When you went with them, the Mod image was . . .
. . . forced on us. It was very dishonest. The mod thing was Kit's idea. We were all sent down to a hairdresser, Robert James. Absolutely charming lad. We were then sent to Carnaby Street with more money than we'd ever seen in our lives before, like a hundred quid [$250] each. This was Swinging London. Most of our audience were mods, pill-'eads like ourselves, you see. We weren't into clothes; we were into music. Kit thought we should identify more with our audience. Coats slashed five inches at the sides. Four wasn't enough. Six was too much. Five was just right. The trousers came three inches below the hip. It was our uniform.
Your motto at the lime was "maximum R&B." What did that mean?
We were playing a lot of Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Elmore James, B.B. King, and they are maximum R&B. You can't get any better. Most of the songs we played were their songs. Pete really got into his writing stride after "Can't Explain." Of course any song we did get 'old of, we weren't playing straight from the record. We "Who'd" it, so that what came out was the Who, not a copy.
Like "Summertime Blues."
Exactly. That's a song that's been "Who'd."
How did the stuttering effect in "My Generation" evolve?
Pete had written out the words and gave them to Roger in the studio. He'd never seen them before, he was unfamiliar with the words, so when he read them through the first time, he stuttered. Kit was producing us then and when Roger stuttered, Kit said [Oxonian accent]: "We leave it in; leave in the stuttering." When we realized what'd happened, it knocked us all sideways. And it happened simply because Roger couldn't read the words.
The first American tour. Do you remember it with fondness?
For me it was a tour of discovery. It was three months with 'Erman's 'Ermits. Backing up the 'Ermits was ideal. It was a position that suited us. We weren't on the line. If the place sold only a portion of what it could 'ave sold, the disaster was never blamed on us, it was blamed on 'Erman's 'Ermits. We didn't have the responsibility. We had time to discover. We found the good towns.
Which ones are they?
For the Who they're New York, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Cleveland. They have the best audiences for us.
Was it on this tour you had your infamous birthday party?
Yes. That's how I lost me front tooth. In Flint, Michigan. We had a show that night. We were all around the 'Oliday Inn pool, 'Erman's 'Ermits and meself. I was 21 and they started giving me presents. Somebody gave me a portable bar and somebody else the portable booze. I'd started drinking about ten o'clock in the morning and I can't remember the show. Then the record companies 'ad booked a big room in the 'otel, one of the conference rooms, for a party. As the hours went on, it got louder and louder, and everybody started getting well out their minds, well stoned. The pool was the obvious target. Everybody started jumping in the pool with their clothes on.
The Premier Drum Company 'ad given me a 'uge birthday cake, with like five drums stacked up on top of each other. As the party degenerated into a slanging, I picked up the cake, all five tiers, and hurled it at the throng. People'd started picking up the pieces and 'urling it about. Everybody was covered in marzipan and icing sugar and fruitcake. The manager 'eard the fracas and came in. There it was, his great carpet, stained irrevocably with marzipan and fruitcake trodden in, and everybody dancing about with their trousers off. By the time the sheriff came in I was standing there in me underpants. I ran out, jumped into the first car I came to, which was a brand new Lincoln Continental. It was parked on a slight hill and when I took the handbrake off, it started to roll and it smashed straight through this pool surround [fence] and the whole Lincoln Continental went into the 'Oliday Inn swimming pool, with me in it. Ah-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha!
So there I was, sitting in the eight-foot-six in the driver's seat of a Lincoln Continental, underwater. And the water was pouring in – coming in through the bloody pedal 'oles in the floorboard, you know, squirting in through the windows. In a startling moment of logical I said, "Well, I can't open the doors until the pressure is the same . . ." It's amazing 'ow I remembered those things from my physics class! I knew I'd 'ave to wait until the pressure was the same.
So I'm sitting there, thinking about me situation, as the water creeps up to me nose. Today I can think of less outrageous ways of going than drowning in a Lincoln Continental in a 'Oliday Inn swimming pool, but at that time I 'ad no thoughts of death whatsoever. There was none of that all-me-life-passing-before-me-eyes-in-a-flash. I was busy planning. I knew if I panicked, I'd 'ave 'ad it. So when there's just enough air in the top of the car to take a gulp, I fill up me lungs, throw open the door and go rising to the top of the pool. I figured there'd be quite a crowd gathered by now. After all, I'd been down there underwater for some time. I figured they'd be so grateful I was alive, they'd overlook the Lincoln Continental. But no. There's only one person standing there and 'e's the pool cleaner and 'e's got to have the pool clean in the morning, and he's furious.
So I went back to the party, streaming water, still in me underpants. The first person I see is the sheriff and he's got 'is 'and on 'is gun. Sod this! And I ran, I started to leg it out the door, and I slipped on a piece of marzipan and fell flat on me face and knocked out me tooth. Ah-ha-ha-Ha-Ha-Hahaha!
I spent the remainder of the night under the custody of the sheriff at a dentist's. The dentist couldn't give me any anesthetic because I was pissed out me mind. So 'e 'ad to rip out what was left of the tooth and put a false one in, and the next day I spent a couple of hours in the nick [jail]. The boys 'ad chartered me a plane because they 'ad to leave on an earlier flight. The sheriff took me out in the law car and he puts me on the plane and says [American accent], "Son, don't ever dock in Flint, Michigan, again." I said, "Dear boy, I wouldn't dream of it." And I was lisping around the new tooth, Ah-Haha Hahaha!
By now I'd learned 'ow destructive we'd all been. During the merriment someone 'ad upset all the fire extinguishers and turned them on all the cars in the car park. Six of them 'ad to 'ave new paint jobs; the paint all peeled off. We'd also destroyed a piano. Completely destroyed it. Reduced it to kindling. And don't forget the carpet. And the Lincoln Continental in the bottom of the pool. So I got a bill for $24,000. Ah-Hahahaha! I wasn't earning 'alf that on the tour, and I'd spent everything by the time I'd got to Flint, Michigan. I was in debt up past me eyebrows before this 'appened. Luckily, 'Erman's 'Ermits and the boys split it up, about 30 of us all gave a thousand dollars each. It was like a religious ceremony as we all came up and dropped a thousand dollars into a big 'at and sent it off to the 'Oliday Inn with a small compliments card with "Balls" written across it – and the words, "See you soon." Ah-ha-ha-Ha-Ha-Ha Ha-ho-Hahaha!
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