The first time I saw The Who in America was on Saturday November 20, 1971, at the Charlotte Coliseum, in North Carolina (where this shot was taken), and on the commercial flight down from New York I was sat next to Pete having a conversation about the temptations of the flesh that befall married rock stars when he suddenly developed a nose bleed. So for ten minutes or so I cradled his head on my lap and held a damp cloth to the most famous nose in rock.
Before this show Keith and I got into a bit of trouble when backstage we found a hollow wooden egg large enough to conceal a man on a four-wheeled cart . Keith clambered inside the egg and I towed him towards The Who's dressing room where he intended to leap out and surprise everyone. Indeed, he was hatching a plot to be wheeled on stage in this contraption. Unfortunately, en route to the dressing room I lost control of the vehicle, causing it to crash, the egg to topple over and the world's greatest rock drummer to come tumbling out head first. Keith and I narrowly avoided being ejected from the premises by a security guard who heard us and thought we were a couple of vandals... which I suppose we were. Of course, he failed to recognise The Who's drummer. I think only our English accents saved us from being chucked out into the car park.
When the Who came on stage Pete thrashed out a few heavy riffs and Keith joined in, fooling the audience into thinking this was a new opening song, but it soon became deafening feedback, out of which Pete fashioned the classic chord sequence of 'I Can't Explain'. I saw them start shows like this a few times in this era. Much has been made about the way The Who climaxed shows by demolishing their gear but less is said about how great their entrances were too. At their peak they ran on stage (well, maybe not John who was never one to hurry), Pete and John often plugging in and playing something, anything, as loud as hell, Keith grabbing his sticks and bashing his kit equally loud, and Roger pacing around in circles like a caged lion, while the crowd roared their welcome. Then, at the crack of Pete’s whip, this huge raucous undisciplined 15-second din subsided into silence as suddenly as it had erupted, to be replaced, in a matter of nanoseconds, by the precision-tooled in-yer-face opening chords of ‘Explain’ or ‘Substitute’. “You think we look pretty good together…” Well, not bad lads, not bad…
Later that night in Charlotte I saw Moonie lob a TV set out of a window eight storeys up, but that’s another story. And the next morning, over a full English in the dining room, Roger confided in me that the pleasures awaiting him back in his room suggested he wasn’t as concerned as Pete about temptations of the flesh.
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