“The Pete Townshend Page #2”

February 21, 2010 at 3:08 pm (Music, Pete Townshend, Reviews & Articles)

Written for Melody Maker, Sept. 19, 1970…



From the cab of Maxine the Motor Home I begin this month’s essay.

Take a letter. Maxine is a large and lovely meat wagon with blood red striping, she comes from the US of A and is what we British would call a motor caravan.

I bought the thing to ride in at the Isle of Wight. You know, ask in the other groups for tea and cakes. That didn’t come together, but equally adventurous are the present daredevil expeditions into the unknown, we thought we should make full use of the safari-like facilities and go on a short camping trip.

Where to? What about mother-in-law’s garden, very devil-may care. Anyway that’s where I sit as I begin, in a buxom beast of a bus stuck out among the daffs. If you see me on the Kingston by-pass do drop in for a hot shower.

The week before the IOW Festival I got a call from John Sebastian, Stars and soap bubbles poured from the mouthpiece of the telephone as the fairytale world of Mr Tie Dye and his beautiful young wife leaked into our tasteful brown and cream living room. He came to stay. His socks and Y fronts are tie dyed too. ONE of their crazy days he and his lady bought bicycles mauve and green and cycled to Windsor Castle, only sixteen miles!

At the IOW Festival I met Mike Wadleigh the director and innovator of the Woodstock movie. It was greatly embarrassing for me to hear him announce that the cameraman’s bum I had kicked off the stage during our show at Woodstock had belonged to him. Bearing in mind that we have some great work done for us in the WHO sequence in the film I figure he cannot be a man that holds a grudge. Lesson for Abbie.

When we first arrived backstage at the lOW there was a good, low class mood in the air. It was easy though to detect that it would have little to do with what was going on out in the audience. Before we left our cosy hotel the barmaid had noticed Keith’s white clothes and said, “You’re not going to wear those nice clean things OUT THERE are you?” As though he was off into battle.

The press had ruined a lot of people’s potential happy weekend by exaggerating reports of water shortage and security trouble. People are still amazed when thousands of other people gather. Billy Graham gets 200,000 every gig, so I hear. The Cup Final doesn’t do too bad either.

Nevertheless, I read the papers too and got nervous and we didn’t take the baby. When I got there I realised what a fool I was. This wasn’t a battle, or an invasion. It wasn’t a gathering of anarchists, nor even really a running gamut of tired Rock Artists in the usual festival tradition, It was a weekend on an island for a lot of young HUMAN BEINGS. Believe me, they were there. Sometimes I wonder how I noticed, they were only a 90 per cent majority.

We all seem to see the nastier events, like playing in a school playground for five years on the trot and never noticing kids outside of your own class except when two of them happen to have a fight. Then you notice them, gather round and encourage them to kick each others heads in. Daily newspaper editors must be like schoolboys. “Leave our Bobby alone! Rotten foreigners.” The fact that the young people of today do things together in large numbers without the organisation of a field marshall is regarded suspiciously by all these days.

Admittedly, at the IOW the French kids got a bit heavy, but then the French government is heavy; banning all congregations of 200 or more people because of potential riots. If you force the riots off the streets they only end up in people’s back gardens. Well, the French anarchists ended up in our back garden and no-one was ready to make them welcome. It’s always handy to be able to blame things on anonymous foreigners, though.

It’s not often that I get this chance, the chance to use an audience, or in this case a readership, to get feedback around an idea. I’m not expecting to get letters of reactions or question timer buzzes or anything like that; I do the talking and I also do the feeding back on your behalf. Kind of assumptive but really the way most things are done today.

Here’s the idea, there’s a note, a musical note, that builds the basis of existence somehow. Mystics would agree, saying that of course it is OM, but I am talking about a MUSICAL note. There is air that we breathe, we swim in it all our lives, we love it with our physical being and we watch it sustain the world around us. We seem adaptable and receptive to almost everything it produces; but most of all, and this has little to do with the essence of survival, most of us enjoy music. I’ve never been able to quite get to grips with how it all comes about, but artists and writers outside of music have noticed it too.

Many of them jealously observing how little education is necessary to enjoy music; how anyway music is completely versatile and even people with heavy preconceptions about sound can be entertained by music. It takes effort to be entertained by a painting, it can’t come to you somehow like music can, there is no beginning to the entertainment period, no end. There are hundreds of parallels between all forms of art obviously, but music is not really art until someone tries to make it art, until the patterns it creates are measured and received. This note pervades everything, it’s an extremely wide note, more of a hiss than a note as we normally know them. The hiss of the air, of activity, of the wind and of the breathing of someone near. You can always hear it. 

Andy Newman told me once how people cannot bear to spend too much time in anechoic chambers because of the horror of complete silence. Anechoic chambers are not only completely silent but all sound that is produced within them is sort of swallowed up by absolutely non reflective walls and ceilings. You shout but you hardly hear yourself! I could well imagine that even the deaf hear this note. At midnight when you lay in bed, gently falling into sleep, it gets louder not quieter. It doesn’t seem to come through the ears and the air, but it is made up of elements that are. Finally, when it reaches deafening proportions you are asleep, drowned in sound, A bit like listening to the ‘oo. Must be why so many people fall asleep at our shows.

Do you hear it? I think you must, particularly the allegedly musical lot who read Melody Maker. Probably all musicians or music lovers, i.e.: people with trained ears waggle waggle. They all hear it. Musicians have to learn to listen before they can begin to learn to play. I think it’s the hardest part, the listening part. Probably why so many people involved in music are attracted to pot smoking, it helps one to listen. What it does decide is harder to find out of course.

The key to this unexciting adventure I’m leading you on, is that everybody hears it. Moreover I think everybody hears the same note or noise. It’s an amazing thing to think of any common ground between all men that isn’t directly a reflection of spiritual awareness. The hearing of this note is physical. Very physical, sometimes it’s so physical it hurts, but it also feels very good sometimes. Like when you’re in a deep bad mood, you struggle to get out, but the harder you try the deeper you get.

In the end you are moody with yourself for not being able to conquer the mood. when you do finally break THAT one up, what is there to welcome you. The note. It’s there, gently breathing and saying annoyingly that it was there all along undisturbed. Being whole again, however, you don’t mind listening and enjoying. It’s a note, it’s notes, it’s music – the most beautiful there is to hear.

  • For anyone who would like to hear about Meher Baba the moment is right. Rick Chapman, a Californian who met Baba before he died is talking at the Baba centre at 3a Eccleston Square, S.W.3. (it’s behind Victoria Station) on next Wednesday and Saturday this month. The talks start at 6.30 p.m. Wed. and 3.30 p.m. Sat. Or write for information. – JAI BABA FOLKS!

Pete Townshend

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AC/DC – “Highway to Hell” (TV – 1980)

February 21, 2010 at 12:02 pm (Music)

In honor of the recent 30th anniversary of Bon Scott’s untimely passing, I’m posting this video of AC/DC performing on TVE1’s Aplauso on February 9, 1980. Bon would be gone exactly 10 days later. He will never be forgotten though. 

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President Obama’s Weekly Address (Feb. 20, 2010)

February 21, 2010 at 11:51 am (Life & Politics)

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