…but most of all, the who!
This story begins with a new listening cycle that started in late January or early February. It reached a milestone in late June, with a concert. I can see by now that it has no end.
I guess I wasn’t ready for the Who until now. I have many guesses as to why that would be the case, concerning both nature and nurture; I’ll be exploring those in posts to come. But I have not stopped listening to them all year, which means I have not stopped writing about them all year, and to a certain in-group of unfortunates I have not stopped talking about them all year. The AI placed a couple of choice tracks in my path last winter, then I waded in a bit farther, then I fell and hit my head. That’s how it always goes for me, and yet it somehow took me by surprise. I read their entire Wikipedia page in one night, and let me tell you how unprepared I was for that ride. It was an every-other-paragraph-made-me-go-WHAT kind of evening.
I struck up a running dialogue with a close friend who, in April, alerted me that the Townshend-Daltrey caravan was coming to Berlin in the summertime. It remains difficult for me not to believe that I conjured this tour through the sheer power of my imagination, never mind that it’s been ongoing in some form or other since 2019. What else could explain my preemptive dependency? Algorithms and luck?? Anyway, we snapped up tickets, and you will shortly hear about every detail of that evening that I have retained, which is, let’s be honest, most details.
That I was able to see them live so soon after dedicating myself to the sect really amounts to a miraculous cherry on top. All along, the research I’ve accumulated (the sundae, to build out that metaphor) entertains me endlessly. Pete Townshend has not shut up for nearly sixty years, and yet we may know very little of what he really thinks. If I’ve learned anything about his relationship to the press and the public, it’s not to trust a word he says. What he sings you can believe, because you can tell he believes it, but the rest is fair game. He might be the most unreliable narrator in rock and roll. Or maybe not unreliable so much as contrarian. Or do the two work in tandem? However you slice it, it’s a feat in an industry full of people contradicting themselves.
But what I’ve been doing above all is listening. And I gotta say, the more I listen, the more deeply I appreciate the chance to cultivate a relationship to this band in my adult years. The catalogue is so fraught with the agonies of childhood and adolescence that I think it would have been a bit too much to be latching on in the thick of that time of my life. Besides, there’s no shortage of ways in which I’m currently growing up. At least I can match the sounds to the feelings in my personal domicile where no one beyond the people of my choosing will be bothered. I can have my own private revolution. (Status update: the new boss is very much the same as the old boss.)
I also have more of a musical education to go on, and while I’m only just phasing out the honeymoon era wherein I say wow heart-eyes emoji to everything I see and hear, I’m better able to pinpoint what gets that reaction out of me. For this I must also credit the online fandom, because Who fans on the internet are top-shelf. The YouTube commenters can articulate exactly why they respond to certain musical choices, lyrical ideas, physical cues, usw. (the German form of ‘etc.’); the fanfiction writers are open and unapologetic about the desires the band excite in them; and the whole community sets the bar for me.
So this marks the start of a series, akin to the Stones one. I’ll be meditating on different aspects of the group and their work that fascinate me and infuriate me and smite me. In both the sense of being smitten and of smiting: love and violence, which they possess in equal measure. I’ll intersperse unrelated posts because my brain is like that, but it’s gonna be a theme. Strap in.
Image: Caption this photo. I’ll start: “Okay, you guys, this is not what I meant by ‘roleplaying.'”