Tag Archives: The Who

Book Review: “A Band With Built-In Hate: The Who From Pop Art To Punk” by Peter Stanfield

(Book reviewed by Amy Hughes)

Historically speaking, crystallizing the behemoth known as The Who – band, music, movies – involves flying over their career (decades in the making) and analyzing the history and events that influenced not only their impact as a unit but the generation that gave them a voice to erupt volcanically, spewing forth high-volume lava that for many right now, has become hard black coal, dense and cold of meaning.

Author Peter Stanfield writes with academic-minded insight that A Band With Built-Hate: The Who From Pop Art To Punk (Reaktion Books, 2021) should be soaked up with as much history as possible, just in understanding the environment and history of their times (and before). He makes us – the reader – get inside the genesis of prepubescent swinging Britain, move around it, throw it far and attempt to retrieve it back, encapsulated in that era’s urgent pop sensibilities.

For purposes of this review, the book is not a straight-up bio nor is it an extended diatribe framing The Who as hooligans bent on disarming the norm of rock, trashing instruments and hotel rooms (thanks, Keith Moon). What Stanfield does with extensive historical detail is frame the band as overall antagonists, armed with the windmill angst and intelligence of Pete Townshend – who I generally regard as a genius beyond compare – to smash and break the mundane lives of post-war Britain into a compact unit that pushes boundaries unheard of in late 50s and early 60s England.

The band’s ‘built-in hate’ stems directly from a Townshend quote and not far from the kernel truth of The Who’s beginnings in London. The pop scene itself blew up around art, art that had an immediacy and therefore an intelligence that couldn’t be described adequately for the masses. As the band germinated in the early days, the ‘Mods’ that were The Who’s (known as The High Numbers) audience were a fixated young mass that didn’t idolize them onstage or off. Dancing, drinking, clothes-styling, and amphetamines galore kept the message on a speed course that figuratively had them exploding all comfort conventions.

With the advent of pop, the term barreled on through with a notorious edge. Among the writers to expound and define this new wave was critic Nik Cohn. From the initial heady days of reigning in what the sound of pop was (as Townshend relayed the noise as “jet planes, Morse Code, howling wind effects”), Cohn sent forth an undefined, pointed, yet beautiful agenda: first writing in ‘Queen’ then throughout The Who’s career in this reading, giving (or maybe not) Townshend a critical mouthpiece. Cohn was there to hear ‘Tommy’ and later ‘Quadrophenia’ and as an overall arc to this book, provides the blueprint for understanding how the operation of pop culture machines on, whether it made sense then and by way of Stanfield, where to accentuate the importance of all these ground-breaking events in Who history.

Cohn was a pop descriptor extraordinaire and his writings and quotations are sprinkled liberally throughout this book. While there was no preconceived notion as to what ‘pop’ was supposed to be, it’s avenues continually splintered, while Hendrix was setting fire to his guitar: was he upstaging Townshend or paying homage? When ‘The Who Sell Out’ (and just previous to that ‘A Quick One’), Cohn was questioning and embracing it’s humor. Yes, sometimes it was pretentious – who in their right mind wanted to listen to this ten-minute ‘mini opera’ with vocals that shouted ‘clang’ and ‘cello’ in places The Who couldn’t half afford – as the subject matter made light (and dark) notions of a young girl’s naïve awakenings to wanted (or unwanted) sexual advances?

Stanfield also has a great appreciation for the media and artwork that surrounded The Who – from the advert-styled ‘Sell Out’ (among the conceived jingles and spoken word fillers), while at the same time, pointing out the conservatism in alternate, bland sleeve artwork for the European market with point-on results. The former was all part of The Who’s DNA marketing and salesmanship (now handled by filmmakers turned managers/producers Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert). The band with hatred was in essence becoming ‘pop’ to be consumed – albeit via a juggernaut of feedback and screeching.

At first glance, these were the baby steps, the rudimentary blueprint for what The Who were to become because of their association with art, consumerism and as it began to unfold in the US and the UK in the late 60s, the rock press: Townshend became the expert in his own Who history, divulging pages and pages of onion-peeling and partial proposals on what pop music was, where he had been (art school auto-destruct), where it was going (read: Tommy 1968 interviews) and later, how were these approaching 30 years of age (the doomed living out their own ‘My Generation’) supposed to bring their gatherings along with them (and did it really matter to the audience anymore).

I know for certain that as a high-schooler that was raised on The Who, there was a complete embrace of songs, especially ‘Baba O’Riley’ for whom the faux hip cigarette-smoking, corduroy-wearing, hanging-outside-the-cafeteria-at-lunch crowd was so off point, so brought up on FM radio to it’s real meaning, that the entity of The Who presented in this academic-leaning dissertation will have zero impact akin to understanding of what Townshend & Co. are all (or were about). I know I missed it, somewhere in-between ‘The Kids Are Alright’ film and ‘It’s Hard.’

Another stop-gap moment if I may: punk rock. As addressed in this title, how has The Who aged these 40 years since the release of ‘Who Are You’ with the bull crap stance of Daltrey dropping the f-bomb amongst synthesizers or ‘Sister Disco’ or Townshend’s footstep backbeat in ‘Music Must Change?’ Townshend at the time thought it was all over with the second coming of The Sex Pistols and The Clash and punk. But punk was already there, simmering and bubbling. It was merely a label. Lydon & Co. did skewer the inflated senses of Britain at the time, but Townshend’s alcoholic-fueled pissy-ness while being talked up by the Pistols’ Steve Jones and Paul Cook only added gasoline to the pyre. The band’s volcanic eruption (best shown at the end of ‘The Kids Are Alright’s’ ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ – due to director Jeff Stein asking them to go out and perform an encore they didn’t want to do) pretty much summed up the end of The Who as we knew them. On the edge, yet high up on the precipice waiting to be pushed off.

While the death of Keith Moon effectively put to bed the essential meaning of their opposition, the push-back of their music and lives, ‘Built-In Hate’ can now address with minute clarity and put-right connections how it all started and for the others that followed in their tidal-wave wake, and for the lows and the highs of the cultural innovators that are collectively engraved as The Who.

I give this book 4 out of 4 beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Thanks A Lot Mr Kibblewhite: My Story” by Roger Daltrey

thanks a lot mr kibblewhite my story roger daltreyI saw Thanks A Lot Mr Kibblewhite: My Story by Roger Daltrey listed on Amazon’s suggestion list for me last week and it was only $13.50 (compared to the $30 cover price). This book was just released 3 months ago on October 23, 2018, so it left me scratching my had as to…1) Why I hadn’t heard of it until now and 2) Why is it so cheap so soon? I’ve always loved The Who and Roger Daltrey, so I bought a copy to review for all of you.

First, let me explain my “Who” background. I first really developed a liking for The Who in 1980 while visiting a friend for two weeks who put a stack of albums on her stereo every night so she could go to sleep to music. One of those albums was “Who’s Next”. I also have a strange memory of seeing “The Kids Are Alright” with my brother and his friends at a midnight showing some time in 1981? (I don’t do drugs and it’s still a little fuzzy, but that seems about right). In 1989, while 8 months pregnant, my husband and I saw The Who on their first comeback tour after their first farewell tour.

In Daltrey’s brief autobiography (240 pages), Roger tells you all the details of his childhood that shaped him, literally, into the man he is today. Bullied, jaw broken, broken back, poor family, etc. It’s all in there. And so is his story of the ins, outs, ups and downs of the band we’ve all known and loved for five decades. I don’t recall all the  stories from the sixties and seventies of them busting up hotel rooms or the in-fighting amongst the members, so it was all new to me. At the same time, throughout the stories, he does say several times that his band-mate Pete Townsend remembers things differently. There’s a part of me that wishes he would have told Pete’s side of the story, but I guess this is just a great way to force us all to buy Pete’s autobiography (Who I Am: A Memoir by Pete Townsend at Amazon for $15.75!)

This book read like a combination of Phil Collin’s autobiography (my band is so great we’ll never break up!) and Rod Stewart’s autobiography (I spread my seed far and wide and now have 8 kids, half of which I barely know!). I was left feeling like there was so much more to tell. Sure, he tells the stories behind the unfortunate deaths of Keith Moon and John Entwistle, along with clearing up several stories that the press got wrong about the band throughout the years, but I think his fans deserve an apology, not only for never actually going on a farewell tour (despite all the times they called it quits), but also for the debacle of the movie Lisztomania…though, I must say, the story of what he did with the two giant penises after filming was done is a really funny story.

For the Beatles fans, the Beatles appear nine times in this book and then there is the story of how Ringo’s son Zak became their drummer after the death of Keith Moon (who happened to be Zak’s godfather).

I love Roger Daltrey, especially in a loincloth in Tommy or in a tub full of baked beans…but I digress. Read this book because it’s the story of one of the greatest rock singers of all time, but I know that I will definitely be ordering Pete’s book, which at 560 pages hopefully will fill in some details. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

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Book Review: “The Autobiography of Donovan: The Hurdy Gurdy Man” by Donovan Leitch

Last week, while I was returning my book about Franz Liszt to the local library, I spotted The Autobiography of Donovan: The Hurdy Gurdy Man (2005) by Donovan Leitch on the shelf. Having heard how much so many other Beatles freaks liked his music, I said to my husband, “I’ll give it a shot.”

Donovan Phillips Leitch was born May 10, 1946 in Scotland. He shot to fame in 1965 at the tender age of 19 and is probably best known for his hit single “Mellow Yellow”. By the time he was 24, he dropped out of the music scene all together.

 

 

After getting about halfway through this far out and psychedelic tour of Donovan’s life and his encounters with The Beatles, Rolling Stone, The Who, Dylan, Hendrix, etc., I decided it would be best if I took a new approach to writing this review as compared to my past ones. I’m going to let you, my readers, be the judge.

Here are several quotes from Donovan in this book:

  • Page 88: Talking about being in a suite with Alan Price (The Animals keyboardist) and Dylan – “He (Alan) comments directly to Bob on the Donovan-Dylan comparison. ‘He’s not a fake [Donovan], and he plays better than you.’ Alan was right. My guess is Bobbie would accept that.”
  • Page 98: Talking about other folksingers – “I was the only other big solo success apart from Dylan. His lyrics are without equal in all of popular music, but I think musically I am more creative and influential. I was dynamic, obsessed with developing pop style, creating new combinations, mantras for a questing youth.”
  • Page 102: On this page, Donovan blesses his readers with an entire list of every famous band/artist that has covered his songs.
  • Page 141: Talking of his first use of the drug mescaline – “The trip with mescaline is softer than LSD. Ever so slowly the Paradise appeared before me. I was in the Garden of Eden – no, I was the Garden.”
  • Page 153: When Paul McCartney paid Donovan a visit – “Another song he sang to me was a little ditty with a chorus about a yellow submarine. He was missing a verse for the tune and asked me to get one in there. So I said, give me minute, and left the room. What I came back with was not world-shattering, but he liked it. ‘Sky of blue and sea of green/in our yellow submarine… – Donovan Leitch'”
  • Page 153: Mickie Most was Donovan’s producer – “Mickie Most later said that the music we made in late 1965 and 1966 influenced the Beatles to experiment more adventurously on Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. This may well be. I also stirred the Celtic cauldron and encouraged Led Zeppelin to express himself with images and sounds from our Celto-European roots.”
  • Page 165: Talking about two women that moved into an apartment with him and his friend – “Not that we didn’t love the “little darlings.” How could we not, as they floated in and out of bedrooms and bathroom in no more than a top and panties – bath time would never be the same. Not that we didn’t like the variety of meals that were prepared for us…”

At this point in my reading I was just about halfway through the book and that’s when I started to really think to myself – is this guy for real? He’s nothing more than a misogynist with a Napoleon complex! But his incessant bragging and demeaning of women didn’t end there…I forced myself to read on and finish the book.

  • Page 210: While at the ashram of the Maharishi in India with the Beatles, and after teaching John Lennon a new way of finger-picking on guitar – “In this way John began to write in a whole new way, composing “Dear Prudence” and “Julia” in no time flat. John asked me for some help with the lyrics of “Julia,” a song for his lost mother and the childhood he’d never had.”
  • Page 213: While hanging out with Paul Horn in India – “Paul Horn went on to record an album in both the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramid of Giza. Between the two of us, we probably invented what is loosely called “New Age Music,” music that induces a meditative state.”
  • Page 219: Describing a recording session for his album Hurdy Gurdy Man on which Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham all played on – “Layers of guitar were added by Page and Hollsworth, and a new kind of metal folk was created. The term metal had not been coined for music yet, but perhaps Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham were inspired by this session to form Led Zeppelin.”
  • Page 239: In 1968 (after Beatlemania was well underway) – “As I toured I endeavored to improve sound and lights production as well as protect the fans from their own excitement, pointing the way to today’s standards.”

Now, seriously readers…is it just me or does Donovan Leitch think very highly of himself? And apparently there was a glitch in the matrix in the 60’s because at two separate concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, a cop tackled a young girl and fell into the lake drawing laughter from the audience. Twice, Donovan made love to his girlfriend Enid for the very last time.

All I can say is…thank god for Donovan Leitch! Without him, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Flower Power, metal and new age music would have never become popular! I wouldn’t be at all surprise if Donovan showed Al Gore how to invent the internet too! And for that reason,…

I rate this book, 1 out of 4 Beetles!

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Almost forgot to mention…the winner of the $5 Amazon gift card from last week’s contest is: Linda Sherman!

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Movie Review: “Lisztomania” (1975)

Several months ago, I went to a lecture that compared the Beatles to classical composer Franz Liszt.  It would seem that Mr. Liszt (b. 1811 – d. 1886) was the rock star of his day!  In April 1844, while reviewing the European music scene that season, writer Heinrich Heine coined the term ‘Lisztomania‘ to describe the frenzy and fainting that occurred when Liszt performed.

I’ve always enjoyed the music of Franz Liszt and you’ve probably heard it yourself.  Here is a video of Liebestraum:

Or, if you prefer, here is a video of Bugs Bunny playing Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody:

Lisztomania, was written and directed by Ken Russell, the same guy who had already directed The Who’s classic – Tommy.  The posters for Lisztomania even promoted this movies as ‘Tommy’s Tommy‘!  Unfortunately, even with Roger Daltrey as the star in this film too, this movie doesn’t even come close to the genius of Tommy and makes one think that Russell should have quit while he was ahead.  Even Ringo Starr, who plays the part of The Pope and who had been praised for many of his previous acting roles is mediocre at best.

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Both the acting and the music in this film are terrible.  The only redeeming quality is seeing a naked, young Roger Daltrey!  I can also say that all of Liszt’s women/lovers in the film actually existed in real life and that his daughter really married composer Richard Wagner.  But where Ken Russell came up with idea to put Nazis and Hitler in the film…I’ll never understand.  And for that reason…

I rate this movie, 1 out of 4 Beetles!

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I rate Roger Daltrey’s naked boday, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

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