Who are you?
schrade at akrobiz.com
Fri Apr 23 17:34:37 CDT 2004
Thanks to Trish over on Relayers:
Who are you?
April 24, 2004
How many original members does it take to make a reunion tour? In
the case of the Who, it's two. For Deep Purple, it's none. By
'Who's touring?" a spate of street posters teased early this month,
a few days before the official announcement that a vintage British
rock'n'roll company would soon reopen for trading in Australia.
Who indeed? The verdict any court of law would uphold beyond
reasonable doubt is the Who, that's who. Or at least authorised
representatives of that partnership, formed nearly 40 years ago by
four young Londoners who would comprise the third most influential
rock band of the British Invasion.
Sadly, though, only half of that highly respected union finds
itself above ground in 2004.
Keith Moon, one of rock's most distinctive and influential drummers
and certainly its most celebrated eccentric, died after years of
alcohol abuse in September 1978.
Even from an era of pioneers, bass player John Entwistle was
similarly renowned as a unique and innovative musician. Human
frailty caught up with "The Ox" in a final flurry of female
companionship and cocaine in a Las Vegas hotel room two years ago.
What we have in their absence is a quandary. No fan would deny Pete
Townshend's and Roger Daltrey's right to the Who trademark. But
neither can we feel comfortable with their continued use of it for
the purposes of mass entertainment, let alone the always suspect
corollary of turning a few million quid.
The Who, you see, more than most rock bands of the 1960s, were
strictly the sum of their parts. "We haven't got a normal line-up,"
Daltrey explained to me in 2001. "We've got a bass player who
really is playing lead guitar, almost. And we've got a lead
guitarist who is playing rhythm and occasional lead. So the drums
become like the needles that knit these two things together."
Hence the surviving trio's hesitancy and turmoil in the wake of
Moon's death. As a former student of Moon, Zak Starkey was finally
deemed an acceptable replacement in the 1990s. The son of former
Beatle Ringo Starr, his pedigree didn't hurt, either.To find one
Pino Palladino suddenly seconded on lead bass guitar within days of
Entwistle's death was less easy to assimilate for those of us who
remembered the Who as something more than a good rockin' franchise.
That day, the line between inimitable superhero trailblazers and
crack stadium cover band was crossed.
Which doesn't preclude the possibility of a good time. The chances
of Townshend, Daltrey, Starkey, Palladino, Townshend's brother
Simon and longstanding keyboard sideman John "Rabbit" Bundrick
simulating the sound, energy and greatest hits of the Who at
Vodafone Arena on July 31 are high. These men are professionals.
Technology is at hand. Sentimentality will be abundant.
But is there not something greater being squandered here? Perhaps a
similar indefinable something to that which Mama Mia stole from
ABBA, and that We Will Rock You ripped from the crippled remains of
At least as much as those acts, the Who was a rare instance of
technical nuances and personal chemistry defining a unique voice in
a medium awash with static.
>From a band that enshrined the line "Hope I die before I get old",
this crafty act of partial cloning crosses the boundary between
disappointment and betrayal. It's not the first time Daltrey has
attempted to drive this magic bus with parts of the engine missing.
In 1995 he announced an imminent Australian tour by a version of
the Who that included Entwistle, but not Pete Townshend, the band's
principal songwriter and visionary. "I started the band," Daltrey
crowed at the time. "It was my band. It's still my band. This is
the Who, it's just that Pete isn't in it at the moment. It didn't
affect Pink Floyd, did it? Roger Waters was the same to Pink Floyd
as Pete is to us."
The fans' verdict? No dice: no Pete, no Who. The tour was cancelled
due to poor ticket sales.
Daltrey's Pink Floyd analogy trod thin ice. Unlike the Who, the
diminished Floyd continued to write and record new material after
the acrimonious departure of their conscience and chief writer in
1983, even if the brand name became a hollow vessel for stadium
bombast. (Waters made a far more dignified and convincing fist of
the band's back catalogue, updated with his own, when touring under
his own name in 2002.)
It would be different, of course, if the Who stood for nothing but
personal gain. You wouldn't catch Kiss writing a tune like
Townshend's righteous Won't Get Fooled Again. The New York grease
monkeys are about to mount their third Australian tour with some
other guys masquerading behind two original members' face paint,
but they never claimed to represent anything other than crass
Deep Purple are in town with a grand total of zero original
members, following the recent retirement of keyboard maestro Jon
Lord. That's as it should be. Musical chairs have long played a
central role in that band's 35-year evolution.
Fleetwood Mac's recent tour hinged on the surprise reunion of four-
fifths of their '70s line-up.
Last year's visit from the Rolling Stones featured only three
original members, but it's safe to believe that the absence of Mick
Jagger, Keith Richards or Charlie Watts would see the tongue logo
retired for good.
In comparison to any of these bands, the Who have always had a
grandiose vision of rock's importance - witness the conceptual
weight of Tommy and Quadrophenia, for starters. Like the works of
Brahms and Mozart, they apparently believe that theirs should stand
alone, in concert, in perpetuity, regardless of the slings and
arrows of outrageous misfortune. It's a brave gamble with a
"I'm aware of my mortality," Daltrey said in 1995. "Someone else
will eventually step in (for me), hopefully, though I haven't heard
anyone yet who can sing quite the same as me."
One wonders if Keith Moon and John Entwistle felt as cocksure about
their place in history.
Tickets for the Who at Vodafone Arena on July 31 go on sale on
More information about the TheWho