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Sunday, November 8, 2015


peter townshend and the who
Closing in on the end of Peter Townshend's autobiography, Who I Am. First surprise was to find he is such a good writer. A thread that runs through the story is the growth of his writing from forcing himself to write songs for the Who's first recordings. Uncertain, feeling like he didn't know what he was doing. Next album, more songs to write. It became a form he liked and worked at making them better. He had a longing inside to do something with rock on the order of opera. He told the whole process of creating his first rock opera, Tommy, from conception, the writing, the rewriting, the feedback, rewriting, working toward a stage production, practicing with the band, performing it on stage, the film made. He told about almost not making it to Woodstock. His band had just come off a tour, all were worn out. He said no to the initial invitation. He was advised this is big, be there. They went, liked and disliked the experience. Though when it was over and the movie swept the world, the Who went from being another London band to one of the biggest bands in the land. Metaphorically overnight.
Not long after the Woodstock experience, the band had been so busy touring over the last year they didn't have anything for a new album. They decided to put out a live album from concert tapes past. Instead, recorded their show at Leeds, Live At Leeds, which set them firmly in the new status the band found after Woodstock. The Who was one of my favorite bands in the time of Sixties rock, last half of the Sixties, first half of the Seventies, the time of the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, Live at Leeds my favorite of the Who's albums along with Who's Next. I like all their albums, have most of them on LP, Who's Next and Live At Leeds on cd. Instead of replacing all their albums with cd, I picked my two favorites. Had a mess of Rolling Stones LPs, and for cd I have their first album, one of their best, and a live album recorded in small clubs called Stripped. On it, Jagger sings Dylan's, Like A Rolling Stone, and made it his own. It is my "best of" album for the Stones. And Black & Blue. With Allman Brothers, I'm satisfied with Live At The Fillmore for cd, one of the great albums in rock. Blind Faith is my Eric Clapton cd.
I've been a rock-n-roller since 1955 when Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Bill Haley & the Comets, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly were making a new music. Went through the Fifties in jr hi and high school. American rock n roll came to a halt around 1960 after Little Richard quit music and went to preaching, Chuck Berry went to prison for crossing a state line in the South with a teenage white girl in his car, Jerry Lee married his 13 year old cousin evaporating his fan base instantly, Elvis was in the Army and came out of it singing sickening songs like Teddy Bear. American grownups were furious about the music, calling it communist, subversive, devil music. The preacher at my church said band leader Paul Whiteman went to Africa and learned how to play devil-worshiping music, brought it back to America and made rock n roll. I knew better. It ran a crack through the preacher's credibility for the kid. The entire adult world was dead set against the devil music. Dick Clark was part of the adult world determined to put a stop to rock n roll. It doesn't seem so with the idea of American Bandstand. He emphasized black do-wop groups, pretty Italian boys and Connie Francis. He did not like rock n roll nor did he advance it.
the who
Early Sixties, the English bands brought rock n roll to life again, Dave Clark Five, Spencer Davis Group, Beatles, Stones, The Who, among many others. There was no more defeating rock n roll. It became a force unstoppable. And now, in a time when nearly everybody living was raised on rock, I'm reading the autobiography of Peter Townshend, one of my top favorite rockers, someone I consider an artist the same as I consider David Hockney an artist. Bill Wyman and Keith Richards of the Stones have published their autobiographies. I read Billy Idol's autobio last year. Patti Smith has a memoir recently published. Sixty years ago, my parents advised me, "Rock n roll will never last." Alas for them, it was Big Band that failed to last. At the time the Sixties bands were at their peak,  when the Who and the other bands were playing big arenas, the shows got bigger and bigger, punk happened. Punk played in small clubs, no light shows, no walls of speakers, beginners with guitars, new rhythms, new attitude, and the Sixties bands were over. Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols said in an interview when asked what he thought of Pete Townshend, "an old fart." At the moment, it was outrageous to say such a thing. The market for the Who's music and for solo albums by everybody in the band never went away, however. There came a time the Who folded as a band because everybody in the band was worn out by it. Keith Moon was dead. The life of a rock star is not an easy one. On stage it is fulfilling.
the who

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