Part five of Pete's fan interview

Jim M nakedi at
Mon May 10 13:43:30 UTC 2010

Pete's Blog
9th May, 2010
Garethnh: Roger has been quoted as saying that John's volume was a problem in the later years due to his deafness. Did this have any impact on yourself during rehearsal/on stage at all? It always makes me laugh that Roger always stood in front of John's amps then said he was too loud!

PT: I always felt John was more important in the Who as a musician than Roger. (Ed: steady now). Maybe he was more important than Keith or me. He was certainly a better musician. So although I sympathised with Roger's predicament, I also knew that Who fans worshipped John, and his sound, in a way that indicated an understanding of John's real genius. 

John was never too loud for my taste. I have had more trouble over the years with noisy drummers. However loud someone plays, all I care about is that they listen, so Roger is right on two counts. When John started to go deaf he couldn't listen quite as well, and started to guess, and sometimes his guesses were wrong. And Roger could not simply turn up his volume, but if he did manage to get louder on stage it was often his vocal screams that hurt my ears, not loud bass. Let's be honest, we were loud, maybe too loud, but the music, the period, the whole message we carried required absolute concentration from the audience. We used volume to guarantee that.

Roger has had a hard time being the singer in such a loud band. He has battled and lost most of the time, but he has always come back to battle anew. At the death it emerged that his love for John was far greater than mine. I was grateful to John, and I adored him, but Roger's loyalty to the other members of the Who has always been of a very high order. I just felt we were in a band, an accidental band that happened to make good with a few new tricks. Roger reinvented himself entirely around the time of Woodstock in 1969, and from then on I think we were far better musically. He has always maintained a sense that the Who began with him, and was his life's dream come true. But the rest of us never lost the idiotic schoolboy competitiveness that had marked our very early years. Each one of us wanted to be louder than the other back then, it was a hard habit to break.

Kungphooey8: I've been going through some of the solo work that you, Roger and John did back when. I really found Empty Glass to be an enjoyable album, and Roger and John have some good material as well. Have you ever listened to any of the other's solo work, and do you find any of it particularly striking?

PT: No I don't listen to it more than once. I very much liked GIVING IT ALL AWAY from Roger's first solo album for Track many years back. 

Calidonna: Out of all the drummers who offered to replace Keith Moon after his death, why did you choose Kenny Jones?

PT: I'm not sure whom all these drummers were who you say offered to replace Keith. I can think of one and a half. Phil Collins offered to fill in for a while; I love Phil's playing but he wasn't about to leave Genesis. The drummer of Foreigner offered too I think, again, not permanently. 

I invited Kenney because I liked his playing. I liked his lack of drummer's ego, and he did not 'zone out' like many drummers do on their own adrenalin and over-oxygenation. He was ready to be a part of a hard touring band, and he brought legions of Faces and Small Faces fans with him. He understood our Mod tribal beginning. He was my friend and I had played with him quite a bit already. Roger did not object to Kenney at first, but waited until he was established. It was quite a shock, and awkward to handle. 

Musicians should not be directly compared or expected to fill someone else's shoes. It was brilliant for Queen to have Paul Rodgers to sing Freddy Mercury songs. It was brave and different. They could have hired some copycat singer, but they brought in a true great in his own right. If you want a perfect Keith Moon drummer today there is probably a good one playing in one of the Who tribute bands. For me, it was great to play with Kenney, someone so disciplined, after years battling to keep Keith Moon in time. At last I could relax and let the drummer keep time. The Kenney years were most enjoyable years of my performing life with the Who. It was hard playing with Moonie, and it is sometimes almost as hard playing with Zak when he tries to emulate Moon. Zak is far better than Moonie technically, although maybe less anarchic - maybe! Zak respects me. Moon loved me, and exalted me, but he did not seem to respect me when we were onstage together. Moon was a brilliant wild card, and much more than drummer. But playing with Kenney was heaven after dragging Moon through his last, tortuous struggle to play well during the filming of THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT. He almost died of exhaustion that day. 

I loved Moon the man and Moon the comedian. I wasn't crazy about Moon the drummer. He was great, I won't deny it, the Who would probably not have been so big without Moon, but I would have preferred to have worked with Kenney from the very beginning.

Robertlinblad: How did Greg Lake end up with THE WHO?

PT: Roger invited him. He was very affable and easy to work with, a very straight player. Roger had worked with him before on some solo project. He did a great job on REAL GOOD LOOKING BOY.

Suesjoy: I remember an article where you said Nina Simone, whom I love, had a profound influence on your singing style. What to you is so special about her?

PT: I started to listen to her around 1963. She was not considered to be an R&B performer, more a singer of standard songs, so someone who straddled the cusp between the music of my father's generation and my own. I met her first face-to-face when we both played the popular British Pop TV Show READY-STEADY-GO! She was dressed in an African costume, and seemed very regal, and had a baby on her arm. This must have been in 1965 I guess. I thought then that she was about fifteen years older than I was - she seemed like quite a distinguished and serious person. I realised soon that she considered herself a jazz artist, and looked down a little on the kind of lightweight pop we were doing at the time. I worked with her in 1989 on my solo album Iron Man. She was a joy, I paid her very well, and she rose to that like the great diva-queen-princess she really was, and bathed in my respect for her. She was extremely gracious. She was living in Germany then. It was the closing of a circle for me, and she told me I could call her "Dr. Simone" (she had an honorary doctorate from Julliard, I think). While in London she went to see all the big theatre musicals of the day because I could easily get her tickets (or my PA could). 

Wolfpunk: How did Meher Baba change your life? And how did your music change after him? 

PT: There is a very good article about this published by Rolling Stone in 1970. CLICK HERE for the link.

After I fell to class A drugs in 1979 I decided to stop making any public announcements about Meher Baba, I felt unqualified to speak about him any more. That was probably rather arrogant of me, and recently I have decided to confess that I have followed Meher Baba (or he has followed me!) faithfully through all the highs and lows of my life since I first heard about him from Mike McInnerny (artist who painted the Tommy album artwork) in 1967. 

Like everyone in the current age, I am doubtful about my faith. I know what I feel, and my measure has really been the quality of the close disciples who spent their lives around Meher Baba up till his passing in 1969. They were very, very high quality human beings. I'm uneasy about being around atheists and atheism, however logical and scientific their position might be. I prefer the agnostic who admits to being unsure, or knowing nothing, to those who are absolutely certain they and only they know the true path. And there are some followers of Meher Baba who can be rather evangelical, and extremely certain that Meher Baba is undoubtedly the Avatar (the Messiah) and they too make me uneasy. In my article for Rolling Stone I think I probably expressed more certainty than I would today.

My music changed only slightly after 1967, when I first heard about Meher Baba, because I began to allow myself to translate the teenager-specific struggles which I had chronicled up until then into spiritual struggles that could be faced at any time in a person's life. For example, a song like WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN could be taken to be as much about being caught up in fundamental religion as it is about the downside of the extremes of radical or ultra conservative politics. I always try to leave some space in my writing, so that if I ever use the word 'love' I use it in a spiritual sense rather than a human sense. LET MY LOVE OPEN THE DOOR could be a song sung by a self-professed sex-god like Prince, or a recognised but self-professed spiritual leader like Jesus, Mohammed or Meher Baba. It could also be a song sung by President Obama as he introduces health care for the poor for the first time in the USA. 

A LITTLE IS ENOUGH is a song I wrote about the time my wife announced one day that she had stopped loving me because I had lost her trust. Adi K Irani who had been Meher Baba's secretary for many years said to me, 'So your wife doesn't love you at all any more?'. I replied that I thought she still loved me a little. He said (I paraphrase here), 'Love is God's system, the fuel of the universe itself. None of us need it all, or could use it all. Each of us needs only a little, a tiny amount, and through knowing how it feels to enjoy a tiny amount we are connected with the entire ocean of love (energy) that fuels the universe.' 

So I wrote the song, and it was as much about me and my wife, and our struggle to remain in love while I tried to continue to battle the problems of the music business as it was about God's love (or the power that holds the universe in place).

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