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WHO will they be?

June 23, 2015


I think part of the reason why Roger Daltrey (c. 1969) is such a hypnotically sinister stage presence is because of his extreme resemblance to Struwwelpeter, sinister titular character of Heinrich Hoffman’s terrifying compilation of mid nineteenth-century German children’s cautionary tales.  I think when you are introduced to Tommy and Struwwelpeter at roughly the same age, your little brain is going to be irreparably and creatively warped.

Roger Daltrey will not look like this when I go and see The Who tonight.  And Pete Townshend is rather short of hair these days.  Mr Townshend’s guitars will probably survive the evening.  Yet the two of them will still appear on a stage and I will be in the same (very very big) room as them.  I’m more worried for Roger than Pete.  Singing is a more fragile art than playing any instrument.  I wonder if, in his seventies, Roger Daltrey can still do the screamy bit from “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.  (Mind you, I’m amazed that anyone of any age ever has been able to do the screamy bit from “won’t Get Fooled Again”.)  I’ve looked up the likely set list for this “Who hits 50 Tour” (“does that mean the musicians are fifty years old Daddy?” “Er, no.”) and it looks like (potentially) an ordeal.  I feel for them.

I also feel a bit proprietorial about The Who.  I grew up a few streets away from Pete Townshend and not too far away from Roger Daltrey.  I think of their streets as my streets.  And they can still send shivers up my spine.  As a band, they have a claim to be the most virtuoso performers of songs which may actually be about something other than their own virtuosity.  The Who are a place where style and substance actually meet and hang around together for long enough to have some sort of conversation.  Other bands may be more truthful and a few bands may have been more dazzling but no band has ever dazzled with truth quite like The Who.

I’m enjoying my present, the present of my ticket, right now.  Anticipation is everything.  The single most exciting moment in the whole canon of what’s considered the Heroic Age of Rock Music is somewhere amid those twiddly bits that precede the first big chords of “Baba O’Reilly”.  In performance, those twiddly bits may be prolonged or truncated at the band’s own discretion.

I don’t need The Who to live up to my expectations.  All I need is for them to fail to disappoint to the extent that my sense of sublime anticipation can be reactivated for some future equivalent occasion.  These will be my feelings while queuing up tonight.

They are my homies if not my generation.

I hope they don’t die before I get in.


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