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Thursday, March 27, 2008

GMVW # 12: "The Awakening"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 12: The Awakening
Song: A Quick One by The Who
(Songwriter: Pete Townshend)
March 27, 2008

The Who have been a major source of entertainment for me for almost 30 years.  If I were to come up with a synonym to describe this band it would be 'circus'... a perfect circus.... a four ring circus.  Pete Townshend, lead songwriter, has always balanced nicely his humor with his deep convictions.  His commitment to the Who has fascinated me because early on he was aware of the fact that he would have been better off creatively by going it alone (think Dylan, Clapton, Mitchell, Young, Bowie).  However, every time Townshend pushed them the rest of the band rose to the occasion, and so he remained loyal (he was the last member of the band to release a solo album).  Lucky for many.

My admiration for this band goes back to 1980, my first year at North Adams.  Early on, I was not in a great position for meeting people, living in an off-campus house with the landlady (an elderly woman, Ma Betti) and 4 roommates who were destined to be footnotes in my life.  However, one of these roommates introduced me to a group of characters who lived on campus in townhouse # 1 ("TH1").  I was welcomed into the fold for several reasons, including that I played a good game of pool in those days and that I could eat hot peppers with the best of them.

If Phil and Mac kept me on my toes in my high school years with their wit and sarcasm, these guys brought things to another level.  Most everyone referred to each other by last name only (Swanna, Kershaw, B-Lee, McCabe, Pierce and Miller).  Kurt was the only one who kept his first name intact (as did I).  There was no sympathy for naive comments, which were responded to with a resounding "BAHHHHHHHH!!!!".  It was a friendship of brutal honesty, and I settled into this atmosphere rather comfortably for a couple of years (with an eye on my grades, I declined a sophomore year offer to move in) before heading up to Ottawa (others from TH1 also moved on, although not as voluntarily).

One evening we all headed downtown to the movie theater to watch the then 1-year old Who movie "The Kids are Alright".  I had no idea what I was in for. The movie started off with a bang (literally).  As I watched the smoke clear off the stage after the Who performed 'My Generation' in a clip off the old Smothers Brothers Show (this is the opening salvo in the movie, where it's said Betty Davis, another guest that evening, fainted while watching the Who's drums explode) I leaned over to Kurt, the only TH1-er I could trust to ask the occasional naive question.  I knew Townshend and Daltrey from some of their solo-music videos on TV, but now I needed to know more.  The exchange went something like this:

Me: <leaning in so as not to be heard by the others> "ok, that's Pete Townshend and that's Roger Daltrey.....but who's that playing the bass guitar?"
Kurt: <looking at me in utter disbelief> "PETE.... THAT'S THE OX! BAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!"
The rest of TH1: "BAHHHHHHHH!!!!!
Me: <turning back to the screen> "uh, oh, ok"

I settled in for the long haul, and did not utter another word for the entire movie. I figured Keith Moon out on my own.

The movie/documentary continued at a torrid pace, each performance and interview leaving in ashes the one before it.  I had never seen anything like it, and this was not even a live concert.  Then, about half way thru, this week’s Gem Music Video "A Quick One" unraveled on the screen.  Now, most of the songs performed in the movie I had already heard many times on the radio (I just never attributed them all to one band), but this 10-minute 'mini opera' was new to my ears.  The performance was over-the-top astounding!  I was hooked.  It was the beginning of a long, fun process of album purchases, research, interpretation, volume, and air guitar.

A few additional comments:

> The Kids are Alright was co-produced by a fan of the Who, who collected together much of the video footage.  It was a brilliant idea, as the fan view comes thru in this movie documentary in a big way. 

> The "A Quick One" clip was from an abandoned 1968 Rolling Stones movie "The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus".  It's been said that the main reason the Stones abandoned the movie was because the Who out performed them (the movie was finally released in the 90's).

> Along with his bass playing, John Entwistle (the Ox) also played a multitude of brass and string instruments on Who songs.  When the Who gathered to perform the studio version of "A Quick One", Entwistle forgot to bring his cello.  The result is that instead of playing the cello at the point in the song where it was intended, the Who chant "cello" (mid way thru the song).  A classic <improv> Who move.

> There is a point near the end of the song that I swear the Who must hold some kind of record for most notes to come out of 3 instruments in a ten second span.

This song must be heard loud, but if you are not up for 10 minutes of hi-decibel Who, I've included a Gem Light video ("Happy Jack" from the same 1966 "A Quick One" album and 1979 "The Kids are Alright" movie).

"cello, cello, cello"

- Pete

(you may have to piece together the url's.... they are long ones)

Gem Music Video: A Quick One
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1ku7QNRudg
Happy Jack

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About the video: The Who performing at The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus in 1968
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Best Feedback: Fred

You need to start saving all this for your memoirs.  Great writing

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Also: Jeff

I was wondering how long it would take you to get around to those damned blokes, let alone fullblooded dylan, or jonathan R.  Did I ever get you any of those Dylan XM radio theme time shows?  I think there may have been one or two of them in the last batch of disks.  I have enjoyed that show a lot, listening to some of these comments.

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