ton doors, appropriately for a charity event I thought, were left open. Samsung created Four Seasons of Hope to support a number of other worthy charities that help children. Arnold Palmer is in there somewhere, and Jon Bon Jovi. This year it was our turn to do our little bit, put up for the job by our manager Bill Curbishley who we suspect may have put the deal together on some golf course – probably one of the twenty thousand designed by our new pal Arnold.

It was a grand and generous gathering of good-hearted, and slightly sceptical business people, some of whom had shelled out $30,000 for a table to be served (but not consume) a beautiful, rare tornado steak and listen to two sixty year old men who call themselves ‘The Who’. I enjoyed the event. Roger sang my last published song REAL GOOD LOOKING BOY entirely unaccompanied by me, or Jon Carin who was along for the ride with us on keyboards and memory stick. When Roger plays guitar for his own voice the dynamic is gentler, more intimate, more delicate. It’s hard to reconcile that this is the same straining voice that has struggled to be heard over the loudest band in rock for forty years. It was a rare treat, like the Tornado, but better received.

The day before, a jury cleared Michael Jackson and another absurd celebrity trial collapsed. We ‘celebrities’ live in Reality Shows these days. I was pleased Michael was cleared. My only experience of his dealings with children is that he has unselfishly helped every cause, and individual child, I have sent his way. In one case he hired a circus for the Down’s Syndrome children of a special school of the daughter of a friend of mine, and showed up to happily, and – yes – in childlike enthusiasm – watch the show with them. This little girl believed she was Michael’s future wife, and he so kindly allowed her to sit next to him, as his future bride. His feathers may be badly burned, and he may be damaged in other ways too, but he is something of an angel.

While we rehearsed in London for the Samsung event, Bob Geldof sent me a mobile text message in teenage-speak (he lives in a house full of young women so he can speak the lingo better than I). It said ‘R U doin Live8? LOL Bob g’. I found myself thinking that he should know, surely. I replied ‘RH 4 NY charity gig. Will talk 2 Rog. Later. PT’ This seemed very teenaged to me, and I was quite proud of my almost incomprehensible texting.

Roger balked at first. Would the money really help in the long term? Would it simply buy more jumbo jets for Robert Mugabe? Does Roger, secretly write for The Spectator or something? God, he’s sharp and cynical these days; a proper conservative. But he suddenly put aside all these worries and said ‘Fuck em, let’s do it!’ I feel sure The Spectator only has twelve readers. Me included.

Back to the epyllion: Roger and I decided to disregard any cynical journalists who would insist we knew nothing about Africa, and that doubling aid would only make things worse, and we would do the show purely so we could meet The Spice Girls. Then grumpy old Bob G announced he wasn’t having them on because they weren’t old and distinguished and – well, grumpy – enough. They insisted they’d never been asked in any case and never thought to appear or even to reform. But the tabloids insisted they had dearly wanted to revive their ailing solo careers (in cosmetic surgery?) by reforming, just like we obviously do, and they must be right because more than twelve people buy the tabloids. Our band are spread all over the world so it will be interesting to see whether Roger, singing REAL GOOD LOOKING BOY solo, with me watching admiringly, constitutes a world-shaking, career-reviving act to equal the one we did in 1985 when the BBC accidentally cut us off halfway through WON’T GET FOOLED AGAIN.

It may have escaped everyone’s attention that in photographs of the 1985 Live Aid concert I am the only man present with a sensible, classic, short haircut. I also look very handsome indeed, especially as photographed by David Bailey and displayed in the Gents at the Caprice. I point this out because, musically on that occasion, we were trounced by Queen, who were in the middle of a tour. This time, no doubt, we’ll be trounced by U2 who are in the middle of stadium rock’s answer to the ANC revolution. What are we in the middle of? We are in the middle of ‘resting’. Again. I have a feeling my haircut will again prevail. I wonder suddenly, is this truly something I should be bragging about?

It will be the only big show we do this year, or at least the only one we do until someone asks us to do another one. Our career is so ailing. We badly need to have our career revived. I write this at two-thirty in the morning. Fretting so much about my ailing career I can hardly sleep. I have worries. I’m sure I do.

Just before my sixtieth birthday I completed the first half of my autobiography Pete Townshend (who he?), ready for submission to my editor and then to my prospective publisher. I will finish it this year, or early next year. I am also working on the music for my new play The Boy Who Heard Music. This is a misleading title because it suggests the story is autobiographical. It is rather a divergent spur from my life in music: a story about an imaginary concert, not a boy, and so is closer to my script for Lifehouse (see elsewhere on this website for details) than my own life story. I was once a boy. So it might be partly about me. How shameful.

Of more interest to Who fans will be the fact that I am preparing a one-off DVD this month exclusively for Roger. It will contain the music tracks of songs I’ve recorded so far, demos for songs in progress, some videos of me pitching various songs, and printed lyrics and photographs. I hope that viewing this DVD will help him to feel that all is not lost by my delaying the work we started last September when we set out to produce a new Who album. It will get finished, as long as we stay healthy.

It’s now three oclock in the morning and I should try to sleep. I’m reading The Smoking Diaries by Simon Gray at the moment. If you ever can’t sleep, this is a book that won’t help. It is impossible to put down. Gray, wheezing at sixty-five, with his 60 fags a day and lots of Diet Coke, makes Bob G look positively upbeat. But like the Irishman, Gray is a modern man of our modern and awkward age, and in his writing combines all the most wonderful uneasiness of contemporary life with that of the sublime dignity of the pre-war years. He is also really funny while remaining superbly serene in his gentle grumpiness.

Serenity, the buzzword of rehab and twelve-step workshops. Serenity is higher than sanguinity, contentment higher than courage, humour higher than veracity and dignity higher than power. I hope that Live8 will be a smash, but I also hope it will be serene and dignified, and that we can really help our friends in Africa – who Bob G says have more than enough humour already in the face of horrifying adversity – to find some moments of contentment. What about twice as much as they have at the moment?

2010 – Roger and his solo band resume their tour at the Anselmo Valencia Amphitheatre in Tucson, Arizona

2012 – Pete pens a length recolection about John Entwistle on the tenth anniversary of his death. “On stage with the Who I often look across and expect to see John standing there scratching the side of his nose and take a resigned deep breath in that characteristically thoughtful way that often presaged a funny story or a blistering bass passage.”

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