Pretend You're In A War: The Who & the Sixties

Pretend You're In A War: The Who & the Sixties

Mark Blake

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 178131523X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


"A definitive tome for both Who fans and newcomers alike" - Q Magazine

Pete Townshend was once asked how he prepared himself for The Who's violent live performances. His answer? 'Pretend you're in a war.' For a band as prone to furious infighting as it was notorious for acts of 'auto-destructive art' this could have served as a motto.

Between 1964 and 1969 The Who released some of the most dramatic and confrontational music of the decade, including 'I Can't Explain', 'My Generation' and 'I Can See For Miles'. This was a body of work driven by bitter rivalry, black humour and dark childhood secrets, but it also held up a mirror to a society in transition. Now, acclaimed rock biographer Mark Blake goes in search of its inspiration to present a unique perspective on both The Who and the sixties.

From their breakthrough as Mod figureheads to the rise and fall of psychedelia, he reveals how The Who, in their explorations of sex, drugs, spirituality and class, refracted the growing turbulence of the time. He also lays bare the colourful but crucial role played by their managers, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp. And - in the uneasy alliance between art-school experimentation and working-class ambition - he locates the motor of the Swinging Sixties.

As the decade closed, with The Who performing Tommy in front of 500,000 people at the Woodstock Festival, the 'rock opera' was born. In retrospect, it was the crowning achievement of a band who had already embraced pop art and the concept album; who had pioneered the power chord and the guitar smash; and who had embodied - more so than any of their peers - the guiding spirit of the age: war.

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The Who, Townshend fulfilled his duties as an A&R man. After bringing the label the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, he signed Andy Newman, the jazz pianist who’d so intrigued him with his performance at Ealing art school, six years earlier. Townshend was also trying to find a musical project for his friend, ‘Armenia City in the Sky’ composer John ‘Speedy’ Keen, and his latest discovery, a fifteen-year-old Scottish guitarist named Jimmy McCullough. Lambert had pointed out that he didn’t have time to

set. ‘I realised that if they carried on any longer, The Who wouldn’t be able to perform,’ says Wolff. ‘I actually said to the organisers, “We’re too tired. We’re not playing. Here’s your money back.”’ Again, Wolff’s bullishness paid off. ‘They cut Sly Stone’s set short,’ he says. ‘Not by that much – I can’t take all the credit – but they did cut it short.’ It was close to 4 a.m. when The Who finally climbed the steps on to the darkened stage. ‘Once again, providence went our way,’ says Wiggy

money.’ The Who’s managers Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert, January 1966. � Colin Jones/TopFoto ‘I was looking for a kick-ass English rock band.’ Keith Moon, producer Shel Talmy and Pete Townshend, the My Generation LP recording sessions, October 1965. � Colin Jones/TopFoto ‘It was full of blokes that had just come out of the nick.’ The Who on stage at The Goldhawk Club, Shepherds Bush, 1965. Photograph by David Wedgbury, � Not Fade Away Archivee ‘We live pop art!’ The Who with Jasper Johns- and

meal when The Who appeared on television: ‘I looked up and thought, “You’ve missed the boat again, Connolly. Jesus! That could have been you.” Of course I have regrets. But, in all honesty, I don’t think I’d have lasted five minutes in The Who.’ With The Detours now a four-piece, Townshend’s confidence grew – just as Roger Daltrey’s diminished. Factory work was taking its toll on Daltrey’s hands. ‘It just became impossible to play in the end,’ he said. ‘And it made sense for Pete to play lead

with graffiti. Inside, some of the stairs leading from the public bar down to the basement where The Who used to play had perished. But in the late 1960s, the basement had been filled with long-haired students in army greatcoats nodding along to blues guitarist Rory Gallagher or folk-rockers Jethro Tull. Later, the Railway’s 60p Sunday-night reggae club brought in the skinheads from nearby Headstone Lane estate. By the early 1980s, the Railway was hosting Irish folk singers howling republican

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