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Guitar and Pen
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A Legal Matter
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History of The Who › 1996-Present
|At the beginning of 1996, a
planned staging of Quadrophenia in Italy for Vespa led Pete to
approach Roger about the idea. Roger had disapproved of the style of the
Tommy musical and thought it would be better to play it as a
stage piece with a live rock band. On June 29 at Hyde Park Roger, Pete
and John, accompanied by a band similar to the one from 1989, performed
the work as part of that year's Prince's Trust Concert. Roger had his
eye socket broken the day before the concert when guest Gary Glitter
smacked him while twirling a microphone stand. Roger performed the show
through the pain, wearing a "mod" eyepatch.
|Quadrophenia live crossed
the Atlantic for six nights at New York's Madison Square Garden July
16-22, 1996. A North American tour started that October. By this time,
at promoter's insistence, the band agreed to call themselves "The Who."
There was one new member, drummer Zak Starkey, who was hailed by Roger
and the fans as a worthy successor to Keith Moon. Concerts featured a
backing film directed by Roger and guest stars such as Gary Glitter as The
Godfather and Billy Idol as The Bell Boy. Pete started off the tour
playing mostly acoustic guitar with his brother Simon on electric but,
as the tour went on into 1997, Pete began to play more and more electric
Photo: William Snyder
That tendency continued after
the Quadrophenia tours in 1998 as Pete performed a short solo
tour using a modified amplifier setup that allowed him to play electric
guitar while preserving his hearing. John, meanwhile, stayed on the road
with his solo band while Roger kept his voice in tune touring with the
British Rock Symphony.
Pete and Roger finally got in
tune themselves after an emotional meeting May 1998 where Roger
confronted Pete with a list of his grievances over Pete's neglect and
dismissal of The Who since 1982. Pete was reduced to tears and Roger's
honesty sparked a friendship between the singer and the guitarist.
|With the decrease of the
"Classic Rock" radio format in the United States, Pete took a
controversial step September 1998 to keep his catalog alive. He sent out
a three CD sample of his work solo and with The Who to advertising
agencies. Soon Who tunes began to pop up in everything from movie
trailers to ads for automobiles and computers. Again music writers and
some Who fans were appalled.
In early 1999, Pete was invited
by the BBC to revisit his Lifehouse project, this time as
a radio play, for the coming millennial celebrations. Working with radio
playwright Jeff Young, Pete turned his 1970-71 work into a tragic story
of a man who searches for his runaway daughter and gets lost in his memories of
|During a short tour to promote a
live solo CD, Pete announced July 28 that he would return with The
Who to perform at the House of Blues in Chicago. Fans expecting another
appearance by the big-band Who were shocked and delighted during the
first preliminary date October 29 in Las Vegas when the Who emerged as a
five-piece band with Zak Starkey on drums, John "Rabbit" Bundrick on
keyboards and Pete on loud, electric guitar.
Also on October 29, Pete opened a website,
www.petetownshend.co.uk making him one of the first major rock
artists with his own personally controlled Internet site. The site
featured Pete's personal musings, a chat-room and a store for sale of
That December, shortly before
the premiere of his Lifehouse radio play, Pete revealed in
interviews that he was currently in a relationship with a
younger musician with a pop and classical background, Rachel Fuller. He
also spoke of his fear of abuse of the Internet, particularly the spread
of child pornography.
At the end of the year, John was
voted by Total Guitar magazine as "Bass Player of the
|On February 24, 2000, Pete
released his first major private work on his website, the massive six-CD
Lifehouse Chronicles, in league with two performances of the
music at Sadlers Wells in London. The Lifehouse ideas would continue to
appear in much of Pete's activities with and without The Who in this
The new five-man Who kicked off
their first major tour June 25, 2000 and became an active band once
again, never ceasing touring for more than a couple of years from this
point on. The many rave reviews for their live sound sparked talk of an
album of new material. Roger pushed Pete as hard as he could to make a
new Who album a reality.
Pete's efforts to get more use
of Who music in soundtracks paid off in a big way when a CBS-TV program,
C.S.I.: Crime Scene
Investigation, selected "Who Are You" as its theme song. The
show, premiering October 6, 2000, became a success around the world
and spawned two spin-offs, both using Who songs as the main theme.
|The Who had one of its finest
hours after the terrorist attack on New York when they performed at an
all-star benefit for police and firefighters at Madison Square Garden
October 20, 2001. The concert was televised around the world. Unlike
their fellow artists who presented sets restrained by the solemnity of
the occasion, The Who blasted out with a fury, turning the musical wake
into a fist-pumping spectacle of rage and solidarity.
Photo: Dave Benett
took up the cause of Britain's Teenage Cancer Trust, staging annual
concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. The first of what became a popular yearly concert event featured two nights of his own band, The
Who, performing on February 7th and 8th, 2002.
photo: Joe Cavaretta
|Unfortunately, these shows were
the last with John. On June 27, 2002, John died in his sleep at the Hard
Rock Hotel in Las Vegas of a heart attack induced by cocaine. The Who were one day away from beginning a
heavily publicized North American tour.
Who fans, already in grief, were
doubly shocked the next day when Pete announced that the band would
continue the tour without John. Session bassist Pino Palladino was flown
in to replace him. Music writers and many Who fans damned the decision
as another example of The Who putting money before everything. Pete and
Roger later explained that too many people other than themselves had
their livelihoods dependent on the tour. In any case, the band, dubbed
"The Two" by fans, played blistering sets that proved their
entertainment power undiminished.
|The sadness of 2002 continued into the
next year. On January 11, 2003 Pete admitted that he was the
"famous British rock star" named in an international child
pornography sting. He explained that he had used his credit card
to access a site advertising child porn, then reported his
findings to anti-child pornography agencies. He was questioned
by police and his computers were seized as press around the
world branded Pete a pedophile and mocked his "research" excuse.
Roger spoke out, calling the investigation a "witch
hunt." Four months after it began, the thorough police examination
confirmed every detail of Pete's story. He was not charged but was given
a "caution" and placed on a mandatory "sexual offenders" list for five
years based solely on what he had admitted in his initial statement.
Pete decided not to fight the result.
|After a year of wondering
whether he still had a career, Pete returned with Roger, Pino, Zak and
Rabbit as The Who to the cheers of fans at the Kentish Town Forum March
24, 2004. On March 30, another Who best-of, Then and Now! 1964-2004
was released with the first newly recorded Who studio tracks in thirteen
years, "Real Good Looking Boy" and "Old Red Wine." The latter song was a
tribute to John.
|The 2004 tour that followed the
release had The Who giving their first performance in Japan and their
first in Australia in thirty-six years. Honours for Roger began 2005 as
he received a CBE from Queen Elizabeth II February 9 for his charity
work with the Teenage Cancer Trust.
On September 24, 2005, Pete
started a blog to serialize a new novella, The Boy Who Heard Music.
Written in 2000, this sequel to Psychoderelict formed the spine
to many of the songs Pete was then writing for the new Who album.
|After premiering some of the new
songs on Rachel Fuller's webcast show In The Attic, Pete
joined Roger and the rest of The Who to launch a world tour
featuring old and new music by returning to Leeds University's
Refectory June 17, 2006 where the band had recorded their famous
live album over thirty-six years before. The new album, Endless
Wire, a combination of acoustic and rock numbers with a mini-opera
based on The Boy Who Heard Music, was released October 31, 2006.
The new album peaks at #9 in the U.K. charts and
reaches #7 in the U.S. with a number of favorable reviews. Nevertheless,
Pete later declares subsequent sales to be "disappointing" and, to date,
reports of a follow-up album have led to no definite plans. He and Roger
continue touring as The Who, launching another world tour in late 2008.
|At the time of the announcement of that
new world tour comes a surprise announcement of another kind as
Pete and Roger, representing The Who, are chosen to receive the
prestigious Kennedy Center Honors, the first band to ever get
that recognition. Both attend the formal awarding ceremony at
the White House on Dec. 6th, 2008 where they are praised by
then-president George W. Bush for their 2001 performance at the
Concert For New York. On the following night they are serenaded
by a chorus of New York policemen and fireman singing "Baba