On the tube and on tour, Who still rocks

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 14 08:45:18 CDT 2004

>From the Register-Guard of Eugene, Oregon at:

On the tube and on tour, Who still rocks
By Scott Maben 
The Register-Guard

The music of the Who, forged from blue-collar
indignation and youthful defiance, now plays on
commercials hawking $50,000 SUVs and inaugurates each
episode of network television's expanding "CSI"

But don't toss these graying musicians onto the
retread pile just yet.

Surviving members Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are
again on a world tour that's winning raves for sheer
energy and faithfulness to their roots. A Rolling
Stone critic pronounced a recent Madison Square Garden
performance the best of the Who's New York City shows
since 1979. And later this year, they'll record an
album of new material. 

Forty years after the first mod band stormed the UK,
the group is enjoying a surge of cross-generational
popularity that makes the songs seem as enduring - if
more mainstream - as ever.

Townshend and Daltrey are among a pack of veteran
rockers (David Bowie, Paul McCartney) still filling
auditoriums across the globe.

If indeed the Who is hot again, it's perhaps by a
measure of a few degrees. Like the staying power of
the Beatles and Rolling Stones, the group has
persevered despite long breaks and creative lapses -
and the deaths of bassist John Entwistle in 2002 and
drummer Keith Moon in 1978.

"They've never gone away, so it's hard to call it a
comeback or a re-emergence," says Greg Sutherland, 38,
a buyer at House of Records in Eugene.

Kids today aren't necessarily clamoring to discover
the Who, Sutherland says, but older fans reared on the
music are replacing their record collections and
seizing loaded reissues, including a double CD of
1970's "Live at Leeds" and a deluxe, two-disc DVD of
the 1979 documentary "The Kids Are Alright."

"Maybe part of the renewed interest in the Who are
people who have always been interested in them,"
Sutherland says.

Mark Raney, 47, a disc jockey at the classic rock
station KZEL, agrees that the Who has an indelible
quality shared by a handful of older rock bands.

"Just about the time you start writing them off, you
go to one of their concerts," Raney says.

"Maybe old means seasoned and experienced, and they
know what they're doing. These guys still have it."

Some diehard fans may cringe whenever they hear "Happy
Jack" play in the Hummer ad featuring an enterprising
boy taking an offroad shortcut to win a boxcar derby
race. But that's not the first time the Who sold a

Nissan used "Bargain" to sell cars and Claritin tapped
"Overture" from "Tommy" - deals that make the band's
satirical 1967 album "The Who Sell Out" seem
prophetic. The Who's music also has appeared on
soundtracks of such recent films as "Rushmore,"
"American Beauty" and "Shanghai Knights." 

Townshend and Daltrey certainly aren't alone. Bowie
did it with "Changes" (Fidelity), Van Morrison did it
with "Moondance" (Infiniti) and the Rolling Stones
allowed Sheraton Hotels to pitch rooms with "Let's
Spend the Night Together." And Bob Seger's "Like a
Rock" has become synonymous with Chevy trucks.

Although some critics gripe that such marketing is
crass and subverts rock's anti-establishment message,
the Who's recent success doesn't offend longtime fan
Scott McLean, founder of Leisure King, an independent
record label in Eugene. 

"I think it's absolutely fantastic," says McLean, 36.
"I think it's great that financially they get another
go-around on these songs. I'm not going to go out and
buy a Hummer, but that commercial would not have been
anywhere near as good without that song on it."

It's so common today, it's hard to denounce the
practice as sacrilege, says another local fan, Cherry
Poppin' Daddies guitarist Jason Moss.

"It's a drag to hear your favorite song in a car
commercial," says Moss, 35. "On the other hand,
musicians have a right to earn money from the music
they make, and in the current music industry, that has
become one of the key ways musicians can make money."

It certainly doesn't detract from what the band,
scheduled to perform Aug. 7 in Mountain View, Calif.,
and Aug. 9 in Los Angeles in the tour's only West
Coast appearances, is accomplishing on stage, he says.

"I think music is artistically at a real low, and
possibly the Who and the Rolling Stones are the best
rock groups on the road."

-Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!

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