Tim Cain responds to Who fans

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Tue Mar 6 07:04:11 CST 2007


What do we owe our favorite artists? 
— Tim Cain @ 12:58 am 

How long is an artist allowed to disappoint you? How long do you have to like to enjoy someone’s work in order to be considered a fan? And just because you like one set of a group or individual’s work, does that mean you’re obligated to like the rest? 

These questions popped into my head as I read the responses to my blog last week about Pete Townshend telling people who might not like the idea of Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey performing as “The Who” to: 

Wait a little longer; Roger and the other surviving member of the group) and I will both die, then you’ll be able to save even more money relying on your ancient memories.

I observed that I started saving money on Who shows long ago, because it stopped being a band to me after the 1982 farewell tour. I was immediately set upon by some folks clearly directed here by a Who Web site or mailing list, so anything I’m saying here is more directed at the folks who swing by with some degree of regularity rather than those who came in, dropped their comments (without looking at any of the other 700-plus entries on the site) and won’t be bothered with coming back again. 

(Although I will get petty and point out the definition of “farewell” at dictionary.com says “parting; valedictory; final: a farewell performance.” Maybe The Who technically had only one “farewell” tour, but what the heck were all the rest of those shows since 1982?) 

(And I have to admit the whole episode provided a pretty entertaining moment during my Friday morning slot on “Byers and Co.” on WSOY [1340 AM], which was introduced by the playing of “Behind Blue Eyes,” which host Brian Byers said he found “appropriate,” especially the “nobody knows what it likes to be hated” line, I suppose. I still would have preferred “Squeeze Box.”) 

But as for the observation by “Jackson” in response to the original blog entry that: 

As for getting “out of line,” well, as a Who fan I can tell you, you probably never belonged there in the first place. 

Well, that strikes me as silly. I’m not interested in getting into whether I “deserve” to be a fan or who’s a “bigger” fan (what is this, junior high?). But I will say “Who’s Next” is one of the greatest albums ever made, “The Who By Numbers” got me through a really rough stretch when I was in high school, and, as I once said to a co-worker as we debated Pete Townshend’s brilliant artistic achievement, “If you can’t grasp the religious subtext in ‘Tommy,’ maybe you should unplug your ears. Or listen to something else.” 

Townshend’s work with The Who and his solo albums entranced me into the early 1980s. But his work slowly began to bore me, and I’ll admit that while I remain a fan of that earlier material, I’m unmoved by anything he’s done in the last 25 years or so. 

(I remain baffled, for instance, that “true” and devoted Who fans aren’t up in arms over the plot change in the Broadway version of “Tommy,” where the fan riot in “Sally Simpson” becomes an excuse for Tommy to brood, clearly echoing The Who’s 1979 concert tragedy in Cincinnati, when 11 people died in a crowd crush outside an area. In the original, Tommy doesn’t even see Sally. The change in the Broadway musical totally changes the meaning of the moment, and not for the better in my book.) 

All that, though, doesn’t make me less of a fan of his earlier work, and I certainly won’t apologize for my boredom. 
Dozens of artists have had the same affect on me. I suppose it’s inevitable that artists who work for 20 or 30 years wind up disappointing or infuriating most of us at certain points, no matter how large our fandom. There were times when I thought Robyn Hitchcock and Elvis Costello walked on water. But it’s been 10 years since Hitchcock really moved me, and while I adored Costello’s “The River in Reverse” from last year, the last 20 years have definitely been more miss than hit.

I still am thrilled by the early work by both of them, some of those releases being a part of my life for 30 years. And I continue to check in on their work, and sometimes (like “The River in Reverse”) they delight and surprise me again.

That doesn’t mean I’ve revoked my fandom of anyone. But I do reserve the right – as we all should – to judge each work as it comes.

How about you? Have you jumped out of line on anyone? 

-Brian in Atlanta 
The Who This Month! 

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