Pretend You’re In A War: The Who and the Sixties
Blake tells the story of The Who and in doing so places them in context of post war Britain. Not so much the political history (although he does touch on it), but on the cultural and particularly the artistic history in 1960s London. Due to Pete Townshend’s Art College background much is made of the visual arts. The ability of Townshend, and the band’s managers: Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp to see and capitalize on popular culture trends went a long way to making the band successful in the short run.
Blake’s book covers up to 1970. This is when Pete Townshend’s success as a Rock Music composer took over. Once Townshend developed the skills to write his first masterpiece ‘Tommy‘ the band no longer need gimmicks.
I appreciated the work Blake went through to research all the stories. I’ve heard them all before, so by doing new interviews he was able to determine the what was fact and what was fiction, and what was just exaggerations.
I would be interested to read any follow up book by Blake. I can easily image a book on The Who from 1970 to 1983. And then one from 1984-current day.
Excerpt From The Book
For the three men who’d met as boys at school over ten years earlier, it would always be an uncomfortable alliance. What had started as Roger Daltrey’s group had long since slipped out of his control. But by 1970, Daltrey recognized the importance of his role as a mouthpiece for Townshend’s songs; as Townshend’s voice even. After years of struggle, Daltrey ended the 1960s knowing who he was and where he fitted in.
Tommy, meanwhile, would mark the beginning of Pete Townshend’s rapid ascendance as a pop songwriter. The insecure art student recruited to join an older, feared schoolboy’s band had taken over. Townshend’s ideas would become more ambitious and far-reaching as the 1970s progressed. But he would have to fight ever harder to get his bandmates and the managers who’d nurtured his talent to understand those ideas.
John Entwistle’s role in The Who had been set in stone long before 1970. It never changed. Entwistle was the Who’s engine room, its unsung hero and certainly its unsung songwriter. Beneath the stoic exterior, there was a frustrated rock star trying to get out. By the time The who made Tommy, Entwistle had reconciled himself to his position, but that didn’t stop him wanting more.
Despite the best efforts of his bandmates, his wife and his friends, Keith Moon’s demise already seemed inevitable. The hopeless schoolboy with the uncanny powers of mimicry had become an idiot savant: a gifted drummer, an extraordinary comic and arguably the most famous member of The Who. But Moon had been acting for so long, he was now more confused than ever about who the real Keith Moon was.
And if 1970 was the beginning of a new chapter for The Who, then it marked the beginning of the end for Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp. Their time as The Who’s mentors was drawing to a close, even if nobody involved yet knew it. Lambert once said, “Just to succeed in life is banal to the point of failure. The purpose of success is to have something substantial to wreck, and the ultimate triumph is to create a magnificent disaster.”
The Who’s raid on the world’s opera houses would turn out to be their management’s last great victory. “I should have resigned then,” said Kit Lambert, after Tommy. “I knew I couldn’t do anything better than that.” The Who would go from strength to strength in the 1970s, but the two men who’d put them on course would end almost wrecking what they’d worked so hard to create. For Lambert and Stamp, the war was over. The challenge now was how to survive in peacetime. –page 369,370