Friday, November 21, 2008

Rough Boys.

While my musical musings these days tend to lean towards jazz and blues, I still have a deep fondness for rock, especially the rock of the late 60's and through much of the 70's, which I grew up with. I still remember with great clarity, listening to "Abbey Road," "Let It Be," and other Beatles albums with my friends, stealing them from their older brother's and sister's record collections. I was about 10 or 11 when "Let It Be" came out; myself, Camillo, Mark, and Craig all singing the title song together, but sounding more like the Mormon Tubercular Choir.

Around the same time, there was one album that came out that fascinated me. I didn't quite grasp what it was all about, but I recognized that the music was unique. That album was "Tommy," by The Who. It was the beginning of a love of this group that has lasted until today. While I enjoyed everything they put out, it wasn't until 1974 that one of their albums hit me square in the face, and spoke to me on a personal level as no music had ever done so.

"Quadrophenia." A loud, (Well, now what Who album isn't loud?) biting, heartbreaking piece of work by Pete Townshend. While it was a generation removed from me, set during the Mod movement of the early 60's, the themes it presented were something that any kid of 15 or 16 (which I was) could readily identify. Trying to fit in with the crowd, fashion, impressing girls, betrayal by friends, drugs, disillusion with one's heroes - these are all things that were the same whether you grew up in the Bronx, or Shepard's Bush, whether it was the early 60's or the mid-70's. I became a rabid Who fan, and in particular of Pete Townshend's writing ever since then .

"I see a man without a problem
I see a country always starved,
I hear the music of a heartbeat,
I walk, and people turn and laugh.

Is it in my head
Is it in my head
Is in my head here at the start?
Is it in my head
Is it in my head
Is it in my head, or in my heart?

I pick up phones and hear my history.
I dream of all the calls I miss.
I try to number those who love me,
And find exactly what the trouble is.

Is it in my head [etc.]

I feel I'm being followed,
My head is empty
Yet every word I say turns out a sentence.
Make love to a stranger
Just asking for directions
Turn from being help to being questions.

I see a man without a problem."

("Is It In My Head" - from Quadrophenia.)

The Who were the prototype for the punk bands of the 70's, and have often been referred to as rather aptly by the way, as the godfathers of punk rock. The death of Keith Moon, their insane, brilliant drummer crushed so many of us, and changed the style of the Who from that point on. They weren't the same after Moon the Loon died.

Musically, they were all incredibly talented, but the one that always made me drop my jaw was their bassist, John Entwistle. He was more than a bassist; he was a true musician, with abilities on other instruments as well, including the French horn. His style of bass playing changed everything, as he played the instrument not just to hold down the groove, but as a lead instrument. Listen to so many Who records and you'll see what I mean, but, this is a perfect example. This video is from their movie, "The Kids Are Alright," made shortly before Keith Moon died in 1978. It is an isolated camera shot of Entwistle during their performance of "Won't Get Fooled Again." Anyone who has ever seen the original clip from the movie knows how powerful that performance was, and then seeing Entwistle's contribution, you understand just what a genius he was. As Townshend has stated, "He realized he had the power to change the fucking instrument!"

I only saw The Who once, as I never had the money to see them in concert way back when. I saw them in 1989, on the 20th anniversary of Tommy tour, and still have the concert shirt. I have most of Pete Townshend's solo work, and still hope to get to see him when he comes around at some point. Oh, and if you think that they were just another dinosaur rock band, check this clip from the 2001 "Concert For NY," which was done not long after 9/11. "Won't Get Fooled Again," by a bunch of then almost 60 year-olds, that by everyone's estimation, stole the show.

"A tough guy, a helpless dancer.
A romantic, is it me for a moment?
A bloody lunatic, I'll even carry your bags.
A beggar, a hypocrite, love reign over me."


BenefitScroungingScum said...

Music's ability to unite is wonderful. I went to see Australian Pink Floyd earlier this year (if they tour near you go!) and what was great to see was that the audience was made up of as many young people as those who'd been fans when the music first came out.
We went with a friend's father who was a teen when albums like Wish you were here were released and he was talking about how he never dreamed he'd still be listening to the music all these years on, let alone taking his daughter and her friends to a concert.

Retiredandcrazy said...

Oh yes! Memories!!

battlemaiden said...

I remember seeing Tommy the movie for the first time. It was toward the last days of high school, or maybe at the beginning of college. I can't really remember, but I was fascinated. That was also around the same time when I saw other movies like The Wall, A Clockwork Orange, etc. for the first time.

I also wonder if "Baba O'Riley' was influenced at all by T.S. Eliot.

jay said...

They certainly were something, weren't they?

I had hardly any money even to buy records when I was young, so I never saw The Who or had any of their stuff. Never too late, they say! ;)

Peter said...

Somehow the Who passed me by, but I was totally under the spell of hard rockin' British glam act'Mud' from the mid 70s.

Especially the lyrics from their UK and European hits 'Rocket', 'Dynamite' and 'Tiger Feet'
will haunt me forever.

[ more info: ]

I'm afraid they never scored in the USA, but the UK and Europe totally adored them ;-)

Guyana-Gyal said...

Me, me, I love the music from the 60's - 70's thanks to my brothers who taught me lots about it.

I wonder how the music today will be defined later on.

Oh, have you noticed how the ads today are using the music from the 60's - 70's? I wonder why. Then there's that intro. song that CSI Miami uses...