Happy Birthday Pete Townshend..May Your Passion Always Prevail!
Tuesday, May 19, 2009 1:19 AM
I had already decided to talk about The Who before I realized today
is Pete's birthday (64), so the date forced me to "take a break" and
post about another of my all-time favs. The band that falls in just
behind those two other UK bands from the 60's in popularity has been
through its own share of rollercoaster emotions. Yet the two remaining
original members, Townshend and Roger Daltrey, still go at it with the
passion of the wild-eyed "rockers" that were introduced to the US
shores in 1967, when "I Can See For Miles"
broke the top ten. I actually remember the first time I heard that
song on the radio, sitting in my grandmother's car in Terre Haute, IN
on a hot summer day, knowing I had to get my own copy ASAP.
Who was born in the UK in 1964, when sheet metal worker/guitarist
Daltrey, who built his own guitars to play in his band "The Detours,"
recruited John Entwhistle and Pete from their band "The Confederates."
Drummer Keith Moon joined a few months later, Daltrey took over as lead
vocal and "The Who," after a short identity crisis as "mod" band "The
High Rollers," started their journey to fame and fortune. On one of
their first gigs in the UK, Pete, quite athletic and passionate while
playing guitar, accidentally hit a low roof with his guitar's neck and
in frustration, smashed it to splinters on stage, making headlines all
over England the next day. Moon followed the next week by destroying
his drum kit at the end of another gig. The music was definitely the
"raison d'etre," but the destrution of theirs and other people's
property (mainly hotel rooms during tours) gave them a "hook" to be
remembered by. Their first US TV appearance on The Smothers Brothers Show
even had Moon use explosives to blow up his drums at the end of their
set, something that Townshend feels today was the start of his hearing
On and off stage antics aside, by the time of their
Woodstock appearance, The Who, along with The Rolling Stones, had
become known for their live music concerts. Daltrey recently has said
that The Who never rehearsed - that "rehearsals" were on stage in front
of their fans, because that is where their passion always is and where
their best music is always played. Although they never had a #1 hit in
the US, not even the rock radio staple "Won't Get Fooled Again"
from "Who's Next", the next ten years they enjoyed status as "The
World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band" for their incredible live
performances. They even enjoyed Guiness Book of World Record status as
performing the world's loudest concert in London in 1976: with a
measured sound pressure level of 126 dB at 32 meters (over 100
feet). Man, wish I could have experienced that!
notoriety, along with numerous world-wide hits and 2 "rock operas"
(Tommy and Quadrophenia), of which Tommy was made into a movie
(yea, I remember the theater I saw that in too), those "highs"
were countered by equally emotion rendering lows...from Moon and
Entwhistle almost joining a new band called "Led Zeppelin" during
a long-enduring money-crunch with The Who, to two nervous
breakdowns within 5 years for Townshend along with his drug addictions,
from Moon's demise and death, to the death of 11 fans at a concert in Cincinnati, and from the breakup of the band, to a cocaine induced death for Entwhistle at a later age.
their ups and downs and Pete Townshend's personal life thereafter, he
always came back with his passion for music. He re-affirmed that
passion and eventually "joined" again in 1995. I first saw The Who
minus Keith Moon on their "farewell Tour" in 1982, on the
"Quadrophenia" tour in 1997 and then, minus Entwhistle on the tour
right after his death in 2005. Today, The Who is Townshend
and Daltrey...Townshend told the Indianapolis audience in 2005 that "if
we lose anyone else, we can't call it The Who anymore...". Zak
Starkey, Ringo Starr's son who actually got his first drum kit from
dad's buddy, Keith Moon, is probably the best "replacement" for Moon,
and Pino Palladino, a very accomplished bass player, has rounded out
the new Who rhythm section very well (have you heard the cool "Baba
O'Reilly" re-mix with the awesome bass line CSI NY has been using the
last year or so?). Starkey and Palladino are not "permanent,"
but I expect them on any tour from here on.
The Who's passion today is not only for the music but for many worthy causes, including England's Teenage Cancer Trust and The Double O Charity.
Passion for what you do is so important, because without it, you are
fooling no one but yourself if you think you are putting your best
effort into it. The Who never just go through the motions. True
passion shows, and I think it shows as much today with The Who as it
So thank you Pete (and Roger) for all the years of
great times and music your passion has created. And Pete, if they come
up with another CSI spinoff, I vote for "The Seeker" as its theme song!