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Who are You, Pete?

Townshend is no doubt one of the last people to say the personal, the political and the artistic have nothing to do with each other.
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I was lucky enough to be able to interview Pete
Townshend of The Who recently -- along with pretty much anyone else
remotely interested in the band's latest effort style="font-style:italic;">Endless Wire, truth be told -- for
href="">Morphizm, and you knew I
was going to ask him a few political questions. And Townshend is no
doubt one of the last people to say the personal, the political and
the artistic have nothing to do with each other: From "My Generation"
to "We're Not Gonna Take It" to "Won't Get Fooled Again" and beyond,
his songs have been concerned with how individuals move within and
without the political and economic spheres in which they reside or
die. And he's made a serious, pardon the pun, killing off of the whole

But it felt weird to hear Townshend sounding the alarm on Iran during
our interview, as if he was a mere cipher for the neocolonial,
neoconservative dogma that has so far done nothing for anyone other
than make the world a fucked-up place to live. And to put the tangle
of terrorism at the feet of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Saddam, or fucking
Emperor Palpatine while pushing off the efforts of his native UK and
his adopted US cash cow as righteous efforts to pursue truth, justice
and Western civilization...well, let's just say my neck hurts from the
double takes and the double talk.

But here is our exchange, for those who want to form their own
judgments about The Who's increasingly rightward politics, no small
matter considering Endless
tackles the Beslan hostage crisis, the war on terrorism,
and, what else, the decline of Western civ. I'm sorry for the title of
the piece, but I couldn't help it. Plus, it was a direct quote from

Pearl Harbour: An Interview with Pete Townshend

"I'm not a shoot-first-ask-questions-later survivalist by any means,
but I grew up in a neighbourhood where every second house was a
bombsite -- a little like downtown Baghdad today. I have no heart for
war, but I have no heart either to stand quietly waiting for someone
to kill everyone in my neighbourhood before I look to protect myself.
It is a tricky time for the West. The rules have changed. Don't get
fooled again folks..." href="">MORE

The interview is a shorty for sure, but it has some choice quotes,
including the one above. And since I'm a new-school journo, I'm not
too concerned about coloring your perception of Pete or his insanely
awesome band, because I'm not buying what he's selling. Because if the
rules have indeed changed for the West, as he says, then the Bush
doctrine of preemptive shock and awe (read: baseless military
aggression resulting in tens of thousands dead) would itself be null
and void. We've been attacking the shit out of whoever we want ever
since we could, and I'm having a hard time seeing how that's changed
at all. If anything, the West's enemies -- terrorists, insurgents and
others who have thrown out the rules of engagement -- have learned
that guerilla warfare without borders is the only thing that's going
to give them a chance. And we can't bitch about that, because without
the same tactics we would probably still be a United Kingdom colony.
And who knows? We might be paying Townshend even more tributes -- uh,
I mean royalties -- than ever.

Not that he'd have a problem with that. Morphizm pal Andy Hermann, who
manages the Artist Direct site, href=",,3833778,00.html"
target="blank">had an interview with Pete as well
who didn't?), and I read something there that drove this all home for
me. When asked what he missed most when he was on the road, Pete
responded with this laundry list:

"My home books, the view from my house, my nifty built-in
wardrobes, my old Airstream bus, my classic sailing yacht (that seems
to win most of its races while I am somewhere else), my little VW
Lupo. It's all serious luxury stuff. I know how to live. But even dogs
are expensive, especially when they're sick."

Sick dogs. That about covers it for me. You're welcome to your own
opinion, of course, but after reading about Pete Townshend's concern
for his wealth and the heathens that jeopardize it in more than one
place, I can't help thinking of the lyrics to "We're Not Gonna Take
It" more differently ever:

"Right behind you, I see the millions.
On you, I see the glory.
From you, I get opinions.
From you, I get the story."

That story seems to change the more The Who nail commercial
endorsements and tour sponsorships. Just remember that when you drop
your hard-earned money to listen to Pete wax philosophical about
politics and terror as he poignantly longs for his Airstream and
classic sailing yacht.

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