Remembering San Antonio 1968

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at
Sat Mar 17 11:00:32 CDT 2007
San Antonio Express-News

The Who return to San Antonio after 39 years 
Web Posted: 03/15/2007 01:38 AM CDT 
Hector Saldaña 
Express-News Staff Writer 
The only time the Who played in San Antonio, Lyndon Johnson was president. 

That was March 15, 1968, at Municipal Auditorium. The Who that arrives at AT&T Center on Tuesday — surviving members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend with drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr's son), bassist Pino Palladino, guitarist Simon Townshend (Pete's brother) and keyboardist John 'Rabbit' Bundrick — won't be destroying instruments during "My Generation" like they did then.

But they will put on a high-energy, two-hour concert with a set list that includes their greatest songs from every era, as well as new ones off their latest album, "Endless Wire." At their Houston concert in November, Daltrey ferociously slung his microphone overhead while Townshend windmilled and scissor-kicked through electrified power chords.

Besides instrument destruction, things were different in other ways back in 1968. The Who hadn't attained the level of stardom of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The quartet, which also included drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle, had only a couple of American hits. The landmark rock opera "Tommy" was a year away, as was the band's legendary performance at Woodstock. As a result, Municipal was far from full.

Joe Sarli sat in the balcony at Municipal. The teenager wondered if the Who would live up to the explosive spectacle of their appearance on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" a few months earlier. "I remember the rumor: No detonation or firebombs allowed onstage," Sarli said. "But they did it, the whole destruction routine." 

Sarli, who plays bass, was a huge Entwistle fan.

"I don't remember them being obnoxiously loud. They had an Edwardian (fashion) thing going on. They were dressed decent," Sarli said. "The Beatles were my first love, but the Who were right up there. I thought they were extremely innovative, and they did have the first bass solo in rock."

Mo-Dels founders Steve and Keith Owens were toward the back in the lower level. Tickets for the KONO-AM-sponsored show cost $3 and $4.

"The main thing I remember is when they broke the guitar," Steve Owens said. "Which was pretty cool."

In his memory banks, Townshend splintered "a cheap Rickenbacker in two" and then with the pieces held together with guitar strings "tossed it out into the audience like an Olympian when they wind up."

"This guitar went flying. Whoever got that guitar must have gotten a knot on their head," Steve Owens said.

His younger brother, Keith, loved it, too. He was a freshman at Holmes High School.

"The thing about that concert: There weren't that many people there," Keith Owens said. "The Who hadn't had any big hits, really. The first 25 rows were full, if that much. The Who weren't that well-known yet. They were still kind of underground."

He recalled that Townshend did the talking between songs and that the Who played "a song which was like a precursor to 'Tommy,' the rock opera, 'A Quick One, While He's Away.'"

"Nobody had ever heard of that kind of thing in rock," Keith Owens said. "People got a taste of what was to come." 
Former Textones guitarist George Callins was a freshman at the time. He sat in the balcony.

"I'd never heard anything like that," Callins said. "I remember the smashing of the instruments — the drums and the guitars. Entwistle? I don't think he ever destroyed anything he played."

Providence High School sophomores Cathi Walsh and Peggy Haberer were too young to go to the concert, but managed to get Daltrey's, Moon's and Entwistle's autographs when they knocked on the Who's room door at El Tropicano Hotel before the show. Townshend was shopping.

Becky Kuenstler was in the audience even though the rebellious Who were never known as "a girlie band."

"I liked the hard sound, the edgier sound. I also went to see Jimi Hendrix back in the day," Kuenstler said. "I remember they were incredibly loud. My ears rang after the concert."

For Kuenstler and others, "My Generation" became an anthem. "Playing that song and then smashing their equipment symbolized all the stifling, outdated conventions our generation wanted to change," she said. "I would have been disappointed if they didn't do it." 

-Brian in Atlanta 
The Who This Month!

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