Richard Barnes Interview
The Who: Talkin' 'Bout Their Generation
The Who are currently making their last major tour of the U.S. Their concerts
are naturally selling out wherever they perform and high on the charts is "It's
Hard", (Warner Bros. Records) The Who's latest album.
Also out on the market place is the most in-depth, detailed and painstakingly
researched book you'll find on The Who. Titled "The Who, Maximum R
and B" ( St. Martin's Press), it's written by a close friend of Pete
Townshend - Richard Barnes. Richard first met Pete back in 1961 at the Ealing
Art School in London. They became fast friends and soon shared an apartment.
It was Barnes who designed many of the Who's early posters, and also gave
the group their name.
Of the book, Pete Townshend has written, "I like the book a lot.
This is the kind of book I personally like about bands, not too academic,
full of snaps and gossip and to be absolutely honest, and this hurts me
more than it hurts you, a really close personal view by someone who has
certainly seen more of the ups and downs in my life than anyone else in
the world. Barney has traveled with the band more than any other writer
I know and was really there at the beginning."
You couldn't ask for a better book review than that!
We put some questions to Richard Barnes about the Who, and we think you'll
find his answers to be quite interesting.
Q. How were you able to recall some of the earlier incidents in The Who's
career? Did you keep a diary?
A. There were just some things I remembered. There's probably loads of
things that happened that I'd forgotten. I wish I had kept a diary, not
just for this, it would be a nice thing to do anyway. Lots of things I remembered,
they'd forgotten and were quite surprised when they read them. I haven't
spoken to them about the book yet, except Pete, who I've spoken to on the
phone. They don't remember posing for half the pictures.
Q. What's been the general mood among the band on this tour so far?
A. I called Pete last week and said how's it going? He said it's great,
and the tour was going fantastic. He thought they were playing really well,
and they were getting on well, and weren't finding it a drag. Everybody
seems to be happy and excited about the tour.
Q. Is it true that the band members have fought quite a bit over the years,
and actually dislike each other, and this, in some strange way, has kept
the band together?
A. They certainly fought. The history of the Who has just been a succession
of disagreements and battles within the band. Particularly Pete and Roger.
It's a mystery really how the band has survived twenty years. But of course,
The Who is still arguing and fighting to this day, but not like fist fights.
Q. Pete Townshend has said the music has helped keep the band together
all these years. What do you think about that?
A. Yeah, I should think the money helps too.
Q. Did Pete ever offer you a full-time job with The Who?
A. Very early on. I used to hang around with them all the time. It was
the five of us really, and they said I was gonna run the fan club and be
the road manager then, which I never knew what a road manager was at all.
The manager of The Who said yeah, you can run the fan club, but we want
the profits from it. He thought it was gonna make money and we sort of abandoned
the idea, cause we knew it wasn't gonna make money. The road manager thing
I wasn't that interested in.
Q. How did you come up with the name The Who?
A. They were called The Detours and then on English T.V. there was an
American band called The Detours one evening. I think it was a show band
with trumpets and everything, so they realized they had to change their
name. Pete and I were art students and had an apartment opposite the art
school that we lived in. And after one of their shows, they came back. I
was there and they said we've got to think of a new name. I was regarded
as an ideas man being in art school. We just sat around and came up with
some names. We narrowed it down to a couple of names, The Who, and The Hair,
which Pete thought of, which was a controversial thing at the time, long
hair. The Who was the one that stuck. It made people think. It also gave
all these guys who introduced the band a chance to make a joke out of it,
thus people would remember the name. The other thing, I thought it would
look good on posters, being a designer.
Q. Capitol Recording Artist Steve Miller has remarked, "Everybody
thinks The Who are one of the greatest bands in the world. They really haven't
done that much. I don't think Townshend is much of a guitar player and I
don't think much of their music or their writing. They're just that Gigantic
British Hype. Townshend has spent zillions of dollars on his press." What's
your reaction to that?
A. It's a matter of opinion. I don't really care what anyone's opinion
is on The Who. I'm not out to defend The Who. I'm not particularly an ardent
Who fan. Townshend hasn't spent a lot of money on press. Why I think he's
had a lot of press is that he's quite intelligent and he's also verbose.
He does go on and on and on. For a time, he was like the Darling of Rolling
Stone Magazine 'cause of all his intellectual rock b.s. that Pete can come
out with. Well, it isn't all b.s. I take that back. In fact, I think Pete
talks a lot of sense about rock. If Pete has a fault, he probably says too
much, and therefore contradicts himself. He does actually believe in rock
music like a lot of us do, to a point where it's almost a crusade with him.
He sees it as the art form, he can identify with, and he believes in rock
music passionately. He's done quite a bit to help young rock bands. He's
one of the few superstars of the Sixties and Seventies who's been enthusiastic
about the new wave; you know the new wave in England which is supposed to
kill off bands like The Who. Pete welcomed it openly, and has a great interest
in it. I mean he has an enormous collection of New Wave records.
Q. Did it surprise you when Keith Moon died?
A. It did, because the one thing about Keith dying that struck us all
was that we all expected it. We all knew he was gonna die at sometime or
another. He couldn't go on forever, yet when it happened, we were totally
shocked. Really, Keith should have had a very serious accident or died long
ago, the way he led his life. This myth had grown up that he was indestructible.
Q. Towards the end of his life, he had mellowed out a little bit, hadn't
A. That's true, and that's the sad irony of the whole thing. Keith had
taken great strides to get his drinking under control, and the depression-mania
he got from alcohol withdrawal. One of the ironies was that he actually
died supposedly from overdose from a drug that was prescribed by a doctor
to help him off his alcohol.
Q. Who was responsible for that tragedy in Cincinnati?
A. After that happened; The Who wanted a top level inquiry. We'd met up
with the President's son afterwards in Washington. They were hoping that
even at the presidential level there would be an inquiry into this whole
thing of festival security, and festival seating. It seems that what's happened
now is that it got bogged down in huge litigation, and there's still court
cases going on about that. But there certainly should have been a huge inquiry.
I don't know what more I can say, 'cause it still is going through the courts.
I think the way kids are treated at concerts in the States is pretty bad.
They're actually treated like animals, as Rolling Stone Magazine said, and
yet they're the ones that pay to keep these stadiums going. There should
be some kind of power there to go along with their economic power. They
deserve better than being treated like animals.
Q. You write in the book that at one point Pete
Townshend was having some rough times and "nobody had the nerve to tell him what a fool he was
making of himself." When you're as rich and famous as Pete Townshend
who can talk to you and offer advice?
A. Well it is difficult. It's difficult for anybody when you're going
through a bad time. People used to claim that Pete was going through a depressive
stage in his life, leaving his wife, and it was worse for him 'cause he
was an artist. I think that's b.s. I think it's bad for anybody. It doesn't
matter whether you're a truck driver or a rock star. If you're having a
bad time, you're having a bad time. But there is an added thing that he
is to a certain extent, surrounded by sycophants, and yes men. He now claims
that only two people really had a go to help him, and I was one of them.
Q. Is this really the last major Who tour?
A. I think it is the last tour.
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