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Pete Townshend Talks Mods, Recording, and Smashing Guitars

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This theme, not so dramatically, seems to be repeated in so many songs that you've written and The Who have performed – a young cat, our age, becoming an outcast from a very ordinary sort of circumstances. Not a "Desolation Row" scene, but a very common set of middle class situations. Why does this repeat itself?
I don't know. I never really thought about that.

There's a boy with pimple problems and a chick with perspiration troubles and so on.
Most of those things just come from me. Like this idea I'm talking about right now, comes from me. These things are my ideas, it's probably why they all come out the same, they've all got the same fuck-ups, I'm sure.

I can't get my family together, you see. My family were musicians. They were essentially middle class, they were musicians and I spent a lot of time with them when other kids' parents were at work and I spent a lot of time away from them when other kids had parents, you know. That was the way it came together. They were always out for long periods. But they were always home for long periods, too. They were always very respectable – nobody ever stopped making me play the guitar and nobody ever stopped me smoking pot, although they advised me against it.

They didn't stop me from doing anything that I wanted to do. I had my first fuck in the drawing room of my mother's house. The whole incredible thing about my parents is that I just can't place their effect on me and yet I know that it's there. I can't say how they affected me. When people find out that my parents are musicians, they ask how it affected me. Fucked if I know; musically, I can't place it and I can't place it in any other way. But I don't even feel myself aware of a class structure, or an age structure, and yet I perpetually write about age structures and class structures. On the surface I feel much more concerned with racial problems and politics. Inside I'm much more into basic stuff.

You must have thought about where it comes from if it's not your parents. Was it the scene around you when you were young?
One of the things which has impressed me most in life was the Mod movement in England, which was an incredible youthful thing. It was a movement of young people, much bigger than the hippie thing, the underground and all these things. It was an army, a powerful, aggressive army of teenagers with transport. Man, with these scooters and with their own way of dressing. It was acceptable, this was important; their way of dressing was hip, it was fashionable, it was clean and it was groovy. You could be a bank clerk, man, it was acceptable. You got them on your own ground. They thought, "Well, there's a smart young lad." And also you were hip, you didn't get people uptight. That was the good thing about it. To be a mod, you had to have short hair, money enough to buy a real smart suit, good shoes, good shirts; you had to be able to dance like a madman. You had to be in possession of plenty of pills all the time and always be pilled up. You had to have a scooter covered in lamps. You had to have like an army anarack to wear on the scooter. And that was being a mod and that was the end of the story.

The groups that you liked when you were a mod were The Who. That's the story of why I dig the mods, man, because we were mods and that's how we happened. That's my generation, that's how the song "My Generation" happened, because of the mods. The mods could appreciate the Beatles' taste. They could appreciate their hair-cuts, their peculiar kinky things that they had going at the time.

The mods seemed to have graduated from "My Generation" and "The Kids Are All Right" to very ordinary people, with very ordinary problems.
When you look at the people who were mods, the people I am talking about, they are now ordinary people and I mean I'm also going through the same changes. I'm becoming more and more ordinary as I go along. This is the natural progression, this is the natural progression of boring maturity and boring spirituality and boring ascendance of the evolutionary path. The thing is that you become simpler and simpler and more and more down to the simple ways of life, to be able to blunder through life without getting anybody uptight at all.

When I write today, I feel that it has to – this is incredible, man – I feel that it has to tell a little story. Seriously. And I can't shake this. Like "Orodono," I dug because it was a little story and, although I thought it's a good song, it was about something groovy, like it was about under-arm perspiration. I still did make a story out of it, didn't I? It had a beginning and an end, just like it was a literary piece and there's no need to make "Odorono" a story. There was no need to have any lyric at all really, other than perhaps, you know, some type of Mother's of Invention-type under-arm deodorant noises, whatever they might be. "Tatoo" is a story, and "My Generation" is a story; in fact, I'm getting storier and storier until now, as I just told you, the next album is just a huge, complicated, complex story, with lots and lots of aspects which I hope are gonna come out in the future.

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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