I can see for miles

Pete Townsend in full flight. Pic from the The Who's recent Liverpool gig

Pete Townsend in full flight. Pic from the The Who’s recent Liverpool gig

A recent highlight in my life was a rare switching on of the telly to watch The Who perform at Glastonbury. While I’ve really liked the band from its earliest days, I’m sorry to say I have never seen them live, and so watching the latest incarnation at Glasto was probably going to be the best chance for me to redress that. I have to say, I was somewhat trepidatious for their Glastonbury appearance. Pete and Roger’s well-known love/hate relationship is perhaps the archetypal example of the rock-band dichotomy, with the creative genius that is Pete being a notorious perfectionist and very protective of his creative output, while Roger as the front-man and band’s founder has always been a superb showman and a fine singer and musician in his own right. Given the massive egos both of them have, its a wonder that they haven’t killed each other a long time ago, which I’m pretty sure from memory they’ve both admitted to coming very close to several times over the years.

And coupled with that, despite them receiving rave reviews, I may be the only person who was entirely underwhealmed with The Rolling Stones performance at the last Glasto. I’m probably being hypercritical, but my memories of seeing the Stones in their glory days at the early free Hyde Park concerts and at Knebworth have stayed with me, and to me the band seemed sluggish by comparison to those early memories. Worse, the actual band sound seemed quite muddy to my ears.  Mick Jagger is now 72, Charlie Watts is 74, and stories that they now have medical staff on hand, along with oxygen and a defibrillator while on tour, do not sit well with their former well-earned image as the wild men of Rock and Roll. Townsend celebrated his 70th earlier this year and Daltrey is a year older. The other 2 members of the original band are no longer with us.

I needn’t have worried. The Who were, in my opinion, magnificent, even though at one point in the set, Townsend apologised for not  getting the sound perfect due to not having done a sound check.

I had to take a quick mental double-take at that announcement. They sounded bloody brilliant to me. Perhaps Pete had meant to say they hadnt done as full a sound check as he would have liked.

But it seems to me that Daltrey’s insistence on taking full creative control this time round, coupled with his appointment of a Band Head-of-house had paid dividends. And then I came across this piece from The Guardian


Amongst the songs on the night, they performed ‘I can see for miles’ which has always been a big favourite of mine.

Ostensibly written from the perspective of a guy who’s caught his girlfriend cheating on him, I’m of the belief that the song has a double meaning and may well have been the very first psychedelic song ever written.

But Pete has a whole lot of other great pioneering firsts credited to him, including working with Jim Marshall to develop the classic Marshall speaker stack, and he’s also widely thought to be one of the first people to start using feedback as part of his sonic palette, and allegedly showed Jimi Hendrix how its done.

The song was originally written in 1966, a couple of years before Pete started to follow the teachings of Meher Baba. By 1970, Pete was possibly the first rock n roller to publicly state that he no longer considered psychedelic drugs to be a good thing, citing Baba’s teachings in his explanation of his change in attitude. According to his WIKI entry, Pete had been experimenting with LSD during 1967, and the ‘mod’ culture which the Who came to espouse was closely associated with amphetamine use. The word ‘psychedelia’ literally means ‘clear-minded’ but is often mistranslated as ‘clear-seeing’ or ‘clear-sighted’.

Coincidence?  I think not

The Who I can see for miles – live 1969

The Who live at Glasonbury Festival. July 2015

Poster for the 'Magic bus' tour

Poster for the ‘Magic bus’ tour


One comment

  1. Opher · August 4, 2015

    An incredible band. I’ve only seen them live three times and never in their pomp but they were incredible. The original band had four absolutely brilliant performers. You would have thought they would have wilted without the driving force of that powerful John Entwhistle bass and Keith Moon’s drumming and mayhem but they haven’t! Great post Ian.


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