Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Pete Townshend: A Tribute




What most writers miss about Pete Townshend that has been very obvious to me if I look back on his unparalleled career, is his amazing physicality. Onstage and off he is so graceful and in his body that a pilates instructor such as myself can only stand agape. He contains all that resplendent energy in one form that seems to crackle electrically with both humor and seriousness. Many writers also miss (or pretend to miss) the fact that he's never followed the crowd, a rarity for someone with his fame in a media that seeks out conformity in artists. He has paid hard dues for that uniqueness. Another fact often overlooked is that Pete Townshend comes from the true tradition of Rock n Roll and its roots in Black music. Maximum RnB was not just a slogan on a poster, Pete has a faintly sad soulfulness in his voice that recalls Al Green or Marvin Gaye and yes, he can damn well sing the blues.


It was Pete's solo album Empty Glass that first had me looking closer at Pete Townshend the person as opposed to Pete Townshend the guitarist for the Who. The opening chords of "Rough Boys" and its blistering horn sections seemed to sum up a frenzy of emotions and sensuality that I was feeling as a bohemian adolescent stuck in Piedmont, California, a very wealthy Bay Area city surrounded entirely by Oakland. Many of my snobby classmates were ardent Who fans before I was. It did not take me, the poor relation, very long to usurp them and carry around my cassette deck blaring "Don't Let Go Of The Coat" and "Jools and Jim." They were miffed. But when I wore my older brother's Who tour jersey, then the fur really flew. What I wouldn't give for a picture of my 12-year-old self, swaddled in that t-shirt, gobs of kohl black eye pencil ,chin out proudly with my one and only pair of jeans on ready to smash a million guitars over those sculpted preppie heads. Rich kids just can't rock n roll.

The Empty Glass album came with printed lyrics on the inner sleeve and I read them to my mom, who was divorcing my father at the time and losing our house. As we moved away to a lower income area and our relationship became strained, I would attempt to connect with my mom via Pete. I'd sit in her room after she worked graveyard at her shit job that was keeping us alive and read lyrics to songs liked "Somebody Saved Me" and "Slit Skirts" from Pete's follow-up "All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes." I felt something deep in those songs but she was actually living them. And so was Pete, who has shared his life with the listener and nurtured his music through vulnerability, anger and honesty to create a complete sense of connectedness with the audience.
It's been hard on the critics, even those who revere him as fans, because he's naturally bright and usually better educated than they are. He sees through political spiel and admits he's human, which ironically makes him seem more super human. Pete is like three people to me; a very literate, disciplined, astronomically prolific and gifted musical innovator, a brilliant, sensual, raconteur with one of Britain's all time greatest speaking voices and a very private man devoted to his family and lovely girlfriend, Rachel Fuller.


Seeing him up close at the Fillmore in April of 1996 was very interesting because it seemed like he was hanging out at the local pub with us. One can hear me screaming at the start of the disc and then asking to him to play 'Pravadigar.' At the end of the gig he framed his face with his hands and smiled right at me to make sure I got all the attention I craved for that brief and shining 30 seconds in which I sprouted wings and a halo and flew to heaven. His eyes are not just blue but turquoise blue, just amazing.

But it has not been all pageantry and elation. You grow to depend on a hero and then you really need him one day and you find he needs you more then you've ever needed him. I deplore the way the media vultures treated Pete during his ridiculous arrest in 2003 but in retrospect I'm cross with myself that I did not do more than just tell all my friends how untrue everything was. I should have been on a plane, I should have spoken louder. And I learned to never again have that regret, lest it be me one day. Everyone in my life, including the half dozen Bay Area families whose children I look after, know how important and loving Pete has been in fighting the good fight to clean up the internet's exploitation of children. Almost without exception they already knew or were pleased to hear how vocal he's been. Pete Townshend inspires many things, but cynicism isn't one of them.


It's no surprise that Pete shares his birthday, May 19th, with Malcom X and Ho Chi Minh, easily two of modern history's most important revolutionaries. And while he himself is a revelation in revolution he's also smart enough to embrace the spirituality that politics and sociology foolishly ignore. When he was a kid experiencing that unique childhood about which he's talked and written so much of, it seems as if a seed of optimism and joy was planted inside his mind that nothing has been able to kill, it only seems to grow stronger-and louder! Nutured by the universe not the rhetoric of a few.



Much like the writing of Charles Dickens, one looks at Pete's wonderfully British life and sees many colorful characters, lifelong friends and wild adventures that all seem to come together happily in the end regardless of vicissitudes and travails. Be it a very quiet and influential devotion to Meher Baba, an unabashed love and support of his loved ones or his Boy Who Heard Music blog, we are all included and expected to participate in his amazing journey.

59 Comments:

Blogger Justin Kreutzmann said...

Well said Amanda. It's great to hear your impressions of the impact Pete's life and music has made on you, on all of us, his fans, the most loyal, music appreciative, attractive and intelligent group of folks a musician could ask for!

5:52 AM  
Blogger neilbymouth said...

Amanda, your writing is truely amazing and this is as good as the moon piece, fascinating how you were a fan so young and how you used those words to live day to day, the power of music know no bounds- please keep writing these fabulous little insights into your thinking, your definately super amanda,

Deep understanding and love,

Neil

5:56 AM  
Blogger Anne-Marie said...

This is a lovely tribute, Amanda. You write with such ease and grace.

Cheers,
AM

6:04 AM  
Blogger JackJumpedOverTheMoon said...

SuperAmanda,

Beautiful.

Jack

6:20 AM  
Blogger rolywholyover said...

Amanda, your ambition and energy is infectious in the best possible way. Our heroes may be famous and beset with responsibilities and obligations, but they are still human and can even be our friends too.

6:34 AM  
Blogger Suesjoy said...

Oh Amanda - brilliant. I have goosebumps now.
You are the most articulate fan. I've never read such a moving tribute.
I hope the man pops by to read this!
I love the Psychoderelict poster.
When my parents were divorcing I used to bike for miles and miles (couldn't help myself) to Chinese Eyes.
Pete has been there for us through good times and bad...I knew that the day I heard one of my beaus sing "Brilliant Blues" while waiting for the subway that HE was the one I was to marry...and I did! (His all time fave song is "Face the Face" but he's not really a Pete or Who freak like me). I need to make a video of him dancing to that!! He's a fab dancer!

When Pete was arrested, I couldn't sleep for days. Did you got through that too? I'm so glad I wrote to him, but I should have written right away...I waited a few months. Thank God he had Rachel to get him through that.

I'm so happy for both of them.

6:42 AM  
Blogger ginab said...

Okay, Amanda, I'm a dove too to Townshend's solo work, but I've recognized Townshend as the writer and imagination for the Who. The stories in the songs, in "Bargain" alone ....and here on WIDR (dot org) they're playing his "Pure and Easy" right now. Astounding.

Excepting one note.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Delbut said...

Amanda.

this is a very nice piece of writing and true to the man. He has affected all of us over the years but you have managed to capture the sentiments of us all perfectly.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Bblayla said...

Amanda
What a beautiful piece about such a beautiful man. I couldn't of said it any better--thank you for putting into words, so perfectly,what makes us love and adore Pete so much.

Belinda

4:17 PM  
Blogger BallerinaGurl said...

Very nice tribute here darling! I love your style of writing and love to read your blog when I can!

You should write for a column ~wink~.

X-Molly

6:06 PM  
Blogger lryicsgrl said...

Amanda,
Fine piece of writing. It brings on a feeling of kinship. "Every idea in my head, someone else has said" (thanks JAE), but when someone says what is in my heart, well that is a kindered spirit, at least where Pete Townshend is concerned.

I understand completely, how you feel about not "doing more" when Pete faced his troubles. I did exactly as you, dispelled all the bullshit to people I knew. May not have been enough, but it was something. They say you save the world, one person at a time. I think by the support we and the others like us, gave him did help. Even if we only clarified one person's thinking. Positive thoughts to the universe do count, don't you think? Shouting from the rooftops could not have done any better. I am grateful that Pete has Rachel and the support of his family. That is what saw him through. I think that The Pete Townshend Is Innocent website, and letters from his fans, were important, but obviously secondary.

Lucky you, what I wouldn't give to have those eyes trained on me, if only for a moment. I am a happily married girl, love my kids, & wouldn't trade any of it for any moment. But it would be delicious icing on the cake! YUM!

8:12 PM  
Blogger greekzoe said...

Amanda,

Well done!!

Zoe

8:22 PM  
Blogger honeyhive said...

I just don't understand why someone would smash a les paul?

11:25 PM  
Blogger Davocaster said...

Amanda, that is spot on.

I admire all Pete's attributes you have mentioned. One of the main points that I have admired in Pete has been his inteligence and the articulate way he communicates his music, or when he talks about music or any subject he cares to. For me he has always been someone to look up to and listen to - and now, with your "Tribute", I can see that reflected in his fans (us fans).

12:04 AM  
Blogger Sarah Beth said...

That was very well written and a fun read! So true, all of it. He's a cool guy that Pete Townshend. :o)

2:19 AM  
Blogger ginab said...

Oh I wanted to make sure I added that I like your writing style a whole lot, Amanda. You transition so easily into your personal connection to Townshend's music that my eyes misted.

I've always really liked the essay (or story?) in All the Best Cowboys. I keep White City in my car. I love Rough Mix with Ronnie Lane because of their friendship and because, maybe selfishly, they play Gibsons which, and this is the selfish part, my grandpa used to make. And jeepers I had everything Townshend and Who. What I've always enjoyed is his ability to tell stories through lyrics. No one else, I don't think, does it quite as well. No one.

-g+bb

2:22 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

Wow Amanda, you write beautifully and articulately, bravo! Rolling Stone got a spot for you dear? I love that part about reading the lyrics to your Mum. My Mum and Dad split up shortly after we moved to the US and I know that several Pete Townshend songs really helped my Mum to keep it together during that time.

3:24 AM  
Blogger Bonfire Jones said...

Amanda, Really cool insights on Pete! Very well written as well.

We Geminis love to write! Ed

4:12 AM  
Blogger Nabonidus said...

Wow!!
Damn girl, you really should be writing professionally! That would have been a better lead-in to the Hall of fame than the tribute they did use.
Bravo! xoxoLisa

4:12 PM  
Blogger E.L. Wisty said...

Hi Amanda,

A bit late commenting but I really really like this tribute to Pete. You have the ability to write so that it is natural and comes straight from the heart and completely lacks any feeling of one-sided, blind adulation which I sometimes find awkward. Much appreciated!

4:34 PM  
Blogger Debby C said...

I love Pete Townshend and I love what you wrote...here here!

6:32 PM  
Blogger JackJumpedOverTheMoon said...

SuperAmanda,

Off topic (re: comment on TBWHM)

Thankyou SuperAmanda!!!
**huge hug**

Jack

10:44 PM  
Blogger THIRD OF NEVER said...

Jon from Third here....when he was arrested I felt sick every day until he was cleared. It really felt like the whole world was against my uncle or something to that effect. My worst experience was with some jagoff in a bar......The Who came on the jukebox, and he said "You know Pete was convicted of etc etc....". I told him that he wasn't, and that his information was totally wrong. It then escalated into a yelling match, and I was asked to leave. Before I left, I shoved the jagoff back into his chair. Not very enlightend perhaps, but even Kane kick ass when he had too.

1:47 AM  
Blogger THIRD OF NEVER said...

kicked

2:00 AM  
Blogger SuperAmanda said...

I wanted to personally thank everyone who commented on my Pete post. It was a very moving thing to write and it could not have been appreciated by a more wonderful bunch of friends. Pete was so kind to reference me on his blog too.
2006 is off to a great start, this will be the year of The Who and Rachel Fuller fans!

Life is grand.

5:10 AM  
Blogger Mike S said...

Hi Amanda,

I just discovered your tribute
to Pete.Very beautifully done.
I read that you are in a band
called 'Substitute' and was
wondering if you had a link
to some music from your band?

3:05 PM  
Blogger Calzone said...

You seem like a wonderful woman.

Bless you

11:43 PM  
Blogger St. Francis said...

You do seem very special. I hope you aren't scared.

I'm sorry if I have made you cry

11:44 PM  
Blogger JackJumpedOverTheMoon said...

SuperAmanda,

Thankyou very much. I really wasn't sure I wanted to leave that up there... it not a very well known fact about me, and I never know who is reading. However, all responses have been positive, and I'm pretty sure this medium is still relatively anonymous. :)

(Bravery in anonymity? Possibly.)

I was especially a little timid about reading Pete's chapters at the beginning of the book because of the subject matter. I was relieved and pleasantly surprised with how well he handled the subject matter. What a sweetheart!

Perhaps I should get a cape? Oh yes, I learned from The Incredibles "no capes dah-ling"!

Jack

5:06 AM  
Blogger SuperAmanda said...

Hi Jack,
I agree, Pete has really handled the subject matter gracefully.
No cape required for you-you were born with one!
Love
Amanda

5:18 AM  
Blogger Dave & Corie said...

Hi Amanda,

Thanks so much for writing on our blog! that was cool.

I see you live in Berkely, we live in Novato not too far away.

Next time we have on of our summer Who Bq's we will invite you up. We always like having our Who get togethers so I am hoping you will come up when the summer rolls around.

Cheers to you,

Dave & Corie...

7:45 AM  
Blogger E.L. Wisty said...

Amanda,

I would reckon that in Pete's case they should rather go directly to Lord, knighthood being a bit meagre. Lord Townshend of Richmond has a certain ring to it, don't you think? :-)

4:18 PM  
Blogger Tausha71979 said...

Hey Amanda!

Lovely post! I'm sorry that I haven't visited in awhile, hope things are well:) Hope to talk to you soon!

xx

8:41 PM  
Blogger Calzone said...

Sorry about that comment earlier, I was wasted on pills

9:16 PM  
Blogger Claire Eliza said...

Amanda this was written very well.
Pete Townshend means everything to me. His solo albums are having a big effect on my life as well as the Who albums. They changed my way of thinking.
And there is no way that rich kids can fucking rock n roll. amen to that!
i love your blog, i really do.
xoxoxo
- claire -

9:51 PM  
Blogger ginab said...

Thanks on the M Baba date, the birthdate, clarification, SA. I was a little annoyed by brojo I guess and not at you. Maybe my tone caves in a little. I hope I can wear makeup a little better than that tho, if you know what i mean.

K. Moon was a doll! damn.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Thanks for visiting me Superamanda. I've actually spent a lot of time on your blog, although never left any fingerprints before now.

I'm a big fan!

7:45 PM  
Blogger lryicsgrl said...

Looking for another great post.
I can look at that pic of Pete with the smashed guitar though, over and over.

8:07 PM  
Blogger John Sullivan said...

Your blog is kinda cool. Visit my site when you can...always like feedback.

Sully

1:35 PM  
Blogger Calzone said...

I'll miss you

3:14 PM  
Blogger Nabonidus said...

Just came from Pete's, Wow! You definitely have a Pilate-body! lolol
Really, we should call you "Super-duper Amanda" !!!
At least we know it takes work to keep that kind of body, hence the Pilates, eh? Unless you're one of those sickening people that doesn't even have to try, they can eat what they want, no exercise. I hate them! lolol
Just kidding. :)
I did discover a few years back that I could have my ice cream if I started exercising, so that is what I've done. Not that I'm super thin or anything. But I enjoy how exercise is good for the mind as well. Maybe I would have taken it up sooner had I known that.
Have a good one! xoxoLisa

4:01 PM  
Blogger BallerinaGurl said...

Hey babe! Just popping by to see you if had a new blog and say hello! Cute pic with you and your cat on your profile. That is new!

Well have a lovely start to your weekend!

X-Molly

4:16 PM  
Blogger Nabonidus said...

I'm back, spoke too soon! I LOVE the new pic, the one with your cat. I hope my previous comments didn't strike you the wrong way!
Truth be known, though, I actually think you are far prettier in the new
pic. I think makeup covers a lot of people's ...souls. Not souls, but auras maybe? Something that shines out of people naturally.
Anyhoo. :)

4:26 PM  
Blogger E.L. Wisty said...

Amanda,

As far as sweetness goes, you can easily match me and Lisa any day!

5:55 PM  
Blogger SuperAmanda said...

Lisa :) That Playboy pic was a miracle of photoshop! LOl so yes, I guess I never have to workout ;)
Seriously, I tore my ankle in September and it's now finally healed and I'm coming back to my fitness goals. This does not involve being super skinny, I just want my tiny waist back...

10:33 PM  
Blogger DeeringB said...

Dear Amanda....

What a fantastic blog ! Such wonderful and heartfelt writing !!
I'm new to all this blogging but some months back I did read your items about your trip to England and pilgrimage for Brian Jones.
It was quite prophetic in a way because prior to Christmas here in the UK they ran a new drama/documentary re-assessing the circumstances behind his death and the aftermath.
Now your writing on Keith Moon and Pete Townshend is equally touching.
It seems that in your journey to discover the inner/real you , you are learning so much more.
Your posts on Pete and Rachel's websites are also quite something.
I'm moved by it all.

'SuperAmanda' is indeed the perfect title for you !
Yours in admiration
Brian

2:48 PM  
Blogger Nabonidus said...

Wow, this new pic is the best yet!
Heh, I wouldn't mind my tiny waist back, ain't gonna happen as long as I'm a blog addict, lol..But seriously,
I just read your latest post at Pete's, that's so damned sad about John's girlfriend. :( I didn't know about that. Sorry to hear about it.
BTW, if my brother wasn't already married, I think he would've been your ideal mate. You two have so much in common! You were both "Moonies", etc. Wearing tophats and derby's etc.Clockwork Orange.The Who. Korman.Kubrick.Various Eastern philosphies...
Ah, well. If my brother ever breaks up with his wife, I'm going to try and play matchmaker. He's really tall, girls love him,he has beautiful eyes, etc. My point:
I was going to say that it makes me feel like I know you that much more,
almost like you are my sister. All the way down the line you guys like the same things. It blows my mind.:)

5:00 PM  
Blogger Nabonidus said...

You could find my brother in the Bodhi
Tree in Hollywood, if you ever want to see him. :) Places like that. Heheh.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Dan L. said...

Superamanda:

Your latest profile picture is certainly the most becoming of the bunch. My applause to you. Keep that one.

I don't recall hearing from you, or if I even asked...about Big Basin Redwoods. Have you been there? The park is near Santa Cruz. If not, go. Preferably BEFORE summer. There are some cool cabins there, need to bring your own light, though.

I love the article on Pete. thanks for the time you took to do it.

Note: I accidently posted this on your Meher Baba comments, thus the "deleted" thing at the end of that one.

--Dan L.

5:09 PM  
Blogger SuperAmanda said...

Thanks Lisa but my heart already beats strongly and surely for another. ;)

6:01 PM  
Blogger SuperAmanda said...

Hi Dan,
I've really enjoyed all your work on reviewing Pete's book. The fact that you like my tribute means so much to me you can't imagine. Will try to find those Redwoods before the Winnebagos go on the rampage this summer!

6:21 PM  
Blogger J to the fucking C said...

Strongly and surely for another?

Damn baby, I hope you're talking about me.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Bill the Apostle said...

Jesus Rocks!!!!

8:50 PM  
Blogger SuperAmanda said...

Jesus, I could say a few things but I think I'll wash my hands of it...

9:54 PM  
Blogger ginab said...

Hmm...did I miss your pic with your cat? You always look great. This lastest is further proof.

1:54 AM  
Blogger Neil said...

Great article! I've always wanted to try and articulate how (why) this particular artist had such a powerful influence on my young adulthood. But I never have done it, at least not as well as you.

Have you picked up the February issue of Mojo? It comes with a CD of Who covers, which made me think of you.

Do let us all know when your band will be playing again. It would be a perfect pilgrimage to see Substitute and visit some old friends in the area.

3:14 AM  
Blogger Seychelle said...

This proves you're SUPER FAB Amanda. Hey, I love your profile pic... wait... I mean the one you just put up before this one... wait...I mean this one... wait... I mean... I love them all!!!

SA-- Do you have a site for your music on IAC ?? I'd like to give it a listen.

Smiles,
oxo Seychelle

6:41 AM  
Blogger Mark T said...

Hi Amanda, saw that you'd mentioned you'd written a piece on PT on Simon Ts Blog. So I thought I'd have a look. What a lovely piece of writing. You have captured Pete as I believe most of his ardent fans see him. I was lucky enough to shake his hand at Basement Jam and feel so priveleged to have done so. The man is incredible and through life I have always turned to his music to help me through the bad times. His music is like a Bible to me. Thanks for a really true description of him. Mark

5:14 PM  
Blogger stradasphere said...

I know this is old, but what a tribute. Well said. You used the word hero...it sunk deep within me as I truly realized Pete has been my hero for decades...I remembered that I am still a kid at 41.

I am glad I dug through your archives!

Long Live Rock

Lionel

3:24 AM  

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