September 27, 2020

Today in Whostory: 9/08/2020

1963 – The Detours play the White Hart Hotel in Acton

1964 – The Who play the Railway Hotel in Wealdstone

1965 – The Who play the Town Hall in Farnborough

1967 – The Who play the Convention Center in Anaheim, California

1967 – Bill Kerby of the Los Angeles Free Press interviews Roger. Kerby says, “If I were an agent, I wouldn’t book Jesus Christ doing a guest set with The Beatles to come on after The Who.

1972 – A previously announced show at the Ahoy Halle in Rotterdam is canceled.

1975 – Keith arranges a singing session for comedian Peter Cook at Clover Recorders, Hollywood. Members of The Band and Ricky Nelson perform back up. Keith is then in the midst of recording his second, never-to-be-completed, solo album.

1975 – Keith attends Peter Sellers’ 50th birthday party at Peter’s home in Beverly Hills. While there Keith jams with an impromptu band consisting of David Bowie, Bill Wyman, Ron Wood, Joe Cocker, Jesse Ed Davis, Danny Kortchmar, Bobby Keyes and Nigel Olsson.

2001 – Pete Townshend responds on his website to an angry letter by a fan denouncing him for allowing the song “Bargain” to be used selling Nissan SUVs: “…despite the enormous sums lavished on us, because of punitive U.K. taxes in our most exhaustively active years (98% at one point!), our fans didn’t make us rich – not directly. If we are wealthy today it is because of the success of various major secondary ‘Tommy’ ventures, sponsorship during our 1982 Farewell and 1989 anniversary tours, TV and radio commercial and movie soundtrack licensing – and finally, back catalogue CD sales stimulated by the latter…”

You can read the entire entry here:

8 September 2001

Nissan Necessary?

Got a letter today.

If you have control over the rights to your songs, you ought to be mightily ashamed. I am referring to the use of the Who classic ‘Bargain’ in a stupid car commercial. This ad is played non-stop on TV and radio in New York City, and it’s insulting to the song, to The Who, to an entire era and to those who live or died during it.

Believe me I’m not an ageing hippy who begrudges people maximising their wealth, but where did you go wrong, trashing your good work for an environmentally unfriendly industry and company? Is that what you wanted to do with your life – inspire young people to buy an overpriced car that guzzles overpriced gasoline to drive on overcrowded highways?

Townshend’s response…..

I suspect the writer could be a journalist. He uses words with skill and force. It is a good letter.

I haven’t heard or seen the finished commercials, but I have to confess that on the basis of their storyboards I did – under a little pressure – permit the license to Nissan.

It is a delicate balance I’m trying to maintain here. I am engaged in a personal artistic experiment which demands huge vanity – I have a website and release the majority of my new work this way. I am proud of what I did when I was younger, and the Who were in their heyday, but sadly we did not make enough money to crawl away and die. My creative energy for The Who didn’t last either. I have to be careful not to allow pride to stifle me in my late middle-age.

I am very proud of what I do today as well. I find artistic patronage where I can.

‘Bargain’ is a great song by my own measure, but it is just a song. Just a pop song. It is a classic because people like the man who wrote the letter made it so.

When you are young and you decide you want to become an artist, what you have no control over is what SIZE artist you will become. That is in the hands of your customers. You can control how you look, what you play, what you paint or make. You can even control how much you charge to some extent, and where your major marketplace will be. But you can’t control how people will react to you.

The Who were made big by their fans. But sadly, despite the enormous sums lavished on us, because of punitive U.K. taxes in our most exhaustively active years (98% at one point!), our fans didn’t make us rich – not directly. If we are wealthy today it is because of the success of various major secondary ‘Tommy’ ventures, sponsorship during our 1982 Farewell and 1989 anniversary tours, TV and radio commercial and movie soundtrack licensing – and finally, back catalogue CD sales stimulated by the latter. If I block every license on the basis that I don’t want to sully my reputation as a ‘classic’ song-writer, I deny Roger, John and the Moon estate a share of the money earned by the licensing of our original recordings. That sum is usually equal to the publisher’s share.

My music is my music. I am a song-writer. I sell songs. I started my life – in a sense – selling songs to a band called The Who. It might confuse some people that I also happened to be a member of the band. But where I stand, I know the long-term artistic consequences of that better than anyone.

There’s a lot more I could say. If anyone else takes as much offence to the Nissan commercial as the writer above then tough. The till is closed.

2009 – The FX series Sons of Anarchy starts its second season with a special performance of “Slip Kid” by the heavy metal group Anvil. You can watch it on YouTube here

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