19.5.22

THE WHO IN CINCINNATI, 15 May, 2022

Last Sunday The Who in their 2022 composition performed in Cincinnati, the US city where the burden of expectation is intensified by the events of 1979. This review of the show was sent to me by Glenn Burris, one of many Who fans who connected with me via Facebook and this blog which, over the years, has featured more about The Who than any other rock act. I’m more than happy to post it here on Glenn’s behalf. 


You’d be hard pressed to argue that any major concert in Cincinnati was ever more keenly anticipated than The Who’s show there this past Sunday night. Over the years, there might have been as much build up among rock fans for stadium shows in the city by The Rolling Stones or Paul McCartney or even some guy in a cowboy hat, but this was clearly a different situation. Of course, this would be The Who’s first appearance in the Queen City since the infamous tragedy of December 3, 1979, so both local and national media brought extra attention. This ensured the show would be a true event, not just a Sunday night concert. 

        Circumstances, too, combined to up the ante. The tour stop was originally set for April 2020, the month that showed the world that a pandemic is not a two-week Netflix binge. The following two years saw the construction of soccer-dedicated TQL Stadium, which was chosen as the new venue for this show over the original indoor site in neighboring Kentucky. Now The Who would play in Cincy proper, outdoors, in a burgeoning and elated neighborhood, and in a facility that did not exist two years prior, hosting its first-ever music performance. Mix that with the warm mid-spring weather and the relaxed Covid threat, plus a promise by The Who to give every away every net nickel of their appearance, and it seemed like all hopes for this night might be realized. By and large, they were. 

        For their ticket money, the crowd was given an elegant formula for rock and roll joy and a community-binding experience. But one person seemed to leave the stadium with a pale aura of bitterness and frustration about him. One man walked away looking weary. And he was the auteur for the entire thing, the genesis figure of both the 1979 and 2022 concerts. Pete Townshend left the stage Sunday looking not relieved, nor released. He just looked bruised. The day’s work he had just completed seemed to end with a sour taste, more of a dry thud than a celebratory firework despite the good vibes that seemed to fill the air right next to him. Pete’s complexities, his fraught relationship with Roger Daltrey and with touring (again and again and again) pitted against his love of his own music, were put in a new light by the tenor of the evening. And come the curfew time, he looked like he’d had enough. 

        The two-hour-plus show that preceded what appeared to be a moment of dismay was textbook 21st Century Who. Give that phrase a moment to settle in if you can. This late-model concert, like that of most artists in their class these days, is designed to satisfy the patron that sees The Who one time in their lives. Very little is left to chance in either performance (especially with a platoon of orchestral musicians parked behind a rock band) or the set list. Only one song was gleaned from their most recent album, and it elicited only polite response from the throng. As a matter of fact, you’d be forgiven for imagining a promoter contracting the band to stick a new song right in the middle of the set, so they are sure to sell more beer at that time. 

        Who ’22 looks like just like Who ’19, no matter the silly re-branding of an identically formatted tour as ‘The Who Hits Back’ (At what, you are welcome to ask). There are a few more wrinkles, sure, but other than that, it’s a sequel with a script identical to its precedent, sold to a marketplace with no ceiling on price and who don’t ask for much more than background music for a night out. As always seems the case now, the sound of music is cluttered with the noise of conversations all around you, almost all the time. 

        Still, there is a reason to set aside the cynicism and give our loyalty to The Who room to breathe. There is something impressive and encouraging about the feat of playing big loud music at the ages Roger and Pete have reached. In his recent Audible podcast, Townshend ruminated on the notion of near-80-year-olds presenting this kind of music while at least appearing to have a bang-up time doing it. He correctly stated that this deserves to be seen as a life-affirmation, and asked, “Is this not a celebration of what being alive is?” It was a relief to hear him pose the rhetorical question, even if he added the caveat that he really isn’t enjoying himself on the road. He has said that for years.

        The par-for-the-course Cincinnati concert should certainly get credit for properly pairing the memorial to the eleven who died in 1979 with a professional “Rock and Rollllllll!” concert, which must be no easy task – has any rock band faced this situation before? The names of those lost in the crush were on display all night long as part of the stadium’s electronic bannering system, where you would expect to see the names of car dealers and the crypto currency of the week. Keeping the scroll on these displays at the periphery and not behind the stage did indeed give you the feeling that the spirits of the victims of 42 years past – lives lost as much through the gross behavior of their fellow concertgoers as to the arena’s management – were floating among the living. Other mentions of the missing by Pete and Roger themselves were more than gracious as each walked a tight wire between tribute and entertainment. A video message from Eddie Vedder, who had hoped to make a cameo at this show, was shown before the headliners walked on, but went mostly unnoticed in the chattering of the crowd. 

        The opening act slot was given to a good local band called Safe Passage. Its members were among the survivors of the ’79 calamity. Whoever gave them the gig really deserves a hand. A montage of photos of those who never came home on that cold December night was presented over the piano intro to ‘Love Reign O’er Me’, and for ‘Baba O’Riley’, local high school orchestral musicians and singers, with connections to the fine P.E.M. Memorial Scholarship Fund, were given the thrill of an on-stage appearance. You couldn’t help but smile at their glowing young faces. All of this was memorable, well-timed, and evenly balanced. It never felt sticky, it was served in just the right amount. 

        But then such a staged remembrance fits well with a boilerplate performance. One or two choices did veer from the norm: for the hardcore, ‘Relay’ made a welcome band-only appearance, and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ erupted in a mid-set electric version where we usually get it in acoustic duo mode, before the orchestra returned for the third act of the show. 

        The most exciting moment, though, came in the form that it usually does, with an instance of crash-but-not-burn. Just like in a Formula One race when one car scrapes another and then lurches forward to win the next curve, a Townshend brain skip in ‘Eminence Front’ caused him to momentarily forget a verse then rush-read the line to get back on schedule. Experienced Who fans relish these gaffs, because a moment later, without fail, the band will try to make up for them in aggressive fashion. In this case, Pete next unleashed his hottest burst of electric guitar all night. That was not good enough to make up for the fact that the sound of his Stratocaster was consistently buried in a murky mix (so much so that the orchestra could have stayed home for all the good they did). 

        Cincinnati’s new stadium was made for soccer before music and local laws apparently conspired with the venue’s design to, song by song, erode The Who’s literally-carefully-orchestrated performance. Empty metal seating at the end opposite the stage was said, by Pete, to be unavailable for sale simply because that area is not made up of true seats but long benches where people might crowd together. In other words, there is still a legislated local fear of “another Cincinnati”. So, the band played to a giant steel reflector, and it was one of the unwanted ingredients of a concert that never really peaked and included a moment of real buzz kill only at the close of the night. 

        In the final part of the show, as rock- and classically- trained musicians lumbered through a stack of Quadrophenia selections, the giant monitors revealed a Townshend that looked more haggard by the minute. You got the feeling that the complex emotion of the show was manifesting as fatigue and frustration. Up there was the Pete that thinks too much, trying just to get through the work plan. But he kept his cool, playing well enough through his most complicated music, Quad’s instrumental penultimate ‘The Rock’, strategically placed to rest Daltrey’s voice for the last furlong. And Pete made yet another grateful announcement as he welcomed the local kids on to play and sing his phrase-coiner about the “teenage wasteland” turned cop show theme. ‘Baba O’Riley’ is now a flag raised not by Pete or Roger but by the pretty young violinist who dervishes through a perfect reading of Dave Arbus’s Who’s Next solo center stage. But let’s give the 1971 warhorse its due here. The line “Let’s get together before we get much older” likely resounded stronger with this age 60-plus crowd, in place of those not there, than it might at other Who concerts.

        On the back side of that show closer, Roger stepped up to offer his usual benediction. This time it would come with the added component of the gravity of the occasion. But he wandered off script and began to complain about the bounce-back sound he dealt with all evening thanks to the rows of empty metal bleachers. Now, Daltrey is a great philanthropist, and not careless when it comes to charitable and meaningful events. He had an end game in mind, eventually saying that while he suffered from hearing ‘another band’ playing in echo to him all night, at least that band “was better than the one on stage”. But Pete wasn’t in on the joke, and just before Rog could reach the punchline, changing complaint to comedy, Townshend rushed to interrupt his singer, with a look of “What the hell are you doing?!” on his face. It echoed another comment from Pete’s Audible show where he recalled wincing at Roger’s opening remarks in Buffalo, New York, on December 4, 1979, a show that Pete now says The Who should never have played. 

        Local photographer Jon Calderas perfectly captured the moment, a classic on-stage Who misunderstanding, and it can be seen among the many photos from Sunday night at Cincymusic.com: Pete motioning to the off-stage area and apparently trying to tell Roger that it was time to end this monologue. When Roger continued mopping up, Pete hot-footed it for stage left, only to be coaxed back by Daltrey who was awkwardly working toward a conclusion in a long list of thank-yous. 

        Seeing Pete lose a little patience with Roger in public (or vice-versa) is nothing new. It’s one of the charms of Grumpy Old Men. But on Sunday night, beneath the graceful appreciation of lives lived and lost, their physical aches and the strains of their relationship seemed burdened by the cold pains of forty years past. And all of it framed by an elusive terminus for a rock career: a show that never quite stops. For Townshend, it must feel like being on treadmill, while reminding yourself that it’s better to be up on this thing than prone on the floor next to it. When Pete did finally amble off stage with the rest of the gang, nothing in his body language said he reached ‘closure’, a clichĂ© that so many articles this week have used. He just looked like he was stuck in his own past. Again. 

        Cincinnati was longing for The Who’s return, and the duo manned up, no doubt. Roger and Pete are gamers, and they have big hearts. They, and Bill Curbishley and the rest of the management team and the supporting musicians, deserve any blessing this visit to Cincinnati could offer. But you must wonder if at least one of The Two left town this time feeling any less beaten than he had in 1979. 

- Glenn Burris, May 18, 2022, glenn_burris@earthlink.net

Glenn is a corporate communications producer and documentary filmmaker who lives in northern Ohio. A life-long Who fan, the December 3, 1979, was on his fifteenth birthday. Glenn didn’t make it to Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum that night, but has seen The Who dozens of times over the last 40 years. 


9.5.22

THE ROLLING STONES: EXILE ON MAIN STREET


Fifty years old this week, the double album Exile On Main Street is being rightly celebrated as the Rolling Stones’ greatest ever LP. The hits compilation Forty Licks aside, it is the Stones’ LP I have listened to the most; released as a single CD in 1994, I doubt any six-month period has passed since when I haven’t played it at least once at home or in my car, a great big smile erupting as ‘Rocks Off’ blasts from my speakers, Keith’s guitar swinging into action as Mick sings ambiguously about sex and, possibly, the perils it can bring. 

        It’s a downhill, helter-skelter ride from there, not a duff track among the 17 that follow, a smorgasbord of hi-energy rock, spirited gospel, honky country and soupy blues. Never again would the Stones sound so confident, so convincing, so energised, so prolific, so eclectic, so wrapped up in their musical ideals in the space of one LP, albeit one that occupied four sides of vinyl. When I play it now I sense a sort of musical claustrophobia, as if the group was cramming as much into it while they could, perhaps even making a final grand statement before the money ran out and they imploded into a mess of Mick’s upwardly mobile ambitions, Keith’s drug addiction, Charlie’s ambivalence, Bill’s gloom and Mick Taylor’s inexperience. 

        We could be forgiven for thinking that ‘All Down The Line’ and ‘I Just Want To See His Face’ were produced by different bands. The former – which was actually recorded 18 months earlier in Los Angeles – ranks alongside any of the Stones’ great Chuck Berry rewrites, a Grade-A rocker that demands repeated plays, while the latter is a swampy voodoo chant in the style of Dr John, the sort of thing that might be heard at a gospel church in Mississippi where the congregation speaks in tongues. 

        No two songs on the entire record are less alike than this pair, and they are matched by the incomparable ‘Tumbling Dice’, with its layer after layer of sinewy guitar lines, or the country campfire vibe of ‘Sweet Virginia’, in which Gram Parsons surely had a hand, and its companion piece ‘Torn And Frayed’, or the relentless, almost punk, pace of ‘Rip This Joint’, or Keith’s own ‘Happy’, virtually a one-man band creation. 

        Everywhere you look there’s something to gorge on: the James Moore cover ‘Shake Your Hips’, aka ‘Hip Shake’, given a sensuous Southern twist; the OTT tribute to Angela Davis that was ‘Sweet Black Angel’; the down-home blues of ‘Stop Breaking Down’, rearranged from Robert Johnson’s original with Mick Taylor on slide; the sumptuous gospel of ‘Loving Cup’ with Nicky Hopkins’ cascading piano; even the throwaway ‘Turd On The Run’, another pacy sprint with Mick’s harp howling in the wind.

        What have I missed? Bobby Key’s sax in ‘Casino Boogie’; the sleazy ‘Ventilator Blues’; the emotion-packed, choral majesty of ‘Let It Loose’; and the swaggering finale ‘Soul Survivor’, the cue to start again at the beginning, as I so often have. 

In Keith’s book, Life, the Stones’ guitarist says the title of the album came from the group’s tax-imposed exile in the South of France where the LP was recorded, the main street being the Riviera coast road that stretched from Cannes to Monte Carlo. Being cooped up in NellcĂ´te, the 18-room mansion built in the 1890s in the hills above Villefranche Sur Mer, the Stones and their entourage of wives, crew and additional musicians like Keys, Jim Price, Parsons and Hopkins, had nothing else to do but eat, drink and make music, urgently, and result still sounds spectacular. 

 


5.5.22

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees, 2022


Disappointingly but predictable in the light of my previous form, only one of my nominees to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame will be inducted later this year. From the list of 17 nominees, the permitted five I chose were Beck, Eurythmics, MC5, The New York Dolls and Rage Against The Machine, but of the five only Eurythmics were given the nod by the rather mysterious – some would say sinister – committee that decides these things. 

        This is not the first time that MC5, the Dolls and Rage have been passed over, as have a few others from the list of nominees for whom I did not vote, among them Kate Bush. Aside from Eurythmics, the lucky inductees are Eminem, Dolly Parton, Duran Duran, Lionel Ritchie, Pat Benatar and Carly Simon.

        Dolly’s inclusion is controversial insofar as she recused herself from being inducted on the grounds that she’s not rock’n’roll, which is true and which is why I didn’t vote for her myself. As I opined in my post on 11 March, she’s a great performer but she’s country with a capital C and does not therefore belong in the R&RHoF. She evidently agrees but the committee ignored her wishes and voted her in anyway. It remains to be seen what the outcome will be.

        I am angry that the New York Dolls have been overlooked yet again. If ever a band held true to the spirit of rock’n’roll, the defiance, the casual disregard for civility, the sticking two fingers up to authority, it was the Dolls. Their output was small but their impact was massive. In many ways the Dolls were the American Sex Pistols, certainly as shocking and almost as influential, and the same applies in many respects to MC5, who kept a few ghastly Republican politicians awake at night. For both these groups – and The Smiths for that matter – to have been dismissed in favour of an act like Duran Duran is a disgraceful action that brings into question the very meaning of rock’n’roll in the eyes of those who administer the Hall of Fame. 

        Then again, it’s not the first time their judgement has reeked of duplicity. I have nothing really against Duran Duran beyond the fact that their music was not to my taste and much of their appeal seemed to rely on how they dressed, but heaven forbid that the decision to induct them rested on the fact that all five of their original line up are still alive – as opposed to only one from the Dolls – which means Duran and their record label are likely to buy far more costly tickets to the induction ceremony in November. Surely not? 

        Each year I question why I continue to vote. Nowadays the acts nominated produce music that more often than not passes me by but, with a few exceptions, lack the attributes required to be inducted into an institution that, when it was originated in 1968, rewarded genuine excellence. It all boils down to a simple question: do Pat Benatar and Duran Duran really belong alongside Elvis, Chuck, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dylan, Who, Jimi, Neil Young, Led Zep, Bowie, Springsteen and the like? Do the New York Dolls for that matter? Maybe I’m just too bloody old. 


29.4.22

BLONDIE, Brighton Centre, April 28, 2022


To Brighton for a Blondie concert and the realisation that what I’ve missed the most during the Covid-induced famine of live gigs is the feeling you get in your chest from a loud electric bass, the deep-rooted foundation of a rock band in action as they deliver their songs in the best way imaginable. To a certain extent I can recreate vocals and wailing guitars on my hi-fi system, and even the drums if I punch up the volume, but no way can I reproduce the boom of a Fender Precision plugged into a big amp and big speaker cabinet, then dispatched through a PA system into a decent-sized auditorium such as Brighton Centre. 

        It helped that the bass in question was wielded, deftly but unobtrusively, by Glen Matlock, the Sex Pistol jettisoned from the group for displaying too much in the way of musical chops yet lacking the tone-deaf nihilism of his successor. Glen went on to other bands and also became a bass man for hire amongst his peers, and a very good one too, but his arrival in Blondie – at three weeks’ notice, he tells me – came as a bit of a surprise, though it evens out the generational divide between the three younger members of the group as it is now constituted, and the two older hands, singer Debbie Harry and unrelenting drummer Clem Burke.

        With founder, principal songwriter and guitarist Chris Stein taking a sabbatical on doctors’ orders, it is left to Tommy Kessler and newcomer Andee Blacksugar – what a great rock’n’roll name – to handle the guitar duties between them, switching leads and generally adopting a sort of twin guitar duo role that reminded me a bit of the sparring that went on in Lynyrd Skynyrd. Both sing well, as does keyboard player Matt Katz-Bohen, and Glen chips in a bit too, so the vocal backdrop to their revered singer is never less than imposing. 

        But the spotlight, as ever, is on Debbie. Remarkably, this foremost New York punk siren, graduate with honours from CBGBs, turns a mature 77 in July but rather than occupy a rocking chair with a cat and bundle of knitting in her lap she prefers to rock the stage dressed in red leopard-skin tights and a black bin liner held in place with a wide red belt, her blonde hair flying wildly in all directions, her poise as energetic and turbulent as ever. Debbi’s voice remains clear and strident, though she wisely eschewed straining for some of the top notes in the group’s gold-plated catalogue of hits. Thankfully, she abandoned her sunglasses midway through the show so we could see her still-handsome features in close up on the video screens each side of the stage and, having taken the measure of the audience, she seemed sincerely delighted to be singing her songs again after the Covid postponements, grateful that Brighton’s Blondie fans turned out in such large numbers to see her band. 

        It was, by and large, a greatest hits show, accompanied by plenty of imaginative, occasionally quirky, personalised graphics on a large screen at the back. I liked how King Kong’s great paw held Debbie, the Lichtenstein comic and op-art style visuals, and the footage of the group from their Parallel Lines days. Someone had even drawn a glass heart that smashed into smithereens. 

        The concert opened with ‘X-Offender’ and closed, just over 90 minutes later, with ‘One Way Or Another’. The sound was fat and ballsy and well-mixed throughout, the band well-drilled, the set clearly and cleverly rehearsed to align with the visuals. Of the generous 21 songs delivered, 15 were from the 1970s, with the remaining six, among them ‘Maria’, including only two, ‘Long Time’ and ‘Fragments’, from their most recent album, 2017’s Pollinator which they promoted heavily on their last UK tour the same year and which I rated very highly. I wouldn’t have complained if they played two or three more from it. 

        Still, it was the hits the crowd wanted, and they weren’t disappointed. After ‘Sunday Girl’, ‘Picture This’ and ‘The Tide Is High’ there was a slight lull during ‘What I Heard’ but the concert moved up a gear during ‘Atomic’, Debbie inciting a mass singalong on that lovely ‘Oh, your hair is beautiful’ line, and thereafter she never looked back. Some songs were neatly segued together, ‘Fade Away And Radiate’ into ‘Tide’ – which featured two unexpected grungy solos - and ‘Shayla’ into a power-packed ‘Union City Blue’. The four-song pre-encore hell-for-leather ride through ‘Rapture’, ‘Maria’, ‘Dreaming’ and ‘Heart Of Glass’, heralded by jungle drums, seemed like a knockout blow, but they returned for four more, ‘No Exit’, ‘Fragments’ – an odd choice in the light of its complexity – ‘Call Me’ and ‘One Way Or Another’, another mass singalong. At this, the ninety-minute mark, I couldn’t help but be impressed by Debbie’s stamina and, of course, Clem’s unrelenting assault on his drums, a pace he sustained throughout with characteristic resilience. 

        The 2022 Blondie tour visits Hull tonight then five more UK cities before transferring to America’s west coast, Mexico and, in August, some big shows in the east, including a couple in their native New York. If what I saw in Brighton last night is anything to go by, there’s still plenty of life in Blondie, with or without founder Chris Stein.

        Finally, I should add that due to slow service in a burger joint on nearby Duke Street, we regrettably missed most of Johnny Marr’s opening set but the four songs I heard, among them ’How Soon Is Now’ and ‘There Is A Light A Light That Never Goes Out’ sounded terrific and, as ever, the former Smiths guitarist looked great too. 


8.4.22

THE BEATLES & EVERLY BROTHERS


Watching Fake News: A True History, an appropriately droll documentary presented by Private Eye editor Ian Hyslop on BBC4, the other night reminded me of this picture which I saw on the internet recently and was puzzled as to when and where it was taken. As far as I could establish from the many reference books on my shelves, The Beatles and The Everly Brothers never performed on the same show together, either on stage as part of the same bill, or on a TV show, either here or in America, or anywhere else for that matter.    

        Then a friend more knowledgeable than myself told me it was faked. The Beatles in this shot, he told me, were posing backstage in late 1963 at the Finsbury Park Astoria where they appeared in ‘The Beatles Christmas Show’ for 16 nights, closing on January 11, 1964. 

        He didn’t know where the picture of the Everlys came from but I discovered from my own research that it was taken in London by Harry Hammond, probably in 1960 though the two sources I found were inconsistent with the year. Hammond, who died in 2009, specialised in photographing the British pop scene from the 1950s onwards, becoming NME’s primary photographer for several years. 

        The Everlys toured the UK for the first time in April 1960, and other shots from the same session show them on a hotel balcony with the skyline of London behind them. According to Mark Lewisohn’s Tune In book, George Harrison caught them on April 25 at The Liverpool Empire when they were backed by The Crickets, sadly lacking their leader Buddy Holly, a victim of the 1959 plane crash that also claimed Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. 

        Despite the overwhelming evidence that The Beatles, especially Paul, were heavily influenced by The Everly Brothers, there are only two recorded examples of the Fabs covering the Everlys. On the first BBC sessions album George sings ‘So How Come (No One Loves Me)’, one of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant’s lesser songs, recorded by Don and Phil for their A Date With The Everly Brothers LP in 1960, and in the recent six-hour plus Get Back movie, The Beatles jam for just over a minute on ‘Bye Bye Love’, with John taking the lead. Again thanks to Mark Lewisohn’s book, I learned that ‘Bye Bye Love’ was released in the UK on July 5, 1957, the day before John first met Paul at the church fete in Woolton. Much later, of course, Paul wrote ‘On The Wings Of A Nightingale’ especially for the Everlys, released in 1984. 

        A bit more digging divulges that the picture was probably faked for the cover of a slim paperback called The Everly Brothers & The Beatles, by Mandy Rennie which I suspect is a pseudonym. The evidence for this assumption is there for all to see on Amazon which advertises scores of slim paperback books by Ms Rennie, about celebrities from all walks of life, film, music, politics and sport. Oddly, all of them were published by Blurb Books on the same day in 2019!




29.3.22

JUST BACKDATED - ANOTHER ROLLING (MILE)STONE


While I was posting those memoirs last week I failed to notice that Just Backdated had notched up 1,250,000 hits, another milestone which – like other big round numbers along the way – I will comment on with a bit of analysis.

        JB reached one million hits in October 2020, at which point I’d notched up 828 posts which averaged 1,207 hits per post. There are now 908 posts which means that figure has risen to 1,377 hits per post, so it seems more people have discovered Just Backdated in the past 18 months, probably as a result of lockdown and folk spending more time surfing the internet.

        With one notable exception, the top 20 of posts with most views hasn’t changed much. The surprise is that my rejected proposal for ghost-writing the autobiography of Mandy Moon, Keith’s daughter, has leapt into second place with 20.3k hits, easily dislodging the story about Moonie with John and Paul Beatle in Santa Monica in 1974 which slips to fourth place, with the post about Jimmy Page’s houses sneaking in at number three on 14.7k. In the last survey I did the Mandy post had 6.07k kits, so over 14,000 hits in the last 18 months makes it the most popular recent post. Quite why is anybody’s guess.  

        Equally oddly, while the synopsis post has had over 20k hits now, the actual sample chapter I wrote (and posted three days later) has had only 797 hits, which implies that less than 5% of those who read the synopsis went on to read the actual chapter. Explanations on a postcard please… 

        With 6,000 fewer hits, Jimmy’s impressive real estate is unlikely to challenge Mandy, who’s obviously on a roll, for second place, let alone top spot which, as ever, is my review of the CD of The Who at the Fillmore East in 1968, with a still magnificent 49.7k hits, the same evened-up number as 18 months ago though it’s probably a bit more now, just that the computer doesn’t register increases of less than 1,000 hits at this level. Whatever… almost 50k hits is still well more than twice its nearest rival, a massive lead unlikely ever to be contested. 

        The remainder of the entries in the top ten are pretty much as before, with 16 Who related, two Led Zep, one Deep Purple and the wild card, my story about the North of England Beer Drinking Contest in 1968. I’m well pleased that this tale of gross intemperance still holds on to fifteenth spot. The top 20 now reads: 

1) The Who Live At Fillmore East CD review – 47.7k hits

2) Mandy Moon book treatment – 20.3k

3) Jimmy Page’s residences – 14.7k

4) John, Paul & Keith Moon at Santa Monica – 14k

5) Jimmy Page meeting Robert Plant – 6.6k

6) Palazzo Dario, Kit Lambert’s Venice Palace – 5.59k

7) News of Who UK tour (2014) – 5.16k

8) Keith Moon & The Pythons – 4.29k

9) Launching Dear Boy – 4.15k

10) The Who, My Hidden Gems CD – 4.15k

11) Deep Purple in Jakarta – 3.91k

12) The Who in Hyde Park, 2015 – 3.59k

13) Keith Moon’s residences – 3.01k

14) John Entwistle Tribute – 3.22k

15) The North of England Beer Drinking Contest – 3.14k

16) The Ox (John Entwistle) book review – 2.91k

17) Pretend You’re In A War (Who) book review 2.83k

18) ‘Underture’, Keith’s Great Triumph – 2.82k

19) Pete Townshend Interview (1974) – 2.75k

20) The Who at Stafford in 1975 – 2.7k

        No change in where the hits come from either, USA followed by the UK followed by Russia, and while hits from Russia (on 123k) have tailed off in the last few weeks for obvious reasons, Canada, in fourth place with 37k, has a long way to go to challenge for the bronze medal. I’m mildly suspicious about all those hits from Russia, especially as they have fluctuated wildly in the past two years, like 5,000 one week and zilch the next. 

        Anyway, thanks once again to all who visit Just Backdated and I’ll try to keep it up for as long as I can. 


24.3.22

NEWMAN PASSAGE 5

By this time, mid-1982, I had written books on David Bowie, The Who, Pete Townshend, Deep Purple and Cat Stevens, plus my book on guitarists, but I was conscious that this way of making a living wasn’t sustainable. I was adamant I wouldn’t write a book purely from secondary research, aka a ‘cut and paste’ job, or on any musician I hadn’t met and interviewed personally, and I knew that sooner or later I’d run out of acts sufficiently popular to warrant a publisher being interested in a book on them. Either that or other big acts I’d written about a lot on MM, John Lennon, Elton or Led Zeppelin for example, had already been the subject of book or two. Rock books had yet to become the flourishing business they soon would, in part thanks to me – though I didn’t know it yet. 

Things were also going pear-shared domestically. Jenny and I weren’t seeing eye to eye on a number of fronts and towards the end of 1982 she opted to move out and live with two friends of hers in Earls Court. I guess it was a relief for both of us, but we stayed on good terms and are still in touch. A few years later I even went to a church in Chiswick for the christening of one of her sons with her then husband Hugh Stanley Clarke, an A&R man at EMI. She’s now the widow of Pete Way, the former bass player in UFO, whose solo career she managed until his death in 2020.

She left on a Sunday and, with no hard feelings, I helped her move her things to Earls Court. Returning home on the tube that evening I was slightly apprehensive about living alone for the first time in almost three years, and I stopped off at a Youngs pub close to where I lived, the Thatched House in Dalling Road, for a pint. Inside I found a couple I knew from the neighbourhood, and they introduced me to some of their friends. The Thatched House, whose landlord was Bedford ‘Beddy’ Jezzard, a former player and manager at Fulham FC, would become my home from home for the next ten years.

Through the Thatch, as the locals called it, I expanded my social network no end. Like many couples wedded to the music industry, Jenny and I had tended to socialise only with others in the same game, as – by and large – I had done for the last decade really. It was now time to change all that and before long I’d become part of a group of regulars that included a property developer, a bus driver, a nurse, a photographer, a biker who lived on a boat moored at Twickenham, a designer of the BBC’s TV graphics, a girl in the advertising industry, two architects and a school governor who in the fullness of time would write books about Leonard Cohen under the pseudonym of Maurice Ratcliffe. It was a cross section of society as diverse as it was intemperate, and before long I was known to them all as ‘Chris the music’. 

While my neighbourhood social life was on a roll, the book commissions were drying up but Miles came to my rescue by asking me to write one on Slade, another group I’d written about extensively in MM. The timing was right. After a doldrums period in the late seventies they were undergoing a sort of renaissance sparked off when they blew everyone else off the stage at the 1980 Reading Festival. Back in 1970, I was one of the first music writers to proclaim Slade’s merits and during their heyday I’d become very pally with them. Happily, they welcomed me back into their midst, so researching and writing the book was a pleasure. 

        As with Deep Purple, I contacted their manager, my old pal Chas Chandler, and we negotiated a deal whereby his company would own the rights to the book in exchange for complete co-operation. Their PA Keith Altham, another old friend, helped me fix up interviews with Noddy Holder, Jim Lea and Dave Hill, and he and I spent a couple of nights with them in and around Wolverhampton. I spent an evening at the Trumpet, the pub in Bilston where “the four members of Slade and their attendants have retired to celebrate the many milestones on their remarkable career, and many is the night when they have left the premises in a horizontal state,” as I put it in my intro to the book.

        Drummer Don Powell lived in Hampstead in those days and I spent time with him at his local wine bar, where he was a valued customer. He explained that a legacy of that terrible 1973 car accident was the loss of his sense of taste, so cheap brandy tasted the same as expensive brandy and even a hot vindaloo was fairly mild. As with DP, the group and their tour manager Graham ‘Swin’ Swinnerton were unusually frank about their lives, holding nothing back when it came to discussing the misfortunes that befell them in the late seventies. Louise Lea, Jim’s wife, was also refreshingly honest about this era and the period when the group lived in New York, which she hated, so the book, though ‘official’, was far from bland. 

        We even arranged a photo session specially for the book’s cover, and to emphasise its ‘official’ nature a picture of the group with its author appeared on the first inside spread. On the back cover there’s a shot of Slade holding the book; in reality they held a piece of white card and the designer dropped the cover into place later. 



        A launch party was held at the Spice Of Life pub in Cambridge Circus where I found myself at odds with a BBC crew who downed far more than their fair share of free booze and demanded quiet while an interviewer, a girl whose name I forget, talked with the band. Meanwhile, her crew took up half the room with their lights and cameras, getting in everyone’s way. To rub salt into the wound, the interview with Slade on Mike Smith’s early evening TV programme Show Business didn’t even mention the book, implying instead that the party was thrown by the group themselves to celebrate being together for 25 years. After it was broadcast I was livid and wanted to complain to the Beeb in writing but our PR cautioned me against that by warning me they wouldn’t touch Omnibus if I did. As if I cared. I refused all requests from the BBC for several years afterwards as a result. 

        Much loved by their fans, Slade: Feel the Noize! was overprinted and some unsold stock had to be pulped, but it still fetches around £50 on Amazon. The rights to it are now owned by the heirs to the business interests of Chas Chander, who died in 1996. I have little doubt that the reason the book hasn’t been reprinted is because those who hold the copyright in the current era of NDAs would have censored it, given the chance. In 1983, Chas couldn’t give a toss and neither did the group. 


In September of 1983 Miles called to tell me he was leaving Omnibus Press to write a biography of Allen Ginsberg, the American beat poet, a specialist subject of his. This looked like being a disaster for me. With Proteus no more, Omnibus had become my most consistent source of income. No Miles, no Omnibus, I thought. Then the sun shone through the clouds. 

        “Would you like my job?” he asked.

        “The only thing I’d like more would be a weekend on an atoll with Miss World,” I replied. 

        A week later I had lunch with Bob Wise, the hands-on owner of Music Sales, and it was done and dusted. I would be the Managing Editor at Omnibus Press for the next 33 years, overseeing the publication of almost 1,000 rock books, far more than anyone else in the world by the proverbial country mile. The remainder of my working life was sorted. 

        Thanks Miles.





23.3.22

NEWMAN PASSAGE PART 4


Even though it was often a struggle getting what I was owed from them, I maintained my relationship with Proteus Books and in 1982 Michael Brecher asked me to write one on Cat Stevens, a singer songwriter I’d seen on stage a few times and interviewed more than once for MM. I told them I would do so only if Stevens – or Yusuf Islam as he was now known – would co-operate in some way, and to this end set about finding him. 

        This time my first port of call was the London Central Mosque in Regents Park where a helpful chap in a shalwar kameez told me that Yusuf worked out of offices on Curzon Street in Mayfair, running an organisation called The Companions Of The Mosque and a children’s charity that was funded largely by his ongoing royalty stream. He gave me the address, which I recognised as being the same as where his one-time manager Barry Krost once had offices. I wrote Yusuf a letter, enclosing my phone number, and hoped for the best.

        Sure enough, within a few days Yusuf called and invited me to meet him there. When I arrived, I walked up three flights of steps, left my shoes at the door and was ushered into a small office. Yusuf, with his long beard looking quite different from the man I had known as Cat Stevens, joined me there a few minutes later and I told him about the proposal. Our meeting was interrupted by prayers – he went off into another room to join colleagues while I twiddled my thumbs – but he consented to help, within limits, on condition that Proteus made a donation to the charity he headed. 

        Yusuf agreed to read what I would write, and correct any errors, but declined to be interviewed about his music career. The only other interviews I did for the book were with Mike Hurst, his first manager, who produced Stevens’ early hits like ‘Matthew And Son’ and ‘I Love My Dog’, and Alun Davies, his regular accompanist on guitar. Tony Brainsby, who’d done his PR in the seventies, had several huge scrapbooks of cuttings that I borrowed. I wasn’t able to contact Barry Krost, who’d moved to LA, though in retrospect I realised I should have talked to Paul Samwell-Smith who produced Stevens’ most successful LPs, among them Tea For The Tillerman and Teaser And The Firecat

        Yusuf was as a good as his word, reading my manuscript and changing the odd word here and there. I knew he was a bit of a ladies’ man in the past but thought it best not to go into this, nor that he enjoyed a life of indulgence in those days. I think he respected this discretion on my part. Our relations were friendly. 

        After a couple of these meetings I persuaded him to talk to me a bit about his life after he left music, his day-to-day routine as a Muslim, which he did, in part because he wanted to dismiss the popular notion that he was some kind of eccentric recluse. He was also a bit miffed about having become a sort of unelected ‘spokesman’ for Muslims, this because whenever there was a news story about Muslims he was the one the press turned to for a comment, for no better reason than they knew of no one else else to approach beside this former pop star

        “There’s no equivalent of the Pope, Archbishop of Canterbury or Chief Rabbi in Islam,” he pointed out to me. Often, the stories were negative which meant he was forced to defend Islam, and he didn’t feel comfortable having to do this, time and time again.

        I sympathised with him. When it came out, the book, simply titled, Cat Stevens, was only about 26,000 words but for years afterwards was the only source of biographical information about him. After Proteus went bankrupt – see below – and was unable to reprint it, it became rare and valuable. I once saw it advertised for over £1,000 on Amazon. I saved two copies for myself but many years later Yusuf asked me to loan him a copy. Now I have only one.  

        By this time, I was having immense difficulty getting paid by Proteus. As with the merchandisers, I took to arriving at their offices and refusing to leave until I had a cheque in my hand, then cashing it as quickly as possible. Clearly the writing was on the wall, though that didn’t stop me from answering an ad in the Guardian when they needed an editor. I was fed up of chasing money and wanted another full-time job. Proteus’ never even got back to me on the editorial job, a blessing in disguise in the light of subsequent events. 

        It was around the same time that I was in their offices, probably chasing money again, when a designer there showed me the cover for a book on Bob Marley they were about to publish. 

“How come didn’t you use the colours red, green and yellow?” I asked.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because that’s the colours of many Caribbean flags, and Bob Marley wears them all the time.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that.”

No surprise they went tits up, then. 

        They had actually commissioned me to write a fourth book for them, a sort of almanac of British rock in the sixties, which I had almost finished by the time they went bankrupt. I never did finish it (or get paid) and it was never published, though they cobbled together a cover and it appeared in one of their sales catalogues. I threw away my manuscript in disgust. 

        In retrospect, the best thing about my relationship with Proteus Books was getting to know Johnny Rogan, who became a lifelong friend*. He’d written a very good book on Neil Young for them, which I’d nicked from their offices and read, and I think he’d helped himself to a copy of my Townshend book. We met for the first time at Proteus’ 1982 Christmas Party at a church hall in Paddington and since both of us had good reason to distrust Proteus by then we opted to take full advantage of their largesse, the free wine, until it ran out, whereupon we decamped to the nearest pub and got sloshed together for the first, but certainly not the last, time. 

        The next time Johnny and I met was when we sat together at the bankruptcy hearing for Proteus held at a hotel on the Aldwych. There were about 100 people present, writers, photographers, designers, typesetters, printers, distributors, everyone involved in book production, and the mood was sombre. I got the impression that some were owed a lot more than the few hundred quid they owed me. 

        After an accountant bored us all to tears with a breakdown of Proteus’ finances, or lack therefore, he asked if there were any questions. Finn Costello, the Irish rock photographer whom I knew from my days in New York, rose from his seat. He didn’t mince his words. 

        “Yer a fuckin’ cunt Brecher,” he shouted angrily, much to everyone’s amusement. His thick Irish brogue was particularly effective in conveying his feelings towards the hapless MD of Proteus, who was sat behind a table on a rostrum at the front of the room. “And I’m going to leave now because there’s a nasty smell in this room and it’s comin’ from you.” 

        Johnny and I joined in the cheers as he stormed out.**

_________

* Johnny died in 2021. Here’s a tribute I wrote on this blog, expanded from my obit in the Guardian. https://justbackdated.blogspot.com/2021/02/johnny-rogan-1953-2021.html

** Two years later, after I’d become the Editor at Omnibus Press, Music Sales, our parent company, bought up Proteus, and I was given the task of sorting out the mess. In one of many tea chests full of documents, I found my letter applying for that editor’s job. I figured there was some kind of divine justice in my being given this task. 

22.3.22

NEWMAN PASSAGE PART 3

 


Back in the flat on Nasmyth Street, invigorated by seeing them again and the fun and games in Stratford-on-Avon, I got to work on my Who book for which I enlisted the help of Ed Hanel, who was introduced to me by Miles. Ed had already written his Illustrated Discography of The Who for Omnibus and, being a Who nut, we got on like a house on fire. Who fans come in all shapes and sizes so it didn’t strike me as odd that he was an American who lived in Hendon in North London and worked as a lawyer for the US military while his wife Lynne was an officer with the US Navy, stationed near the Embassy building in Grosvenor Square. What mattered was that he had the biggest collection of Who records I’d ever seen, shelves of them from all around the world, even the rare old High Numbers’ single, and had a huge stash of magazine cuttings that I borrowed. Ed and Lynn’s travels have since taken them to San Francisco*, Japan and Hawaii where they currently live and we’re still in regular touch.  
Once again, I raided MM’s files and called a few people – among them Pete Townshend who declined to help, politely, because he was committed to two other Who books. This was my fist intimation of the forthcoming books by Richard ‘Barney’ Barnes, Maximum R&B, and Dave Marsh, Before I Get Old, both of which benefited from the co-operation of the group and would be published shortly after mine. Indeed, Barney’s book, the first to arrive, was published by Eel Pie, the publishing company that Pete owned at the time. Faced with this kind of competition I knew my Illustrated Biography would only ever be in the running for the bronze medal. All I really had going for me was that mine came out first but despite the bold text chosen by the designer, which I hated, I’m still quite proud of it considering the disadvantages I faced. It sold quite well and was reprinted so it’s by no means rare and therefore cheap as chips to buy second hand. 
Dave Marsh came over to London to research his book, which to my mind was very much slanted towards Pete who helped Dave a lot and put him in touch with members of the group’s entourage. I helped him too. One evening we drove up to Greenford so Dave and I could have a drink in the Oldfield. I wanted to show him where, one Thursday night in May 1964, Keith Moon staggered up to the stage and played with The Who for the first time. 
        I delivered my Who book to Miles and my A-Z Of Guitarists book to Michael Brecher at Proteus who promptly commissioned me to write a biography of Pete. This was fairly easy as I’d just done a heap of research on The Who but I tried to make it a Townshend book as opposed to a Who book, and to this end researched his family tree back to Pete’s grandparents, Horace and Dorothy, ne Blandford, Townshend, and Maurice and Emma, ne Hindley, Dennis, and discovered that Horace was part of the Jack Shepherd Concert Party that entertained holidaymakers on the sea front at Brighton. I got all their birth certificates so knew the names of Pete’s great grandparents too, and even found an expert on early 20th Century Concert Parties who lived in Bayswater and showed me a photo of Horace. Until then I wasn’t aware that Pete was the third generation of the Townshend line to make a living from music. 



        Meanwhile, Miles asked me to spend an afternoon with Toyah Wilcox and turn what she told me about herself into a short book, which I did, and then he commissioned me to write another Illustrated Biography, this one on Deep Purple. After failing to get much help from the group with my Who book, I figured I’d get the band, whom I’d interviewed many times for MM, onside this time. By now, I’d got to know Miles pretty well and we often met for a drink at the Newman Arms. He agreed it was a good idea as most Omnibus books in those days didn’t have any input from the subject. 
        My first port of call was the offices of HEC Enterprises at 25 Newman Street, just over the road from Omnibus, where John Coletta, the group’s original co-manager, looked after the affairs of Whitesnake, one of the many spin-off groups that Deep Purple would hatch. He agreed to help me on condition that the copyright of the book was controlled by HEC, which Omnibus conceded. I next spoke with their second co-manager, Tony Edwards, who ran Safari Records, and he too agreed to help. He and Coletta still had Ian Gillan’s handwritten resignation letter, dated 8 December, 1972, almost six months before his departure from the group was announced, which I Xeroxed for the book. 



        Coletta’s new partner was Rob Cooksey, who’d been Deep Purple’s tour manager, and both helped me contact Jon Lord, Ian Paice, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover and his successor on bass, Glenn Hughes, all of whom agreed to be interviewed, the latter two answering written questions into a tape recorder and mailing me recorded cassettes. For reasons known only to himself Ritchie Blackmore declined to cooperate which disappointed me because during the period when I wrote about the group for MM he and I always seemed to get along quite well. A planned interview with David Coverdale fell through because his disagreeable tour manager wanted to set conditions that I found unacceptable. I also interviewed their record producers Derek Lawrence and Martin Birch and another member of their road crew, Ian Hansford, whom I knew back in the day. 
        I spent a day with Ian Paice at his huge mansion in a village near Henley, and was surprised to discover that Alvin Lee, down on his luck, was living in a converted barn on his land. Jon Lord lived nearby in an even more imposing detached house and I spent a day and night with him too, and in the evening he and his wife Vicki took me to a Chinese restaurant in Henley where we met up with Ian and his wife Jackie. Both former models, Vicki and Jackie were twin sisters. 
        “I rang George and Olivia and asked them to join us,” Jon told Ian when we arrived at the restaurant. “Unfortunately, they were busy.”
Unfortunately indeed, I thought. 
        When we got back to Jon’s house, he and I stayed up very late, drinking and smoking, and the ‘relaxed’ atmosphere contributed to what was an unusually forthright interview about the ups and downs of life in Deep Purple. He even told me the story of their third manager, a financier who unknown to them was the biggest fence on the Sussex coast, a story John Coletta persuaded me to bury. At around 3am Jon turned down the lights in his spacious sitting room, sat at his white grand piano and, with moonlight streaming through the picture windows, played me Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, better known as the Moonlight Sonata.** 
        No one from the Purple camp vetted my final manuscript and, thanks largely to Jon’s willingness to tell it like it was, the book was and remains remarkably candid, far more so than most ‘authorised’ biographies of the era, perhaps because at the time no one thought Deep Purple had an afterlife beyond the split in 1976 and there was therefore nothing to lose by holding back information that at one time might have been deemed confidential. Among the book’s more startling revelations was a complete gig list which, because it was supplied to me by the group’s meticulous accountant, also included the fees paid to the group for almost every show they performed.
        The DP book was printed in Japan where a translated edition was also published. Here’s a page from that edition, together with the Japanese translation of my name which I once practiced and memorised. Unfortunately, the printers there went bankrupt and the film for the book – this was long before digital technology – was lost, so it was never reprinted. As a result, it’s quite rare now and usually fetches three figures on Amazon, but Rufus Stone Books are planning an enhanced limited-edition reprint with different illustrations in the near future. 




        A couple of years later I bumped into Jon Lord near Oxford Circus and he told me how much he enjoyed it. I heard on the grapevine that Ritchie felt differently. Oh dear. 

------

* In the Bay Area Ed and Lynne lived at the US Naval Base Treasure Island HQ, a detached mansion on an island in the San Francisco Bay that during WW2 was the HQ of US Pacific Fleet. I was delighted to note that the study where the admirals of the US Navy planned their revenge for Pearl Harbour was now a Who museum. When I next saw him, I told Pete this and he was delighted too. 

** By a pleasant coincidence, in November of 2012 I found myself sat next to Amy Lord, Jon’s daughter, and her husband at an event at the Roundhouse where Jon was being presented with a posthumous award by Classic Rock magazine. I reminded her that we first met when I was researching my DP book, interviewing her father at the family’s home in Henley in 1982 when she was a toddler.

21.3.22

NEWMAN PASSAGE PART 2

Becoming a writer of music biographies was not something I’d planned. It was chance that led me into writing rock books instead of more articles for the music press which was where I thought my immediate future lay. Still, I did write one or two features for Melody Maker, one on The Skids which involved a boozy trip to Amsterdam where I befriended their managers Alan Edwards and Ian Grant, and also for Smash Hits who needed someone to write about acts from my generation that made the charts, as opposed to their staple diet of bright young pop stars with angular haircuts and Regency clothes. No one on Smash Hits knew much about Ritchie Blackmore, so when Rainbow’s ‘All Night Long’ reached the top ten I was their man. 

        In between times I also contributed several pieces to a rock and pop part work called The History Of Rock, published by Orbis, and connected with a concert promoter who employed me to write the text and help with the layout for rock tour programmes, often at the behest of merchandising companies. This invariably involved chasing what I was owed. Told a cheque was being “put in the mail today”, I’d say, “No, don’t do that, I’ll collect it. I’m going to be close to your offices later today anyway.” Of course, I wasn’t. It would be a deliberate journey on my part, but always worth it for an outstanding £300, almost twice my monthly mortgage. Often, I’d arrive in a reception area and refuse to leave until the cheque was forthcoming, smiling sweetly. They paid me to get rid of me. 

        The money from mags and tour programmes was chicken feed compared to the advances for books, of course. That said, I soon discovered that when Proteus owed me money I had to chase it, but when Omnibus Press owed me, the cheque arrived promptly. It was an important lesson. 

        When I wasn’t chasing money, I got on with writing my books about guitarists and The Who. For the former I decided to write to as many guitarists as I could, addressing my envelopes to their management companies and hoping for the best. I enclosed a form with a series of questions like, ‘What was the first guitar you played?’ or ‘What is your favourite guitar?’ or ‘How many guitars do you own?’ or ‘Which guitarist do you most admire?’, and a surprisingly large number responded, among them JJ Cale, ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke, Dave Davies, Dave Edmunds, Peter Frampton, Rory Gallagher, Mick Green, James Honeyman-Scott, Steve Howe, Jorma Kaukonen, Mark Knopfler, Alvin Lee, John McLaughlin, Phil Manzanera, Hank Marvin, Brian May, Ted Nugent, Mike Oldfield, Bonnie Raitt, Mick Ralphs, Robbie Robertson, Todd Rundgren, Neal Schon, Chris Spedding, Steve Stills, Richard Thompson, Pete Townshend, Bert Weedon, Paul Weller, Carl Wilson and Frank Zappa. At the end of the book were a few pages on bassists and those answered my questions included John Entwistle, Roger Glover, Lemmy, Nick Lowe, Carl Radle, Noel Redding, Sting and John Wetton.

        All of these musicians wrote out their answers on my forms in longhand, often signing them, and I wish now I’d kept them all but like so many of the bits and pieces of rock memorabilia that came my way over the years, they were lost, probably in a house move when space was at a premium. Still, their response immeasurably enhanced the book which is long out of print now but available on Amazon, £32.75 for a rare hardback yesterday, much cheaper in soft cover. 

        Far more satisfying was writing my book about The Who. Jenny and I went to see them at the Birmingham NEC on March 5, 1981, the first and only time I watched them on stage with Kenney Jones on drums. I suppose I could have wangled my way into one of the earlier London shows with Jones but something held me back. For a long time, I was convinced that without Keith Moon they weren’t The Who I loved any more, and I simply didn’t have the urge to see them without him. But Jenny wanted to go so I caved in and blagged a pair of tickets. 

        We sat up on Pete’s side, but he was partly hidden behind speakers and I couldn’t watch him as closely as I would have liked, and watching Pete cavorting about, spinning around and windmilling, was always a great element of Who shows, at least in my book. They sounded OK, very loud, very persuasive, like they still meant it, but something was missing, maybe Keith’s abandon or his sense of humour, maybe that sense I used get that anything could happen at a Who show, that what wasnt planned was what made them great. Jenny, experiencing them for the first time, thought they were the greatest rock band she’d ever seen. “Told you so,” I said, probably a bit smugly, knowing that once upon a time they really were the greatest rock band in the world.

At an after-show party I chatted with John who was his usual down-to-earth self. He seemed pleased to see me, as if I was a figure from the past who’d deserted them but decided to come back on board. Pete was friendly too. There was no sign of Roger. I wouldn’t see them again until 1989.

        Jenny and I stayed the night in a hotel near the NEC and, because it wasn’t far to drive, on the way back we decided to spend a night in a hotel in Stratford-on-Avon for no better reason than neither of us had been to Shakespeare’s birthplace before. It was memorable in other ways too. 

        After we checked in we mooched around the town, then returned to the hotel where we’d decided to eat dinner. Jenny opted to take a leisurely bath while I read a newspaper on the bed. I called room service and ordered some cold beers and then skinned up an attitude-changing cigarette which I shared with her when she emerged from the bathroom. 

        What with the beer and the Old Nick’s Navy Cut and her smelling nice and wearing only a towel that tended to slip off if I gave it a yank, one thing led to another and before long my clothes were on the floor and we were going at it on (not in) the bed like a pair of rabbits. Unfortunately, in my enthusiasm for the task in hand I had neglected to put the Do Not Disturb sign outside and since we were deeply pre-occupied neither of us heard the light tap on the door that signalled the arrival of a chamber maid to turn down the beds. In she came, saw us banging away at full throttle on the bed and just stood there, rooted to the spot with embarrassment. I looked up at her and was lost for words, so I simply blurted out, “Please do not disturb”, whereupon Jenny burst out laughing and so did I. The girl, evidently unused to the sight of guests coupling in their rooms in the early evening, muttered an apology and left, giggling also. Indeed, so overcome were Jenny and I with our fits of giggles that we were unable to finish what we had started.

        We didn’t think this would be the end of the matter and we were right. The maid had evidently shared the details of what she saw with the rest of the staff as that evening, when we went down to dinner, we sensed them all staring at us, whispering amongst themselves and grinning. It stretched to the next day too, as when we checked out the receptionist made a particular point of saying how much she hoped we’d enjoyed our stay, with just that little bit too much emphasis on ‘enjoyed’. 

        Never a dull moment whenever I see The Who.