Billy Corgan on Pete Townshend: "Suffering No Fools" (Expanded)
The Who appear on the current cover of Relix in a feature that includes an interview with Pete Townshend as well as many musicians’ memories of the group. We previously presented Widespread Panic bassist Dave Schools’ thoughts on John Enwistle, Phish drummer Jon Fishman’s take on Keith Moon, the memories of Bob Weir and Warren Haynes and The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne. Here is an expanded version of Billy Corgan’s thoughts on Townshend and The Who.
Photo by Neal Preston
I remember when I was little, listening to a 7” of “Pinball Wizard” my cousin had and loving the guitar. The thing that sticks out in my mind about the first time I heard “Pinball Wizard” was how different it sounded than all the other bands. It was powerful but it wasn’t like what you were used to hearing. Even now, The Who’s music strikes me as really distinctive. The language and the way they play together are so unique. I remember thinking that at the time.
My relationship with The Who, in a personal way- where the music meant something to me personally- that took time. They were on the radio of course and the songs were everywhere. I knew who they were and I would see things on TV in the ‘70s. I never had that personal connection until I was about 18 when I got Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy.
If you listen to Pete’s songs without the band—lately I’ve been listening to the Quadrophenia demos that came in that box set—the music is not as rugged or aggressive. There’s something about Pete’s introspective songwriting meeting the street thuggery of the band that I think, to a young a man, you identify with its fighting spirit. It’s an existential identification as opposed to let’s say the punk ethos of the Sex Pistols. The Sex Pistols, to me, sounded like fighting music. The Who sounded like “I’m trapped in something and I’m not really sure what to do but I’m going to kick my way out of here” kind of music. It had a different emotional resonance to it: the lyrics, the feelings, even the different periods of the band. Of course, the more I’ve listened, the more you realize there’s a real depth there that you can’t easily quantify. Particularly in modern music where so much music is sort of a one-note Johnny kind of thing. The depth of The Who is almost shocking compared to modern music.
I identify with Pete because of the superior songwriting. I know him a little bit personally, and certainly that helps, but I think that his forward thinking in terms of where music was headed and his spiritual willingness to set him into something that was very ahead of its time.
I’ve often said that, in many ways, The Who was probably the closest blueprint to my band as far as introspective singer/songwriter finds aggressive, ever melting down rock vehicle to perpetrate his wares. In a way, even more so when I was in the Pumpkins in the ‘90s, I identified with The Who even more because I really felt like I understood what Pete was expressing interpersonally about what he was going through as a person and then his experience in a band that couldn’t be controlled.
Even in their poppy, ‘60s incarnation, The Who weren’t cuddly. There was a kind of a smirking, snotty punk thing. I think to an accommodating class—rock and roll has become about accommodation more than anything else—the message is too complex; the history too non-linear. The enduring legacy of some of the things that Pete helped create that can stand on a Broadway stage. I think for your normal punter, that’s just too deep.
The Howlin’ Brothers take to the Relix rooftop and share a song they wrote with Warren Haynes.
Beth Hart shares the opening track from her latest album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, live at Relix.
Jamie Lidell sets up in the Relix boiler room and delivers a tune from his 2005 album Multiply
Duane Trucks is happy to announce his new project, King Lincoln. Watch them perform “Coffee” live and acoustic at Relix’s Online-Video Coordinator’s loft in Williamsburg.
Here’s another song from Crystal Bowersox’s new record All That For This, live at Relix.
WYATT share a song in the famed Relix boiler room.
Goodnight, Texas share a song from their latest studio album, A Long Life of Living, live at Relix.
Warren Haynes performs a solo, acoustic version of “Railroad Boy” and explains how he adapted the traditional Celtic song for Gov’t Mule, backstage at the Hangout Music Festival.
Australia’s Alpine recently made their NYC debut at the Relix office with this song from their new album A is for Alpine.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
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