Monday, May 18, 2009

Pete Townshend on Pete Townshend

Long open interview in The Times with Mr Townshend where he discusses Quadrophenia and the up-coming stage version. Some samples (Link):
But the supporting structure of music theatre somehow began to show itself like a manifesting ghost in early British rock. The Beatles larked about like Arthur Askey in a panto; Ray Davies exalted the glamour of the working-class world; The Who wrote songs about growing up that with a few word changes could have been squeezed into My Fair Lady. Music theatre, and its bastard brother music hall, had created and inhabited most of the venues that early British pop bands used to play in. You simply couldn't get away from the idea that it might come back one day, and of course it has. The musicals of the late 1950s - especially those by Lionel Bart - did try to anticipate what rock soon arrived to do. But Lionel himself told me once that he was just two or three years too old to understand what had been coming - it reminds me today of my anticipation of punk in the early 1970s. I knew something needed to happen, and I knew it would be subversive, but I couldn't see how it would take shape.

Austin Powers has done a lot of damage to the image of swinging London, parodying what had already been parodied by lazy American newsreels over the years. So in a sense my mission is to bring back some of the greyness, the bleakness of those years, and demonstrate to the cast that what happened simply had to happen, otherwise we would all have gone nuts. It wasn't an optional outing of boys playing on scooters; it was a vital rebellion.

Where the Mod movement looks shallow today is in its lack of political, social or ecological interest. But you have to understand that after the ban-the-bomb movement and the failure of anti-apartheid, and then the Cuban missile crisis, young people felt their input was pointless. Fashion, music and daily life was elevated to a form of aloof poetry and was very much a secret society.


Have you ever been to see a rock musical based on a back-catalogue?

I live inside one. Musicals based on back-catalogues are becoming a saturated market. How can rock musicals avoid being watered-down exercises in asset-stripping?


What's next after the internet?

Compulsory electronic body implants linked to Gordon Brown's base station.

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