Tag Archives: The Who

Smash palace

Pete Townshend’s career as the avatar of guitar destruction began by accident — during a Who gig in 1964, he broke the headstock of his Rickenbacker on the low Guitar smashceiling and smashed the rest of the instrument in frustration — but once it began he pursued it diligently enough to warrant a Web page devoted solely to his ex-axes. As someone who loves guitars for their sheer beauty as well as their musical qualities, I deplore any such demolition, but it’s particularly painful to see havoc being wrought on a gorgeous Gibson Les Paul Custom, the instrument being maltreated in this poster for the Who movie, The Kids Are Alright. I mean, look at this thing. Why on earth would anybody want to smash something like that? Even if it would make for a great climax on “Won’t Get Fooled Again”?

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Blue Monday

In the years before his death on May 25, 1965, harp virtuoso Sonny Boy Williamson was one of the chief beneficiaries of the British blues craze. He toured the U.K. and Europe on the roster of the American Folk Blues Festival tours, where performers who had been largely forgotten in the U.S. found themelves greeted by cheering crowds, attentive audiences and a level of respect never accorded to black musicians back home.

Williamson stayed in the U.K. for a while, serving as a living touchstone of authenticity for young Brits gutsy enough to approach him. There are early recordings of Williamson performing with the Animals and the Yardbirds during their Eric Clapton-led phase, and I’ve heard that he played at least a couple of gigs with the Moody Blues, who began in 1964 as an R&B obsessed Merseybeat group. Their first album, The Magnificent Moodies, closed with Williamson’s “Bye Bye Bird,” which Williamson performs above and which the Moodies perform below:

This is the era when the Moodies were still led by guitarist Denny Laine. Bassist Clint Warwick had already been replaced with Rod Clarke, and in due course Laine and Clarke would be succeeded by guitarist Justin Hayward and bassist John Lodge. A few years later, Sonny Boy would be replaced by Sgt. Pepper as the band’s key influence, and the rest is prog-rock history.

 I’ve returned to this era few times because, aside from having grown up with the rock music the English developed from their inspirations, I’m fascinated by the idea of teenaged Brits in the Sixties adopting the decades-old music of black Americans for their own. Even the Who, probably the least bluesy sounding band in the classic rock canon (their “Maximum R&B” slogan to the contrary), gave Williamson’s “Eyesight to the Blind” . . .

. . . a place as the only non-band composition on the rock opera Tommy.

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