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Guitar and Pen
See Me, Feel Me
A Legal Matter
A Word about Copyrights
History of The Who › 1968-1970
Troubles and tribulations marked 1968
beginning with The Who's tour of Australia and New Zealand in
January. Accompanied by fellow Mod band The Small Faces, The Who
became the objects of hatred for Australia's right-wing press
who derided them as drunken louts. The Who escaped with Pete
vowing never to return (he finally did return, 36 years later)
The trip did
mark one important milestone. Reading literature given him by Small
Faces member Ronnie Lane, Pete became a disciple of the Indian avatar
Baba. His influence
soon led to a new idea for a rock opera, an "amazing journey" for
a young English boy who discovers a new spiritual level after being
rendered "deaf, dumb and blind" by a childhood trauma.
By April Pete
was writing the opera and its composition stretched into the next year
as the necessity for more singles and further touring interrupted him.
The new singles, "Call Me Lightning" in the U.S., "Dogs" in the U.K. and
"Magic Bus" in both countries, flopped, adding more pressure to the
writing and recording of the new opera. However, the live act became the
band's one dependable success as they toured North America, presenting
exciting shows that left them by year's end the U.S.'s fourth
most-popular pop and rock act.
summer tour, Pete gave a long interview to the fledgling music magazine
Rolling Stone, discussing in depth his plans for his new opera
and the meaning of rock in general. Printed over two issues, the
interview presented Pete as one of the only performers of rock music who
could speak at length on the intellectual meaning of the medium. The
many interviews that would follow over the next few years established
his reputation as rock's leading intellectual and the standard bearer for
the hopes his generation placed in popular music.
other bands were breathing down Pete's neck, working on their own
album-length rock operas (The Pretty Things released one, S.F. Sorrow,
in December but it passed practically unnoticed at the time). As the
release date passed from Christmas into sometime in the new year, time
began to run out.
the rock opera was finally dubbed, first appeared as an advance single,
"Pinball Wizard," released March 7 and became The Who's first Top Ten
single hit in a year and a half. The album followed on. May 17. Arriving in a three-section gatefold sleeve with an
hailed as a masterpiece by many rock critics and became The Who's first
giant-selling album. When the money began to roll in, The Who
were within weeks of declaring bankruptcy.
Photo: Jim Marshall
turned out to be more than just a hit album; it was a triumph in live
performance as well, a fact proven when The Who took the opera onstage
at the Woodstock Festival August 17. Despite an interruption in the
middle of the piece when Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman came on stage to
make a political announcement and was knocked off by Pete,
the festival's gigantic crowd in a performance captured on film and
later featured in the hit movie Woodstock. Roger with his
curly hair and open, fringed jacket and a boiler-suited Pete
banging his guitar into the stage became iconic images for their
generation. Now the whole world wanted to see them perform.
Lambert created strategies to make that happen. The first came in the
form of a $2 million deal with Universal Pictures in America to make two
movies, one of Tommy, the other a concert film. The second was for a grand tour
of the world's great opera houses, beginning with the Netherlands'
Concertgebouw September 29 and London's Coliseum Theatre December 14.
The year began
with a tragedy when Keith and his friends were trapped in their car
outside a club by skinheads. Keith's chauffeur got out to confront them
and Keith, in a panic, slid behind the wheel and drove his friends to
safety, only to discover he had run over his chauffeur, dragging his
body under the car. The death was ultimately judged accidental but it
haunted Keith for years afterwards.
project of 1970 was to find some way to buy time until Pete could devise
a fitting follow-up to
Rejecting tapes from their American tour, The Who recorded two shows at
the University of Leeds on February 14 and the University of Hull
February 15. The former show, running almost two hours, was edited down
to less than 40 minutes and released that May as
Live At Leeds.
This stopgap between projects became one of The Who's biggest hits and
is considered by many the best live rock album of all time.
recordings, The Who presented a new single, "The Seeker," released March
20. An extended-play single recorded that spring was cancelled. This
left The Who to play
and over around the world, most notably in two performances at New
York's Metropolitan Opera June 7.
Pete did not
devise the next big project until that summer, coming from a combination
of the 1969 movie deal, the arrival of a new musical instrument and a
method of transportation. During the summer, Pete was presented with a
musical synthesizer which he put in his home studio and began toying
with, running guitar and organ through sequencers, creating loops of
musical notes after the manner of the American minimalist composer Terry
Riley. Meanwhile, in order to travel in comfort from one rock show to
another, Pete bought a large American van. While driving along in
air-conditioned comfort, he began imagining a future where the air was
too polluted to breathe.
All this came
together with the second part of the movie deal, the Who concert movie.
Why not give the concert movie a plot? Something set in the future
involving pollution, synthesizer loops and The Who saving the world?