Pete Doesn't Dig Those Awe-struck Crowds by Lon Goddard
"Fifteen thousand screaming Germans at a Who pop concert may sound good to you, but I'd rather not be there," exclaimed lazily dressed Pete Townshend with an attempted flutter of his heavy eyelids.
Pete was hurriedly explaining the difference between images developed by the Who in various countries. Hurriedly, because he and the rest of the group were due any moment for their spot on everybody's favourite show, Top of the Pops.
"I'd rather play to Americans or here in Britain than anywhere else. In Germany, the kids turn out to see you and the responses aren't bad, but the reasons for their attention are not the same as ours here. They are awe-struck by the spectacle of British revolutionary youth. They are more concerned with what we represent than what we are or can do with musical instruments. They're just not our people. That may sound a little hard, but I think it's true."
"There simply aren't other countries to compare with England and the United States. I don't care for the outlook in Germany, but in Sweden, I don't think there ARE any young people. At least I never saw any."
"We do have separate images in the separate countries. In the U.S. we are regarded as part of the British underground. This, I think, is due to the point and way in which we were introduced in the first place. During the early days, a Who album in the States was a rare thing. People were crying to get one. Because we were not that easily obtainable, we and our records became exclusive and everyone wanted to know more. A lot of artistes are still making it in that manner today. Sometimes a subtle beginning pays off in the long run. Your image is often established then and carries on while you change. The fact that you're exotic must be lived up to, but we've never tried to maintain an image."
Being a noteworthy reporter, I queried as to whether success in the colonies ever alienated anyone…
"Yes, often the fans here tend to feel we have deserted them by going off to where the money is. We really haven't, because we do play at home and release our material."
What about other groups?
"That's another thing. All groups want to make it in the States and when one manages it, most others are pleased for them. The States are the big market and all of pop music wants to get there. To stay there can be touchy. We dropped the violent side of our act in favour of a new outlook. In England, we remain just a good pop group now concerned with writing and composing instead of carefully moulding an image."
The Who have a pretty solid position in both countries. In the States, they are one of the most sought after British underground acts. Be it the Fillmore, or the American Legion Indoor Putting green, you can bet it will be a sellout.
In Britain, they are considered one of our finest products. Rather than be upset about their popularity abroad, I'd think it better to consider them ambassadors at large and doing a grand job representing British talent. They've come a long way – Pete droops a little now; Roger Daltrey is beginning to resemble Hawkeye in Chingachgook's gear, but the music goes round and round and despite America, it still comes out here.