THE WHO - Forest Hills, New York, May 30, 2015

In the last of her posts about The Who’s current US tour, Lisa Seckler reports on last night’s show at Forest Hills, the last show of this leg of the tour.

“A Million Little Memories… Join Together With THE WHO”

In order to be a diehard Who fanatic, you need the courage of a lion, the strength of an OX (snicker snicker) and learn to function on four hours of sleep. Whenever they’re in town, the gaggle of Whophreaks stagger around bleary eyed, yet so pumped from endorphins it’s comedic.
Such was the shape I was in today at Forest Hills.

I arrived early – bit of ticket confusion sorted rapidly – and as I entered the arena, the memories came flooding back. The venue is still undergoing some renovation; gone were the New York City Parks signature green painted wooden bleachers, now replaced with aluminum, and all the towers are painted in NY Met Blue. The floor seats are tough-on-your-bottom rigid plastic folding chairs bolted in rows, and what a joy to discover there were no real bathrooms, just Port-O-Sans everywhere (one would think that since the joint’s being renovated, they’d stick some real WC’s in!).
We were brought into sound-check at approximately 5 pm; moments later, the band took the stage. It was then I remembered the lightning strikes occurring during that hellish storm back in 1971. The Oak to the right of the stage was a young’un in ‘71 and it took a direct hit, survived and is now massive. In 1971 the stage was very high, now it’s much lower; the soundboards, uncovered in 1971, were now under tents. Hi-Watts then, Fender amps now, though Simon Townshend is still using Hi-Watt.
Roger, wearing a white Fedora and looking fabulous, was in a great mood. “The last time we played here there was a bit of rain,” brought forth groans. Then he asked for a head count of who was there that time. I and one other raised our hands, prompting Roger to tease us how about how old we are. He asked what was different now, and I shouted that in 1971 the stage was higher, and he came back with a witty retort about my condition that July night.  He used a nickname he had for me, which I will not divulge (cue loud laugh from my son… face palm for me). It was aimed directly at me; no one else would have gotten it.
Pete was in rare form; there were a few issues to sort out with his monitors, he asked for a carpet, at which point he and Roger had a back and forth regarding carpets, shagging, and Austin Powers. I knew then and there it was going to be an incredible show. I’m having a tough time deciding whether Barclays or this one was better. This was the last night of this leg of the tour, and they refused to give in to exhaustion.

Blasting onto the stage at exactly 8 pm, ‘Can’t Explain’ had the crowd up immediately, followed by ‘The Seeker’ during which Pete displayed some stunning flourishes, feeding the flames of what was to be some of the best playing I’ve seen from him in ages. As stated earlier, he was on fire at Barclays. This was just the beginning.
‘Who Are You’ had Roger cranking up his vocals, growling, rocking back and forth, Pete lunging and whirling, seeing the first of a series of windmills that were to be repeated tonight multiple times, all through the set, thrilling EVERY time.
Roger introduced ‘Kids Are Alright’ with a bit about the song’s history, explaining just how close he came to leaving the band at 19 for family reasons. It changed my whole perspective on a song I love, a much deeper understanding.

The band kept turning up the heat; it was STUNNING to see. ‘I Can See For Miles’ was next, and absolutely incredible. Zak Starkey. ZAK STARKEY! Slamming those drums. Sounding like nothing I’ve heard since Keith. He was on fire tonight. More about this… further on.
Pete takes the mike, and…. riffs about how much The Who love this city (crowd goes bananas), then launches into one of the best ‘My Generation’s I’ve ever heard, then goes into an amazing jam. It’s important to note, dear reader, that I believe for a long time they were afraid to do this, feeling unable to do so due to some “missing parts”. That is absolutely NO LONGER THE CASE. His fingers were flying all over those frets. Everyone was on board. WHAT JOY!!!!
‘Slip Kid’ had more great lead by Pete and a lot of whammy bar! The whaaaaaaaangawhaaaaaanga after “You won’t blackmail me” was epic!
Anyone who knows the history behind Who’s Next knows it came from a dream project that nearly sent Pete over the edge called Lifehouse. Most of the songs that made up Who’s Next were from this but it didn’t see light of day in its entirety until 2000. The mind-blowing part of this is that Pete’s vision of the future when Lifehouse was a work in progress has all come to pass! I can’t suggest strongly enough if you don’t have a copy of Lifehouse to get your hands on one. Do a “Who-a-Thon” and listen to Who’s Next then Lifehouse right after. It’s an INCREDIBLE experience. For me, tonight, this is when I launched into the ether. Roger absolutely KILLED ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ singing it with such passion I thought my heart would burst. ‘Bargain’ had the entire crowd singing along, with Pete doing some subtle vocal changes that were stunning.

I’m having trouble finding the words to describe ‘Join Together’. Zak Starkey is THUNDERDRUMS. The crowd, the ENTIRE CROWD singing along, all on their feet, Roger prowling the stage with the mike and stand upraised, working the ENTIRE STAGE so all could sing along. This was the second blitz of the evening. The energy in the venue was STUNNING. Ditto for ‘Baba O’Riley’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. Hearing these 44 years later in the same venue was an incredibly emotional experience, not of the weepy kind, but as if there was a hole in the space-time continuum; I was in the present, yet it was 44 years ago. What an experience!
‘I’m One’ had Pete’s sweet tenor soaring over the crowd, with Roger playing gorgeous subtle harmonica that was a joy to hear. ‘Love Reign O’er Me’ had Pete adding glorious flourishes. Between those and Roger’s soaring vocals, it was mind-boggling.
‘Eminence Front’ was pretty darn good tonight. I’m admitting I’m beginning to like it after many years.

Then there was a really special treat. Tonight, Forest Hills got not only ‘Amazing Journey’, ‘Sparks’ and ‘Pinball Wizard’ but the gift of a lifetime: ‘The Underture’, all 10 minutes of it. I was on cloud nine screaming when Pete launched into the piece. Swirling, lunging, windmilling, dancing! Roger slamming those tambourines. It was so INCREDIBLE, Zak, Pete, Simon, and Roger playing their hearts out.

A note to the readers: I’ve seen The Who more times than I can count. These last two shows, at Barclays and tonight at Forest Hills, were nothing less than the most incredible display of musical genius on the part of ALL the players I’ve seen in many years. Those of us, we “Whofreaks” tend to go into a form of withdrawal when the band has downtime, so every “first” show of a new tour always seems great. However, if in fact this is the “last hurrah” far from going out with a whimper, they are ROARING like lions.

Pete is the happiest I’ve ever seen him. Roger loving it. Simon, Zak, Pino, John, Frank, and Loren… brilliant.




As a prequel to her forthcoming review of tonight’s Who concert at Forest Hills in New York, Lisa Seckler, my US Who correspondent, has sent me this account of the first time she saw them there.

It’s been said by many of our generation that the music we listened to as teenagers kept us alive, emotionally and physically.
         From the seething rage of ‘My Generation’ to the nobody-forgets-their-first-break-up dilemma of ‘So Sad About Us’ to the unrequited passion of ‘I Can’t Reach You’ to the angelic beauty of ‘Sunrise’ the music of The Who resonated to the darkest and brightest levels of this teenager’s soul; the roller coaster of emotions EVERY teenager lives, every day. Listed on the jacket of the Tommy album, among the credits, was the name Meher Baba. Totally in love with the album, I didn’t give it a thought, not then anyway. Everyone was into spirituality in those days, whether it was Ram Dass, the Maharishi, Krishna or Sri Chinmoy. Chacun a son gout. Each to his own.
         In February of 1970 the Happy Birthday collaboration album was released to celebrate the Avatar’s birthday. I didn’t think about it until November when Pete wrote an article for Rolling Stone about his involvement with Meher Baba called ‘In Love With Meher Baba’. I had copies of both, listened to Happy Birthday, read and kept the article, but didn’t heed it until… Forest Hills. The Who’s new album, Who’s Next, was scheduled for release in conjunction with the tour.
         I was a good kid; a natural athlete and competition swimmer, surrounded by the drug culture of the late sixties and early seventies. Pot, hash and acid was available everywhere. Friends used to show up for class flying on acid, stinking of weed or so hung over they used to fall out of their chairs in class or off the top of the postbox in front of Madison High (literally) on Quentin Road & Bedford Avenue.
         The summer of 1971 I was working weekends as a Day Camp Lifeguard at a local beach club. All the Lifeguards were college kids, most of them would smoke a bowl and then sit on their chairs guarding the pool. A couple of them were really big Who fans. Months before the summer 1971 Who Tour was announced – and I already had my tickets – it turned out one of the crew from the beach club wanted to go to Forest Hills with me.
         It was a grey cut-the-air-with-a-scythe summer afternoon. Mike, my lifeguard, and I left home to take three trains to the tennis stadium. Every New Yorker knows the New York City subway system is aromatic on a good day; that day was particularly godawful due to the humidity and pending wrath of weather we were riding into. Of course, neither of the first two trains had air conditioning. I was wearing denim bellbottoms, and a gypsy white and red embroidered hobo top with those buffalo hide sandals made in India; Mike sporting his college swim team shirt, jeans and sandals, and toting a blunderbuss sized umbrella.
         As we emerged from the subway at Austin Street, the air was so saturated there was a dank mist at street level, with a fine light rain falling. Mike and I kept glancing at each other as we trudged along under the umbrella, sharing that non-verbal communicative look that says “Uh-Oh”. Right on the tickets, in glaring block letters, were the glorious words ”RAIN OR SHINE”.
         A false sense of security about the weather at ANY outdoor concert is pure folly. We had just that, completely convinced that we would stay perfectly dry under the satellite dish-sized umbrella, no raincoats.
         We arrived at our seats in the stadium. Moments later the heavens opened. Not just opened, but it was as if the deity had turned on his shower full blast, combined with multiple lightning strikes everywhere and ground shaking thunder. Roadies were running amok on the stage, throwing what I recall were either plastic trash bags or sheet plastic over the gear, which kept blowing off.
         The blunderbuss-satellite-dish sized umbrella lasted all of 10 seconds, if that. Prior to its demise – shredded from the ribs – we had lift off as the storm blew in, the force of the initial gust lifting Mike clean off his feet. In yanking it down, it fell apart in his hands. He turned to me: “My father’s going to kill him for destroying his golf umbrella.”
         I was convinced I was going to die an Arthurian/Valkyrie death fried by lightning, envisioning Daily News headlines “Storm Fries Teenager At Who Concert”. It turned out to be prescient.
         The tunnels at the stadium were jammed with wall-to-wall soaking wet people. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, as Martha put it. I have a vague recollection of a disembodied voice – probably Ron Delsener, the promoter of the show – stating the obvious, that there would be a “rain delay because we’ve sent people to buy the band and opener rubber boots”. RAIN DELAY? YA THINK?
         My chest and upper arms had streaks of red running down from the embroidery thread bleeding dye. My feet turned black from those soaking wet buffalo hide sandals from India. Mike the same.
         About an hour and half later, the show was able to start. Opening for The Who was LaBelle – Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx (a friend to this day) and Sarah Dash – pulling out all the stops as if to atone for that hour and a half of sheer misery no one could control. The crowd, as wet as a pack of hounds, refilled the stadium quickly. A goatskin wine bag was being passed up and down our row. Soaking wet and freezing, Mike and I were glad to take swigs. When asked, we were told there was Mateus inside. Anything to warm up!
         I started feeling “funny” just as LaBelle’s set drew to a close and The
Who came on. I remember Keith somersaulting onto the stage, then jumping onto Pete’s back shrieking “Cockroach! Cockroach!”, whereupon Pete began jumping as if to crush the beast.
         The Who settled in and launched into ‘Love Ain’t For Keeping’, the  crowd roaring and rising to its feet, then ‘Pure And Easy’ which suddenly became very weird for me.
         The music was taking on a rich and echo-y tone. I felt as if I was floating and INSIDE THE music. Mike and I grabbed each other realizing there was MORE than Mateus in that wine bag.
         I was thoroughly GONE within minutes.
         Entwistle became a cartoon caricature as he sang ‘My Wife’. ‘Can’t Explain’ and ‘Substitute’ had me dancing wildly, ‘Bargain’ and ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ had me in tears… but THEN…. ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ had me seeing musical notes dancing in a chorus line, pulsing to the beat, hypnotically. I sat down for ‘I Don’t Even Know Myself’ and ‘Baby Don’t You Do It’, and an ecstatic and driving ‘Pinball Wizard’ and ‘See Me Feel Me’, during which I was hit with a bombshell revelation: Meher Baba had said, “All so called mind-expanding drugs are physically, mentally, and spiritually harmful.”
         To this day, I can’t explain (!) HOW and WHY my thought processes brought this out, but I can tell you this – it was the LAST time I ever swigged from a wine bag, and the FIRST time I understood all I had read to that point about Baba. It all started to make sense at that moment. From that point on, I made the conscious decision to NEVER touch a recreational substance again, something I have firmly stuck to ever since. The music became the background to these revelations. I remember vaguely hearing ‘Water’ while this was going on.
         I started coming down as The Who launched into thunderous versions of ‘My Generation’ and then closed with ‘Magic Bus’.
         Mike and I were thoroughly soaked through and emotionally drained at the show’s end. It was a quiet, thoughtful, long ride back through the bowels of New York City.
         I was irrevocably changed by that night. However… as strange as it may sound, I give FULL credit to Pete Townshend for “keeping me in tune with the straight and narrow” with regards to recreational substances, by giving me the gift of the philosophy, gentleness and sweetness of Meher Baba. A gift I hold in the closest recesses of my heart.
         I go back to Forest Hills tonight, not mourning my lost youth, but rejoicing in the knowledge I was saved that night from turning down a path that could have had disastrous results. I had to “lose myself to find myself” which, as we all know IS a BARGAIN…. THE BEST I EVER HAD.



JOAN JETT on The Who's US Tour

My pal Lisa in America has now seen several Who shows in the current US tour and feels the need to draw the attention of Just Backdated readers to the opening act, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, who’ve impressed her mightily. I’m happy to oblige:

Joan Jett: ever have one of those artists you've never gotten around to seeing that was on your bucket list? That was Joan for me. Not in years. A lifetime ago, I met Joan and her manager backstage at a Who show. I made a hollow promise back then to make sure I caught one of her sets. It's really a disgrace that female rockers have to battle the glass ceiling to this day, treated as novelty or completely marginalized. Better recently, but still not where things should be. I've now seen Joan and her band three times this tour. Every single set has been a revelation.
            She goes out there every night and puts on a 200% performance. It takes the courage of a lion to be an opener for any major act, let alone The Who, but this woman, this petite bundle of dynamite, just blows my mind. It's great if you have the ability to let your fingers fly all over the frets, but this is direct, tight as hell, chunky foot stomping heaven great great music. I bow to the ones that came before & during.... Bonnie Raitt, Melissa Etheridge, the rest of the Runaways, and all the others. Don't make the mistake I did. She's just damn terrific.

Lisa took the picture. 

MONEY, IT'S A GAS - The Dark Side of FIFA

With apologies to Pink Floyd...

Of all the images thrown up by the entirely predictable arrest of corrupt FIFA officials yesterday – and why did it take so long? – none was more shameful than the sight of staff from the ‘five-star’ Bauer au Lac hotel holding up bed sheets in a pathetic attempt to protect the identity of their well-heeled guests as they were hauled away through a back entrance to a police car. They were evidently roused from their very comfortable beds (rooms cost from 870 to 3,800 Swiss Francs a night – there’s about 70 CHF to the £1) shortly after 6am, an ungodly hour for men who the previous evening had no doubt enjoyed an eye-wateringly expensive meal at their Michelin-starred restaurant washed down with fine wine and a goblet or three of cognac (top price for brandy – £1,750 a bottle). For decades now this den of decadent luxury has offered a sanctuary to these criminals whenever they visit Zurich and there seems little doubt that its discreet lobby and private suites have seen cash-filled envelopes change hands on multiple occasions. No doubt the bills for their suites were paid for by FIFA, handsomely too, so the obsequious employees that held up those sheets were attempting to protect paymasters whose custom and tips were clearly in danger of slipping down the plughole. Tragic!
              One other issue concerns me. The ongoing investigation will now look closely at how Russia and Qatar were awarded the World Cup for 2018 and 2022 respectively. Far be it for me to suggest that anything irregular occurred to create this situation, and leaving aside for a moment the twisted wisdom of holding the competition in either of these nations, am I not right in thinking that bribery and corruption are endemic in both? Greasing the wheels to secure the deals is perfectly normal in these countries, accepted as both necessary and routine and condoned by all who benefit, so it’s unlikely they’ll believe for one moment that they have done anything wrong if – heaven forbid – one of those cash-filled envelopes just happened to have changed hands somewhere down the line in the Bauer au Lac hotel.
              I await the outcome of all this with interest. 


THE WHO IN BROOKLYN - May 26, 2015

My roving East Coast Who correspondent Lisa Seckler-Roode has excelled herself with her report of last night’s show at the Barclays Center at Brooklyn in New York, the penultimate concert on this first leg of the group’s US touring schedule this year. Pete, Roger & Co now have three days off before Saturday’s final show at Forest Hills from where Lisa will no doubt send her final communiqué and some more pictures. Sounds like she enjoyed herself last night:

There are some nights that are pure unadulterated rock’n’roll nirvana. Magic. Ecstasy. Brooklyn, home of the original front-row-on-the-rail diehard we’ll-sleep-in-front-of-The-Fillmore-and-Madison-Square-Garden gang for tickets. (I know some of these people, and they are best avoided if you don’t know the significance of ‘I Saw Yer’ at the end of ‘Happy Jack, the name of the store that burned down next to the Fillmore when The Who debuted Tommy there in 1969, and the serial number of the SG that Pete lobbed to Binky at the Met in 1970 – CC.)
          Barclay’s tonight. This show was right up there with Toronto and Largo in 1976. That’s a pretty highfalutin statement, I realize that. However, that being said, there was the most punch, power and raw genius on that stage tonight than I’ve seen in an eternity. On the rail: myself, Lauren, Gigi, and her darling sweet eight-year-old Mehret, seeing them for the first time.
          Peppy opening with ‘Can’t Explain’, after which Pete told the masses it was great to be in Brooklyn and back in NY (cue crowd roar). ‘The Kids Are Alright’ – great guitar work by Roger, Pete & Simon; ‘I Can See For Miles’ introduced by Pete talking about playing Detroit with 25 people at the venue[1]. Absolutely stunning! Roger growling and hissing the lyrics, Townshend playing with the front row crew, giving a lesson on sustaining one string, harmonies and overall vocals spot on. Pete and Roger quickly glance at each other, Pete tells the crowd the next song was released before most of them were born, going on to say: “If you were alive when it was released, the special bus is available post show with wheelchairs and hot soup for after the gig”. Why did he look straight at me and start laughing after he said that? Gee thanks Pete! They then ROARED into ‘My Generation’, went into a jam at end of song, with Roger riffing on the vocals.
          It only got BETTER after that: ‘Slip Kid’, ‘Join Together’, ‘Eminence Front’, which I usually don’t like but tonight it was fantastic; edgy, jazzy and spot on. Then ‘Bargain’ and I haven’t heard such a KILLER version since the seventies, with Roger’s voice soaring, and another great jam at the end with Pete just shredding it, simply ripped it. I have this problem: when it’s good, REALLY good, I cry, and ‘Bargain’ brought the first bout of tears pouring down my face. ‘Behind Blue Eyes’: ditto, save no tears, just superb. My Achilles heel came next: Tommy, very dear to my heart for SO many reasons; for me, it’s always been the beauty of ‘Amazing Journey’/’Sparks’. As soon as Pete hit the opening C chord, he and Roger looked straight at me and nodded. They knew years ago that if I lose it, it’s beyond great and dear lord, it was BRILLIANT. Roger throwing the mike, Pete whirling, windmilling, lunging, and of course... the BIRDMAN, guitar suspended, Roger smashing those tambourines. I lost it. Gigi, Mehret, Lauren and I hugging dancing. I totally lost it, tears flowing again. ‘Baba O’Riley’... killer. “Nothing more needs to be said.”
          Roger and I were communicating now. I want Mehret to get a tambourine. Roger acknowledges. Roger sees me mouth “wow” and thinks I want water so he tosses the bottle he was drinking at me; slow motion upright in air without spilling drop UNTIL I CATCH IT, spilled but upright and we’re all hysterical as I have water dripping into my cleavage… now THAT’s rock’n’roll!
          ‘I’m One’: pure and achingly sweet; ‘Love Reign O’er Me’: one of the BEST I’ve heard in ages, Roger’s voice just soared, Pete rocking and dancing. ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’: tight and thrilling, Pete pouring sweat, jamming whirling lunging, drum break like shots fired. Pete jumps at end, Roger hands tambourines to the poor photographer in pit... I hand it to Mehret (Gigi’s jaw drops) and the second one to a little boy in the third row. Roger acknowledges both Mehret and other little boy, and shouts: “The next generation is here.”
          It’s now 2:30 am as I write this and my mind is still REELING: the best rock n roll band in the world, the best supporting players in the business, the purest definition… that’s The Who.

[1] Pete was probably referring to a show at Southfield High School Gymnasium, Southfield, a suburb of Detroit, on November 22, 1967, when he smashed an Epiphone guitar in the finale – CC.



The ever expanding iPod now contains 16,226 songs and threw up a real mixed bag this morning, beginning with Prince’s ‘She’s Always In My Hair’, a pleasant pop song that could have been written by The Beatles, from a double CD I have called The Hits/B-Sides, with one of Prince’s sparky little guitar solos, not a song I was familiar with but very agreeable nonetheless.
         The same can be said for ‘Goblin Girl’, a thinly disguised testament to the wonders of fellatio by Frank Zappa from his album Have I Offended Someone. This whole album is full of songs designed to get up the noses of the moralists who try to censor pop music, a deeply satisfying enterprise at which Frank excelled. On this doo-wop style song he celebrates girls who can ‘gobble it all’ to a tune that could have been written by the Brill Building composers who provided songs for The Drifters and their contemporaries. Of course the song masquerades as a Halloween party singalong but we know where you’re coming from Frank.
         Still in doo-wop mode we move on to the always satisfying ‘Duke Of Earl’ by the Duke himself, Gene Chandler, from a compilation called The Essential Rock’n’Roll Album that I think I bought many years for £2 at a motorway service station. This can be dangerous as the versions of songs on these ultra-budget CDs are often re-recorded for copyright reasons and never a patch on the originals. Fortunately this is the original, a US number one in January, 1962, deservedly so.
         Next up is Franz Ferdinand with ‘Take Me Out’ from their eponymous debut album from 2004, all riffy guitars that slow down until they seem likely to stop altogether, then crank up again into the now well-known and very catchy chorus.
         Next, in one of those odd coincidences that my iPid seems to throw up from time to time, we have another track from that same Essential Rock’n’Roll CD, ‘Wooly Bully’ by Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs, a great song that reached number two in the US in 1965. A classic golden oldie, this is a lively 12-bar with a hint of bubblegum, guaranteed to get the feet tapping, even on the 0854 to Waterloo.
         ‘Positive Tension’ by Block Party sounds like Kraftwerk with much deep bass lines than usual but when the songs gets into gear they sound like Franz F, plenty of muscle, as is the case with ‘Changing Man’ by Paul Weller from a live CD recorded at Glastonbury that I think came free with a magazine.
         This is followed by Abba’s ‘He Is Your Brother’, live from Adelaide in 1977, a poorly recorded bootleg that was among the Abba discs sent to me by my Abba pal/author Carl Magnus Palm. This a bit cheesy, with Bjorn on vocals and the girls held back until the chorus, so for the first time this morning I fast forward and up comes ‘I Shall Be Released’ from Dylan’s superb Before The Flood, the live album he recorded with The Band on his 1974 tour of the US. On this track his Bobness takes a back seat and lets Richard Manuel take the vocal, most soulful too. Beautiful.
         I thought this would be highlight of the morning until David Bowie cropped up next, his re-recorded version of ‘Let Me Sleep Beside You’ from the unreleased Toy album that David Buckley sent me earlier this year. Originally written in 1967, Bowie excels on this, a coming of age love song that until ‘Space Oddity’ was the best song he’d recorded up to this time. In his new book about Bowie’s work, The Music And The Changes, David writes: “Toy, originally recorded in 2000, was leaked online 11 years later, and came as an unexpected treat at a time many commentators predicted no more music from Bowie ever again. It may not be the final version of the album, or the correct track list and running order, but it sounds mixed and ready to go. Quizzed about the album’s sudden appearance, Bowie’s office has refused to comment.”
         ‘Old Friends’ by Simon & Garfunkel follows, a track from their 1968 album, Bookends. It is the concluding track on side one of this album about which I once wrote: “All the best qualities of these two strangely disparate characters coalesced now on Bookends, the first vinyl side of which was the most cohesive series of songs they ever recorded together. This track finds two old men sat on a park bench, both of them turned 70, with nothing but memories to prop them up. Jimmy Haskell's string arrangement adds poignancy to the gentle pace as melancholia dominates the fade-out, a coda that returns to the Bookends theme which opened the album and which further echoes the theme of memories. Our two old men are not relishing their lot, and the sense of pathos is almost overwhelming as the song, and side one of the vinyl release, draws to a close.”
         From Simon’s melancholia we switch to Boy George, on top form for Culture Club’s ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me’, always easy on the ears, from an ’80s Hits CD I picked up in a charity shop for £1.50 I think, and as the train slows down to enter Waterloo we just have time for the opening lines from ‘Dog Faced Boy’ by The Eels. I’ll listen to the rest tonight. The whole family went to see The Eels in Brighton a few years ago, and a fine time was had by all of us. 



Here’s a brief show report from last night’s Who concert, sent to Just Backdated by my roving East Coast Who correspondent Lisa Seckler-Roode, who also took the pictures.

The sleeping dragon has shaken off the dust and is spewing fire again. The Nassau Coliseum show was (for the way things are now) pretty damn great. ‘A Quick One’, ‘I Can See For Miles’ and ‘Bargain’ were pretty damn fantastic, ‘Amazing Journey’ and ‘Sparks’ remarkable. Great stage banter about people smoking dope in the venue, prompting an offering from Pete to shove the weed “up the smoker’s ass”, a vintage Pete style comment. Roger made it very clear he would walk off if it didn’t stop. He had problems with his in ear monitors, leading him to repeatedly yank them out, going so far as too tell the poor guy trying to put them back on him to fuck off. More great piss and vinegar! Overall, thoroughly great set by what exists as The Who today.

Next week Lisa will be reporting from Forest Hills, where The Who last played in July, 1971, two shows that opened their Who's Next US tours that year. 


PETE TOWNSHEND - The First Profile I Wrote, Part 2

This is the second part of the profile of Pete Townshend that I wrote for Melody Maker in May, 1974. I think at the time that MM was running a series called The Giants Of Rock, and each month we featured a fairly lengthy profile of top flight rock stars. This one on Pete was the only one I was asked to write, probably because I had my hands full running MM’s US coverage at the time. To be honest, I’d have been a bit miffed if they’d asked anyone else to do it.
          The first part ended with the success of Tommy and Leeds as a stop-gap follow-up.

Another shot taken at Jacksonville, August 7, 1976, one of the batch if pictures from this show sent to me by Mark Starcke.

Time passed and nothing happened. Townshend himself must have been going through mental torture at this time, knowing that unsympathetic observers were writing him off as a one-shot while he was desperately trying to come up with something new that would stand alongside Tommy.
          His first attempt, now referred to as the Lifehouse Project, failed although the ideas behind it seemed sound enough. For Lifehouse, Townshend wanted to involve a bunch of Who fans with the group to such a degree that the whole complement became one big rock group. Then they’d compose together and the resultant action and music would form both a film and an album.
          Practically, of course, it could never work and all that came from the idea were a number of rehearsals at the Young Vic Theatre near Waterloo Station which ultimately resulted in the tracks on their Who’s Next album.
          The group themselves were dissatisfied with this record. Townshend obviously felt he could do better, but it did produce a great single in ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ and a good quantity of other tempting rock offerings. Any other band would have been well proud of this album, despite its bad taste sleeve design.
          The Who continued touring and Townshend became one of the most quoted of all rock personalities, simply because he was such a good talker. Townshend thinks a great deal about rock and its place in today’s society; he also thinks about its future and comes up with ideas which, although often impractical, are always interesting.
          There was another long delay following Who’s Next, punctuated only with the release of Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy, an anthology album of greatest hits and others. Townshend has stated publicly that this is his favourite Who album because it sums up their career and takes the band back to their roots so well.
          Though Who buffs would probably own all the material on the album, it is certainly the most recommended for the beginner. But there still remained the nagging thought that Townshend had yet to produce an album to match Tommy which was, by this time, becoming something of a sore point within the group.
          It was generally known that they were fed up to the back teeth with playing the music, even though fans continued to lap it up, and there followed a lengthy period of inactivity for the band. Townshend himself put out a sort of solo album called Who Came First, dedicated to Meha Baba. It was a surprisingly quiet affair, on which the tracks were as unlikely as the arrangements. There was Jim Reeves’ ‘There’s A Heartache Following Me’, apparently Baba’s favourite commercial song, and a Baba prayer which Townshend set to music. It was all sweetness and light, a far cry from the violent, prancing figure of The Who’s stage show.
          The rest of the band went their own ways, too. Roger Daltrey put out his first solo music and had a hit single on his own. John Entwistle stepped up his solo output and talked about a new group called Rigor Mortis which he was forming as an additional activity to The Who. Keith Moon went into films and looning full time.
          Then there were faint rumblings in the early part of last year that something was happening at last. There was talk that they’d bought their own recording studio in Battersea because they weren’t satisfied with anything else around and that hard work was in progress fitting the place out.
          Long sessions were taking place morning, noon and night and Townshend was, for once, refusing interviews in case his concentration on the project in hand wavered. His attention didn’t waver and Quadrophenia was the result, finally burying Tommy once and for all. Quadrophenia is a story of mods and The Who’s own background, containing some brilliant rock numbers and far and away the most ambitious production job the group had ever attempted.
          Significantly, perhaps, Kit Lambert’s name re-appeared on the sleeve production credits, but the whole epic double package was really Townshend’s creation. He wrote the entire score for Quadrophenia even though the initial idea is credited to Daltrey. Townshend arranged the piece – no mean feat in itself – and his guitar playing stands up to the highest critical standards.
          Though Townshend himself would be the first to knock his skill on the guitar, Quadrophenias shows him to be up there with Page, Clapton and Beck in skill and technique. Visually, of course, he’ll forever be streets ahead. The sheer scope of Quadrophenia reflects the scope of the man’s imagination. He aims high and often reaches higher still. Few artists in rock are capable of the concentration involved in producing epics of the size of Quadrophenia.
          Peter Townshend is the perfectionist’s perfectionist. Many bands would swop a date-sheet of good gigs for one of The Who’s bad nights, but Townshend, whose temper breaks out on these occasions, takes the matter to his heart and fist. It was only recently that he physically attacked Bob Pridden, The Who’s most respected sound engineer, when something went wrong during a show at Newcastle. And Pridden has been with The Who since they started*.
          But he still hasn’t lost his sense of humour, even though he has aged considerably since those early, crazy days. He’ll still kick a TV set in if the mood takes him, and celebrate a good show by throwing cream cakes over one and all. The glint in his eye is forever there.
          His guitar wrecking now seems confined to rare occasions. Usually it occurs after a particularly good or particularly bad performance. What Townshend considers to be an average performance will not end in the once nightly ritual of snapping a Gibson twixt neck and fretboard. And nowadays, of course, he could afford to smash three a night.
There are fewer more exciting spectacles in rock than watching Townshend put all his energies into the destruction of a Gibson Les Paul guitar that has apparently displeased him.
          It’s a merciless onslaught and while the guitar purists may frown at what they consider to be a cheap (or too expensive) gimmick, anyone who has watched the spectacle from close quarters will know how the adrenalin flows when the neck finally parts company with the body. And to sacrifice the remains to the crowd is surely the ultimate in showmanship – as Caesar proved in Rome.
          No appreciation of Townshend would be complete without mention of the legendary demo discs he produces for the rest of the band before they enter the studio to begin recording.
          At home in his private studios, Townshend painstakingly overdubs everything until he has produced a solo single of his own. This he duplicates and sends out to the other three so that they may learn their parts, and improve on them before the actual group recording. In hushed corridors it’s said by those who have heard Townshend demos that they frequently rival the finished product**.
          To this end Townshend is a competent drummer, bassist and keyboard player. He also tampers with Moogs and synthesisers and possesses a rather nasal but fine and pure singing voice. He hasn’t the power of Daltrey, but it serves to offset The Who’s violence in music with more thoughtful lyrics here and there.
          It was no secret that he was heavily into drugs until influenced by Baba. The Who were the mod band and mods took uppers and downers until they rattled when they danced. Townshend has since appeared on TV discussions relating his experiences with drugs and emphasising that through Baba he has found a better way of dealing with the problems of life.
          Townshend is also something of a Good Samaritan in the field of rock. He discovered Thunderclap Newman and produced their number one hit ‘Something In The Air’; he was associated with the early acceptance of Golden Earring; he encouraged Eric Clapton to perform on stage again at the two London Rainbow shows last year – but was happy to take a relatively back seat when it came to the actual playing.
          Today he’s a family man with a wife and two daughters living by Eel Pie Island near Twickenham. He involves himself in all facets of rock and is keenly aware of The Who’s need to carry on live performances in all parts of the world. He will not be dictated to by business demands.
          “I am the business,” he was once quoted as saying when a record company were anxious for a new Who release.
          He can write interesting newspaper articles: three years ago he wrote a series of thought provoking articles on the rock scene in the Melody Maker.
          As 1974 turned, Peter Townshend could look back on a satisfying ten years. He is a perfect member of our exclusive rock giants clubs, always striving for better things and always maintaining a super-high standard in whatever he does. He’s still out there playing and intends to carry on as long as The Who can survive.
          Over the last eight years I’ve watched The Who perform upwards of 25 times, and at least 20 of these have been within the last three years. On every occasion they have brought me to a peak of excitement that may happen once or twice with others but never every time.
          For that I have to thank Peter Townshend.

* Actually since December 15, 1966, when Bob made his roadie debut a gig at the Locarno Ballroom, Streatham in South London.

** This was written long before Pete’s demo were made available on the Scoop albums and elsewhere of course.