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Thread: Pete Townshend on The Who: "We're closer to prog-rock."

  1. #1
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    Pete Townshend on The Who: "We're closer to prog-rock."

    https://www.dallasnews.com/arts-ente...e-who-in-2019/

    Interesting interview with Pete, including this bit:

    What is the biggest misconception about The Who or its music?

    That we are, in any way, a heavy rock band. We can do it, but we're closer to prog-rock than, say, Led Zeppelin.

    On the other hand, there is a part of me that really doesn't give a shit what you think of us. That may be what makes us seem like an old school rock band: We do our best, but if we (expletive) up, so be it.

  2. #2
    Very interesting quote from Pete Townshend. I've always felt that there were Prog influences in The Who's music (especially on Tommy, Who's Next & Quadrophenia) & there was that quote from him calling ITCOTCK an "uncanny masterpiece" when it was released in 1969.

  3. #3
    LinkMan Chain's Avatar
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    Pete's Right
    “Pleasure and pain can be experienced simultaneously,” she said, gently massaging my back as we listened to her Coldplay CD.

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    Member moecurlythanu's Avatar
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    I always saw them as a Hard Rock band. I don't hear much in the way of Prog-Rock in their music, but I don't think I've ever heard Quadrophenia in it's entirety, just the radio staples.

  5. #5
    I think he means that the Who were more ambitious artistically than Led Zeppelin. Which is right in my opinion. No double rock operas for Zep. The latter were more firmly rooted in the blues tradition and their sound relied more on brute force and loudness. The Who could be heavy as hell, but that was just another aspect of their sound.
    As far as I am concerned I don't consider neither to be part of the progressive rock phenomenon. The focus with both was always writing great rock songs, not super complex intellectual music. And they did that better than anybody.

    People who haven't listened to Quadrophenia in its entirety should have their accounts suspended until they make amends. Come on Moe, you're kidding us right?

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    Member since March 2004 mozo-pg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by moecurlythanu View Post
    I always saw them as a Hard Rock band. I don't hear much in the way of Prog-Rock in their music, but I don't think I've ever heard Quadrophenia in it's entirety, just the radio staples.
    I would recommend getting a copy of Quadrophenia and listening to it. It's The Who's masterpiece. If you do, let me know what you think.
    What can this strange device be? When I touch it, it brings forth a sound.

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    Quadrophenia is Prog Rock. For sure. Tommy as well. As for the rest...
    Prog's Not Dead

  8. #8
    I can see where he's coming from, but the more proggy they are the less I like them. To me the real greatness of The Who was in the short pop songs with brilliant lyrics - the likes of I Can See For Miles, Substitute, My Generation and Pictures of Lily. The concept albums I can take or leave really.
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  9. #9
    There was a time when I would have said that Quadrophenia is Prog but I'm not sure. It's really its own thing like the band. The Who are unique in my mind - the musical vehicle of Pete Townshend's anger and angst.
    No matter what anyone says, you are the decider of how you will listen to music.

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    Member Paulrus's Avatar
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    In my "History of Prog" playlist a couple of the earliest tracks are "A Quick One While He's Away" and "Sparks".
    I'm holding out for the Wilson-mixed 5.1 super-duper walletbuster special anniversary extra adjectives edition.

  11. #11
    The Who prog? Well, I've been saying that since 1973 or '4. They were (back then) a band that progressed. Even now they progress at least as much as (say) Yes...
    Maka ki ecela tehani yanke lo!

  12. #12
    I view The Who as a remarkable combination of ferocious, visceral rock music and art rock. In both aspects they were among the pioneers, and Townshend understandably doesn't want to be remembered only for the heavy rock side. After all, there is also that very effective Pop sensitivity.
    I've always liked the fact that Townshend was sincere in his rocking rage and, at the same time, looked at it like a distant observer. The rage is consciously staged, but doesn't feel artificial or doesn't look like posturing to me.
    Last edited by Interstellar; 09-24-2019 at 03:36 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Interstellar View Post
    I've always liked the fact that Townshend was sincere in his rocking rage and, at the same time, looked at it like a distant observer. The rage is consciously staged, but doesn't feel artificial or doesn't look like posturing to me.
    He's too smart to not be self-aware, to not think of the contradictions inherent in what he does, and to not try to make some sense of them. In a way, he's the leading intellectual of rock as purely rock - there's certainly guys as smart as he is, such as Dylan, Fripp, and probably Bruuuuce, but most of them don't simultaneously play music with the kind of ferocity he does and try to figure out what it all means. Dylan, Bruuuuce, and Keith Richards seem to have come to see themselves more as traditional musicians playing folk, R&B, and blues than balls-out rockers; Fripp has positioned himself closer to a sort of jazz or classical figure; and Mick Jagger is a rocker as businessman and purveyor of a brand. Only Pete still tries to be who he once was while also being who he is now.

  14. #14
    Man of repute progmatist's Avatar
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    Pete has been quite innovative. The intro to Baba O'Reily sounds like a synth's arpeggiator, but he's playing it in real time. For the intro to Won't Get Fooled Again, he came up with the idea of running a Hammond B3 organ through a Minimoog filter, set up in sweep mode. That's just on The Who's first groundbreaking album. (Not chronologically first of course).
    "Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?"--Dalai Lama

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    Member lazland's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by moecurlythanu View Post
    I always saw them as a Hard Rock band. I don't hear much in the way of Prog-Rock in their music, but I don't think I've ever heard Quadrophenia in it's entirety, just the radio staples.
    It really is a work of genius, and you simply have to experience it as a whole.

    The narrative still resonates strongly over 45 years on, and much of it is, indeed, something which every prog fan of the 70's can relate to in terms of its musical complexity and ongoing themes.

  16. #16
    Geriatric Anomaly progeezer's Avatar
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    Whether they are/were heavy rock, prog rock, this rock, that rock or even (as some imo foolishly think) schlock rock, they will always be one of a small handful of bands who were so different that no one's been able to successfully imitate them for 50 plus years.

    Being around to hear the release of Tommy and seeing it performed 4 times in one week at Fillmore East is second only to Woodstock in my personal rock history.

    But Mozo's right, Quadrophenia IS their masterpiece, and without listening to it from beginning to end, you'll never appreciate fully just how important and innovative Townshend was (& still is I hope, we'll see).
    "My choice early in life was either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician, and to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference"

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    Quote Originally Posted by miamiscot View Post
    Quadrophenia is Prog Rock. For sure. Tommy as well. As for the rest...
    You beat me to it.

  18. #18
    Beyond the fact that Quadrophenia is in my opinion their pinnacle musically, it also holds for me a special place because of it's themes not feeling a part of anything, estranged from family and friends, depressed, seeking something that's just beyond reach, craving love.

    On the dry and dusty road
    The nights we spend apart alone
    I need to get back home to cool, cool rain
    I can't sleep and I lay and I think
    The night is hot and black as ink
    Oh God, I need a drink of cool, cool rain
    Then it goes into one of the most beautiful musical sequences in all of their music and I'm reduced to tears.
    No matter what anyone says, you are the decider of how you will listen to music.

  19. #19
    Member Paulrus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baribrotzer View Post
    He's too smart to not be self-aware
    If anything he's a bit too self-aware. I was watching some interviews with him from back in the 90s and after a while I was thinking, "OK, just shut up and smash your guitar already!"
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  20. #20
    I wouldn’t call them prog, but they were definitely progressive in the way that they integrated synthesizers and other electronic sounds into their music in a way that distinguished them from earlier rock bands. They were highly influential in their sonic experimentation and even today many bands have failed to play catch-up. I think that they were more “progressive” than a lot of the “prog related” bands on that other site, frankly.
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    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mozo-pg View Post
    I would recommend getting a copy of Quadrophenia and listening to it. It's The Who's masterpiece. If you do, let me know what you think.
    Absolutely... and I can't even think how great Lifehouse might've been had they succeeded in releasing it, seeing how fantastic Next is.

    Quote Originally Posted by miamiscot View Post
    Quadrophenia is Prog Rock. For sure. Tommy as well. As for the rest...
    I'd included in there Next and to a lesser extent WAY, which IMHO has a loose concept of the state of music at that point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mascodagama View Post
    I can see where he's coming from, but the more proggy they are the less I like them. To me the real greatness of The Who was in the short pop songs with brilliant lyrics - the likes of I Can See For Miles, Substitute, My Generation and Pictures of Lily. The concept albums I can take or leave really.
    ICSFM is pre-figuring Tommy, IMHO. Too bad it was never part of a full-blown album.

    Quote Originally Posted by Interstellar View Post
    I view The Who as a remarkable combination of ferocious, visceral rock music and art rock. In both aspects they were among the pioneers, and Townshend understandably doesn't want to be remembered only for the heavy rock side. After all, there is also that very effective Pop sensitivity.
    I've always liked the fact that Townshend was sincere in his rocking rage and, at the same time, looked at it like a distant observer. The rage is consciously staged, but doesn't feel artificial or doesn't look like posturing to me.
    Indeed, I would enclose them under the more recent definition of "art rock" (as opposed to the 70's, when it meant basically what became "prog" in the 90's)

    And yes, the band's rebellious rage never seemed like posturing to me either... Of course signing My Generation at 45 could've been seen as "poseur", but avoiding it was impossible (not sure they would've wanted it too)

    Quote Originally Posted by progeezer View Post
    But Mozo's right, Quadrophenia IS their masterpiece, and without listening to it from beginning to end, you'll never appreciate fully just how important and innovative Townshend was (& still is I hope, we'll see).
    well that new track has got me excited, much more than EW ever managed.
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Splicer View Post
    Then it goes into one of the most beautiful musical sequences in all of their music and I'm reduced to tears.
    A perfectly sensible reaction.

    Quote Originally Posted by progeezer View Post
    that no one's been able to successfully imitate them for 50 plus years.
    Correct. It's like a stream that no other boats could sail in. And it reached the sea

    Quote Originally Posted by Trane View Post

    ICSFM is pre-figuring Tommy, IMHO. Too bad it was never part of a full-blown album.
    Isn't The Who Sell Out a full-blown album? Or is it in only in later editions?

  23. #23
    The double albums "Lifehouse" and "Quadrophenia" certainly appear to be prog rock now, but there was so much prog rock going on at that time, that The Who weren't seen that way.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Splicer View Post
    Beyond the fact that Quadrophenia is in my opinion their pinnacle musically, it also holds for me a special place because of it's themes not feeling a part of anything, estranged from family and friends, depressed, seeking something that's just beyond reach, craving love.

    On the dry and dusty road
    The nights we spend apart alone
    I need to get back home to cool, cool rain
    I can't sleep and I lay and I think
    The night is hot and black as ink
    Oh God, I need a drink of cool, cool rain

    Then it goes into one of the most beautiful musical sequences in all of their music and I'm reduced to tears.
    There are several astonishing lyrical moments in Quadrophenia. If I had to pick one it would be from "The Real Me". In the middle of a song that is basically a teenager whining about how "nobody understands me", there's a breakdown to lovely bass lines and this:

    The cracks between the paving stones
    look like rivers of flowing veins.
    Strange people who know me
    peeping from behind every window pane.
    The girl I used to love lives in this yellow house.
    Yesterday she passed me by - she doesn't want to know me now!
    Maka ki ecela tehani yanke lo!

  25. #25
    Member Paulrus's Avatar
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    I'm probably in the minority, but I don't actually bemoan the fact that Lighthouse never happened. Yes, it would have been nice to have an album where all those songs were collected together instead of having to chase down every collection b-sides, rarities, etc. But I've read a pretty complete synopsis of the story behind Lighthouse and, well... let's just say it was of its time.
    I'm holding out for the Wilson-mixed 5.1 super-duper walletbuster special anniversary extra adjectives edition.

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