White City

simon malia malias40 at hotmail.com
Mon Sep 13 12:52:46 CDT 2004

Scott Schrade wrote:
> > Well, certainly he had to have SOME regrets about breaking
> > up the band.
>Maybe, but not until much, much later.  Maybe the mid-'90s.
>Pete wanted out bad in '82-'83.  So he quit.  I simply cannot
>believe he was regretting that decision as early as '84-'85.
Scott, on that point - check out the sleeve-notes to "Who's Missing" (issued 
1985): to wit - "Life is quieter now in 1985, maybe even happier. But 
listening to WHO'S MISSING I realise that many of us will always be - 
missing The Who."

Those notes were written by Pete Townshend. In 1985 The Who reformed to play 
Live Aid (and they were pretty ramshackle too - I was there, with my then 
girlfriend whom I had bored to tears for years with tales of how wonderful 
were The Who, as opposed to how noxious were Queen; not an easy night for 
me, after their respective performances.)

None of this proves anything of course.

But my own first experience of anything related to "White City" came 
watching the Friday evening music show "The Tube", which during the 80s 
served as a reasonable facsimile of the role played by "Ready Steady Go" in 
the 60s.

One Friday night, up popped Pete, with this band, Deep End, playing R&B / 
white soul stuff with brass and everything. Wow. They did "Give Blood", 
"Face the Face" and "Second Hand Love", if memory serves.

I thought then, and later that year when I saw him at the Brixton Academy, 
that he looked relaxed and relieved to be away from The Who - but that his 
departure from the band had at least coloured and textured the songs on 
"White City", which like much of his later solo work, is ambitious beyond 
all sense. The video film remains arty, splashy, pretentious and almost 
impenetrable in some ways, superficially glib in others.

The album's a belter, mind.

And living in Liverpool, as I was from 1986, "Brilliant Blues", with its 
reference to "the colour of the Mersey is grey", has always had some 
personal resonance.

"White City" seems to me (and who gives a f*** what I think?) to be about 
re-exploring some of the themes from "Quadrophenia", but this time with the 
light shining on older, more world-weary characters, acting in some ways as 
a metaphor for post-colonial, post-war, almost-post-industrial Britain, as 
it struggled to find a new sense of self.

And also maybe there was some stuff about an egocentric rock star, burnt-out 
by fame and the celebrity scene, trying to get back in touch with his own 
roots - and sense of what was going on down on the streets.

And finally - if you read Pete's treatment for the film - it's pretty clear 
he had by then gained a good strong insight into the way cocaine can warp 
your perspective and values...


Simon in Liverpool.

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