Pete Answers Questions From Fans

Scott Schrade schrade at
Tue Feb 17 03:43:32 UTC 2009

Pete's Blog
14th February, 2009

G'day Pete. Thoughts on Aussie bands? Any favourites?

PT: Matt Finish. Followed them for a long time.

Pete, Your first venture into Ireland since 1965 was in 2006 at the
Oxegen Festival. The Irish fans were treated to a 'greatest hits' set
that night - inspite of the fact that the band had been playing Mike
Post Theme quite a lot previously. In Ireland 'Mike Post Theme' was
replaced by 'You Better You Bet'. As Australia is relatively
'unventured territory', are the Australian fans in for a 'greatest
hits' set, or can they expect some nuggets (or songs from Endless
Wire) thrown in?

PT: We will play whatever is on the list we find stuck to the back of
the speaker cabinet.

As someone who has dabbled in works theatrical, what is your favorite
play you've read or seen? Or, Has there been any experience you've had
in the theatre that has been profound to you?

PT: Arcadia by Tom Stoppard. That's been about as profound as it's
ever been. More recently another Stoppard -- Tom's son Ed -- playing
Hamlet was quite wonderful.

>From watching the Kennedy Honours and later from your comments here at
the website, it was clear you were moved by Betty Lavette's
performance of Love Reign O'er Me. Would you consider having Betty
record this song ever? Also, would you ever write music for Betty?
Anything in the works presently?

PT: I was touched. Mind you, Joss Stone singing My Generation was also
pretty cool, in the flesh as they say. I was moved by all the
performers and pleased to meet Dave Grohl at last, and see my old
friend Jack Black.

2009 marks the 40th anniversary of  "Tommy.'' Anything in the works to
celebrate that?

PT: No. Waiting for the 50th now.

Will you be keen in "celebrating" TOMMY's 40 "anniversary" gathering
for a few selected dates, some fellow singers in a similar way you
guys did back in 1972 with the LSO ?

PT: No. I considered it, but decided against it.

Pete, how do you feel about the remastering of Tommy? I recently
bought a copy of it and it sounds AWFUL; ie the compression of the
music and the loss of the dynamic range. As a musician/ songwriter/
performer, I'm sure you are very aware of how important the dynamic
range is to your work and the work of other serious musicians. The
music industry seems to be all about loud and to hell with quality. It
seems that if folks wish to listen loud.. well that's what the volume
knob is for, right mate?

PT: I haven't heard it. Sounds like you should get your money back.
Who was the mastering engineer? Write to him, not me. Mastering
engineers are obsessed with getting as much level as they can onto
CDs. I've lost interest in all these reissues. Maybe you should listen
to the original or my 5.1 SACD mix.

Your mix of Tommy in SACD was outstanding. It sounds like you're
playing acoustic right in my living room. I know there have been
rumors of a deluxe version of Quad, do you plan on doing a 5.1 SACD
version? And, if I may, why do you think higher resolution audio
formats have not been accepted by the masses?

PT: I started a 5.1 SACD version of Quad and then lost interest. It
would be good to complete a kind of DIRECTOR's CUT of Quadrophenia,
but I'm not sure it will ever happen now. I need to keep focussed on
writing something new.

I'm a fan that absolutely loves it when you unleash yourself on
electric guitar. Live versions of "Sparks", for example, always blow
me away. Although I love every second of Endless Wire, "It's Not
Enough" is the only track where you give us some blistering leads.
What do you think about cutting loose on electric guitar a little more
often on the next Who studio album?

PT: Endless Wire was not a "Who studio album." I made it in my home
studios. As to electric guitar, I play it when it fits. It's not
really how I feel today, that explosive playing, it's just something I
can turn on.

Clashwho: Pete, I've heard several different stories about how you
created the backing track to BABA O'RILEY. Various publications say
that it's a synthesizer track, often specifying that it's an ARP. One
of your stories was that you fed biographical details of Meher Baba's
life into a computer, and that's what it spat out. Another story you
told is that you were really good at cutting tape and that there are
something like 3000 edits in the BABA O'RILEY backing tape. Another
source says that the BABA O'RILEY backing track was actually generated
by you playing in real time on a 1968 Lowrey Berkshire TBO-1 organ
using a setting called "marimba repeat" with subtle use of another
setting called "Wow-Wow". What's the real story?

PT: It's a mixture of all those. For a while I huffed and bluffed
because it seemed so hard to explain, and most people didn’t know what
a synthesiser could do. The basic sound was indeed generated from a
Lowrey Berkshire organ; these amazing organs, like the early
Hammonds, are in truth an early type of synthesiser; I still have it.
I used the same marimba effect on JOIN TOGETHER as well (tape played
at half speed). The "biographical details" part of BABA O'RILEY was
the compositional part; I did this first on paper and tried it on
about six other tunes with other subject-characters. Then I went about
trying to create sequences using my large ARP system and found the
best way was to channel the Lowrey Berkshire via an ARP 2500 or EMS
synthesiser cutter; I ran a reel of tape for 25, 30 minutes, and
then started out with my razor. 3,000 edits is an exaggeration (it
felt like I was editing for two weeks) but there are at least a
hundred. I couldn't have fed anything into a computer in 1971 when I
wrote Baba O'Riley because they didn't make them for individuals to
use. But that was what I composed; that was my intention. Useful small
computers took a long time to materialise. At least another twelve
years. So I have the composition on paper, and the Lowrey Organ
version was a kind of processed simulation of what I thought a
computer would spit out. Now we have the Method system, you can see
how close I came, because the music created on the Method website
really does have shades of Baba O'Riley here and there. Baba O'Riley
is a masterpiece I think, completely accidental, but only I could have
done what I did. Put anyone else into a studio with an idea, a few
pieces of paper, an organ, some synthesizers, a tape machine and a
razor blade, and they would not have come up with what I came up with.
I look back at my younger self with some pride and affection.

Of ALL the songs you've written, which is your favorite ONE to perform?

PT: I always get a buzz doing Baba O'Riley, but I don't really play
very much on it. I think I just like the fact that I am performing two
jobs, the tape, and the guitar.

When writing how is it that you deternine if a song is fit to be
considered a WHO song versus a solo release? And second, what is YOUR
favorite song that you wrote?

PT: This isn't a decision really. It just seems obvious. My favourite
song of my own changes all the time. I'm pretty keen on IN THE ETHER
and TRILBY'S PIANO which seem to be unpopular with most Who fans. That
kind of writing suits the way I feel today.

Other than Who's Next/Lifehouse, do you wish any Who albums were
released with different/expanded song selections? For example, would
you have preferred if the songs for the EP that was to have preceded
Who's Next (Naked Eye, Water, I Don't Even Know Myself, etc) had been
released in that form or released as a complete album with the songs
from Lifehouse, and beyond, that didn't make it onto Who's Next (Pure
& Easy, Join Together, etc)? It seems that, even though Who fans love
these songs, many have been relegated to complilations and live versions.

PT: Almost every song I have written could be tied into a conceptual
thesis of some kind, and re-released with a lot of extra documentation
that I'm sure fans would find interesting. But because my concepts all
seemed to interweave, and overlap, there is a lot of confusion among
fans about what song might belong where. I'm not much help in getting
them in order because it all turns into a blur. A lot of the concepts
were incomplete (like Rael for example). However, I did make demos,
and they are usually dated, and I can tell a lot from the context. The
period you are talking about was a strange one; we were a little lost
for a while.

How well did you know Jimi Hendrix back in the day? Did you and him
ever jam together etc. in the studio? Did you guys ever talk about
UFO's or reincarnation - I heard he was really into that - You said
once that you might be reincarnated - can you tell us more about that,
or any other stories?

PT: I knew Jimi only slightly. I helped him with his amplifiers when
he first came to London. I jammed with him backstage a few times. Back
then I wasn't keen on jamming and I'm not mad about it today. I have
no idea what he believed in. I think reincarnation is a possibility,
but it isn't useful to worry about it because it can't be proved.

Why do you hesitate to use the current touring band line-up in the
studio to record a new Who album ?

PT: I just don't want to do it.

You've answered a lot of questions about John's music, his songs and
why they weren't or were used by The Who but what about his adaptation
of your songs? Did you write songs such as, "Real Me" and "Dreaming
>From The Waist" expecting him to play them the way he did, or did that
happen after he heard your demos?

PT: He just let rip on those. Incredible. I was shocked and delighted
when he began to really fly around the time of Quadrophenia. My demos
would always have a bass part, but REAL ME was written to a repetitive
drum loop, and my bass was a funky rolling part. John would listen to
what I did, and then take off.

Can we look forward to new material in 2009? Do you and Roger have
plans to do any more strictly acoustic shows?

PT: No and no (unless we go back to Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit
one day).

What does "...cocktails in the Blue, Red, and Grey" mean!?

PT: This song is about the difference between me and most other
musicians of my era. They tended to stay up all night. I had children
pretty early in my life, and I wanted to be their father not an absent
rock & roll ghost, and didn't live that way. The colours mentioned
are those of the sunset, sunrise and grey gloom of the early hours in
this country.

What equipment do you think a young guitarist needs? I have a Les Paul
that I play through a Vox amp with nothing else. The Les Paul is heavy
but I really like the sound, it sound fuller than a Strat.

PT: Whatever works for you. I like the idea of a simple set up like
yours: guitar straight into the amp. But sometimes it's good to have
some effects. Hendrix used fuzz, wah and an octave doubler. I use a
compressor and a delay line. But in the studio I like a telecaster and
a small old Fender amp. I don't like old British amps much. I used
Gibsons while I used HiWatts. They combined nicely.

What is your perspective on the current economic meltdown?

PT: The people I am most concerned about are the blue-collar guys and
families who depend on the house market being buoyant. Many of these
hard-working decent people are our fans, and I hate to see them
struggling. I have no idea how it happened.

Pete, you were amongst the first to champion popular music as an art
form and I was wondering, do you still stand by this, considering the
decline of the packaging of music (the movement from record sleeves to
a small picture on an iPod screen) and the increasing power of
programs like the X Factor on the charts?

PT: Pop music is always changing. But the delivery method and the
packaging shouldn't really alter the fact that some times simple pop
music really does provide a function in our daily lives that is good
enough, big enough, cheering or engaging enough to regard as art. That
is still happening I think. Occasionally.

Why do you think The Who never had a number one hit?

PT: I didn't notice. I'm going to kill myself.

I was lucky enough to attend the second of your Tokyo Budokan shows
last November and it was a superb evening. What were your thoughts on
the venue itself, given its legendary status as a live venue? Plus,
more generally, how did you enjoy your first full Japanese tour?

PT: I loved playing in Japan. I love Tokyo, although I only went out
walking a few times.

My favorite solo album happends to be White City. During that era,
when you made your rounds doing press and interviews, you mentioned in
a lot of them the two words "hope and optimism". At the time, you
explained they were two "filthly & disgusting" words. Here we are in
2009 with a new US President who basically lives by those words. Has
your opinion changed since then, and if so, how come?

PT: I was probably being ironic. Hope and optimism had been thrashed
out of we British by Margaret Thatcher. The words had been devalued I
suppose. As for Obama, I'm in music not politics and I think he's a
pretty good dancer.

You talk of wanting to concentrate on writing / producing new material
but it seems that this process is increasingly difficult for you, what
with touring, personal appearances, having a personal life etc..
Perhaps the distractions on the home front are inhibiting your
creativity and living someplace foreign for a period of time will
introduce enough dissonance to get the creative spark lit. Would you
then consider removing yourself from your comfort zone in England and
taking up residence in say, the USA or a different part of the UK ( or
a warm island) in order to focus totally on your writing?

PT: I am doing fine. I don't need advice or help, but thanks. I have a
feeling that retreating to a warm island would not help me compose

Oscar Wilde said that the truly great artist would be the one who had
the ability to give "expression to every thought, form to every
feeling." What inspired you, from the time you got that first
Spanish-style guitar as a kid, to pursue your music with such passion?
What motivated you? Was it vengeance, was it a great need to be
accepted, admired, or simply the courage to give expression to every
thought, form to every feeling? Or was it just you acting out your

PT: I have sometimes admitted that there was some vengeance in my
adolescence, we all have tough times as kids and I had my share, but
mostly I played because I enjoyed it, and it suited me. I like
spending time on my own, especially making music. Oscar Wilde might be
a little too effete to bring into a series of questions about rock & roll.

I am a musician myself and have just returned from an intense NZ tour
with a gig in a different city every night etc.. It was only 2 weeks
but I haven't quite had the chance to develop 'road chops' yet, and
consequently wasn't altogether prepared for the ensuing 'post-tour
syndrome/depression/ blues'. It hit me like a truck; I didn't know
myself for about a week when I came home! Could you please tell me
your experience of this kind of thing if you've known it, and maybe
also give me a little advice on how to deal with it? My friend advises
to stay in bed doing nothing (except reading maybe) for 2 days solid.

PT: What you did is not easy. Some of what you experienced might be
extreme jetlag. It's important not to fight that too hard. So your
friend could be right. However, some of what is happening is a kind of
withdrawal. That too should not be fought too hard; just accept it.
It will pass.

Jody Linscott is one of my main influences for drumming. Will you ever
do another solo tour with her on percussion?

PT: She is great isn't she? She is very unconventional. I like to work
with her whenever I do solo shows and I thought she was especially
great on the infamous 1989 25th anniversary Who tour.

What do you do to maintain your health during your tour?

PT: Nothing. I stretch a bit. Lay on a yoga mat. At home I swim a few
times a month, and occasionally walk the dogs.

Kallan: What are your thoughts today about the concept of
Auto-Destructive Art? Do you see a natural development from the early
days to the type of performance your turn in now?

PT: It is more relevant now than ever. Gustav Metzger said back in
1961 that we were bent on destroying Nature and replacing it with
something we called The Environment. Even State Parks and National
Trusts and Forests aren't really natural. He said that as we were
destroying Nature our art should reflect that; our art, and the tools
of our artistic process, should break down and collapse, to reflect
what we were doing to Nature. Today the Natural world is much closer
to complete disintegration so every artist should be prepared to think
about whether they want to pretend it isn't happening, and live in the
"material world" or make artistic statements and perform actions that
question the way we over-value the things we own and over-exalt the
freedoms we cherish, and that cost us so much in real terms.

I have read that many artists, musicians, writers etc. need to put
themselves in a certain 'place' to be creative. Take themselves away
from their natural environment, or put themselves in solitude away
from distractions. I often wonder if you do this, or what you do, if
anything, when you are wanting to create. Or do you simply have a
recorder or writing pad near by, so when something strikes you, you
jot it down and go from there?

PT: Ah! More offers of a warm island!! What works for me changes all
the time. Most of what I compose, or write, I do at home.

Does it bother you when (well-meaning) literature teachers use a song
or two of yours in class to help illustrate the given text (as well as
have a little fun)? Is it legal?

PT: No. I don't mind.

Can you give us any clues on your setlist for this coming tour; a
continuation of the recent US/Japan setlist with Tattoo and Sister
Disc or something different, is there anything we fans could do to
persuade you to play "Long Live Rock?"

PT: I don't think there will be much change.

Alecford: In an interview in the Sydney courier a few weeks back in
answer to a question on which album gives you the most satisfaction
you said the you were with Roger in your liking for "Who By Numbers."
Any chance of something off that. I've always liked "How Many Friends"
and I think Roger (albeit lower) and the band could do a good job of
that. Any comments on the song and the possibility of hearing it live?

PT: The song is not very nice really; I was going through a period in
which I was even more cynical about this business than I am today. I
doubt we will never play it live, but stranger things have slipped
into our set recently.

Hello Mr.Townshend, my name is Amy. After reading about Barbra
Streisand asking you if you really wrote LOVE REIGN O'ER ME. I've been
wondering what do you do or say at a time like that? Or when someone
who doesn't know who you are asks you what you do for a living, what
the first thing you tell them? Would the answer change if it's a man
asking or woman asking?

PT: I can't explain it. I call myself a composer.

Did you intentionally design some parts of the songs in Tommy to
emulate the sounds of a pinball machine, or is this just a happy

PT: I really don't understand.

I think you once said you've never written a "proper love song". This
may be true (though fans may disagree), but I wonder if you could
elaborate. What do you mean by "proper"? Defined by the listener, a
critic, the rules of songwriting? Or defined by you, in terms of the
song's origin?

PT: A love song is usually dedicated to another human being. I don't
think I've ever done that.

If you still say you've never written a proper love song, then which
one of yours do you think comes closest?

PT: Sleeping Dog.

Do you have a favorite motto, maxim, proverb? Affirmation? I keep your
wonderfully mystifying "An artist is someone who finishes things"
close to me.

PT: Be kind to yourself. Only you really know what works for you.

Do you feel flattered about the fact that the illustrious Radio
Norwich DJ Alan Partridge once used the lyrics of one of your songs to
chat up a lady? As he revealed to Roger in the 2005 interview, the
lady and he were texting cheeky messages to each other. The lady
texted 'Are U hungry?' to which he: 'You better you better you bet!'.
Sadly, she didn't know what he meant because she didn't like The Who.
She liked Dido and Ricky Martin.

PT: If Alan Partridge mentions you, you are dead meat.
PS. Thanks for the stunning photograph you took in Finland and sent to
Rachel and me. My brother Simon has started taking photos and getting
them printed, like you, and he also gave me a print for Christmas.

First of all I was wondering if you could shed some light on what
prompted your very kind decision to play Slipkid at the second London
Christmas show. Obviously fans have requested it for many years but it
was pretty incredible to see that request granted, it seemed pretty
unplanned too.

PT: I don't know about fans, but Roger has asked to play Slip Kid in
every rehearsal for last thirty years. I just gave in, but you're
right, I made a very kind decision.

Secondly, what are your thoughts on the way music venues have changed?
In the 60s right up into the early 80s, bands seemed to play in a
wider variety of venues, hitting smaller towns and playing more areas
of London such as Croydon, Lewisham, etc. Now it seems that bands only
play a handful of the more popular venues and they only hit the bigger
towns. Do you prefer the modern way of touring? Also how has the sound
and setup changed over the years?

PT: I can't speak for other bands. I have been a professional touring
musician all my life; I started on the road with my father when I was
just two years old. One thing I can tell you, the audience can never
get enough of a good thing.

What really keeps you in the zone? What makes you keep the energy going?

PT: Hearing Rabbit keeps me in the musical zone on stage. As for
energy, I am a little ballet-dancer like Billy Elliot (I did have a
few ballet lessons), once I feel the beat I start to skip around like
a little fairy.

PT: Thanks everyone for these questions.

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