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I'm glad that my treatment of "My Generation" was well received. I've
had a long and intimate relationship with that song.
It was first released in 1965, and I still remember the first time I
heard it. I was driving down Pacific Coast Highway, somewhere near
LAX, when it came on the radio. I was so blown away by it that I had
to pull the car over to the shoulder and park until it was over. I
was an instant Who fan.
The following year I was in my first "real" band, with paying gigs
and all, and two of my bandmates had some folk musician friends name
Sandy and Jeannie Darlington, who had been buskers in London and got
to know Pete Townshend. Pete would sometimes send these folks dubs of
his home demo tapes, and I got to hear versions of his new material
before it was released. Imagine the thrill of hearing "I Can See for
Miles" as recorded by Pete Townshend alone in his livingroom!
In 1968 I had a particular thrill when our band was booked to open
for the Who in the Boston Music Hall. They weren't particularly "big"
yet, having just three albums out. They were traveling with only two
roadies, one of them a short little cockney fellow named "Sweaty" and
the other a young American lad who made sure we knew he was Jim
Morrison's brother. Of the band members themselves, Pete and Roger
Daltrey were quite sociable, while John Entwhistle and Keith Moon
were aloof. What first broke the ice was that Pete noticed we'd been
smoking joints and asked to buy our roaches (naturally we gave him
whatever we had). Then we mentioned the Sandy and Jeannie connection
and things got even more relaxed. We learned that they were working
on a new rock opera about a deaf, dumb, and blind boy (they played
"Pinball Wizard" that night). Also it happened that there was a
feature story on Pete in the current Rolling Stone, and he paged
through it making comments about the various photos in the spread
("pensive," "earnest," that sort of thing). It got quite chummy. We
even made plans for Pete and Roger to come out to our band house
after the concert.
That never happened. They'd been on the road too long, and Keith Moon
was especially road-crazy. He'd been drinking already and by the time
they got to their second set he was totally manic. When they reached
the climactic destructo-rama bit where they'd smash up all the
instruments, Keith went a few steps beyond theater and REALLY got
into it. He started throwing his drums into the audience, and this
incited a near-riot as fans tried to climb up on the stage. Sweaty
was in the orchestra pit throwing drums back up on the stage and fans
back into the audience. He had a lot of upper body strength for a
little guy. Finally Keith staggered off the stage, kicking over our
drummer's kit on the way, and smashed his hand through a window. He
cut himself rather badly in the process, and since the band had a gig
in Central Park in New York the following day, Pete begged off and
they took care of Keith.
I've seen the Who perform a couple of times since then, once doing
Tommy in its entirety at the Boston Tea party and another time on a
double bill with the Grateful Dead, but I never did get chummy with
them like that night. My own musical career went on from rock to
electronic music, and then in 1978 I learned of Keith Moon's death.
My immediate impulse was to make a tape piece out of My Generation,
accentuating the stuttering effects and highlighting Keith's manic
drumming. Unfortunately my composition teacher had other ideas of how
to further my compositional education and I put aside the idea - that
is until last weekend!
By the way - a few years ago I got ancient enough to join AARP
(American Association of Retired Persons) and in addition to the
hotel discounts and other benefits I was privileged (and embarrassed)
to receive their monthly "Modern Maturity" magazine, which basically
tells you how groovy it is to be old and in the way. Last year they
must have figured out that this message wasn't quite coming across to
the influx of new Boomer members, so they started a new magazine with
a hipper style and message. The title: "My Generation"
Richard Zvonar, PhD