Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Who

Quadrophenia came out in 1973, and was popular when I was a freshman in high school. It reached #2 on the US charts, but was unable to bump Elton's Yellow Brick Road. That was the highest The Who ever got on the Billboard album chart. They never had a #1, which I find amazing, considering Who's Next. I'd been introduced to The Who by my older brothers by 6th or 7th grade; Tommy and Who's Next were in the album rotation already. I think back on it now and realize that I grew up with the Stones, the Who, Zep, the Beatles,...when they were in their 20s. They seemed older than that, at the time. They seemed so much older than me. In hindsight, I realize they weren't. I was 14 year old, but the Beatles were just kids too.

By 1989 I'd become a hard core Who fan. If I had to say, The Who got more of my musical attention than any other band, ever. So I was pretty fucking excited when I heard The Who were going to tour that summer, The Kids are Alright Tour. Thanks to a close friend at Northwestern, I learned about something called The Alpine Valley Music Club. She handed me a brochure at a law school event, and I just glanced at the thing. Classic double-take, I saw "The Who"- August- I don't remember the dates...7-8-9....three shows. And here was the best part....Members of the Alpine Valley Music Club were given 2 weeks advance availability...2 weeks to buy tickets before they went on sale to the general public.

Done. Paid an extra $40 to join the club, just to buy Who tickets. Never used the membership again.

Moon was dead by then of course, Kenny Jones was on drums. Ox was still alive. This was around the same time that Roger rented an apartment at The Grand Ohio, where I lived, and ....well there's no other way to say it,....he lived down the hall from me for a few months. He was in town shooting some movie, for the life of me I can't remember what it was called...I think he was playing a thief. I only saw him a few times around the building, once in the elevator, and then he moved out. To be honest about it, I would have preferred Pete. Now that would have been cool. (While I think Roger's voice is incomparable and will always be the sound of The Who, by 1989 it was pretty well trashed.)

Thanks to the Alpine Valley Music Club, I had pavilion seats for all 3 shows that August. Alpine Valley is up in Wisconsin. By winter a baby ski hill, by summer it's plays and concerts and what not. It's about a 90 minute drive from Chicago. My brother-in-law Eddie, easily the hardest core of the hard core Who fans, went with me for all 3 shows. Like most outdoor concert venues, Alpine has actual seats in the front and then a large slope of grass behind it. Like a big baseball diamond with the stage being at home plate, seats filling the infield, with a roof over it, and then the fanning out of the large grass area as the outfield, and it's all sloped for max visibility to those in the way back. I've had grass seats at Alpine for other shows, and it's wonderful. Blanket, candles, cooler, cocktails and snacks. (Like Jack at Ravinia)

But for The Who, we were 22 rows up. Assigned seats. The whole deal. At a perfect level, and the speakers might as well have been pointed at us. For those who have never attended a Who concert, let alone 3 of them in 3 days, it's worth mentioning that the speakers, the sound system,'s loud.

Very very loud.

This-One-Goes-To-11 kind of loud.

I was not prepared. By the second night, I was considering ear plugs. There was a persistent ringing in my ears from the first show, and I still had two to go. I knew about Pete's hearing. Tinnitus. I decided not to plug my ears, and eventually the ringing went away, but it took weeks. 3 of the greatest shows I've ever seen. Pink Floyd will always hold the top spot with the Animals Tour, but The Kids are Alright ain't far behind. They were on their game, and I'll never forget it for as long as I live.

Where was I ? Oh yeah, the last time I saw The Who. 1989. Since then, Ox blew up his heart with cocaine in 2002, Pete's had a few issues with the law over questionable material downloaded on the internet, and Roger's voice is 23 years older. Dude's got wrinkles that could serve as business card holders. But I'm still a fan.

And, they're going to do Quadrophenia again. You gotta be shitting me.� Tickets go on sale July 27th for a November 29th show at the Allstate Arena. I can't make up my mind. I don't know if my ears can take one more night of that.

Not sure who's on the drum kit, and I don't know who's on bass (although Entwistle is a tough act to follow.)

I'm 52. Pete Townshend is 67. Roger Daltry is 68.

Never mind all that "Hope I die before I get old" shit fellas. We're old.

68 Roger...68....are you sure you want to try this?

1 comment:

Isonomist said...

Ha. I can still remember the first time I heard Baba O'Reilly. I was babysitting the local veterinarian's kids, in the kitchen doing their dishes (I was that kind of babysitter) with a rabbit carcass thawing in the other half of the double sink. It felt for that few minutes like the radio saw me.