All Things Considered on Tom Wright book about The Who

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Tue Apr 24 19:43:50 CDT 2007

>From today's All Things Considered. You can hear the report (with a couple of Pete soundbites) here:

Rock Shots: Behind the Bands, Behind the Lens
by Neda Ulaby

All Things Considered, April 24, 2007 · Rock 'n' roll history is filled with people like Tom Wright, who traveled as a road manager with bands like the Rolling Stones, the Faces and the Who from the late 1960s through the early '80s. What makes Wright special is that he's also a photographer, so while he was collecting indelible experiences in those decades, he was also collecting extraordinary images.

Now he's written a memoir, Roadwork: Rock & Roll Turned Inside Out, due out in May. And he recently donated a half-million photographic prints and negatives to the University of Texas at Austin.

The university's Center for American History — what else? — threw a party to celebrate the addition to its archive. A guitar duo played Beatles covers. The Who's Pete Townshend regaled the crowd with tales of meeting Wright, then a young American art student in England. Townshend says Wright was a major influence on him, personally and artistically.

"Without Tom coming into my life, I don't think I would have heard the music that I heard that was so important for me when I was a kid," he says. "Particularly R&B, which Tom exposed me and a bunch of people at Ealing Art School to, around '62 and '63."

"But also drugs," Townshend laughs.

In 1967, Wright managed the Who's very first U.S. tour. Wright says he met the band in Florida. They got on the plane, Wright remembers; it started to take off, "and I guess we were doing 80 to 100 miles an hour."

"This guy is riding along the side of the runway on the grass, in a station wagon, and so we were waving and yelling and all that at the window," Wright says. "I'm sure he couldn't hear anything, because the plane was blasting, but then he pulled out a shotgun and he was aiming at us."

Apparently, drummer Keith Moon had slept with the guy's daughter the night before.

"We couldn't hear the shotgun go off," Wright says. "But we could see the blast of flame out of the two barrels, one and then the other." All that in the first 10 minutes of Wright's job managing the tour.

He still travels with the Who. Back then, he says, the lifestyle was more or less what you might imagine.

"You throw your eating habits and your sleeping habits out the window," Wright says. "You're permanently hung over."

But "being exhausted on the road with the Who lasted only until the first note of the show," he says. "It was just hypnotic."...

...In this era of the celebrity image, it's difficult to imagine stars being captured in a goofy candid shot like one particular Wright image. It's a grainy black-and-white photo of the Who's Keith Moon in a — well, not exactly a pair of jeans. One leg is entirely ripped off.

"He didn't tear his trouser leg off and reveal his left testicle with a French horn in his hand because he knew that Tom was taking a picture," Townshend says. "This was just a constant, evolving thing."

Townshend says it's a relief that Wright's photographs will be preserved for posterity — if only, he laughs, "to warn future generations of Americans that this baby-boomer thing that happened must never, ever, ever happen again!"
-Brian in Atlanta
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