Friday, 4 March 2011

Pete Townshend: anxious to start moving musically

My friend Richie Unterberger's new book has just been published. Entitled Won't Get Fooled Again: The Who From Lifehouse To Quadrophenia, it's a 300-page exploration of The Who's grandiose but abortive Lifehouse project, conceived as the follow-up to Tommy

Though Lifehouse didn't come off, much of it surfaced as their August 1971 Who's Next LP, and several of its ideas were carried through to 1973's Quadrophenia. As is customary with Richie's work, the book is the product of exhaustive research and interviews, and likely to be the final word on the subject. You can read more about it at

On the subject of Pete Townshend, I've unearthed what I think might be his earliest ever interview about the idea of a rock opera - or, as he says he prefers it, 'mini-opera'. It's taken from Beat Instrumental of March 1967, and seems to be an in-depth discussion of 'Rael', which appeared in a much different form on The Who Sell Out in December of that year. 

Its plot, incidentally, seems just as baffling as that of Tommy (a Chinese guy with a lisp is widowed, so moves to a smaller country that's about to be invaded by China, where he has nightmares and is involved in a shipwreck) - but clearly the idea of a central character with some form of disability was already in place. As Townshend earnestly explains: "He must get immediate affection, and as people feel sorry for anyone with a disability or impediment, I gave him a lisp. I thought at first that he could have a stammer, but decided that would become monotonous after a couple of scenes."

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