Triumphant Return For The Who...Operatics in View by Derek Boltwood
The Who return from America. They've been a smash success – acclaim acclaim from across the Atlantic. As it is in England so it is in the States, and now they're back in England again to receive yet more acclaim for their very good "Magic Bus" and to work on their "Deaf, Dumb and Blind Boy" album.
Perhaps to celebrate success, the quiet one speaks. An unfortunate title, for John Entwistle is not as quiet as they say. An interesting talker, too.
"We're working quite hard at the moment – we spend every day recording numbers for our new album 'Deaf, Dumb and Blind Boy'."
"It's like going to the office every day – we've set aside the hours between 2 in the afternoon and midnight for recording, and we try to stick to it. Obviously it can't be rigid – if we're working on something then we continue outside the 'office hours'. Of if we've finished what we're doing then we go home. The thing is that by setting aside the time like that it makes it easier for us to get together – as you can imagine, it's not easy to get all the Who together in the same place at the same time.
"We're spending all our working hours recording the album at the moment. It's been a long while since we had enough time to completely work things out for recording. The last album [The Who Sell Out] was a bit rushed – doing a track here and a track there between gigs. It just doesn't seem to work that way. We want to finish the album before we start to do too many appearances, or before we return to the States. In fact I don't think we'll be going back to America until early next year.
"We're all writing for the album – we write most of the material in the studio. 'Deaf, Dumb and Blind Boy' is an opera, and so there have to be a lot of links and connecting numbers. We're all working on it together – the original idea for the story was by Pete Townshend. It's the story of a deaf, dumb and blind boy and all the things that happen to him through his life. Because he's so cut off from the outside world there are two sides to everything that occurs in his life. There's what he thinks is happening to him, and what is actually happening. We talked about the idea a lot in the States, building on the theme, and now we're concentrating on getting it done. It's not a complete life story of the boy – mainly about his growing up. I don't know how long it'll be when it's finished, but it'll probably cover one side of the LP.
"I do most of the comedy or sinister numbers in the opera. We all do little bits – the sort of things that suit us individually. My songs are all fairy tale thing. I don't know why really – it's just that my songs seem to appeal to the seven-year olds and upwards. I don't write particularly for children – they just seem to like it. I like writing fairy stories though – I do a lot in the Grimm's tradition, but they tend to be either a bit frightening or a bit sick, so we don't use most of them. We were going to do an EP for children at one time, but EP's seem to have become unfashionable, so we never got round to doing it. I wrote 'Silas Stingy' for that record but we used it on our last album instead.
"'Silas Stingy' is really the story of myself. It's about an old miser who's frightened of getting his money stolen. So he buys a safe to put it in, and then he buys a house to put the safe in, and then dogs to guard the house. And by the time he's done all that he discovers he doesn't have any money left. Which is more or less exactly what's happening to me!
"I usually write verses all about frog princes and sugar-houses and witches and things. That's the whole thing about this opera – we all know what each other is capable of doing and what sort of things each of us like to write about. Pete made up the whole plot of the story and we're all leaping about the place doing different things to fit into it.
"We intend to do it live. The opera will probably take up most of our act – it won't be an elaborate thing with scenery or anything like that. We've always done a mini-opera in our stage act and this will be like that but much longer. We won't really know how it'll develop until it's much nearer completion – we've only been recording for two days now, though the story is finished and we've got all the ideas together. Things like whether we'll make a film of it or turn it into an epic musical won't come for a long while yet. Anything could happen, so we can't really make any elaborate plans for it.
"I'm very pleased with the success 'Magic Bus,' our new single, is having in America – I hope it does as well here, obviously. I never really know what's happening to any of our releases until my grandmother tells me. I got fed up with reading things I didn't know about myself in the papers, so I don't get any of the pop papers now. If there's anything important that I should know my grandmother tells me.
"'Magic Bus' was not really intended to be a throw-back to an earlier R & B sound or anything, though it does sound a bit that way. It was written about the same time as 'My Generation' – we listened to it then, but didn't really think a lot of it. But we heard it again more recently and liked it – so we released it. It's funny how tastes change. I think it's very right for the time – we enjoy playing it on stage. It's a funny song – it's not monotonous, but it's the same all the way through. It has a hypnotic sort of effect.
"We played 'Magic Bus' to a lot of people before we released it. Some said they didn't like it but that it would be a smash hit. Others said it would make number one! But I don't think we'd like it to be number one in the charts really. We haven't had one before and it hasn't bothered us – it seems to be a taboo for the Who. We wouldn't object, of course, we'd probably just all collapse with heart-attacks.
"Things are settling down quite nicely for the Who now – we're only just starting to make a profit. Up until now most of the money we've earned has been ploughed back into the group. I think we've reached a point where we can afford to slow the pace down a bit. Pop is a bit of a vicious circle – if you're working all the time you don't get a chance to write or record decent material. And if you don't have any decent material then you don't get decent concerts, and you're back to square one of working all the time."