The Who # 10 Pete Townshend
by Regis Boff
It was not easy to laugh at Pete Townshend. We did but almost always behind his back. He was not self-deprecating. That would have been a pointless exercise to him.
Being in the general sphere of fame changes you in an odd way. Even if you were, as I was, nobody at all. It is true that you could not be awed by them and last very long. They did not want from you that flattery and sycophancy. People were quickly made to disappear who were only fans.
The art that you make has little to do with what you really are. Some will scream, “liar” at this observation, but I think it is true. No human personality is art unless that person is in a state of constant performance. Hidden in these frail words is why The Who made me feel like I had achieved something after those many years.
Touring is a very insular thing. The immediate traveling party was very small. Some of the working people had been with them throughout their careers. The balance comprised deep friends or transient girls.
I could not have been more neurotic my first tour. I had no interest in even talking to the band. One of the first things Pete ever said to me was, “I am going to make you cry.”
We would generally lease a Lear jet for a tour. There was no first class and typically there was a bar with food and “air hostesses.” Sometimes there was a room at the rear with a bedroom.
I would traipse to the rear of the plane and set up all the contracts on the table to go over the settlements and count money. I was left mostly alone.
What people say about drugs and alcohol on rock tours is true. Deplaning after a long trip resembled steering people from one event to another in an assisted care facility.
I did not drink on the plane. I had dosed off. John Entwistle threw a glass of bourbon in my face. He said nothing just turned and walked back to his seat in the front of the cabin. Everyone was dead silent. I am not at all certain now what I thought. In about five minutes I went to the bar, still soaked, took a bottle of gin, walked up behind him and poured it over his head. I went back to my seat. He came back again and threw something else on me. He said, “We are done now.” He was my first friend in the band.
So back now to Pete. He could be adorable. He shows up in America for one winter tour with this fucking gigantic bed of a coat. He did not particularly endorse bright, hot sun but his lack of sympathy to cold had till then never come to mind. Townshend is tall and this thing went from neck to shoes. It had to have been four inches thick with enough feathers inside to have driven into extinction whichever species of bird had filled it. What made this coat truly a poor purchase was that there was no way to close it around him. It had no buttons, clasps or belt. It had to be held shut. I suspect Pete discovered this flaw only after he had deplaned into America.
Not that Pete was inclined to carry anything regularly, but the sheer puffiness of this thing made any dexterity comic. He had to remove it to get into the limousine. The coat lasted, what we thought, given that Pete’s impatience was legendary, a long time. Had the world ended in ice as T.S Elliot posed as a possibility during that tour, some of our tearful laughter at him might have been marginally subdued. But it was very funny.