Pete Townshend’s post-Cincinnati remarks were and are disturbing, which is no surprise because his life was falling apart.
But that’s also no excuse.
Neither is “He’s an artiste” — except that he is.
Again, reasons aren’t necessarily alibis.
Townshend’s never had a “tact filter” anyhow, and excessive brandy consumption does nothing to help create one.
Revisiting the notorious Rolling Stone interview with Greil Marcus, I was most struck by this, however:
The other side of it is worth mentioning: the fact that the Who don’t just get their strength from wearing armor. We did go home, and we did think about it, and we talked about it with our families and our friends. I went home to about ten letters, from the families of the kids who’d died: letters full of deep, deep affection and support and encouragement. It wasn’t like these people were being recriminatory. The father of the girl who died who had two children was writing to say that it would hurt him, the family, the friends of the family and friends of the girl, if they knew that because of what happened, because of her death, we changed our feelings about rock. They understood her feelings about the band, and about the music – you know what I’m saying?
We actually left the States – I know Roger and I had a long conversation about it – with an incredible feeling of, without being mordant about it, of love for the American people. Everybody had been so positive, and so supportive and understanding – even to the point where people would come up to me and say, “We know it wasn’t your fault.” And to some extent it was our fault. It’s not exactly the way the Cronkite report made it look, but there was a great share of responsibility there, and people were so willing to – not so much to forgive, but firstly to get us back into shape, so that perhaps it was possible for us to behave in a truly realistic, responsive way about the whole thing.
In his memoir, Townshend acknowledges some of his mistakes, but not all of them. I expect the “bread and butter” comment is too painful to dredge up, even in an autobiography as candid as his.
(Note: WKRP In Cincinnati is now available on DVD. Most of the music rights were finally sorted out, but not all, I hear. Not sure where they stand vis this episode. They pointedly use “Sympathy for the Devil,” of course. But they barely name-check The Who. Would love to know who was behind that.)
By request, one of the most famous episodes from the second season: “In Concert,” written and aired soon after the 1979 The Who Concert in Cincinnati where several fans were trampled to death. Steven Kampmann, one of the writers, felt that as a show about rock radio in Cincinnati they couldn’t avoid dealing with the event, so he came up with this story. Hugh Wilson was reluctant to do it initially, but agreed to do the episode if they could take a stand against the “festival seating” that caused the tragedy (since that would give the episode a purpose and not make it exploitative). Originally the caption at the end of the episode was supposed to chide other cities for not following Cincinnati’s example in banning festival seating, but CBS refused to allow that and changed the caption to something less controversial.
Music: “The Wait” by The Pretenders; “Sympathy For the Devil” by The Rolling Stones, and in the final scene, “Remembering the Rain” by Bill Evans.