We Won't Get Fooled Again
I grew up hearing The Who played in my house, but not as much as the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and (believe it or not) Yes. Such was the life of the youngest in a big family. And even though The Who continued to record while I was growing up, even though I remember the kid next to me in art class tearing up when he heard Keith Moon had died, I can't say I was ever a fan. I just missed the boat, or bus (as a real Who fan would now).
It was my husband who first turned me on to them. I life-long fan, he knew what would get me hooked was seeing footage of them playing live in their early days. It was the ticket, but more than anything else, I became a fan by falling in-love with Pete Townsend.
How could any straight woman get past the flowing curls, bare chest, outrageous fringe, and expert mike-flinging of Roger Daultry long enough to even notice the skinny nose-heavy guy to his right? Even in earlier clips, when Daultry sports a velvet jacket and shag haircut that could help him pass for a member of the Partridge Family, it is the even skinnier kid playing guitar that pulls my eye.
It is Townsend's look to kill. Daultry screams and smirks, Moon looks as if he might explode, Entwhistle seems determined to play his bass through think and thin, but it is Pete who stares and beats his guitar to prove to you that the lyrics are his, that the words being sung are the ones from his mouth and he wants you to listen.
I saw a recent interview with Pete in which he commented on the song Teenage Wasteland. He was disappointed, it seemed, that the public had interpreted the song to mean that the kids were all high. He said he wasn't talking about drugs alone, but real waste -- waste of life, waste of purpose. He stated plainly that even in the early 70's he was frustrated with his own generation, because they had complained about the world and were doing nothing real to change it. That was where the line, "Here's the new boss/ same as the old boss," was inspired. Here was Pete writing about rebellion when he hadn't seen anything substantial come from it. He explained that he wanted the fans to know that he was that boss and that they should go off and think for themselves. Don't get fooled again.
And yet, here are my sons, watching the Who for the first time -- in awe of what Daultry can get a microphone to do, cheering for Keith Moon when he tosses a drum clear off the stage -- but they are both mesmerized by Townsend. I am reminded again that even with what is old hat now in stage theatrics, there is the stare, the challenge in the stage presence and the lyrics themselves. It makes me disagree with Townsend's lament. Things do change when art changes and giving voice to the struggle of class, ideology, and even the plight of growing into adulthood is a worthy expression of art. It is when those challenges to the status quo don't happen that we are in danger of falling asleep at the wheel...something I am wondering about these days as I see the kinds of movies and music that are churned out.
But my six-year-old renews my faith by whispering excitedly, "When's he gonna jump again Mom? When's he gonna smash his guitar into the amp?"
He wants to be a musician.
The art world just does not know what it's in for.