With all I love about expression in digital media, all of tis forms, I’ve never found the way to formulate what’s bubbled as a thought– that at the root of the best stuff is really, simple good writing, the clever use of words, shades of meaning, etc. Yep, plain old text.
I was reminded of it over the weekend when I had a flashback trip to recasting of my first high school music love- getting turned onto The Who, primarily via The Kids are Alright. I rekindled it by putting the retrospective Amazing Journey DVD on while I took care of some house tasks.
And talking about “Can’t Explain” it was always something about the opening of The Kids are Alright with The Who’s 1967 appearance on US network TV on the Smothers Brothers show, ending their first big US tour. I listened to that opening shtick to “My Generation” so many times it was burned onto my cortex at a level exceeding Monty Python Holy Grail levels.
Sure it was scripted (“yeah, that was bowling”), but there is a moment I think is so subtle (I may be the only person in the universe that thinks this is important) on an interplay between host Tommy Smothers and lead singer Roger Daltrey
Smothers: “Roger from Oz, what’s the next song you’re gonna play?”
Daltrey’s reply is clever, and I wonder if it was intentioned– he foreshadows a signature of this powerful song, when he stutters his reply:
Now catch this- Smothers reply is, “Your Generation?”
Look at that flip from “My” (which is in the song) to “Your” (which is not) which sets himself off in so many ways- Smothers is standing there in his suit and tie, standing next to this British pompadour haired singer in his ridiculous paisley jacket and ruffled shirt, could not be more different. Smothers goes on to really pull the difference with, “I cam really identify with that, because I really identify with these guys, and I dig ‘em”
What a contrast in the height of the 1960s psychedelia for this guy in the suit to say, “I can really identify with you”!
Following Keith Moon’s “sloppy stage hands” antic, Smothers turns the stage over to them, warning the audience, “and you’re gonna be surprised what happens, and hit it…”
Beyond the intensity of the song, which stands on its own as a rock epic, I mean who else ever had a song with a thundering bass solo, of course Smothers knew what was coming as it was The Who’s trademark performance of destruction:
with Pete Townsend smashing his guitar, shoving it in the amp, and then the unexpected amount of blast from the explosives set in Moon’s drum sets. I love how John Entwistle is trying to stay out of it, clutching his bass, keeping it in tact
According to what I read, they kept adding more explosives since it did not work in rehearsal (it was rehearsed) so much that Moon was hit by shrapnel and supposedly it was what made Townsend partly deaf,
“They had a little brass cannon [in the bass drum],â€ Smothers recalled. â€œThe studio says we will load the cannon, but at the taped dress rehearsal it didnâ€™t go off. So the union guy puts another load in it, and then Keith Moon puts another load in it.”
“When that went off, the full explosion, you couldnâ€™t hear it because of the condensers on the mikes. I thought â€” when it happened, there was shrapnel flying off the drums, so I thought Keith Moonâ€™s hearing got screwed up. But then Pete Townshend grabs my guitar and breaks it. I was so busy looking for bleeding bodies; I didnâ€™t know what had happened.”
— The Smothers Brothers and The Who
And truly, in the video, Tommy Smothers does look stunned, especially as Townsend then smashes Tommy’s acoustic
Still in all the theatrics of it all, whether staged or not, I love just that little bit of dialogue, how among so many hundreds of years of the written word (and all the volume now that gets generated online), there are still clever ways to put words together.
Live the flashback with me, I’ll be replaying it right before I die before I get old