Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 163: “Who the f**k are you?”

On Saturday 18th August 1979, I was one of over 80,00 who were at Wembley Stadium to see The Who, reformed, headlining a concert bill that boasted AC/DC, The Stranglers and Nils Lofgren as support acts; all for the princely sum of £8.00 (including VAT)!!

This was The Who’s biggest outing since Keith Moon’s death, Kenny Jones, ex of The Faces, sitting in his seat. I found a recorded recollection of the day on the net, which describes the event as being awash with booze, and it was, this was a time and place when you could still bring your own alcohol (and drugs) to outdoor venues. The report I read, referred to one or two outbreaks of violence, describing The Who’s fans as “no shrinking violets”, a fair appraisal. I mean, I’m by no stretch of the imagination a violent person but ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ gets my dander up today especially when I hear it used as the theme to whatever that CSI programme is?!

Nils Lofgren, a journeyman guitarist of the time did his usual stage somersault party-piece, The Stranglers - who should have been better - were average, but then the fire that was punk rock was all but extinguished by the summer of 1979. AC/DC, on the other hand, ripped that corner of north-west London apart.

My relationship with The Who, dates back to 1970 and the Idle of Wight “pop festival”; don’t let me mislead you, I wasn’t there, but as an eleven yaer-old boy, I have distinct memories of being with my parents down at Southsea sea front, watching the “hippies” board the ferries bound for the IOW. I don’t have many regrets in life, but IF ONLY, I could have broken free and sprinted for one of those boats, life would have been psychedelically different, if only for the briefest of moments.

My brother then bought the The Who’s milestone album Who’s Next and in 1974, the the notorious Ken Russell shot his film version of Tommy, in and around Portsmouth and Southsea (my home town), On June 11th, seven days after my 16th birthday, they nearly burnt down South Parade Pier, the ornate, confectionery of an English seaside pier. That’s what happens when you put the late Oliver Reed and the late Keith Moon within intimate drinking and roistering distance of each other I guess.

In the film, the delicious Ann Margaret has a famous scene in which she slithers around in chocolate, making her even more of a delicacy, Elton John was the pinball champ defeated by Tommy. Tina Turner was the Acid Queen, Keith Moon was slimy Uncle Ernie and Eric Clapton was the Preacher.

For the course of the shoot, my hometown was rife with rumours of unannounced, secret gigs being played by Clapton et al, at holiday camps on nearby Hayling Island, not that I got to see any of them.

Keith “Moon the Loon” Moon died on the 7th September, 1978. The story goes that he was dining out at Peppermint Park in Covent Garden (a haunt of mine some years later) with Paul and Linda McCartney and then returned to a loaned flat of Harry Nilsson’s in Mayfair (in which Mama Cass Elliot had died four years earlier) and took some pills prescribed to him to alleviate his alcohol withdrawal symptoms....only trouble is, Moonie took 32 of them.

'Who Are You', Keith Moon’s final album as part of the band, was released a couple of weeks before his death. For me, it was The Who’s last real musical hurrah, this from the band that had fuelled my youth with those albums mentioned, plus 1973’s ode to “Jimmy”, Quadrophenia.

John Entwistle (aka The Ox) was found dead in Vegas’s Hard Rock Hotel, eight years ago now, after a night with a stripper/groupie, a death brought on by a cocaine-induced heart attack. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend kick on, even releasing a new album in 2006. Despite it reaching the Top 10 in both the UK and US charts, I confess to having no interest.

I don’t know that as the headline act that day at Wembley, thirty-one years ago, that they were the best band; that gong probably goes to AC/DC, but I’m glad that I saw them before I and the remaining members of the band got old. When indcuted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, Time magazine said this: “No other group has ever pushed rock so far, or asked so much from it.”

The kids were indeed alright.

Day #163 Tip: What was I thinking?
One of the many books that I have on screenwriting is, enticingly, called ‘How To Write A Movie In 21 Days’ (Viki King, Harper & Row). Of course I bought it, with a title like that. Not much has stuck in my mind from that book, aside from one idea, which is that our age reveals - in our writing - the different things that are on our mind. Ms King posits the following;

At age 17 your film might be about first love, “at 19 the theme tends to be ‘so what’s the big deal anyway?’. Early 20’s, “I’m okay and the world is terrible”, “in your 30’s you will have theme involving your relationship with either your father or mother”. Late 30’s and “you want to come true” before your 40’s.

In our 40’s, apparently, we’re “strutting our stuff”, 50’s is “now what” and a “big shift in thinking” and 60’s is a time of “memory” and reflection.

I seemed to have reached the “memory and reflection” stage a little prematurely if this blog is anything to go by. However, I think it’s interesting to pay attention to the shifting sands of the ideas and themes that change and occupy us as the years move along.

In The Who’s first incarnation in the early 1960’s they gave voice to their preoccupation of “I hope I die before I get old”. They did age: two of them did die before getting old and I guess, the remaining too are seniors: Pete Townsend is now 65 and, presumably, drawing a pension, whilst Roger Daltrey is one year older. But, their musical themes in “the day”, my day, were in tune with those of mine, as a young man, which basically, were sex, drugs, drink, rock n’ roll.

“Tommy, can you hear me?”

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