Who are you?

Scott Schrade 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 
Michael Dwyer. 
'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 
capitalism anyway.

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 
monumental legacy. 

"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 

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