Pete interview in Indianapolis Star

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Fri Mar 2 06:59:51 CST 2007 

Townshend enjoys revived band while it lasts 
By David Lindquist 

Thirty-six years later, Pete Townshend continues to mine material from the Who album that never was. 

Following the smash success of 1969 rock opera "Tommy," guitarist-songwriter Townshend sketched out plans for "Lifehouse" -- a collection of songs that told a story of virtual reality in a post-rock-'n'-roll world.

Townshend, vocalist Roger Daltrey, bass player John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon eventually scrapped the project, but legendary compositions "Baba O'Riley," "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Behind Blue Eyes" were extracted for inclusion on the 1971 album "Who's Next."

Splinters of the "Lifehouse" concept resurfaced on Townshend's 1993 solo album, "Psychoderelict," and his 2005 novella "The Boy Who Heard Music." In April, Townshend plans to launch his "Lifehouse Method" Web site, where anyone can generate a personalized piece of music based on answers supplied to questions.

Meanwhile, "Lifehouse" is connected to 2006 album "Endless Wire," the first studio recording credited to the Who since 1982's "It's Hard." Within the songs of "Wire," members of young rock band the Glass Household follow the lead of "Psychoderelict" protagonist Ray High.

Townshend and Daltrey, the lone surviving members from the Who's original lineup, will perform songs from "Endless Wire" as well as various oldies Tuesday at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Townshend, 61, who was cleared of charges related to a 2003 arrest on suspicion of possessing child pornography, will give a keynote address later this month at the esteemed South by Southwest music conference. And he reports that the Who will return to inactive status after a string of European dates this summer.

In a recent e-mail interview, Townshend addressed his personal future, the future of humanity and the future of rock 'n' roll:

Question: "Won't Get Fooled Again" was played when the Indianapolis Colts ran onto the field for the Super Bowl. The Colts are now the NFL champions, so thanks for the good luck supplied by that song. But kidding aside, I know you're a believer in the power of music. Are you ever surprised by the effect a song can have?

Answer: No, I am not surprised. It is the audience that grants any artist a stage, and the same audience that takes a song and makes it their own. The mechanism behind this process is ancient, but still mysterious and hard to explain. It isn't always about quality. Sometimes a poor song or a poor artist can capture the public's imagination, or bring them together in some way. Sometimes it's to do with timing. Whatever is going on, it has very little to do with the artist or composer.

Q: "Mike Post Theme" on "Endless Wire" addresses the value of songs in day-to-day life. Do you have a favorite among Post's catalog? "Rockford Files" or "The A-Team," perhaps?

A: "Hill Street Blues" is my favorite, and the song I had in mind when I wrote my tribute.

Q: In many ways, 21st-century life is nudging us closer to a communal virtual existence on a "Grid" as you outlined in "Lifehouse." In terms of entertainment, more artists are getting their music out and they're connecting with pockets of listeners. But is it becoming impossible for superstar acts -- whether it's tomorrow's Who or Van Halen or U2 -- to establish themselves on a fragmented field? And does it matter if that day has passed?

A: Today is exciting, and everything is different. But to make a living as a recording artist has always been hard for various reasons, and will continue to be. If you are a great live band -- or your music sounds great live -- then perhaps you will prevail. But to become a master of live music requires you to do a lot of work. I don't see the opportunities for young musicians, that we had, to play live. If we had wished, we could have worked every day of every year in 1964. We nearly did, in fact. I think the Stones actually did play more than 365 shows in 1963 (according to Bill Wyman's book), often two or three a day.

Q: The "Endless Wire" song "Unholy Trinity" presents a young rock band featuring as many beliefs as members: There's someone from a Christian background, someone from a Jewish background and someone from a Muslim background. Do you look to youngsters to find a path to coexistence on a larger scale?

A: They are the ones having to live with this horrible mess we find ourselves in. In Iran today the young people are hip, smart, well-dressed, politically attuned -- but many of them are also devout Muslims. It's hard to find such people in the West. I think it's a pity that the last time young Westerners despairing of Christianity turned to spirituality it was with the hippies. 
My three characters were taken straight from my own childhood streets. We all grew up together in harmony. We respected our differences. After all, the Nazis had shown us how despicable it was to accentuate racial differences. The years passed, and still we are trying to feel respect for people who are different to us. Today it is not about race, but religion. If there is a God (and I believe there is, however foolish that might make me look to some modern intellectuals), only he can solve this. We are utterly lost now.

Q: Where do you plan to invest your creative energy after July?

A: I will think about that when I get there. I'm really enjoying performing with Roger and the band more than I ever have before. I'm having fun. In a way, I will be sad for it to end. But I'm also concerned that when it ends people will immediately begin to "wait" for what happens next, believing that in some dark way I am teasing them by not delivering in a heartbeat. I am no longer the girl who can't say no. 

-Brian in Atlanta 
The Who This Month!

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