Friday, May 25, 2007

Pete's Autobiography - Fragments 1, 2, 3

Fragment 1 - Pete Meaden

1st Fontana session (1964). Pete Meaden decides to write songs. Persuades Who to change name to High Numbers. Thought Who was a "tacky, gimmicky name." Meaden gets unreleased R&B records from Scene Club d.j. Guy Stevens, steals music, writes his own lyrics. Pete learns to be a "relay" of the Mod scene; picking up new trends and dance moves from his vantage point on stage, then copying the best and getting the credit. High Numbers live mostly cover "growling R&B songs. Guitar feedback absent on High Numbers' record. Pete plays "weedy" jazz guitar on "Zoot Suit" showing how far he still had to go. Record did not break, selling "about 400 copies." Meaden misses the innovation in the band's sound. Mods, however, do get it finding The Who's "effeminate" Mod clothing combined with their aggressive sound an example of "the cult of the elegant, disciplined, well-to-do, sharply-dressed and sexually indeterminate and dangerously androgynous yobbo."

In replies Pete adds that Roger's older sister and her boyfriend were, in 1962, the only Mods he knew. Roger still dressed like Elvis. Older homosexuals were attracted to the young, well-dressed Mod boys while lesbians were attracted to the short-haired Mod girls. Pete also found the Mod girl look "extremely erotic." When an analyst suggested it was because they looked like boys, Pete dismissed the answer as "a little too obvious." His father's generation got the same thrill getting women out of their masculine army uniforms. By late 1964 Mod spread throughout London and the famous Mod-Rocker battles started. Some Mod boys went with Who manager Kit Lambert to Paris, tried out gay sex and came back more experienced in the world.

Fragment 2 - I Can't Explain

Pete and Nick's ex-girlfriend spend a weekend traveling around Brighton in late summer 1964; sleep together "platonically", did speed, shared a compartment on the milk train back to London. Basis for romantic images in Quadrophenia.
High Numbers fail audition at Decca. Would have passed if they had original material. Kit and Chris encourage Pete to come up with songs. Pete listens over and over to The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and You Better Get It In Your Soul by Charlie Mingus. Searches for words about how the music made him feel but found "I can't explain." The phrase forms the basis of his second song. Records demo on "clunky old domestic tape recorder". Barney [Richard Barnes] compares it to Dylan with a hint of Mose Allison. Kit and Chris make contact with Kinks' producer Shel Talmy. Pete reconstructs song around "You Really Got Me" and changes words about music to love. Play tape for Shel at 2 'I's Club in Soho. Pete already wrote title "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere" on a piece of paper about listening to Charlie Parker. "I Can't Explain" recorded at Pye. Jimmy Page brought in as second guitar. Shel brings in replacement drummer; Keith tells him to 'scarper.' Shel brings in background singers to replace demo's harmonies ruined by Keith joining in. Shel gets good commercial sound. Page's "laughably weedy" guitar on the B-side cause Pete to not take him seriously for years.

Fragment 3 - Trapped

October 1964 - Kit and Chris gets Tuesday residency for band at Marquee Club in Soho. Took Who logo with arrow from Pete's notebooks. He adapted it from older Detours logo. Aubrey Dewar takes solo picture of Pete windmilling. Pete thinks he looks unattractive in photo. Graphic designer from Ealing makes the "Maximum R&B" poster. Central London covered with posters. Had out membership cards to "The 100 Faces" with free entry to club. No women got the card. Attendance 90% male. Pete looked forward to shows "beyond all measure." Pete then designing 'Pop Art' target t-shirts in his notebooks. R&B songs perfect medium for guitar feedback. Press begins to notice. Sexy blonde dances in front of group during all-nighter at Club Noreik. Sends letter to Pete; Pete brings her to flat, goes with her to Marquee date. Worries Mods will find her clothing uncool. Leaving her at bar while performing causes paranoid panic attack. Same thing happens at another show. Cannot deal with it and leaves without her. Feels "trapped" on stage, fearful partner will betray him during performance. Echo of mother's affair while father away performing.

In reply to my question, Pete says he was not on speed during the Marquee run, so it was not the source of any paranoia. Says he still feels "trapped" on stage today.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pete's Autobiography - Twenty-One through Twenty-Eight


1959 a blank...playing guitar, restringing mandolin banjos, spending a few summer weeks, sans Jimpy at the Isle Of Man...Entwistle and others move on to Alf Maynard's jazz band...Since Alf played banjo, no part for Pete...delivered newspapers to make enough for guitar...bought Czech guitar from father for £3...Chris Sherwin takes Pete to first X Certificate film, 'Peeping Tom'...gets Pete two paper routes...Pete sleeps late, gets fired, Chris gets mad, starts sneering at Pete...go to see Acker Bilk...Pete tells Chris he can play banjo just as well.


1959-1960 looking after Paul Townshend...parents spend a lot of time at the local Simon born at home October 1960...Chris' sneering leads Pete to challenge him to a fight...Pete hits him over the head with his school bag...Chris: 'You knew I had concussion,'...Pete didn't know...Chris tells schoolmates Pete is a coward and a liar...John Entwistle one of few who didn't join in...Pete starts hanging around with bad crowd...gets pinched while near similarly dressed vandals...names names to police...spends his time alone, miserable, practicing his guitar.


Spring term concluded...extra money from another paper route and baby sitting, buys first amplifier...practice with John who made his own bass...Denny yells 'Turn that bloody row down!'...Pete yells 'Fuck off!' and smashes amp against wall...'And yet I felt very calm'...John smiling.


John joins Shadows cover band started by Pete Wilson...invite Pete to play with them...drummer Mick Brown has tape recorder. records Pete playing 'Man of Mystery' on the Czech guitar...part-time art student, taking introductory lessons at Ealing Art College during last term at Acton County in 1961...make money working in Miscellanea, parents' junk shop...moving furniture makes Pete 'very strong and wiry'...Alf Maynard's Dixieland Band plays at Acton County but Alf is not a student and cannot attend...Pete steps in on banjo and shows he has progressed in musical ability past his peers...Pete feels a part of school for the first time.


Noticed by Roger Daltrey who had been expelled for smoking but still hung out at school to speak to his cronies...has exotic white electric guitar...Roger swaggers up to Pete during his last term at Acton, says John Entwistle recommended him and asks him to join his band...Roger heard Elvis and learned 'that there was no future in conforming anymore'...large numbers of Baby Boom meant this generation could get away with not conforming...honour through warfare impossible because of The Bomb.


Did OK in GCE good teacher made Pete excel in Technical of teachers 'tired, dissolute and sometimes brutal men'...Start Art School Autumn 1961...could barely listen to teacher for looking at beautiful Mod girl in class...rather keen on becoming a sculptor...before drawing skills had thought of being a journalist...thought of connecting visual arts and music in some way...trendiest were fashion, photography and graphic design departments...first year Foundation Course to strip students of preconceptions about art...old guard teachers tweedy and rather guard young, denim-clad, bohemian...Draw A Line classes...old guard insist on precise, uniform guard appalled by such conformity...sculptor Brian Wall cuts finger with penknife, draws line in blood.


Equally stimulated by art school, The Detours...formerly shy and awkward, now life 'had suddenly come good'...musical taste more balanced than other students...impressed by new wave of rock 'n' roll but not overcome...Elvis OK but no Sinatra...meets girl that likes Ella Fitzgerald and also seems to like him...attend lunchtime clubs to listen to bebop jazz, Dixieland, orchestral music and opera...revives ability to create 'alpha-state music in my head'...early exposure to 'Third Programme' on BBC brings acquaintance of best of classical ten, sees Disney's "Fantasia" at least ten times...multi-channel sound presentation of that film inspires Pete to become 'student and advocate of recording technology'...enhanced music inspires alcoholic-like thirst for music; a 'dreamlike sound from the ether' musical technology with spiritual or mind-bending potential investigated 'deeply and ruthlessly'.


Falls in love with Mod girl but too immature to do anything about it...tells her he plays jazz guitar...actually only with pop bands that use jazz to drive the audience out...she is keen to hear him play...she has tiff with boyfriend, invites Pete to kiss her; he doesn't know what to do...she takes up with another boy; Pete shooed away by boy...Pete later realizes he would have become suicidal if he'd become involved with her and lost her...circa February 1962 John says Pete can audition for The Detours...on arrival runs into crying girl leaving... 'you can tell him from me it’s either me or that bloody guitar of his'...expects Roger to go running after her when told...'Sod her' Roger's reaction...Roger nicknamed 'Perce' because he lived on Percy Road, Hammersmith...moves to Bedford Park, Chiswick near Dot and Horry...John lived with separated-from-husband mother Queenie in Avenue Road within steps of Roger's house...first show with Detours at hall next to Chiswick Swimming Baths...replaces Reg Bowen who becomes road manager...Roger cannot play guitar first gig; cut fingers at day job as sheet metal one show learns The Twist...first dance that didn't need girl to perform...drummer Harry Wilson did arrangements...Harry's father's van takes them to gigs...Pete plays single-pickup Harmony solid-body Stratocruiser...Roger spray-paints it Shadows-style coordinated moves on stage; John good at it, Roger wedding parties, company balls, birthdays and pubs...receive £50 tip from bride's father; think about buying own van...Detours Roger's band but Colin Dawson singer...lots of fights break out but Roger protects 'utterly naff' songs but Pete has yet to become cynical...everyone in band drinks heavily...have parties where people pretend to be drunk so they can snog with girls...Pete uncomfortable around 'bossy' working class women...stands aloof from snogging.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pete's Autobiography - Eleven through Twenty

Sorry this is taking so long.

- Brian


First six months of 1952, U.S. jets from nearby base roaring overhead constantly...imagines parents out having glamorous fun...mother still talks about Christian school Pete was attending while with Denny as a way to keep him safe from wild Summer 1952, parents realize Denny mentally ill.

In note, Pete says he has not told his mother about what happened at Denny's because "I do not remember what happened there, apart from what I share here."


While Pete with Denny, mother has affair...mother later recounts she rarely saw father in early years of marriage...neighbor in Kent tells mother of Denny's deteriorating state...July 1952, mother and lover pick up Pete and return him to home in Acton...Denny comes as well so mother can look after her...spend summer with father and mother during his band's residency on Isle of Man...parents squabble but reconcile...Jimpy Pete's closest childhood friend comes to stay for several weeks...they use leaves and petals to play war games...biggest treat was to see Squadronaires shows at the ballroom...on Sundays band plays with visiting artists like "young Shirley Bassey, Lita Rosa, Eartha Kitt, Frankie Vaughan, Dickie Henderson, The Morton Fraser Harmonica Gang and a string of comedians"...Jimpy and Pete look for girls to ogle...after summer Pete left under Denny's care for short time while mother breaks off affair with lover.

In note, Pete says his mother admitted to him her affair and the admission was "the one single gift she gave me that made me truly love her today."


Mother and Father try to restore marriage and have another child in Autumn 1952..."Unstable reproductive system" in mother reason brother Paul not born for five more years...abortions may have been to blame...mother gets taste of Denny's craziness...Sept. 1952 attend Berrymede Junior School in Osborne Road, South Acton...back with gang and feeling safe...Denny moves to Willesden...parents buy TV to watch Coronation of Elizabeth II...TV allowed parents to go out without babysitter.


Sept. 1953, second year of junior school...mannish teacher Miss Caitlin provides first positive image of woman for Pete...Pete makes friends with Uxbridge Road Gang...Pete becomes "something of a dreamer"...Miss Caitlin steers Pete toward using humour as way of being accepted...Pete blames same-sex school for some hang-ups about women...mother demands Pete's friends have good looks before acceptance...father preferred misfits...Pete learns from father that, unlike business, all you need to make friends is unconditional love.


Father's record released 31 July 1956...Pete enjoys seeing father's face on ads in local record store...dreams of becoming famous and marrying beautiful girl...that summer on Isle of Man two teenage girls tease Pete before deciding which member of The Squadronaires they fancy. One picks Cliff causing Pete to exclaim, "That's My Dad!"...parents think Pete has little musical talent other than a 'thin, nasal, soprano voice.'...practices on harmonica...denied access to father's musical instruments.


Friend encourages Pete to join Sea Scouts...signs up for 'bunkhouse weekend'...father suspicious...outboard motor sound on river trip sparks musical and vocal hallucinations in Pete...arrive at hut...made to take cold shower in front of adult men as part of 'initiation ceremony'..."What followed needs no description."...Pete never returns to Sea Scouts...experience on river "fundamental to the way I listen to music, indeed to the way I exist as an artist and experience all art."

In note, Pete adds that what happened in the Sea Scouts "could never be described in today's terms as 'sexual abuse'."


Pete attends museums and draws fantasy pictures "to enliven my mind"...concocts wild inventions...sings in church choir...parents still doubt musical talent...visiting grandparetns, allowed to play Aunt Trilby's piano...Trilby gives Pete palm and tarot card readings...says he will live a 'large life.'...Pete finds chords on piano that cause the same musical ecstasy as on the boat...Trilby becomes first person to praise Pete's musical ability.


Miss Caitlin invites Pete to tell stories to class...performing for audience feels natural...passes Eleven-Plus exam, proceeds to Acton County Grammar...Summer 1957 on Isle of Man Pete and friend Jimpy are taken by father to see 'Rock Around The Clock'...Pete and Jimpy mesmerized, father says it "had some swing."...Jimpy, Pete and Manx girl Eileen hang out singing Elvis...both boys in love with her...Pete doesn't get Elvis...'Love Me Tender' made him want to vomit although it was partly jealousy over Jimpy and Elaine singing it to each other...only likes Bill Haley "about three months"...Brother Paul born during second year at Acton County Grammar...move to flat above shop on Uxbridge Road...own room if not perfect privacy...bunk beds with Paul...Jimpy and Pete see Bill back with older teenagers...rickety building scary with teens jumping up and down.


At twelve start riding underground to London...Jimpy's father makes a very primitive guitar...Pete manages to play it, surprising Jimpy and his dad...Pete's father not convinced, won't buy guitar for Pete...Denny buys him guitar used for decoration on an Italian restaurant's wall...Pete manages to get something out of it before it collapses...Pete's father still unconvinced.


1958, Pete hears his first skiffle song, 'Freight Train' sung by Nancy Whiskey on BBC television...learns that with a guitar and a few chords you could have a hit record...Pete realizes skiffle and other youth music will replace his dad's style and hence career...Pete delays joining the other side by playing banjo in an after-school Dixieland jazz band, The Confederates...John Entwistle on trumpet...Pete attracted to militarism of C.S. Forester's book 'The Ship' and contrarily to the CND ('Ban The Bomb') movement...first gig with Confederates at Congregational Church in Acton 6 Dec. of band "jive" with girls...Pete too poor with social skills to try...Bertrand Russell's apocalyptic speeches in Leicester Square...Aldermaston anti-nuke march passes Pete's home...Pete feels too young to join in, practices his banjo.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pete's Autobiography - Beginning thru Ch. 10

Since Pete has taken a large part of his autobiography down, I thought I'd put up at least a precis of what he had published. Here's from the beginning through chapter Ten:


Decide to write autobiography in 1995...Deal struck by Michael Pietsch at Little, Brown in 1996...Pays back advance in 1997...Phillips Harrison edits chapters until 2003...Attention shifts to The Boy Who Heard Music...Return to autobio early 2005. Hearing Roger perform "Real Good Looking Boy"...inspires writing of Endless Wire album...Autobio will cover childhood to the launch of Tommy.


Fifteen months old watching parents ride horses at a Butlin's Holiday Camp...Six year old tortured by adult with head dunking in bathtub...1969, walk to Ronnie Scott's jazz club to premiere Tommy for the press...Run into "bombastic music journalist" and his drunk friends.

Chapter 1-1 Excerpts

19 May 1945 - Pete is born...End of 1947 - ride on top deck of tram car down Acton High Street...Summer 1947 - sitting on beach watching glamourous parents ride horses...Paternal Grandfather William Townshend, born 1859, tailor's cutter in Chiswick...Third child Horace Arthur Townshend, Pete's grandfather, born 1882...prize-winning window dresser, semi-professional musician and composer...marries Dorothy Blandford (Dot), Pete's grandmother around 1908...they were buskers on Brighton Pier...child Jack (Pete's uncle) born one month after parents' marriage...Dorothy a snob...couple moves to middle-class dwelling in Turnham Green just before World War I.

Chapter 1-2 Excerpts

Pete's father Cliff born 18 January 1917...joins band age 15 in 1932 while at school...he and friend join British Fascists for the glamorous sixteen playing "bottle parties"...gets in trouble for it, may not have finished school...joins Billy Wiltshire and his 'Picadilly Band'...1935 endorsing instruments in ads...plays what could be described as 'Music For Smoking'...enlists in RAF 1940...future mother, 16, falsifies age to join RAF in 1941...father in important RAF orchestra...future mother vocalist...orchestra later redubbed The Squadronaires...first true British swing band...parents lifestyle 'sexy'.

Preceding two chapters compressed into much shorter selection called "One".


Maternal grandmother Emma doesn't like Christian name; settles on 'Denny.'...Pete's mother, named Betty, born 3 Nov. 1923...Denny child of gypsy who stole someone's husband...Denny leaves husband Maurice in 1934...Maurice and child Betty move in with his Irish mother...mother's cousin Michael Collins.


Rehash of elements from Chapter 1-2 above...Cliff and Betty marry 16 April 1944 in Pontypool, South Wales where they were stationed...Pete born Nazareth House, West London...move to Horace and Dot's flat in Ealing Common...Cliff performing in Germany when told of birth.


Move to Acton in war-damaged house when Pete was baby...mother has to stop singing to raise Pete...Pete accompanies parents on Squadronaire's tour bus...Pete makes friends with musicians handing out beers.


Squadronaires get long engagements at Butlin's...happy summers after war...Squadronaires develop secret whistle to recall members from festivities...Pete sides with entertainers; sees audiences as 'customers'.


I am London; I am British; born in West London right after World War II...grandparents and parents shaped by horrors of to counter center of Pete's universe.


Sept. 1949 attend Silverdale Nursery in Birch Grove Acton...mother snappy dresser after clothes rationing ends in 1949...Pete joins gang in nursery school; gets into mischief...older children tell young ones about horrors of war-time bombings...war abuse leads to child abuse.


1950 Pete kept in private school...misses school buddies from neighborhood...hates school


Summer 1951 mother reunites with grandmother Denny who is acting strangely...Pete sent to live with her to 'level her up'...Denny acts like 'perfect Wicked Witch'...punishes Pete by denying food.


New school St. Saviours...reading ability test puts Pete at bottom of class; finishes at top...Denny has 'Uncle' with Hitler mustache over all night...Pete has night sweats, terrified because door unlocked; feels exposed and alone...wishes for sibling...Denny traumatizes Pete by pretending to drown him...Pete develops fear of women who can damage him; take control over him.

In note, Pete says unlocked door opened to a landing open to the public.

Monday, April 30, 2007


Pete has a new blog post up about Recording:

Here's a quote:
What is the thesis? It is that the quality of the equipment used in the old days, and the limited scope for modification of sound, placed the focus entirely on the music itself, and of course on the sound of the room in which the recording was made. So many wonderful recording rooms have been lost in the last twenty years, all around the world. Rooms that had either been 'found' to sound good, or 'helped' to sound good, or 'designed' to sound good are now serving duty as Loft-style apartments.

I've been thinking about this a lot listening to modern rock 'n' roll recording. My big problem with it is that it all sounds so flat, like the instrument has no resonance in the air around it; just the flat sound of the instrument. "Room sound" is very important to the quality of what is known as "classic rock" and accounts for one of the important reasons why music of that era sounded so good.

My friend and fellow Who historian Joe McMichael lived in Los Angeles the day they tore down Gold Star Studio, where The Who recorded their vocals for "I Can See For Miles" and "Magic Bus". Here's Pete from 1971 on Gold Star:
The real production masterpiece in the Who/Lambert coalition was, of course, "I Can See For Miles." The version here is not the mono, which is a pity because the mono makes the stereo sound like the Carpenters. We cut the track in London at CBS studios and brought the tapes to Gold Star studios in Hollywood to mix and master them. Gold Star has the nicest sounding echo in the world. And there is just a little of that on the mono. Plus, a touch of home-made compressor in Gold Star's cutting room. I swoon when I hear the sound.

Anyway, Joe got to Gold Star just as they were demolishing it. After a quick word with the construction foreman, he was allowed to step into the studio before they brought it down. He looked around in the darkness and clapped his hands, listening to the reverberating beats that brought artists from around the world. He was the last human to hear it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pete Townshend (who he?) - Ch. 19-20

So Jimpy was the guy who inspired the first half of "Real Good-Looking Boy." Wonder who Jimpy was and if he comes up later in some part of the Pete/Who story?

Talking about Pete's childhood friends brings up a point from this era that I've always wondered about: were Pete and John childhood "friends"? John makes his entrance in Ch. 20 with the extremely understated
We called the group ‘The Confederates’. In the spring of 1958 when we began I was still only twelve years old. They were all teenagers at thirteen. I had already met John Entwistle and greatly enjoyed his sense of humour.

Did you have "working" friends when you were 12 or 13? Pete seems to have had them. Although they will be together so much over the next few years (John is present when Pete trashes his first amp in his bedroom), I don't get the sense that they would ever have hung out together just to have fun. It's nothing like the Lennon/McCartney teen dynamic. Wonder why that is? I hope Pete goes into that relationship more.

Also John's afterschool band "The Confederates" was so dubbed because the main Acton afterschool band was "The Union."

I thought I read in one of his old interviews that Pete claimed to have marched in the CND protest march. Perhaps this story is meant to correct that. Anti-nuclear proliferation will come up later of course in the justification for "My Generation"'s infamous line "Hope I die before I get old" (Pete thought he'd die in a fireball anyway), the CHINESE EYES and IT'S HARD albums and the current Pete obsession with terrorists getting the bomb.

While on the subject, DO DO DO get the new DVD of Peter Watkins' 1965 masterpiece THE WAR GAME. Made for the BBC, the film recreates in horrifying, stunning detail a nuclear attack on the English city of Kent. It will immediately put you back into that mindframe of the 1960's when annihilation seemed just around the corner.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Excerpt from new Ian Rankin mystery

From NPR

Excerpt: 'The Naming of the Dead'

Chapter 1

In place of a closing hymn, there was music. The Who, "Love Reign o'er Me." Rebus recognized it the moment it started, thunderclaps and teeming rain filling the chapel...

...The song was only a little more than halfway through. It was the closing track on Quadrophenia. Michael had been the big Who fan, Rebus himself preferring the Stones. Had to admit, though, albums like Tommy and Quadrophenia did things the Stones never could. Daltrey was whooping now that he could use a drink. Rebus had to agree, but there was the drive back to Edinburgh to consider...