A Camera:Pete Salutes Mr.Pridden

Lowgens02 at aol.com Lowgens02 at aol.com
Mon Apr 2 03:23:43 CDT 2007

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Camera 

I sometimes wish I had the courage to simply walk around with a camera and 
post photographs here, rather attempt to write. This is the most extraordinary 
morning where I live. I wake up determined to meditate, even to pray, to 
contemplate the remainder of the year ahead (I find it hard to accept that a quarter 
of the year is gone and all I have done are some shows. Shows, shows and more 
shows.) Perhaps I should read? Suddenly my book of the moment Memoir by John 
McGahern is losing me. Instead, I read the Sunday newspapers again. I really 
am deeply interested in people, in the life of everyone around me, in their 
quirks, in their feelings - but I am elected without option to the role of 
performer at the moment. This is a mandate that automatically demands 
self-obsession. Unless I stay in my own head, and listen only to my own heart, it seems I 
can't serve an audience properly. I have no idea why that is.

If I sit to do a press interview I want to be the interviewer. I want to know 
what makes Jenny Eliscu (Rolling Stone) or Bryan Appleyard (Sunday Times) 
tick. How are they? What's new?

He will be greatly embarrassed, but a great man requires a paean. That man is 
our on-stage sound man Robert Pridden. I would, I could, post the most 
wonderful photograph here of Bob, taken by Tom Wright back in 1967 on a rickety 
charter plane on the tour the Who did supporting Herman's Hermits. I will not post 
it, because his wife - Lady Maria Noel, the daughter of the Fifth Earl of 
Gainsborough - has censored it. Mia (as she is known) probably deserves a paean 
as well). Bob is playing a tiny ukulele banjo that is decorated with a red, 
white and blue cartoon of George Formby's face. Bob models a Union Flag Jacket, 
and is standing in front of the Confederate Flag. He may be wearing a little a 
Republican campaign hat of straw. It is a riot of three colours, red, white 
and blue. Why has it been censored? Because it is quite obvious Bob is drunk, it 
is also quite obvious he is being set up. Tom Wright might call this photo an 
example of the way he 'captures the moment'. Hooey. I clearly recall my role 
as stylist.

Bob is a giant of a man in every respect except his stature. As a teenager he 
was regarded in his native Ickenham as rather a dangerous fellow. For some 
reason I can't remember, the singer Jess Roden from the Allan Bown band - he 
sang on the Who's Magic Bus in 1968 - lived with Bob and his mother when we all 
converged just before the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. So we have worked 
together for 40 years. Jess and Bob were inseparable for a time, until Bob was 
pursued by pretty, blonde Mia (always with her two Grooms in attendance) and his 
new life began. Mia somehow recognised the perfect gentleman in Bob, that we 
opposed and teased. She saw the giant as well I imagine. Her family embraced 
Bob with what seemed to be open arms. I am the grateful godfather to their son 
Benedict, who I feel sure will remain true to his faith without my interference.

When Roger Daltrey was ailing in the past few weeks in the USA, with flu, low 
sodium levels (that were first described melodramatically by doctors as 
dangerously low, then soon after, of no consequence at all, thus making all of us 
who care about Roger feel as though we were the drama queens) Bob would come 
and sit with me in my dressing room and act as the go-between, gently soothing 
my worries about Roger, sympathizing with me as I knew he would with Roger a 
few minutes later, passing only the positive feelings that Roger and I feel for 
each other, and none of the familiar irritations of two old rock stars who get 
in each other's way sometimes.

Then he would go ahead to preside stage right (seen from the audience) and 
attempt, with profound concentration, to convince Roger that all was well. Roger 
won't be fooled of course, and sometimes, even when the audience know he is 
singing well, he will make a face at Bob to make it clear something needs to be 
done. Often, what needs to be done is out of Bob's control. For example, 
Roger may require that my guitar is not so loud. I think that is my department, my 
control knob, not Mr Pridden's. It must be a tricky business of complex 
diplomacy on stage with Roger and Pete.

In the early days Bob used to look after my stage sound as well. Sometimes, 
his lack of immediate understanding and action made me furious. For example, 
when - in the million-decibel din I was making - I silently mouthed to him a 
simple instruction such as: ......more of Roger's vocal in my wedge, more echo on 
my guitar, but not the acoustic. No, NOT the bloody acoustic...... I expected 
something to happen. Once, he pretended to understand. Nowadays it wouldn't 
work. I can tell he can't really read lips as I can, and we are both now 
half-blind, and separated by a hundred yards by video screens and stage hardware.

Bob's enthusiasm for what he carelessly called 'knob-twiddling' in his 
younger days (it would suggest perversion in an older chap) has been infectious. He 
is a champion of the old-school, hoping for especially large control knobs on 
technical equipment, even going so far as to suggest to an equipment 
manufacturer that an ideal mixing desk to use on stage with the Who would be one with 
control knobs like the old manual levers used in Railway Signal Boxes to change 
the path of trains. When Roger or I screamed for attention, Bob would then 
walk to the appropriate lever, compress the safety catch, and with great 
exertion pull the lever towards him, solving the problem of the moment - or at least 
appearing to. For we rock stars merely need to be massaged. Ecstasy, in the 
words of Sondheim, is when we see what we expect to see.

I could go on. Both of Bob and Mia's children are adorable and 
gentle-mannered, perfectly brought up. They must have watched fearfully as the late John 
Entwistle worked his way to a heart condition, with Bob in close attendance. Bob 
worked at John's wonderful recording studio in his quintessential rock star's 
pile in Stow-On-The-Wold. Bob now works at my studio complex on the Thames 
near Richmond. I hope some of the fear has passed. Bob deserves compleat 
happiness. Compleat (rather than complete) because he is - like Roger and his old 
friend Eric Clapton - a river fisherman, a good one I think.

So as Bob pulls the lever, and casts the fly, pretends for a moment to be 
Watson to my Holmes: ....it's an enigma Holmes! He cries as he slaps his knee and 
screws up his face trying to work out why the new speaker system we are 
hiring is booming badly. Nonsense Watson! I reply. This case is nothing but a 
plethora of surmise, conjecture, hypothesis and hyperbole!

Facts? I would no sooner trust the deaf, dumb and the blind to change the 
track my train was to follow than I would to drive the Locomotive. Somehow, in 
rock and roll, it works.

Mr Pridden I salute you. In song.

posted by Pete Townshend at 9:10 AM

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