A really nice one about The Who where Townshend discusses several subjects, among them the solo albums, his work with Clapton, rock operas and their future as a band. A “must read” if you like the Who just a little bit.
Who comes first
Pete Townshend talks to Steve Peacock
If you think you`ve noticed something strange about the Who recently, don`t worry – It`s just the sound of four people following their own noses for a while.
As Pete Townshend puts it: “Just at the moment we`re undergoing a bit of a renaissance, in many senses of the word – going back to square one.” Since they last worked together, in October, they`ve all been following various projects – Moon`s exploits you`ll have heard about, John Entwistle has been getting Rigor Mortis. Roger Daltrey is doing a solo album, Pete had his own solo record out, has been working as producer and concert band organiser with Eric Clapton, and most recently has been working on an album with Willie Barratt and John Otway who`re part of the Community Music set-up. And of course, they all got involved with the Lou Reizner “Tommy”.
But give it another four or five months, and you should see The Who back on the road in England with a new albums – the next “rock opera” for want of a better working tag – and a stage set based on it. They`re building their own studio in Battersea, and Pete reckons they`ll be in there in mid-March for two months working on the album. Then a British tour, then America.
He feels the past few months have been very good for the Who, in that they tend to get cloistered in their own little world – “very incestously away from things, like four elderly sisters” – and now they`ve been getting out and about a bit. He says it was remarkably good for him to be involved with the Clapton concert, quite apart from the obvious joy of seeing the thing work and seeing Eric get on a stage again, because “I really needed to play with someone, have some larks. It`s the first time I`ve ever really done anything outside the Who since Thunderclap Newman.”
He is now unhappy, however, about his involvement with the “Tommy” thing, because where Roger was able to add something to his original contribution, he didn`t feel he added anything. Particularly on stage: “In the Who when you`re on stage you don`t remain yourself – you forget all about yourself and you jump about and work and rock and roll in the traditional sense. But when I was suddenly stuck on a stage, not able to do anything but sing a few lines off a bit of paper, I kept thinking `what am I doing here?` – just because I wrote the thing. It`s like writing a TV play and having the bloody author sitting on a chair in the corner of each scene, just because he wrote it.” He refused an offer to appear in the American version.
The Eric Clapton thing started when he was down at Eric`s house “trying to help him to get his cursed album done – it`s three-quarters finished, and what there is is incredible.” That`s not the live album that`s out soon, but some studio tracks laid down by the last Derek and the Dominoes (with Jim Keltner on drums) at Olympic. The album is two or three tracks short as it stands: “In my new role as producer extraordinaire I was hoping that the live thing would be good enough to spur us on to do some studio recording so we could finish the album and get it out. I think the set up we had on stage was one of the finest bands I`ve ever heard, and I`d really like to hear that in a studio.”
Whether or not it would be possible to get that exact band together again to record he`s not sure, but he seemed pretty confident that they could get something near it to finish the album.
But for now, it`s back to the Who, and there`ve been some changes. He reckons that all he wants to do on this album is write it and play on it, leaving the production ideas to the Who as a whole; they`ll be using the new studio, not Olympic, and they won`t be working with Glyn Johns this time. They all felt something had to be done to re-vitalise the band and “what we`ve done really is looked at the Who and said `OK, in order to shake it up let`s turn the whole thing upside down and start again.` I don`t think it`s going to be easy.”
What he`s done in writing “Quadraphenia” (a gag on schizophrenia that`s become a working title) is construct a central figure, a kind of archetypal mod, using each member of the Who as a facet of his character – “so it`s not autobiographical of me, but it is of the Who in a way…
“I suppose what I`m really trying to do is a kind of “Clockwork Orange” musically, if you see what I mean, but where “Clockwork Orange” was a comedy, this is more a tragedy. There are so many tragic things involved with the Mods – the fact that they grow up and become respectable, that`s a miserable situation. The fact they turn into middle aged pop stars, that`s miserable. The fact that they`re badly educated kids, deprived, and the only things they have are kicking people and dancing, that`s miserable. But at the same time it`s got this incredible triumph in that this kid`s an individual in the midst of a world where the individual doesn`t exist.”
He`s written most of it now, but he reckons that about a quarter will be thrown out when they record, to be replaced by what emerges from the rest of the band. It sounds as if it`ll be not only a major Who album but perhaps the first really major album by the Who. Did he feel that the last few months had given everyone a lot more energy to put back into the band now?
“I don`t think that necessarily follows,” he said. The point was that so far all the solo projects by people in the band have been what`s left over at the edge of the Who – side issues if you like. He has a feeling, though he hasn`t heard any of it yet, that Roger`s album might be the first one to be really successful in its own right, and that that might cause a problem – perhaps even a kind of Rod Stewart/Faces situation. “I think it would be wrong to assume that that kind of situation couldn`t happen with the Who – maybe not in England, but in America…”
“We`ve never been in the position of having a leader as such, we`ve had a spokesman and composer in myself, I suppose, but we`ve never had someone that emoted everything for the group in the way Jagger does for the Stones. I often wonder whether it would be bearable to be in a situation where the Who were just sort of grooving along all the time.
“I think it`s this kind of mood, this sort of doubt about whether we can pull off another major album that leads people around us to wonder whether there`s anything going on as regards splitting and things like that. But it`s got nothing to do with splitting – it`s always taken for granted within the group that we`re going to carry on, whatever. But things can change on the outside, and you can`t stop them.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Dave Lambert, Beck, Bogert & Appice, Isaac Hayes, Peter Frampton, Rory Gallagher, Dusty Springfield, Syd Barrett, Stevie Wonder, Badger, Judy Sill, Jennie Hahn, Help Yourself, Ian A. Anderson.
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