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The Who Come To A Fork In The Road

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Meeting the Sex Pistols (actually only Paul Cook and Steve Jones) was a watershed experience for Townshend. ''I was telling Paul Cook about the shit that I'd been through and the Who were fucking finished and everything was finished and rock & roll was finished, if this was what it was down to. They were the only band that had a chance. And that they had to fuckin' pick up the banner.

''And they weren't interested in rock ideals. I mean, all Paul Cook and Steve Jones were into was going around the world and making money and fucking birds. Really! To that extent. I've met them since and I've said that publicly and they haven't come up and sort of said, 'Hey no! It's not true. We do care about our music.' They just wanted to be in a band and be successful.

''I was preachin' at 'em and preachin' at 'em. And in the end I was so disgusted, and Paul Cook said to me, 'The Who aren't gonna break up, are they?' I said, 'What does it matter if the Who break up. We're destroyed . . . . We've compromised everything to bits anyway. We're prostitutes.' He said. ''Cause we really like the Who, don't we, Steve. Be a drag if they broke up.' Arrrgh!

''Since then, I've met Johnny Rotten and he is completely different. He's such a great guy – sort of like meeting a white Jimi Hendrix. I can't explain it. Just the feeling of being in the presence of someone that's really great. And who isn't gonna compromise.''

It is not as though, without touring, the Who have nothing to do. In addition to The Kids Are Alright, two other feature films are in the works: Quadrophenia, a dramatization of the rock opera, with music but no acting by the group; and Lifehouse, the science-fiction fantasy that was originally planned as the followup to Tommy. The best Lifehouse material instead formed the basis of Who's Next – ''Baba O'Riley,'' ''The Song Is Over,'' ''Won't Get Fooled Again'' – but certain songs on the new album (''Guitar and Pen,'' for instance) are also part of the story, about a world in which music does not exist and what happens when rock makes its first appearance. (John Entwistle scrapped his long-planned science-fiction solo album to incorporate some of its songs into Lifehouse; as a result, ''905'' which was to be that LP's title song, is included on Who Are You).

Additionally, the Who have a book-publishing company, which specializes in children's titles, music volumes and the occasional sponsorship of a Meher Baba publication. Townshend speaks of making a solo LP: he is making a musical film about a violent incident of his youth for a British arts festival and supporting his friend John Annunziato's New York-based film-production company. Nunzi Productions, which has already done several interview films with earlier Baba devotees. The group has a company which provides tour support and business counsel to young bands of merit (including one led by Simon Townshend, Pete's younger brother). Daltrey is preparing his fourth solo LP, with some material written by Townshend and Who protégé Steve Gibbons. Moon is acting as publicity director for Shepperton Films, the group's sound-stage venture. Still, everyone knows that all this activity is really only secondary.

Townshend admits that he entered rock & roll with a lack of self-esteem and that he still hasn't completely conquered his feelings of inferiority. While we talked, a few fans dropped by the hotel room, one of them particularly obnoxious. Townshend handled him gently, but later he remarked, ''I used to look at types like him and they used to turn 'round and sneer at me. 'Cause I didn't look right, 'cause I didn't act right, 'cause I wasn't right. I didn't have anything to offer. So what I've got to do now is learn to accept that, because to some extent I've reached where I wanted to arrive at in the first place.''

Does that require new motivation? ''No. Because if you've actually done what it requires to actually fit you into a place in life which makes you feel comfortable, then why do you have to make yourself uncomfortable, to keep getting back into that same place again?'' And still, the feeling persists that Townshend might feel a reluctance to tour, the thing he's clearly best at, precisely because there aren't any, or many, other obstacles to material happiness in his path.

Roger Daltrey clearly thinks this is the case. ''I'm gonna stick in there with him, and give him problems. Because if he solves all his problems he will stop creating. He's like all artists who create that way.''

But can Daltrey solve this latest problem? ''I don't know. If I say yes, y'see, he's gonna stick his nose in and say, 'You fuckin' bloody fuck.' But if I say no . . . . What shall I say? I'm workin' on it. Workin' on it.''

This story is from the October 5, 1978 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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