ARTICLE ABOUT Supertramp FROM Sounds, December 27, 1975

A very long, but quite interesting article and interview from the early stages of this band`s career. This one should be read by anyone with a interest in this band. The great Makowski leads the way.
Read on!


The year of the `Tramp

Pete Makowski traces the success of Supertramp

TWO YEARS and two months, that’s how long Supertramp have been together believe it or not. Two years and two sensational albums —’Crime Of The Century’ and ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’ — Supertramp have carved their name in a market that’s literally crying out for quality. That’s what the ‘Tramp are; a quality band who, with bands like 10cc, set themselves high standards that they continually maintain.
Supertramp are: Rick Davies (keyboards/vocals), Roger Hodgson (guitar/keyboards/vocals), Dougie Thompson (bass), John Helliwell (saxophone, various instruments) and Bob C. Benberg (drums). But Supertramp have been around for quite a while in various forms, this line-up is the culmination of years of ‘paying dues’, I caught the band towards the end of their tour, where they reflected on their past exploits which led them to join together on their musical venture.


“The actors and jesters are here The stage is in darkness and clear. For raising the curtain. And no one’s quite certain whose play it is.”
THE STORY really begins with Rick Davies who debuted his professional career with The Lonely Ones, a band from Folkestone formerly led by Noel Redding. “We worked in England for about six months playing soul stuff.” he explained, “then we went to Europe for supposedly two weeks but we got stuck there … didn’t come back for a year and a half!”
The band eventually found themselves stranded in Munich. “We were gigging at night and making film music during the day. It was good experience but Germans make the worst films in the world. We were just a cheap way for them to get music on their films. We worked for a guy called David Lluellyn, who was an unbelievable character we met over there. He used to get us all these film jobs.
“The band were broke when Dave mentioned the fact that he knew this guy in Switzerland who was a millionaire. We thought ‘sure pull the other one’, but then again it was worth a try. We were all destitute at the PN Club living on soup. We’d play at the weekends and that would give us enough money to last us through till Thursday then we had to pilfer until Saturday.
“It was on a Saturday that Dave went to see this guy and then he just didn’t get in contact for about three months and we thought ‘that’s it, he’s gone’. Then we got a telephone call from Dave saying that the guy would be interested in seeing us. We couldn’t believe it! We were all walking around in a dream thinking ‘this is it’.”


THE MAN Dave was referring to was none other than Sam, the Dutch millionaire, to whom ‘Crime Of The Century’ is dedicated. Sam was the man responsible ‘for making it all possible’.
Rick: “He had these ideas for us to get classical themes and turn them into pop music. Of course we all went charging down to his house and when we got there we spent the first two weeks playing ping-pong. We had an attempt at getting this thing together. It was completely bizarre, this buy’s music and the pop idea on top of it. We eventually came over and signed to Robert Stigwood and ended up playing the Rasputin Club every week, that was about it.”


RICK: “ONE morning Sam phoned me up at nine o’clock in the morning and told me to have a look out of the window and I said ‘There’s nothing out there, except an old coach and he said: ‘it’s your’s boys’, so we got in and Andy (our singer) drove it around Finchley while we played football in the back. It’s only when we started playing the Marquee that it got to be a problem. We had to park in Oxford Street and you’d see a huge chain of people on Wardour Street carrying equipment, anyway that was taken away from us when something wasn’t pleasing Sam. I went over to see what was grieving him.”
It transpired that Sam didn’t feel that the group were living up to his expectations. “I knew the band wasn’t that good, but everyone was heartbroken when we had to split, we were so close.” It seemed that the Dutch millionaire recognised a spark of songwriting talent developing in Davies and persuaded him to stay under his wing.
“For we dreamed a lot
And we schemed a lot.”
“I went over to Sam’s to try and write my own music, so I could get enough confidence to start something off my own back and I stayed there just writing. Of course all sorts of crazy ideas popped up from Sam, like ‘Rick Around The World In Eighty Tunes’ whereby we’d hire a few Landrovers and go round the world.
“We’d sit in an Afghanistan village and be influenced by the music and then go onto somewhere else. It sounded fantastic but it wasn’t real at all. So I went back to London and I began auditioning for what was to become the first Supertramp.”
“If we’d known just how right we were going to be.”


HODGSON’S PALE, gaunt, almost hawklike features seen either sitting behind keyboards or swaying behind a guitar, squeezing every ounce of emotion into each verse he sings, are a complete contrast to the cool, full, faced Davies, who only occasionally breaks his stern deadpan features with a single grimace or offstage a burst of raucous laughter. This makes up the black and white of the Supertramp writing team.
While Hodgson walks on stage wearing kaftan and jeans, you’ll see Davies on the other side sporting a suit and shirt, looking like a latter day Irving Berlin. Both equally intense, both equally talented, both equally different. It’s hardly surprising that one of Hodgson’s mainmen is Stevie Winwood — they’re both vagabonds of the wind, eternal music makers, living in their own time, their own reality.
“When I joined Rick I had signed a contract with another guy the very same day,” admitted a quiet spoken Hodgson. In fact he had been contracted by DJM to record a single under the name of Argosy.
“The single had Elton John on piano, Nigel Olsson on drums and Caleb Quaye on guitar… it also flopped … Tony Blackburn liked it.”
When Hodgson first joined ‘Tramp, his main instrument was bass. “That’s my favourite instrument funnily enough, I love the bass more than any other instrument.”
Davies got Richard Palmer (who had previously written some lyrics for King Crimson) on guitar and Bob Millar on drums, completing the line-up of Supertramp Mk 1. Purpose?
Rick explains: “There was a huge change happening at the time I was away in Europe. That change was like Traffic, Jethro Tull, Spooky Tooth sort of nice up and coming bands, which I wasn’t aware of until I went down to see Rory Gallagher and Taste at the Lyceum, only then did I reckon on the possibilities that something could happen, because I didn’t rate myself as a big pop star and I thought to get anywhere I was going to have to be like that. But with the new bands coming up, there was a new standard to live up to and that’s what we were aiming for.
“Roger, Richard and Bob were all aware of these groups, so having them in the band was sort of an education for me. It was great because Richard Palmer was going about Traffic and The Band, getting into their lyrics and I had never thought about their lyrics before.”
Supertramp, signed to A&M and released their debut album in 1970. It was described in the liner notes of their second album as having a ‘meloncholy mood’. The album vaguely indicates ‘Tramps intentions, without really making them clear. Not a totally memorable debut album, just interesting.
Rick: ”We were very green then. There was this thing about not having a producer. Bands weren’t using producers then, and we decided ‘yeah we’re not going to have a producer’. Paul McCartney’s not using a producer, why should we use one? (breaks into hysterical laughter) it was that sort of greenness.” “It worked on the first one”, argued Roger, “it had its own kind of magic.”


RICK: “THAT first year, we must have played to an awful lot of people. We were doing Top Gear all the time, it was keeping us alive.”
Roger: “Our first album did sell ‘quite a lot.”
Rick: “Yeah it did. It almost took off in actual fact, because we did the Croydon Greyhound where we pulled in a lot of people just once, after that Bob left and then it just crashed.”
Roger: “In that first year we were put in a country house together, we didn’t mix socially and the vibes got really bad. We never made any friends because the vibes were so bad, people hated coming up to the house.”



RICK: “WE did that ourselves as well. The second album consisted of a different band. By that time Richard Palmer and Bob Millar had left. We got a guy called Dave Winthrop on saxophone. Kevin Currie on drums and Frank Farrel on bass.”
The second album titled ‘Indelibly Stamped’ (a cover sporting a nude female body festooned with tatoos) was a much more meatier effort than its predecessor, developing theme upon theme in musical layers, a sound not too dissimilar to Traffic. The same feel.
Live gigs? Well that was a different story …
Rick: “It was all rock and roll really. We used to get people up on the bloody stage and it was just chaos, bopping away doing about three encores, but there was meat and potatoes behind it. No more or less people would come to the next gig.”
Then came the next departure. Farrel left to pursue his own career, finally meeting up with Leo Sayer, while the very Scottish Dougie Thompson entered the scene. Like the rest of the band, Thompson is a quiet unassuming character. On stage you can see him bouncing around, pumping throbbing basslines that have become such an essential part of Supertramps’ sound.
“I joined the Mk II Supertramp about six months before it broke up,” he announced, “immediately before that I was playing in some weird West End strip clubs. I’d played a bit in Alan Bown’s band. That was at a weird period of that band’s existence, when they parted company with Alan and we tried to get something happening, but we didn’t really get anything sorted out at all.
“So I was just looking around for a job to get some money, and then I saw this ad for Supertramp. Sometime before my brother, who’s one of our roadies now, had been to London and brought one of their albums back. So I had been aware of them. I decided to go along and see what was happening. At this point they had been going through some incredible audition scenes. I remember going to the Pied Bull in Islington and there were some terrible scenes. Rick was there with his crash helmet and sleeping bag. Dave Winthrop had given up hope and had gone to play pinball. Roger and Kevin were there trying to get some kind of audition sorted out, So I went in, played my two minutes and left.”


“ROGER PHONED me up a couple of days later, asking me to come down to his house, and it just kind of evolved from there. It really was a strange period for the band, with Dave Winthrop. Sometimes he just wouldn’t come to gigs, and then he’d turn up a couple of gigs later almost as if nothing had happened … very strange.”
Rick: ‘”We did one gig in Swansea when the drummer didn’t turn up. So me and Rog split the drumming duties between us, because we needed the bread, otherwise we’d starve. It didn’t go down too badly.”
Doog: “Towards the tail end of the Mk II band we did some gigs with Frankie Miller,”
Which leads us very neatly to the entry of Bob C. Benberg, from Los Angeles, who at that time was drumming with those infamous pub rock dudes – Bees Make Honey. “That was at the time Frankie had recorded an album with the Brinsleys, in fact that introduced us to him,” explained Bob. “Frankie used to hang around the Tally Ho and sometimes he’d jump onstage and join us for a couple of numbers. When it was time for him to go out and work, he took us along to back him up and we did about three gigs supporting Supertramp. One of them was at Streatham where I didn’t meet the band at all, I just recognised Doog because I had seen him playing With the Alan Bown Set at the Greyhound about three months before, and the only thing I remembered about the band apart from the saxophone player with a black sax was the bass player who moved around a bit.
“Then I remembered walking in one day and seeing this guy playing drums and thinking ‘hey he sounds pretty good’ and then 15 minutes later the drummer walked in.” The guy Bob saw was Rick who began his musical life as a drummer. “A few weeks later we were at Barbarella’s, Birmingham, supporting Supertramp. We did our set, then everybody split, except the piano player and me, we stuck around and watched Supertramp, and they were pretty good. They were the first band that I had seen that I thought were nifty, and I thought I could get on playing with them. After that I was putting it around that they were pretty good. The way I put it was they were the closest thing to Traffic I’d seen, they were really punchy…
“At that time we were doing some of the second album and a lot of ‘Crime Of The Century’,” added Rick, “completely different versions.”
Bob: “The next time I saw them was when we were playing a gig in Barnet and I saw their drummer beaming in on me. About two weeks later Roger came up to me in The Kensington and said they were going to be doing a new album in September and the drummer was splitting and what did I think about doing sessions for them.”
This was a whole different thing to the Bees.
Bob: “In the Bees I never rehearsed for one day. We never rehearsed at all. With Supertramp it was different, the complete opposite. I remember the first time we got together was at the Furniture Cave in Kings Road.”
Rick: “I’d never heard such a loud drummer in my life. I couldn’t hear anything except cymbals.”
“Yeah but they were pretty neat huh?”
Pretty neat indeed. Bob’s punchy, clipped drumwork, along with Doog’s bass makes up an invaluable and distinguished part of Supertramp’s sound. In a way they kind of weld Davies and Hodgson together into one accessible format. Now that the rhythm section had been sorted out there was one more thing to do.


WHEN DAVE Winthrop finally stopped coming to gigs the band sat around and discussed their next move. Suddenly Doog remembered his old playing partner in the Alan Bown Set (the one Bob Benberg, referred to as the man with the black sax). John Helliwell, the band’s musician and comedian rolled into one. Doog immediately phoned John to find that his reed blowing friend was away in Germany, still a lucrative home for out of work musicians. In fact John was playing air bases with “a 20 stone multi instrumentalist.”
Doog: “So we bumbled around for a couple of weeks without a replacement and then John came back. So I phoned him up and asked him to come down for a blow. By this time we were working in Manfred Mann’s old studios in the Old Kent Road. So John came down.”
Rick: “He had a blow, then he sat down and there was silence for about 20 seconds, and then he did his joke about the Irish man who got a pair of water skis for Christmas and spent the rest of the year looking for a lake with a slope. And everybody sat and I thought `who is this?’.”
John Helliwell is one of those natural comedians who has a static, relaxed, lunatic atmosphere that surrounds him both off and onstage. He’s also a bloody amazing musician. As Doog once described him: “The man who’ll play anything he can get his hands on.”
Helliwell can tackle almost any musical task and look completely relaxed. Supertramp’s music has a certain sense of dramatics about it. Helliwell conteracts it, stopping it from becoming anywhere near pretentious and his decorative illuminations bring it closer to becoming brilliant. He’s also an ace guy.
Take it away John: “I went home after playing with them (Supertramp) and the wife asked me what it was like, and I said `yeah pretty good but I think I’ll go back tomorrow’. Then I went the next day and came home and she said `well how do you feel about it now?’ I said ‘It’s alright but I’ll have to go again’ and it kept on going like that.
“At the same time I had to do a job during the day. So I enlisted with Manpower and the first job I got was as a petrol pump attendant. Then I got a job screwing nuts and bolts together at a factory in Maidenhead.” In fact most of the band had to get jobs to keep surviving.

Bob: “John recommended me to a friend of his who was playing in a band at The Park Towers Hotel in Knightsbridge and I played with them. I had loads of solo spots y’know we’d play about five sets a night, and I had about three solo spots in each set. If that wasn’t bad enough one night when we were playing our second set, d’y’know who rolled in? Carl Radle and Jim Gordon! They sat right in front of me! I was trying to play as good as I can …
I just shit myself.”
On asking Mr Helliwell for a brief resume of his musical career, his immediate reply was “have you got three more tapes on you?” Indicating that he’s a lad with a bit of experience behind him. I then asked for the shortened version of the John Helliwell story.
“I was with Alan Bown for about six years through all the ups and downs, and then after that when it split up I went and worked for a few strip clubs. No hang on! The first job I got before that was working in a dry cleaning factory during the day and the Celebrity club at night. Then when I sorted out my tax problem, I left the dry cleaning job and the Celebrity Club and went on to play the Twilight Rooms where Doog was working, and then I got my big break… I joined Jimmy Johnson and the Bandwagon! Then I joined up with Arthur Conley and later on with Jimmy Ruffin. Each one was a step up. Then I went to Germany and I came back in August to join this lot. They said they were making the album in September.”
Bob: “That’s what they told me.”
John: “Yeah that’s what they conned me into.”
Bob: “We still haven’t been paid for those sessions”
Doog: “None of us were ever asked to join the group, we came along, stayed and nobody told us to leave.”


SOMETIME DURING this period (late ’73) the band severed their ties with Sam, taking them from the lap of luxury and putting them straight into the cold, hard facts of rock and roll. Especially Rick, who before had limitless time to sort himself out, although he points out: “There was almost too much wasted time, you get to rely on that big money man, there’s no urgency, your life doesn’t depend on it. By the time we left him I thought `wow we could sink like a stone’!”


JOHN: “AFTER the rehearsal studios in the Old Kent Road, we used to rehearse under Kew Bridge. Then we got together with A&M Records who hired a cottage for us in Somerset, we managed to wangle a stay there. So we all went there with girlfriends, wives, kids and cats. We were there for about three months trying to get a producer together.”
One of the choices was Ian MacDonald: “He was just the wrong person, it was as simple as that,” was the conclusion the band came to after MacDonald visited them. Then came Ken Scott, already renowned for his works with Bowie and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, to name a few. “We got him to re-mix our single which was called ‘Land Ho!’ and we dug what he was doing. So eventually we signed a contract for recording in february ’74. The birth of Supertramp Mk III!


RICK: THAT was really bizarre when we had that house; the big house in Holland Villas. This big house, Joe Cocker was in there and there was only supposed to be four people to pay the rent, which was astronomical, so there was 12 of us in the end. There were people in the roof all over the place. I was living in the shower.
Rick: “You should have seen the scene when the landlady came round to collect the rent. I’ve never seen anything like it. She came round about 10 in the morning, and it was like panicsville. The alarm went off, I got up, walked straight out of the door with me pullover on, it was pouring with rain and I just walked round Shepherds Bush. I didn’t have money for breakfast or anything. I ended up bumming a quid off that guy at the Cabin. I expected everyone to be out in the street when I got back. I was surprised, everyone was still there. It was like a farce. People stark naked rushing from room to room as they were showing the landlady around, there were people hiding in the cupboards. They were going to check in the attic and of course there were tents in there!”
The setting for the rehearsal of `Crime’ was a much more peaceful cottage in the country.
Doog: “We had a room in the back with the gear in it and the mixer was set up in the kitchen.”
The band spent three months of solid rehearsals, and then laid down some backing tracks for Jerry Moss (the ‘M’ of A&M) to hear. “Fortunately he liked them,” quipped John, “he must have gone back to America and said let them get on with it.”
I asked John if ‘Crime’ was an expensive album to produce.
“Well with A&M helping us out because we couldn’t work, it worked out that we’d have to sell three quarters of a million copies to break even, so we’ll be getting there soon enough.”
Rick: “It’s nearly there already.”
John: “‘Crisis’ was cheaper, not that much.”


THE FIRST time Supertramp played together in their current format was a gig in Jersey for a Lord’s party. A friend of a friend, of a friend, of a friend job. “I got so drunk I couldn’t play”, revealed Bob Benberg, “so I spent the whole of the break sobering up and by that time the rest of the band got so drunk they couldn’t play!”
The first time the band played `Crime Of The Century’ was at an A&M gathering in the Kings Road Theatre. “There were so many things happening backstage you just wouldn’t have believed it,” said John. Rick “We never worked with a full lighting crew so when they went out we couldn’t see a thing. And I remembered on one particular number I had to open a number in complete darkness, I couldn’t see anything so I couldn’t play, which meant the lights wouldn’t go on. We really bluffed through it and hoped for the best.”
Since those first gigs the band have toured Britain, Europe and the USA. It’s only been two years and two months but no one can accuse them of slacking, and they still enjoy playing ‘Crime Of The Century’.
Roger: “I’m enjoying it more this time than I did last time.”
Rick: “I think it’s taken almost this long to get completely on top of it without worrying about little knobs and switches, so in a way you can go out there and relax. There’s only a couple of numbers that worry me technically.
“Once you start getting on top of it, that’s when you have to be careful that you’re not going to become complacent. When you stop thinking ‘is it going to be alright?’ and start thinking ‘this is going to be a piece of piss’ — it’s only on the last gigs that I’ve thought this is nothing, I can do this easy, but you soon get brought down to earth about it all.”

I asked Rick how he felt about the press reaction, second time around.
“I expected a slightly harder time with the album,” he said referring to ‘Crisis?’, “opposite to what I initially thought, I expected it to be good for ‘Crime’ and not for this one. But the press are funny, there’s only a few people that you’ve got confidence in as far as what they think and sooner or later they blow it for you by saying something completely silly”.
`Crisis?’ features a lot of old material (never recorded before), indicating that the band have slowed down writing wise, which is hardly surprising when you consider how hard they’ve been working.
“There hasn’t been a great spate of writing,” agreed Rick, “certainly not from me, I think Rog has done a bit more.”
Doog: “It seems easier for Rog as he only needs a guitar, while Rick needs to be locked away somewhere with a piano.”
Rick:” “We need a break, where we can get fresh ideas.”
Doog: “We never stopped, and it will have been two years solid work by the time we do stop. The important thing is that the music stays good. If it needs stop- and thinking about then that’s what’s going to happen!”
Supertramp are here to stay.

Lyrics taken from ‘If Everyone Was Listening’ on ‘Crime Of The Century’ published by Delicate / Rondor Music.


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ARTICLE ABOUT Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple) FROM Sounds, November 8, 1975

A short interview meant for you musicians out there, but also a great read for those of you who just like to listen to music, and especially Deep Purple?


Purple Hughes: the 24-hour musician

By Tony Mitchell

THE FACT that Deep Purple’s two newest members — Glenn Hughes and Tommy Bolin — are both in their early twenties must be some encouragement to the many young musicians who feel that they play well but have not paid their dues in terms of sheer years of experience. With a view to finding out what it takes to be young and successful, SOUNDS collared Glenn for half an hour at a recent preview session for the band’s new album.
He talked about the approach to music which sold him to the other members of Deep Purple and added a new soulful dimension to their sound.
Purple asked Glenn to join them in 1973 after seeing him play at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go and the Marquee. They went backstage and told him they thought his playing was nice, but he didn’t suss that they were interested in him until they actually offered him the job. At this time he was into a black trip as far as vocals and bass were concerned, having gone from Trapeze, which he formed in 1970, to hanging around the Stax scene in the States and playing the clubs there.
He only joined Purple on condition that he could carry on playing the way he felt, with a definite accent on feeling, and, in his own words “it worked out”. But what led him in this particular direction?
“I started playing guitar when I was 14,” he says, “and I did this for four years until someone asked me to play bass on a gig. From then on I got more and more into bass-playing, although I kept up the guitar — and still play it with Purple.”
He didn’t approach learning the instrument in any formal way. “I just learnt by getting into it, and listening to Stax people like Booker T and Marvin Gaye. I used to listen to Hendrix and Clapton as well but I was always more influenced by soul,” he says.
“In Trapeze we were playing rock ‘n’ soul, and I’m now starting on a solo soul album which is being produced by David Bowie and features people like Herbie Hancock, Dennis Davis, Tommy Bolin, Dave Sanborn and Ava Cherry and her singers.


The album contains all self-penned material, and will feature Glenn’s favourite instrument — a `brilliant’ Fender Jazz Bass. He used to use a Precision which he favoured for its twangy sound, but he really digs his 58 Jazz Bass because, he says, you can bend the strings anywhere, which adds considerably to the instrument’s versatility. The strings he uses for bass, incidentally, are always Rotosound wirewound.
For amplification he likes two 200 watt Hi-Watt tops driving eight Martin bins fitted with either Gauss 5840 or 5841 speakers. He generally has one of the tops set very bright to give him his characteristic sound, and he uses a Compact phaser unit which apparently has a studio-quality shift range. This small clockwork unit, made in Germany and not yet commercially available, is a real phaser — not a simulator – and has been used on a lot of Purple’s album work.
Glenn plays using a combination of pick and fingers, and maintains that feeling is far more important than technique. “Feeling is the first thing you need when you’re learning,” he says. “And even if you’ve got feeling, you also need the will to do it,” he adds.
“When I left school I just knew I was going to be a pro musician — a 24-hour musician, which is what I am now. Mind you, I never wanted to be a star particularly, and I still keep well clear of the business side of things. That can be a bit of a problem — last year I got ripped off by someone to the tune of 100,000 dollars. It’s not a bad idea to have some feeling for business as well as music, for this reason.”

Having mastered guitar and bass guitar, Glenn turned to piano, which he finds is an `unbelievable’ medium for composition, although he does write songs around all three instruments.
“As well as singing, I’m playing guitar and bass on stage, and guitar, bass and piano in the studio. I like to think of myself as a ‘musician’ rather than a ‘bass player’. I enjoy all three so much, and I now think I’ve got a feeling on all three. Bass playing in particular is a feeling.”
Does he think it necessary to invest in expensive equipment in order to find out if you have got the kind of feel he’s talking about?
“Well it’s always a good idea to buy the best you can afford, although I wouldn’t advise spending too much. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that good instruments are expensive these days.”
Glenn is in America with Purple,at the moment, and the band starts a tour of the Far East later this month. Then in the Spring there is talk of a big tour in the UK, but before this his own single — ‘Smile’ will be released. So look out for three minutes or so of real feel in the near future!


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ARTICLE ABOUT Steve Howe FROM Sounds, November 8, 1975

Just a so-so review for Mr. Howe. Still, the album reached No. 22 on the UK Albums Chart and No. 63 on the US Billboard 200. So he couldn`t be too disappointed.


Howe`s about that then

Record review by Phil Sutcliffe

Steve Howe: ‘Beginnings’ (Atlantic K50151) 38 Mins ***

THE FIRST of the queue of Yes solo albums — at the end of which I suppose the question will have to be ‘was it worth it or should they have combined the best of each into one group creation as before?’ No verdicts yet of course but ‘Beginnings’ is the sort of devotedly-made yet patchy effort you expect from privateering band members.
I would say four of the tracks are thoroughly pleasing to listen to and three of those are the instrumentals, all of them couched in fairly easily-listenable terms rather than bearing forward the Yes banner of experimentation.
As a whole, both verbally and vocally, it’s not too strong. There’s too much philosophising (the first word of the album is `Life’ with a captial L — a bad omen).
Alone, Steve’s voice is high and thin. Singing the opening line of ‘Will 0′ The Wisp’ its plaintiveness is right (Break the chains is that keep us here’). Otherwise it wavers once or twice but he generally has the good judgement to build up the harmonic layers into a richer texture – particularly enhancing ‘Pleasure Stole The Night’ which otherwise tends towards a dreary hymnal quality.
The first side is much the weaker, only redeemed by the instrumental `The Nature Of The Sea’ where the delicacy of so much of Yes’s work gets a look in – a calm-ripping mandolin, a guitar leaping around it like the sun sparkling on a flying fish. Perhaps for a moment I sensed inspiration rather than work.
`Doors Of Sleep’ is overproduced round a not too distinctive melody, while the other two tracks on the side fall away after promising acoustic openings. In fact ‘Lost Symphony’ features the unlikeliest sound on the album — rugged brass riffs which don’t seem suited.
However, turn it over and you are greeted by seven and a half minutes of pleasure: the title track. Chamber music I guess, nothing to do with rock but I trust we are long past arguments against that. It’s sweet sound. Melancholy strings, flute just beautiful, oboe and bassoon officious and jaunty in the faster movements, while Howe weaves amongst them picking some lovely acoustic. Patrick Moraz orchestrated it to flow and charm and delight and it does.
`Ram’ is ‘The Clap’ revisited and again it’s nice to hear a well-played acoustic ragging around. But you have to wait till the last track before you can grab some really successful rock. One of the reasons is Bill Bruford who I reckon the most pungent drummer to emerge from the Progressive era. He doesn’t follow the guitar hero, he whips him along. The result is Howe in a lather tearing an enflamed solo across the crackling skintight beat and for a few minutes sounding as hot as he is live.


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ARTICLE ABOUT Elton John FROM Sounds, November 8, 1975

This article really shows you how incredibly BIG a star Elton John was in the middle of the 70s. His fame have remained almost constant since then and he certainly still is one of the most well-known people on this planet today. Well done, Elton!


The Artful Dodger

Nobody has played Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles since the Beatles in 1966. Elton John changed all that last week. To celebrate the occasion he chartered a jet and flew 120 people over there. Among those on board was Elton`s mum – and Mick Brown.

I FIND out this is Elton John Week in Los Angeles on the 10 o’clock sleazo-input news. Wedged between an item linking bacon with cancer and a story about a 13-year-old girl being shot in all-girl gang war, there is film of Elton in a chartreuse suit and sequined bowler hat inaugurating his star on the pavement of Hollywood Boulevard. The stars on the pavement of Hollywood Boulevard extend for some three miles, both sides of the street. They were planted in the Thirties, a monument to Hollywood’s infatuation with itself and the Dream. It is probably the only shred of tradition you will find in this town.
Everybody who was ever anybody in Hollywood has a star — Myrna Loy, Bob Hope, Clarke Gable, Doris Day, even Lassie. But Elton’s is the first rock star. He looks pleased: makes a speech. England’s in a bit of a bad way at the moment, he says, so it’s a bit of a boost in the old arm for this to be made Elton John Week. He jumps around and makes jokes and laughs a lot and waves to the crowd. Then back into his limousine and up to his house in Beverley Hills.


Elton lives up in Beverley Hills in a house he bought from the head of Warner Bros pictures. On a clear day those hills are like paradise. with the city spread out below, as far as the eye can see. Other days the smog hangs in a thick grey/yellow blanket and the view over Babylon is obscured. This is Elton John’s town, and for him the Dream is made real. What Elton wants, Elton has.
Occasionally he may descend from his chateau to distribute the largesse of his presence like bread on the waters of this unholy town. Into Tower Records on the Strip, the largest record-store in the world, to spend — what 500, 1,000 dollars? on albums. Elton is a fan, and isn’t that every fan’s dream? Or to phone up a local radio station and become a dee-jay for the day? He does that too…
Sometimes a 60 ft facsimile of Elton peers down on Sunset Strip where all the world — or all those who matter — pass in their Coup de Villes and English Bentleys. But this is Elton John’s town, and Elton John Week and on Saturday and Sunday he plays the 60,000 seater Dodger stadium and all the tickets were sold out in an hour and a half, so who needs his facsimile on Sunset Strip? Right now it’s Bruce Springsteen — rock ‘n’ roll’s future the billboard says.


Nonetheless, it is impossible to escape the sense of Elton’s presence. You can’t go more than 15 minutes without hearing one of his songs on the radio; every record shop has an Elton John display in its window or his record catalogue on special offer, and the street and the business grapevines are crawling with rumour, gossip and high anticipation. This is, after all, the biggest — the very biggest — thing to hit LA in ages.
Southern California is Elton John territory. It was his appearance at the Los Angeles Troubadour five years ago which catalysed the metamorphosis of Reg Dwight, journeyman musician into Elton John superstar, and neither Elton nor Southern California are about to forget it. He has performed in California each year for the past five years now. Last year he played five consecutive nights at the Angeles forum, packing 18,000 paying customers a night. In a special commemorative six-show charity engagement at the Troubador earlier this year, Elton raised 150,000 dollars (£75,000) for the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute. High-rollers like Cher, Ringo and Mae West paid 250 dollars a ticket for the show, and there were 100,000 postcard applications for 25 dollar (£12.50) tickets.
And now, just two mont later, two shows at the Dodger Stadium. Dodger Stadium! Nobody has played Dodger since the Beatles in 1966, a fact which is inevitably inviting comparison between the two acts, dividing loyalties between the old and the new music.
But they are unnecessary. Suffice it to say Elton is un questionably the biggest-selling, biggest drawing and biggest money-making performer in America at present. He has earned seven gold singles, nine gold albums and nine platinum albums. His last album ‘Captain Fantastic’ set a precedent by entering the US albums charts at No 1 in its first week of release.
The sceptical look for a chink in the armour, a sign — no matter how slight — that his star is on the wane. October 12, one notes, marked the first week Elton didn’t have a single in the American Hot 100 for two years. A disappointment, apparently, as he was hoping to break Pat Boone’s record of four unbroken years in the singles charts. One remembers that the last time one saw Pat Boone he was taking time off from Jesus to do commercials for underwear on the sleazo-input. But then just this week Elton’s new album ‘Rock Of The Westies’ has emulated the record of ‘Captain Fantastic’ by entering the charts at No 1. May the circle be unbroken …

THIS is Elton John Week, and the biggest Superstar in the business is playing Dodger Stadium. To celebrate the occasion he has chartered a jet at a cost of £50,000 and flown in a party of 120 people from England. There is Elton’s mum, and the lady who used to live next door in Pinner, aunts, uncles (one cynic suggests you can tell Elton’s relatives by the Cartier jewellery), friends, staff of Elton’s record company, Rocket (the one he owns, but not yet records for), accountants, lawyers, business associates and a handful of journalists. Russell Harty has come along with a film crew to make a documentary for `Aquarius’; Rodney Marsh has come along too, for the ride.
The party are doing LA, Disneyland and Universal Studios, and the swish boutiques of Beverley Hills or the Roxy Theatre and the Rainbow Bar; a hang – out – cum – meat market where piranha groupies cruise, eyes like grappling hooks, their 16-year-old brains charred by coke; where one sees Robert Plant and Mick Ralphs and half of Three Dog Night and the waitress says in this place if you’ve got a name you can get anything you want, but personally if she were a guy she wouldn`t lay 99 per cent of the girls here, not knowing what you`d catch into the bargain and as far as she`s concerned they can stick their 200 bucks a week with tips because she`s had enough of all this ego-bullshit.
And outside in the parking-lot, where the hipsters pose beside their Mercedes or Ferraris and bodies are bought like so much super-market merchandise, one notices two girls, their heads shaved, wrapped in dung-grey blankets, sullen and vacant-eyed. One carries a small kitten; and somebody says they are followers of Charles Manson. But that`s Hollywood…
Everybody is trying to get to Elton John, but the shutters are up. Rolling Stone want to do a story, but Elton’s office aren’t co-operating. But then Stone did do a story last year that was — a little too close to the knuckle for Elton’s liking …
Requests for interviews from the English contingent are similarly deflected. Elton is rehearsing; a bit tied-up right now; he did interviews for the English weeklies before the Wembley Show earlier this year and has nothing to add to what he said; perhaps at some unspecified time … Even the taxi driver finds it strange: Elton always seems so amenable to publicity when he’s in town, he says; you’re always reading interviews in the newspapers; or likely to hear him doing live broadcasts with even the smallest radio stations. Perhaps he’s afraid of over-exposure? Perhaps …

Cheap rooms

One has come to respect the taxi-drivers here. Lawrence Ecrlinghetti, the beat poet, was in town last week, saying he came to visit a city and found one big freeway instead. He’s right. Los Angeles is a city of roads and cars — not of people. Nobody walks and there are few buses. If you don’t have a car you take a cab. Driving around all day, radio cranked up, one ear on the conversation going on in the seat behind them, cab drivers have their finger on the pulse of the city and the pick of the grapevine. They are oracles, prophets, informers.
This cabby had picked up Elton five years ago, immediately before the Troubador breakthrough, when Elton was still making do with cheap hotel rooms. Funny that, because he’d never have thought Elton would make it, not as big as he has anyway. He’d found him kind of uninteresting as a person, not much conversation. But, hell, he writes good songs and look at his following. There’s no knocking the guy: no knocking him at all …
Elton is unavailable (or unwilling) to do interviews, but a meeting with John Reid, his manager, is arranged. Reid has managed Elton since 1970. A former label-manager for Tamla Motown in England, he was in America for a sales convention at the same time as Elton’s Troubador breakthrough, and became his manager three months later. Reid is quiet and polite, friendliness tempered with the sort of defensive wariness that manager sometimes have around journalists. One senses that he doesn’t trust too many people, which in his line of business is probably just as well.



His Beverley Hills office is functional rather than luxurious; on the wall there are colour blow-ups of Elton, fine-art originals and a large map of North America with flag-pins indicating the venues for the present tour. There are 13 pins — all west of the Rockies, 16 shows, with an average attendance of 19,000 for each gig.
Reid declines to estimate how much Elton eventually will earn from the tour — he hasn’t been paid for any live performances in America since 1973 when the US Internal Revenue Service froze payments pending the settlement of a double-taxation agreement between America and Britain.
1975 has been an important year for Elton. says Reid, with unprecedented sales and live performance successes. On a more practical level, he is now free to record for his own label, Rocket. ‘Rock Of The Westies’ is his last new album for DJM (a compilation album will fulfill his contractual obligations to that company). Furthermore, his American contract with MCA originally reported to be worth some eight million dollars to Elton  -(less than the actual figure, says Reid) has been extended, and the distribution deal for other acts on Rocket with MCA is also about to be extended. His new contract will stipulate only one album per year, as opposed to two at present.
Although Reid describes Elton as being “very productive naturally” he feels the two-album-a-year contract was too tight. “There is danger of the music being prejudiced by an artist having to produce two albums. I don`t think to date it has been damaged by that. There is a lot of prejudice in the eyes of the press though, some reviews suggested he’d made ‘Rock Of The Westies’ simply to complete a contract commitment, which is absolutely not true. It upsets him for people to write things like that without checking their facts.
“The fact is that ‘Captain Fantastic’ was actually recorded in August 1974 and released nine or 10 months later, and by the time it was released he just wanted to get back into the studio and make a new album.”
Elton himself subsequently introduced the new album to the 60,000 audience at Dodger with a peculiarly defensive preamble in which he explained that he had been criticised for releasing `Westies’ so soon after ‘Captain Fantastic’, but when a musician gets a new band together the first thing he wants to do is make music with them, right? Right.
“With the new contract”, Reid continues, “we have a more flexible situation where he can work at his own pace. If he wants to make two albums a year he can do it, but then he doesn’t have to make another one for a year after that if he doesn’t want to.”

With less pressure from recording commitments Elton will be able to spend more time touring, and also devote more energy to his activities within Rocket. There are plans to tour Europe and the Far East next year, and promoter Mel Bush is putting together an itinerary for a comprehensive tour of Britain. Reid describes Elton`s last English appearance, at Wembley, as “3-2 to the Beach Boys – a mistake, but not a disaster…”
For Rocket, Elton has already produced one Kiki Dee album and was responsible for signing Neil Sedaka to the label. And there are plans to increase the label roster further. Rocket were, in fact, offered the contract of an ex Beatle – “he didn’t play guitar or write many songs,” says Reid – but passed on the ‘financial aspects’ of the deal. Reid thinks the offer was made “more out of courtesy than anything else.”
Reid baulks at evaluating his personal contribution to Elton’s success. “I don’t know how responsible I am. He’s responsible obviously, but the team-work that goes on around him is the important thing. People like Gus Dudgeon and myself just give him the machinery to carry out what he does. I can persuade him from making silly decisions. He’s terrible at choosing album titles and picking singles, for example. `Island Girl’ was originally scheduled as a single; then it was pulled back and ‘Dan Dare’ scheduled in its place; then that was pulled back and ‘Island Girl’ released. That’s one occasion where we came to loggerheads.


“He wanted to call ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road` `Vodka And Tonic’ and ‘Rock Of The Westies` `Bottled And Brained`. He’s not irresponsible; he just doesn’t know where to draw the line…”
Why, one wonders, does Elton sell more records than anybody else in the world? “Because he works harder. He tours a lot, makes frequent public appearance, and, of course, his music is good.” That good? “People can identify with him too, which is important. I think they sees him as an amiable, very talented eccentric — which is what he is.”
One remarks that there is something unnaturally wholesome and untainted about Elton`s image. He appears too pure — almost pristine — to be true, curiously lacking either the raunchiness, sexuality or innate agression — that renegade impulse – which fires most rock stars. “Harmless faggotry”, one Hollywood rock manager called it. “He doesn’t threaten like Bowie or promise like Jagger.” In fact, it is more of an asexuality, not in the sense of having transcended sexuality, but of never really having awoken to it at all. “He sometimes calls himself the Cliff Richard of rock and roll”, says Reid. “I don’t think it’s pristine really. He has a very ‘fun’ image. But the days are gone where you can build an image like that for someone. It just happens to be what he is.”

THE stadium nestles in the hills above downtown Los Angeles, a sweep of three tier stands around the baseball triangle. Fans have been camping out overnight to get stage-side seats and by mid-day the stadium is almost full. The audience is predominantly young but very mellow — archetypal sun-kissed California teenagers. There is little evidence of dope or even drink and none of the underlying tension, ugliness or discomfort which often characterises stadia gigs. Obviously this audience is here to have a good time.
Emmylou Harris opens the afternoon with a selection of songs from her last and her forthcoming albums. Emmylou has a sweet, high voice and a fine country band behind her, but the sound is too light — great for clubs, but not for religious festivals, which is what one senses today will turn into …
Joe Walsh is next on, standing amongst some tacky plastic palms and cacti, two drummers and a bass-player (Joe Vitale, Andy Newmark and Willie Weeks), behind him; keyboards to the left; guitarist and the Clydie King trio to his right. From the outset something is obviously wrong. The sound-balance is terrible; as if everything on stage is being miked through the bass and snare drums; the singers are mixed too high, and Walsh too low, effectively muting his lead-guitar lines. The sound perks up as the set progresses, but Walsh and band never really get on top.
Walsh is obviously a good guitarist and an occasionally accomplished song-writer, but he really needs to start composing or at least performing more varied material if he is ever to build on his reputation; while his songs may work in the studio, on stage they sound forced and over-stylised. Only on ‘Welcome To The Club’ and ‘Rocky Mountain Way’, both aggressive enough to steam-roller aside any reservations, do Walsh and the band really start to cook and by then their set is over.

It is 2 pm now, Elton is not scheduled to appear for another hour. The crowd amuse themselves building pyramids, pitching frisbees, hustling for souvenirs. The smog has risen from the city below the stadium now, and the hills behind the stage are softened by a yellow haze. The stadium itself is packed, and you can almost reach out and touch the excitement in the air.
At 2.45 the first bars of ‘Your Song’ can be heard from a piano. The curtain across the front of the stage parts to reveal Elton and the piano on a platform, gliding forward on rollers. Dodger Stadium erupts in a vast, breathtaking surge as everybody rises, jerked upright by sheer release of nervous excitement as Elton is at last visable.
The platform halts; Elton continues the song: the crowd quieten slightly, contenting themselves with a deafening round of applause after each verse, and a tumultuous barrage of appreciation at the end of the song.
“Don’t worry’. says Elton. “We’ll play as long as you want to … ” More applause. ‘I Need You To Turn To’, from the ‘Elton John Album’ follows, with Elton again accompanying himself on piano, before introducing the rest of the band and three back-up singers. ‘Take Me To The Pilot’ follows, with Elton’s piano, James Newton-Howard’s iconoclastic synthesiser squirls and some blisteringly assertive guitar-work from Davey Johnstone all combining with obvious relish to give the song height and weight.
This is one hell of a band to have here; Roger Pope and Kenny Passerelli have the rhythm section tightly buttoned down; the addition of Caleb Quaye on guitar gives Johnstone the freedom to fire-off some freewheeling leads, against Elton’s piano runs; while Ray Cooper bobs from one piece of percussion to another, hitting bells, blocks, and chimes with artful abandon.
The beat goes on. ‘Country Comfort’, `Levon’, ‘Rocket Man’. During ‘Dan Dare’ Elton throws his white sequined bowler-hat into the audience; there is a mad scrummage, a sea of flailing hands before the hat is sucked under and the crowd readjust themselves. There is a curious discipline about this audience: sitting down as the songs begin, rising in unison as they build, to sing and dance along with the choruses, and sit down again at their conclusion.

Up, down, up, down in perfect harmony; it is controlled abandon; a mellow, happy, almost loving, collective loosening-up. People hug each other in excitement as favourite tunes begin, arms sway in time, the atmosphere is extraordinarily good. Elton finishes the first set with `Hercules’ and ‘Empty Skies’. He has played for just over an hour. “We`ll be back with the rock`n`roll set…”, he promises.
He reappears after 20 minutes, in a sequined baseball outfit in local team colours. Such taste! Such respect! The crowd bay delightedly. He plays ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and ‘Bennie And The Jets’, ‘Gotta Get A Meal Ticket’, and ‘The Bitch Is Back’, for which Billie Jean King joins in the chorus while Elton leaves the piano to strut and mince around stage, beside himself with the thrill of it, and fall to his knees to play Davey Johnstone’s guitar with his teeth and hurl his piano-stool to the back of the stage, with childlike abandon rather than adolescent petulance.
Behind me on the field, two Blacks, one with the legend ‘YOU’RE BETTER OFF DEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T HEARD ELTON’ printed on his shirt, attack imaginary pianos, mouth every word of every song and fall to their knees in supplication at the end of each number. When the first strains of ‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’ strike up both will burst into uncontrollable tears …
For ‘Lucy In The Sky With Dimonds’ Elton reminds his audience not to forget the Beatles (how many other artists could get away with doing that?) and pays further tribute with `I Saw Her Standing There’, complete with the guitar-riff from ‘Day Tripper’. Ringo is apparently backstage, but he does not appear.


‘Philadelphia Freedom’ follows and then ‘We All Fall In Love Sometimes, with another curtain parting behind the band to reveal the James Cleveland Choir, like a band of black angels in white satin splendour. “Elton saves …” scream the black guys as they break into sobs. Then it’s ‘Saturday Night’ and the entire stadium is on its feet, boogieing, clapping, singing along, the tiers literally trembling under the strain. The energy is incredible, unbelievable: there are 60,000 people here and every one of them must be singing.
Elton has left the lead vocal to the Holy Choir and is now up on the piano brandishing a baseball bat at the audience, taking hapless swings at tennis-balls being thrown on from the wings. This goes on for five, perhaps 10 minutes — this mass song, hysterical mantra — `Saturday, Saturday, Saturday night’s all right’ before collapsing into wild applause and an equally frenzied and extended version of ‘Pinball Wizard’.
Then finally it is over. It is 6.25. Elton has played some three dozen songs for almost 3 1/2 hours. The audience don’t ever bother to call for more. To deliver it would be impossible.
“Elton Saves, Elton Saves”. As the crowds drift slowly out of the stadium the two black guys remain on their knees, chanting, crying, mind-confused by the sheer magical overwhelming power of it all. “Elton Saves.” One can almost believe it.
I take a cab to Hollywood Boulevard to look at Elton’s star, maybe take a photograph for posterity. The taxi driver lights himself a joint (only in LA …), takes a couple of deep hits. It’s a funny thing, he says, about music … you got heavy metal freaks and country freaks and acid rock freaks and whatever the hell else kind of freaks. But everybody likes Elton John. Isn’t that right? We stop to look at the star. It’s nothing special; just a star in a slab of concrete; tourists snapping off pictures. Y’see, says the taxi-driver, even intelligent people like Elton John. That’s what makes him different.
The next day feminists in Los Angeles call a one-day strike on womanly duties to celebrate ‘Alice Doesn’t’ Day. Elton John leaves for Paris, and a four-month holiday. The Hollywood idyll is over for now, but the Dream, one thinks, has begun.


The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!
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ARTICLE ABOUT The Who FROM Sounds, November 8, 1975

A good, honest interview the way I like it. This one should be great for anyone interested in this band.
Read on.


The magic had begun to dwindle… but now we`re shit-hot. We`re back to the stage where we can go anywhere and do a good show.

The Who`s verdict on The Tour and The Album. By Barbara Charone

PETE TOWNSHEND has a point. A very good point. `Where do you fit in magazines where the past is the hero and the present a queen’, he wrote for Roger Daltrey to sing on ‘They Are All In Love’ from the `Who By Numbers’ album. And it’s quite a valid question.
Where do the Who fit? So The Sunday Times safely locks them away in the sixties time capsule, remnants of something that was. In one neatly constructed paragraph they dismiss Pete Townshend as a writer who exhausted his topic after three songs. Jaded disbelievers file the Who under nostalgia, bringing them out of the closet with caution, fondly thinking of them much like you’d look at an ancient family scrapbook. But why concentrate exclusively on the past when the present is just as good and the future could possibly be even better?
Some 70,000 paying customers caught the Who on their recent romp round Britain. Not one of them was an aging geriatric patient bent on reliving youthful memories.
Maybe the kid standing precariously high atop a steel beam at Wembley likes Queen. Maybe he goes to see Status Quo when they’re in town. But right now this kid is imitating every Townshend gesture down to the last guitar swoop and leap across the stage. This kid never saw them at the Marquee or the Scene Club. This kid doesn’t even own a copy of ‘My Generation’ let alone ‘Who’s Next’. But this kid almost falls off his steel beam during the ‘Tommy’ finale. That’s today. Y’see the kids are all right.
With the Who inspiration isn’t rehearsed. Neither are the mistakes. Pete Townshend’s guitar strap falls down during the `Won’t Get Fooled Again’ finale. Roger Daltrey forgets the first verse to ‘Summertime Blues’ leaving John Entwistle a vocal solo. Playing with headphones to hear the ‘Baba O’Reilly’ backing tapes, Keith Moon gives one final percussive assault just after the rest of the band have finished the song. Townshend falls over during some visual acrobatics and Daltrey laughs.

But that’s exactly what makes the Who great. There’s an ominous sense of danger that permeates every concert, that very real knowledge that chaos could break out momentarily. Equipment fails, guitars feed back, tempers flair, the band threaten to break up in the dressing room after a show, disaster lurks overhead. Take the first night of their British tour.
Six thousand pounds had been spent on risers for the equipment and the drums to give the band more room on stage, to heighten the visuals. So there’s Keith Moon playing only to himself because the rest of the band can’t hear. Six thousand pounds and they threw it all away after the show.
“I think the first gig could have blown the whole thing,” John Entwistle admits. “There was absolutely no communication. We were just playing stuff we’d memorised and hoped it fit. The risers cut the band off from each other. It’s always like that. When we haven’t been working for a long time we try to do something new. And every time we do something the whole sound just goes. The times we’ve stuck Keith on rostrums and pulled him off the next night,” John sighs.


“The Who is a band that’s got to hear each other. If we don’t the whole thing falls to pieces. We’ve got to be on the floor with the amps close so we can hear what we’re doing. We’re more confident now because we can actually hear each other!”
Just a few years ago the first night in Stafford could have been the beginning and the end of the tour. Then the Who could have easily locked themselves in their dressing room and battled out the problem. Now they’ve matured because they`re determined to survive.
“We’re a lot more tolerant towards each other now. There’s still flare-ups, arguments, and screaming matches. But at least now we know what makes us tick,” Entwistle slyly beamed. “Now we know we can do a good show. That second night in Stafford cured us all. We just hadn’t done a show like that for ages.”
Prior to this recent period of productivity, the Who had grown collectively disillusioned and depressed over live performances. They had lost the enthusiasm and inspiration integral to elevating a show from the routine to the sublime. Playing five concerts in June of 1974, four at New York’s Madison Square Garden and one at London’s Charlton Athletic ground, the Who despised themselves for mechanically going through onstage motions.
“I nearly walked out of the band after the Charlton show,” Entwistle recalls. “I just couldn’t take it anymore, couldn’t take the lack of enthusiasm onstage. Since `Quadrophenia’ it’s been very difficult. Pete hasn’t wanted to particularly work onstage. He felt he wasn’t giving anything. Now he feels better than he has the last five years.
“Before we all wanted to keep the band together, but now we all want to work. Concerts had become straight Who gigs. We’d come offstage and say ‘Well that’s another one gone’. We`d never say ‘that was an amazing thing you played’. There was absolutely nothing there. The magic had begun to dwindle.”
“It got to the point where it just wasn’t fun anymore,” Daltrey said, echoing Entwistle’s statements. “And if it ain’t fun why bother?”
Yet the fun was a long time coming. A disturbing lack of good times permeated strained atmospheres during the first painful weeks attempting to record what eventually became ‘The Who By Numbers’. Normally optimistic Daltrey became depressed over the recording progress.


“It just got to the point where I began to think that maybe we had done as much as we could within our framework. I kept telling myself that wasn’t true,” he said somberly.
But that tenuous maybe held steady. The Who felt like they had exhausted their framework during the first album sessions. Part of the problem revolved around differing rates of individual growth.
“We found it very difficult to record at first,” Entwistle recalled. “We couldn’t play well together and kept falling back on oldstyle Who playing without trying to put anything new into it. In the end we just had to takea break from recording, do a rehearsal and just jam between numbers to prove we could play again. We took a mobile down to Shepperton which did us a lot of good.”
Even more despondent that the group was producer Glyn Johns who had worked with them laughed. “Who’s Next’ was time however, beginning traumas and problems seemed insurmountable.
“Glyn had to go through a lot in those early sessions,” John admits; “When you get to a session and no one turns up I imagine you get somewhat disillusioned.
“I’ve had more fun making other albums,” Glyn Johns laughed. ” ‘Who’s Next’ was made under more satisfying conditions. This was more of a challenge because the atmosphere was far from relaxed. When they first arrived in the studio they weren’t a band. When they left the studio, they were. The album speaks for itself.”
While the rehearsals proved they could still play well together, the Who almost discarded the album much to Glyn Johns, horror when they heard the final mixes. About to scrap the entire project and return to the studio to record additional tracks, the band realised the problem lay in the album running order and subsequently worked out a more rationale line-up.
“The first album order just seemed to go down and down,” Entwistle said seriously.
“But the second order was like a new album. It’s the type of album we needed after the grandeur of ‘Quadrophenia’. We needed to prove that we`d done something since ‘Tommy’ as it had been regurgitated and thrown up again. We needed another album to let people know we were playing new music.
“Personally I think the next album should be live so people will know that we`re still touring,” he laughed ahout their recent onstage holiday. “We tried to do a live version of ‘Tommy` once and maybe we could include some selections from that. We need some new onstage numbers. We can’t play ‘Summertime Blues` for the rest of our life. But by the time we tour America again in the Spring we should be able to do another live album.”
Although it won’t be included on another live album, much of the new studio album translates easily to stage. Unlike the bulk of ‘Quadrophenia’ with its complex backing tapes, the more basic material from `The Who By Numbers’ finds the group returning to their original format.
“The synthesizer was the one thing I missed,” John admits. “I could have seen it on several tracks. But Roger doesn’t like synthesizers, he thinks they’re fake. Still I like to use them to colour the songs theme.”


In tears

Deceptively low profile on first listening, much of the new album is charged with Who aggression and emotion. Several observers have remarked that they wished Townshend had been in a more optimistic frame of mind when writing the songs. Others insist the record is not indicative of group morale and believe Townshend should have released the material as a solo album. These complaints seem equally deceptive as first listenings.
The songs are stuffed with more genuine feeling and emotion than some of the bands better known work. Underneath the disillusion, lies a promising future optimism. Either Townshend writes words the band personally identify with or the band play merely emotionally. Or both.
“In a lot of ways I feel the same as Pete,” John said. “I could really relate to ‘How Many Friends’ and so could Keith. Moony was nearly in tears when he heard that song. Still, before we did ‘Squeeze Box’ and ‘Blue, Red and Grey’ the album had a different identity. Those songs brighten the whole thing up. I was personally more restricted on this album because complicated bass parts didn’t seem to fit so I simplified a lot of it.”
In many ways the cover caricature of the group, drawn by Entwistle, neatly parallels the inside contents. When the Who are apart friction and break-up rumours circulate but when they are joined together, the combination is unbeatable.
“That cartoon of the group has been around for about eight years. The first time I ever drew cartoons was on our American tour with Herman’s Hermits,” John laughs. “Pete and I were doing a comic strip. Pete’s was the Duchess versus Plum. We used to call Roger the Duchess because of his big, floppy hat and fur coat. Bob Pridden (sound engineer) was Plum, scruffy little man. My comic strip was Dr Jekyl and Dr Noom which was Moon, a monster that chased old ladies in wheel chairs.

“When it came round to this cover the band turned to me and said it’s your turn, so I just drew the cartoon updating the clothes and appearances as they have changed. Pete’s used to have more hair and no beard. I changed his nose as well, flattened it up. Roger’s had the same hair with different clothes. Keith’s is more or less exactly the same. Mine’s different cause I drew in an extra scar.” he laughs fiendishly. “Originally I was going to have birth signs with scales but then I thought that was a bit too far but.”
Astrology would have been too cosmic for the Who verging dangerously close to Yes or the Pink Floyd. Instead they stuck to a stark cover to compliment the authentic insides. It is the brute force of the Who that comes through onstage and record whether’s it’s the gentle frustration of ‘However Much I Booze’ or the vulnerable truths of ‘Dreaming From The Waist.’
“Making that album wasn’t easy in any way at all,” Glyn Johns admitted. “Reflecting on it, the greatest thing is that the end result is very healthy. That’s worth it. The Who came out of those album sessions full steam ahead and that’s very important.”
Full steam ahead means that the Who are earning their reputation as rock’s greatest performing band. Revitalised and invigorated, they are not living off the past. They play with a vengeance because they are determined to prove their worth. Even ‘Tommy’ is being done for a reason, not to capitalise on Ken Russell’s Technicolour glory but because they enjoy playing it. The days the Who walked offstage, and said ‘Well that’s another one gone’ are thankfully over.
“Actually it was our idea to do `Tommy’ onstage again. The reason I agreed to it was because everyone expected us to drop ‘Tommy’ from the act because of the film so instead we thought we’d do more of it,” Entwistle said with amused irony.
“We’re determined not to let anything worry us and try to do perfect shows. It’s obviously very important for us to keep the Who going. But I’d like to see the solo careers continue. I missed playing with the Who during the Ox tour but that’s what allows us to bring something extra to the band when we get back together. That’s what helps us grow.


“We haven’t played this well since the ‘Live At Leeds’/`Tommy’ era,” John said proudly. “I suppose you could say we’re shit-hot. We’re back to the stage where we can go anywhere and do a good show. Before we’d just jam at rehearsal or in the studio and it was unbelievable but we could never do that onstage. We haven’t been able to jam onstage since we stopped doing ‘Tommy’. Now, ‘My Generation’ onwards is all off the top of our heads.”
The good shows are paying of with handsome results. Normally cold, sterile and cavernous, the Who transformed Wembley into one giant mass of sweating bodies all moving on the same rhythms. I can`t even remember `Brown Sugar` doing that to people. The kid on the high steel beam nearly fell over. What`s most positive is the future. While fondly paying homage to the past, the Who are impressively saying hello to the present.
As one observer astutely remarked: “They almost look like they love each other.”


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