Pete Townshend has posted a rare blog entry to announce a new Quadrophenia box set that’s coming out in October. He used to blog all the time, but he got so angry about journalists taking quotes out of context he largely abandoned the practice. With that in mind, here’s the complete text of his statement.
1st June, 2011
WHAT I’M DOING EVERYDAY
I am shut away in my home studio at the moment working to restore the demos of Quadrophenia. Bob Pridden is doing surround-sound mixes of selected tracks. Jon Astley is remastering the original vinyl mix, and evaluating his own 1996 remix (the one where you can properly hear Roger’s astonishing vocals). I am sitting in a pile of notes, desk diaries, photos (I took a lot of my own between 1971-1973 when Quadrophenia emerged), original lyrics and writing liner notes.
I am really enjoying this work. Bob’s mixes are mind-blowing. My demos are among the best I’ve ever done, and include some real quirky tracks that didn’t make it onto the final album. I still find studio work strange – I have to have the speakers very low in volume, not what I’m used to. This package, due in October if all goes well, is another Live at Leeds and Hull – or even another Lifehouse Chronicles – in the making. You are going to love it. I hope so, because I am missing this summer sunshine to get it completed on time.
In my recent interview with my friend Simon Garfield for INTELLIGENT LIFE, I professed some difficulty in my interaction with fans as I grow older. What is so wonderful about working on Quadrophenia is that back in 1970, all the way through to the recording in 1973, the primary challenge for me was to tell the story of the Who’s fans and at the same time address the wayward creative needs of the band as individuals and artists. The Who, and Jimmy as a kind of model for one or all of our fans, really had developed a powerful symbiosis that deserved a project like Quadrophenia both to honour the mechanism and address why it started to fail almost a soon as it had begun
So I am enjoying working with the music, but I’m enjoying writing about it too.
Pete’s note fails to mention anything about the future of the Who. They haven’t toured since a brief run of Australian dates in early 2009. They last performed together in January at a charity show in London. Writer Simon Garfield – who interviewed Townshend last month in Intelligent Life – told the Who guitarist that he went to the show thinking it might be their last time onstage. “Your intuition was dead on,” Townshend said. “At the beginning of the year I had decided, ’66 next birthday, I think I’ll just stop.’ Nothing to do with my hearing, because I think I can sort that out on stage. My feeling was that I simply didn’t have the enthusiasm to do reinvention.”
Townshend has contemplated retirement many times in the past, and he says that the same impulse that caused him to finally finish his memoir this year has caused him to re-think retirement. “I look around me and I think, ‘Why aren’t I suffering the way that other people are suffering?'” he said. “‘Is it just that I don’t have to worry about paying the school fees?’ I think for me it’s that if you can take an artistic position and do something useful, even if it’s negative, then action is the best answer.”
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In that same interview, Townshend also suggested that being the main songwriter in the band was often a burden. “The thing about the Who for me, and this is sad in a way, is the amount of control that I’ve had to have,” he said. “Keeping the creative process close to my chest, making sure the other guys in the band felt they were part of the process but they really weren’t.”
He also said that Roger Daltrey – who is playing Tommy on a solo tour this year – sometimes struggled on recent tours. “If I’m out on the road with Roger and he’s as miserable as sin, there is a bit of me, and I know my manager Bill Curbishley shares this, which thinks ‘Why are we doing this to him?’” Townshend said. “He seems to be so unhappy, he seems to be so unfulfilled. Yet when you talk to him he exalts the Who to high heaven, and exalts me. He always says it’s going to be fabulous, and ‘this time I’m just going to have fun,’ and he always ends up distraught, sobbing in a corner somewhere, saying, ‘That was the worst show I’ve ever done and I could do so much better and I can’t work out how I’m going to do this again’.”
If all that wasn’t enough, he also responded to the allegations in Keith Richards’ memoir that Mick Jagger has a “tiny todger.” “To use an apt term, [that] is bollocks,” Townshend said. “I’ve seen them, and they are not small. And it is not just the balls that are big.”