Living up to a pop image... by Robert Pert
IF there is a pop group that fulfils the promise of its publicity then it is The Who. Admittedly, there were no expensive guitars smashed to pieces on stage at Cardiff last night, and there wasn't a coat made from a Union Jack to be seen anywhere. But there was a stage act, atmosphere, and brand of music that South Wales pop fans will remember for a long time to come.
The Who can now abandon stunts that cost them five lead guitars worth £200 apiece during the last few months. Chart success and their image as leaders of the London Mod set have seen to that.
But intense originality is still the hallmark of their act which sets them apart from the run of the mill groups with drummer Keith Moon pounding energetic rhythm that would do credit to a perpetual motion drumming machine, and lead Pete Townshend's guitar seems to send out high-pitched morse code that demands attention. On stage they may play at one but as soon as the curtain falls they each go their separate ways.
"I wouldn't say we hated each other," said Pete Townshend, twenty, the self appointed spokesman of the group. "We just don't get along. As soon as each show is finished we can't get far away enough from each other. We all have friends of our own."
Pete, a tall, thin-faced Londoner, was sitting on the back of a wooden chair with his feet on the seat. He was the only Who present and he dismissed his colleagues calmly as "not fit to give interviews." Pete seems to be the only one of this zany crew who takes his business seriously. A softly spoken, ex-art student, he has definite views on his brand of music and life.
"When we began we had to drag a pop art image around with us like a millstone, we wore 'way out' clothes, all part of a plan to make the group more effective. This was a bad thing because when the image goes then you do, too.
"But smashing guitars on stage was not a gimmick. I broke them because I felt like it. But at £200 a time it was expensive. Now we use £50 guitars but I don't break them any more."
His fans, he says, are divided into two halves, those who like them or their music, and those who like them because it is the thing to do. "The latter I could do without. Up North they are the worst, in the shipbuilding areas, but believe it or not the best fans, those who know what they want, are in South Wales and Central Scotland."
Commenting on the recent storm concerning the other top groups on the bill, the Merseybeats, he said: "This type of thing happens to everyone in this line of work. It's not us who take advantage of girls; it's the girls who take advantage of us. They come to us; we don't go to them. They are pests but after a few drinks none of us objects. They leave next morning as quickly as they came. Not having time for a steady relationship has something to do with it, but I prefer to be alone. It helps me with my songs."
His last word – on America. "I have never liked the place one bit. Of course, the Stones and other top liners have to say they like it. They have to eat. The idea of going to the place revolts me but as soon as we get a really big hit there we will go. For the money."