The Who Article Archive: 1964-1979 book that I wrote about in January contains at least once Melody Maker piece of mine that I’d completely forgotten about. It appeared in MM dated November 7, 1970, and was a brief interview with their soundman Bob Pridden about the group’s equipment, hardly scintillating stuff when you consider the electrifying press interviews that Pete often gave and the antics of Keith that we reported on. It may be that it appeared as editorial padding for one of those MM advertising supplements, this one designed to sell PA systems.
It’s rather quaint now, but it gives an insight into what was probably the most powerful on the road amplification system of its era. The only other act that might have had as much gear in those days was Led Zeppelin. Here is it is:
“We’ve got enough gear to start three shops,” says jovial Bob Pridden, the man with the unenviable – but very responsible – job of looking after The Who’s thousands of pounds of wattage and making sure the group’s ear-shattering act runs – and sounds – smoothly from start to finish.
Few groups carry around as much equipment as The Who. Their PA alone takes up one gigantic truck – and the guitar amps occupy another. In all the group put out a total of 2,000 watts – a figure unheard of five years ago when 300 watt PAs were the norm and stacks for guitarists a rarity.
“The PA we use for a gig depends on the size of the booking,” says Bob. “If there are about 2,000 people at the show we use about 1,200 watts in the PA and another 300 in the monitoring system. So we can hear what is going on. It is all WEM [Watkins Electric Music] equipment but we have added ideas of our own. In fact WEM designed it for us although we have put on things to make it better for our sound.
“The PA has ten large cabinets, that six 8 x 12, two 8 x 10 and two 4 x 15 cabinets and four 4 x 12 cabinets with tweeter columns. For the monitoring system we use another six 4 x1 2 cabinets linked up to three individual systems of 100 watts each. Roger has three cabinets placed for him, Pete has two and I have one.
“We use three five channel mixers and a Watkins Copycat echo box which we have mucked about with. The drums are amplified through five mikes and mixed into a different channel and there are four vocal mikes, one on Pete’s guitar amp and one on Keith’s blocks. The mikes are Shure 565 Unispheres.
“I would say the PA costs about £5,000 – and we have extra amps that we use in America where more power is needed. In really big places we use up to 2,000 watts.”
Bob has three road managers under him to to help set up the gear which may take up to three hours. Firstly, it takes an hour and a half to put the speakers in the right positions and then the same again to balance everything properly. They use a Ford four-ton lorry to carry the PA round and a big Avis van for the rest of the equipment.
“Pete uses four 4 x 12 cabinets and two 100-watt Hi-Watt amps, one wired to the top two cabinets and the other wired to the bottom two. John uses the same cabinets and amps, although sometimes he might use two 4 x 15 cabinets instead. Also, we have 100-watt 4 x 12 cabinets from Pete’s amplifier set up near John so he can hear what Pete is doing during solos.
“We carry a lot of spares with us, so that if an amp goes during a show we can easily substitute another. I think we have enough gear to stock three shops and it’s all owned by The Who. Some groups hire equipment for tours but I don’t think it’s a good idea. When you own it you can do what you like with it.”
That last remark no doubt hides the fact that equipment rental companies might just have been unwilling to do business with The Who in those destructive days.
I found the picture of The Who’s set up for Leeds University on February 14, 1970, the show that was recorded for Live At Leeds, on this website: