Sunday, February 8, 2015

10 Interesting Things About Pete Townshend Before The Who Hit It Big

(from pages 1-78 of Who I Am by Pete Townshend)

1. Townshend's father was a clarinetist and saxophonist with a "prototypical British swing band" called the Squadronaires, which I think is pretty cool because one of the best bands I was ever in (full of "brooding and swirling psychedelia," according to this link I just found in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) was called Birmingham Squadron.

2. Pete at seven referred to his mom as an unreliable vamp. His dad was drunk one night and told him the facts of life and that a man does a kind of pee into the woman. Pete later told this to a friend who was horrified that everybody originated from urine.

3. Pete's dad wrote "Unchained Melody," which was not a hit but was covered multiple times by other successful bands. When he saw young women flocking to his dad and fellow musicians, he too became set on becoming a performing musician when he grew up. Soon thereafter he saw "Rock Around the Clock with Bill Haley" at the movies and fell in love with rock 'n roll.

4. He thought Elvis was a corny chump. But he had somehow missed earlier releases like "That's Alright Mama" and "Heartbreak Hotel," only being introduced to The King's music through later releases such as "Hound Dog" and "Love Me Tender," both of which he hated.

5. Pete started his first band when he was 12, a skiffle group called the Confederates. John Entwistle was in the band on trumpet and Pete enjoyed his sense of humor.

6. Pete knew of a classmate named Roger Daltry, who had once been expelled for smoking. He first saw Roger after he had won a playground fight with a Chinese boy. Pete called out that Roger was a dirty fighter and Roger confronted him and forced him to take it back. He also saw Roger walking around school with an exotic white electric guitar he made himself. His band was called the detours and they played country-western songs at parties.

7. Early in 1963, Pete smoked his first pot and had sex for the first time on the same night. By later that year, in December 1963, his band the Detours found themselves opening for none other then the Rolling Stones. Pete saw Keith Richards stretching before the show by spinning his arms like a windmill. Keith didn't do it again the next time Pete saw him, so Pete adopted that move for his patented windmill. The band also opened for the Kinks. On Valentine's Day 1964, after Entwistle discovered that another band was already called the Detours, they decided to become the Who, even though Pete initially suggested they become the Hair.

8. When Entwistle became one of Marshall's first customers, Pete became irritated that his speakers were being drowned out by the bass. So he bought a couple of amps, one being a Fender Bassman, which I have a particular fondness for. That was the same amp I used to power my bass playing in 1990s bands like Birmingham Squadron and my guitar playing in Monotremes. That thing seriously put out some volume (Pete must have really been loud since it was only one of two he used on stage beginning in 1964), but I was also always impatiently waiting for the tubes to warm up when I turned it on.

9. After auditioning several drummers, including Mitch Mitchell of later fame with Jimi Hendrix, Keith Moon materialized. He was instantly perfect. He had been playing with a band called the Beachcombers and was a big fan of California beach music (check out his solo cover of "Don't Worry Baby"). Moon had taken lessons from the drummer of Screaming Lord Sutch, which was a novelty band and is likely the main origin of Moon's hilarious stage antics, such as pointing his sticks skyward.

10. The Who, renamed The High Numbers for a short time, were mostly playing R&B covers. Their handlers began urging them that they needed original material. So Pete sat and listened to albums he loved and tried to determine what all this music was making him feel inside. He just kept coming back to the thought that "I can't explain" any of it. That became the basis for the second song he ever wrote (and arguably my favorite of all Who songs). He would often write about music in his songs, but over the coming weeks, he rewrote "I Can't Explain" to be more about love and to sound tight like the Kinks.

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