Pete Townshend of the Who, grabbing air while NOT destroying that Gibson guitar.
I first saw the Who play in 1982, on a hot summer afternoon in Philadelphia. The venue, JFK Stadium, was an old outdoor stadium, so old that there were visible cracks in the cement structure and some concern as to whether the very foundations would withstand the ground-shaking sonic attack in store for us all.
JFK Stadium, 1985. Live Aid. As you can see, it DID survive, only to be slated for demolition 4 years later, after MAJOR cracks were detected following a Grateful Dead show in 1989. I was at that one, too.
The Who were the headliners, the band we all came to see, which is saying something, because the lineup of bands included Santana and the Clash. Santana, a Philly favorite, played a relatively short set. They were great, but the sound wasn’t. It didn’t matter. The crowd showed them a LOT of love. The Clash, on the other hand, did not receive the warmest welcome. Philly crowds are rough. After 2 songs, a sun-baked, drunk, impatient crowd pushed its way up front, inviting the band to leave the stage. This invitation, expressed Philly style, sounded like this: «Get the F**K off the stage! We want the Who! Damn Commies! Reds!!» Red, by the way, is NOT a good color in Philly. Just ask Santa Claus, who, in 1968, was bombarded with snowballs by angry fans during halftime at a Philadelphia Eagles home game. Why were they angry? «Because it’s Philly. Whadda youse guys looking at?» For some idea of what THAT must have been like, here’s a video of a stadium full of Philly fans greeting a couple of San Francisco fans.
Oh, and the Clash didn’t just get hit by a barrage of insults and threats. Those guys got pelted with bottles, cans, lit cigarettes, Philly cheesesteaks and soggy Philly street-pretzels… OK, maybe that’s stretching the truth a bit – it was MOSTLY bottles and cans. But it was ugly. One gentleman, concerned that Joe Strummer wasn’t getting enough vitamin FU nailed him in the face with an apple. Somehow, Joe and his crew finished their set. I don’t think they ever played Philly again.
It was great seeing the Who. They brought energy and gusto to their performance. maybe too much. At one point, Pete fell on his ass and damaged his guitar during a solo. With all the grace and dignity of a coked-up gazelle, he leaped to his feet, tossed the wounded axe over his shoulder and plugged in a new guitar, with just enough time to hit that windmill power chord.
Later, true to form, both he and Entwistle did willfully smack their respective instruments around the stage.
Seats and Souvenirs
I like how it says «No cans / Bottle / Alcohol». Not only did concertgoers sneak all THAT in, but, I’m pretty sure I saw, as Frank Zappa would say, «Whips, chains, and hand grenades»! Eyewitness accounts indicate folks DID use ropes to hoist up cases of beers from outside, over the side of the stadium! American ingenuity at its best!
There were 4 of us: 3 gangly, awkward 16 year old boys and one girl, my best friend’s younger sister, and we were brimming over with anticipation as we entered the stadium. We were about as rocker as you could be at that age, but mostly unfamiliar with the schemes and behavior of the adult rocker. So, when we arrived at our seats, we were confused to see a couple of 30 year-old tough guys occupying them. These guys were smoking, yelling, and taking swigs from a bottle of Jack Daniels. As we prepared to sit down around them, they both got up and told us, in no delicate terms, to go sit elsewhere.
But, friends, the gods of rock n’ roll were with us that day. Being completely ignorant of the inherent dangers of this situation, I suggested one friend go find security, and then I boldly stepped up to the 2 gentlemen and informed them that those seats were ours, and we weren’t going anywhere. Lucky for me, these guys: 1) had a sense of humor, and 2) admitted they didn’t have tickets – they had sneaked in and didn’t want any trouble. So, when the security guy eventually came by (accompanied by our friend, who probably expected to see me all squished and stomped on), we told him there had been a mistake. No guys, no trouble. Afterwards, the 2 guys, who were hiding a few rows up, came back down and sat on the step next to us. And we hung out. It was a win-win.
I don’t remember much about Pete Townshend’s playing that day. But Pete is, in my opinion, a consummate artist. He’s a great composer and lyricist, an innovator on the guitar, he was one of the most dynamic stage performers I ever saw… and he’s a guy who plays and sings with heart. I like what Andy Summers of the Police says about him in Rolling Stone.
So, here’s Pete (vocals and guitar) and the Who with «I’m One» from Quadrophenia.
Here are the chords, for guitar, to Pete’s I’m One.
And, totally unrelated, here are the chords to «Year of The Cat«, by Al Stewart. I think they come closest to the original.
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