Yeah, I know there is a lot of articles by the Who on this blog, but there`s a reason for that. It really goes to show how huge they were at this time in history and it was a good reason for this. One man mentioned in this article is Meher Baba, an Indian spiritual master. His teachings concerned the nature and purpose of life. He spoke of the reincarnation and that the phenomenal world is illusory, and presented the idea that the Universe is imagination, though also that God exists, and that each soul was God passing through imagination in order to realize individually his own divinity.
Pill head Mod turned accursed intellectual
By Nick Logan
TOWNSHEND WAS on his way into town from Eric Clapton’s house where he`d spent the previous evening and had ended up staying the night. He was late, getting later.
A series of phone calls by his publicist elicited the information that Pete was on his way in his Porsche, also that his condition was a bit “fragile”, but seeing how the man had laid on a two-roomed suite (complete with bar) at the sedately splendid Mayfair Browns Hotel for the purpose of holding interviews, it would have been mean to carp about his timekeeping.
We were there to talk about the new Townshend solo album “Who Came First” — Pete’s first Meher Baba -dedicated album “officially” intended for general release.
You may be aware that Townshend, with Faces’ bassist Ronnie Lane, had compiled and edited two previous “limited edition” Baba albums, intended for Baba devotees only but extensively bootlegged in the States.
“Who Came First” was originally aimed at undermining bottlegging exploitation, but, as Townshend will explain, in its completed form stands for a whole lot more.
For the most part “Who Came First” really is a Pete Townshend solo job, recorded at the home studio — “Eel Pie Sound” — of which he is immeasurably proud.
As the man himself (I presume it’s him) writes on the press literature distributed with white label copies of the album: “All instruments, vocals, recording, engineering, mixing, synthesisers — in fact everything except making the tea — in one gynormous ego trip by Pete Townshend.”
Not quite one gynormous ego trip, though, because Ronnie Lane also has a cut on the album, as does Billy Nicholls. Both of them, like Townshend, are Baba devotees of long standing and here’s where a few mind-tangling paradoxes begin to set in.
Okay, so you don’t know too much about Billy Nicholls, but take it from me he’s not into squatting on Indian rugs in a mystic trance.
Ronnie Lane — dear ole brandy swigging Ronnie of Faces face — you should know well enough, and Townshend… well… Townshend is still just the same Townshend you’ve all known and loved from way back when. Pill head Mod turned accursed intellectual — his own words.
Arriving around the same time as the club sandwiches, and as if lured in by the opening of the brandy, Townshend is fully aware of the apparent paradoxes concerning his religious and business position:
“I was staying, as you know, at Eric’s last night, and his chick was very surprised that I stayed in bed till mid-day. She thought I should have been up at 7 or something, meditating…. lighting candles.
“I mean, she was joking actually, but there are people who feel that way… “
He settled behind the brandy and sandwiches…
There’s a mixed set of reasons for the album. One, because it didn’t look as if the Who would be recording for a long time, and we knew we weren’t gonna be working in England or America till 1973. Why, I don’t know, but we’d decided that, and it looks like we’re gonna stick to it.
Another was the fact that after I did that television programme “How Can You Be Sure”, talking about Baba, a lot of people came up to me and said listen, nobody wants to sit for half an hour listening to you talking about it… If you’ve got anything to say about Baba, do it through music.
You’re a musician – that’s why you got on the programme in the first place — so play, sing songs, do what you were bloody born to do.
So I had that in mind.
The other thing was that there had been two limited edition albums out already and in America they were getting bootlegged at fantastic fees… selling for 11/15 dollars or something like that.
I’ve got a copy of one of them, and the quality is incredible, right, but the thing is that on the second one for instance, “I Am,” I only did two bloody songs, “Baba O`Riley” and “Parvardigar” which is on “Who Came First” – and the album was being described as “The Pete Townshend Solo Album”.
It meant that I was getting credited, in some cases, with doing really strange songs… songs I had had bugger-all to do with apart from the fact that I edited the album together.
Recording is my hobby, if you like – like recording Thunderclap Newman was a kind of hobby. The fact is, I enjoy recording. I enjoy putting albums together and, although it is my business as it were, I still enjoy doing it. So when the group stops for a period, I still want to go on recording. That’s John’s (Entwistle) philosophy as well.
Also, recording on my own brings out different things. Because there are things I want to do, that when I try to force them through a group like the Who, the group make-up doesn’t allow them through.
The whole reason for this album I suppose is frustration, not musical frustration and certainly not frustration with the Who, but a communication frustration.
The fact is, I don’t feel I’ve ever been able to get across clearly to anybody – and there are a lot of people who wanna know – what it is about Baba that got me so committed to him.
Because there are a lot of apparent paradoxes in there… the fact that I’m still in a group, I’m still earning money and am obviously still part of a fairly exploitive situation as well.
And at the same time I’m trying to do something with myself spiritually.
You see, so many people still acquaint spirituality with the Scott Walker syndrome… going into a monastery and shutting oneself off, or meditation, or the Maharishi thing… whereas it’s really got nothing do with all that where I am concerned.
Christianity has got nothing to with that. Christianity, just like being a Baba lover, is to do with life, with living, with dealing with things and people that come along and making the best of every situation.
One can admire monks and nuns who say ‘Listen I’m just going to pray for the rest of my life’ — but y`know, that’s definitely not what it’s all about. Loving Baba is definitely not about that, but a lot of people seem to think it should be… I think what I hope to achieve through this album is that people will realise that Pete Townshend being a Baba lover is as much a part of his work as anything else. And that there are things like “Parvardigar” and “Time Is Passing” which aren’t in conflict with any beliefs. Like “Time is Passing” and “Pure And Easy” have both been recorded by the Who, and are bloody good by the Who, but they’re somehow nearer to the knuckle by me, done just on my own as straight demos. “Let’s See Action”, which is on this album, has also been done by the group (Townshend’s album version is the original demo of the single). But I think the album version is better than the single quite honestly. That’s one of the reasons I put it on there. I was disappointed with the single. It was too relaxed, not uptight enough, y’know… I mean, I hope people don’t think I sit at home slaving over tape recorders for sounds all the time, `cause I don’t. This is like my Paul McCartney trip if you like. All these cuts I made at home were very easily come by, even something like “Parvadigar” which is sort of epic in proportion and sounds very heavily produced.
But it’s not. The thing is that I’ve spent so much time in that little room in my house recording, that now I can just plug the mike in, twiddle the knobs and dials, and just play and let it come out… and it’s good.
The thing is it’s mine, it’s my sound. It’s not something they could get at Olympic, it’s not something I could get at Olympic or any other studio. It’s something I do at home and that is so personal… but not so personal as to exclude the Who.
Somehow this album stops short of the Who. That’s the interesting thing about it. The demos are like what the Who get from me before we start recording, and apart from the fact that this is something I’ve always wanted people to know about, the thing about “Who Came First” is that it is not so much a collection of songs put together for a purpose as it would be if it was a Who album.
Obviously the general atmosphere of thing is devotional, and dedicated to Baba, and contains as much unembarrassed love for Baba as Ronnie and Billy and I could muster.
It’s very difficult for a trio like Ronnie and Billy and me to muster any kind of love without embarrassment, specially while rolling about the floor under the effects of brandy, but you know, it happens.
Ronnie’s song — which we did together when we were really inebriated — the reason I put that in was because the album is supposed to be for Baba and Ronnie’s song really makes it. It breathes Baba, an aspect of Baba that people wouldn’t imagine and also, because Baba is Christ, it brings out an aspect of Christianity that people are unaware of.
That is, the fact that Christianity is in fact a part of day-to-day life. It’s fucking fun, apart from anything else…
Look I’ll tell you, the main reason originally for this album was that I was getting very worried about those basement tapey things that were being bootlegged and what Decca said to me, indirectly, was: “These albums are selling for 11.98 in stores, and there’s nothing we can do about it under the Piracy Act because it’s not a legitimate record. We don’t mind you making them.”
They didn’t make any contract pressure or anything. In fact nobody has. Everybody in the business… I don’t know for fuck’s sake why… but everyone in the business — Track, Decca, Polydor — they’ve all been so respectful.
It’s almost as if I was a fucking monk, y’know, and that they regard making these albums as part of my therapy or something. The record companies are giving up incredible amounts of percentages. I think it’s because “Bangla Desh” set certain traditions that the industry are very proud of, and rightly so, and they are anxious to perpetuate this.
Anyway, they said to me: “We’ll put this out, we’ll give you a dollar an album” — which is an incredible amount of money — “and well make sure the thing is done in good taste.”
I thought, well why not. How many copies do you want? They said, “Well we`ll take 25,000 to start with.” So I nearly fell through the fucking roof? I said, how many! Christ that’s a lot of albums.
So I said, listen if we’re going to go into it on this scale, why don’t I just do a completely fresh album.
So I looked at the material I had, did a few new mixes and that was it. A few things off the first album, a few off the second, and a few demos which I thought had a certain amount of Baba atmosphere.
So that’s the real reason I started to do it. Later on I started to really enjoy the thought that people were at last going to hear what I could do in my little studio.
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