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The Who Live at Scalingrad - 25th June 2007
by Frank Hobbs
Let's not fuck about here - Pete Townshend is the UK's greatest ever guitarist. End of. Better than Eric, Jimmy, Bert Jansch, that one out The Smiths, him out of Blur and that tramp with the cardboard cutout guitar from town (RIP). Pete wipes the floor with all of them. No-one plays the geet like Pete Townshend. I'm not on about technical ability here either. Other players, like that fusion head John McLoughlin or Jeff Beck or every poodle-headed shop-assistant twat who ever sold me a set of Ernie Balls, have got all the technique in the world but can't write a song to save their life. And even though Pete's responsible for writing a dozen bone-fide all-time-classic tunes, it's not cos of that. And everyone knows he was already notorious for smashing his guitar up on stage, well before Jimi ignited his at Monterey, but I'm not really on about that either. Nah, Pete's the greatest cos he's the coolest guitar player of them all, Hendrix included. It's all about the WAY he plays it. It's almost like he's sparring with his geet and he just happens to hit it at exactly the right time to make the right notes come out. It's the swagger of it all, he's one arrogant bastard. Windmills, over the heads, right hand jabs to the neck, hip flicks, the splits, bouncing it on the stage floor, casually lobbing it off stage after puncturing his Fender Twin for a laugh. He's perpetual motion, sneering, cockiness, attitude. He's Maradona doing keepy-ups with a orange. He's Ali and Bundini Brown rapping. He is The Boy.
Jimi Hendrix hated Pete, they say, probably because he was the only threat to his position as 1967's New Guitar God Of London. It was easy for Hendrix to blow faux-bluesmen like Clapton straight into 5 years of skag abuse. But a Chiswick snot like Townshend, who's not really ever been a wannabe "bluesman", is another thing. Not only that, Townshend didn't turn away from the fight but took him on on his own terms - witness the stage trashing set the Who did before the Jimi Hendrix Experience's breakthrough Monterey show. To be fair, Hendrix wasn't bad either that night, I'd call that one a draw. But at Woodstock The Who wiped the floor with every fucker, Jimi's "Star Spangled Banner" included. The great thing about watching it now is how ahead of his time Pete was at that show. In among the loon-dancing tripped-out end of their era hippy royalty you've got a London Droog in a white boiler suit and bovver boots blowing everyone's high and snotting one of the organisers on the way off stage. Tremendous. He's a pure vision of the 70's in amongst the all the Peace and Love and Brown Acid. As well as Woodstock another great Townshend performance is on the Rolling Stones' "Rock'n'Roll Circus" when The Who perform "A Quick One". For me, it's the greatest guitar clip of them all and sums up everything about Pete's playing style. The Who were that good at that show The Stones pulled the film from release for the next 30 years cos they were made to look like a gang of tone-deaf cack-handed retards let loose in Curly Music. And one last great Pete moment for you - the intro riffage to "Magic Bus" off "Live At Leeds". Pure stunt guitar.
So, as you can probably guess, I was rather looking forward to seeing The Who headlining the first day of The Big Knowsley Hall Music Bash. 40 odd nicker for the ticket wasn't bad, especially with Shack and The Coral also on the bill, and we hogged in for three tickets on the first day of sale. A couple of days before the show and the word was that ticket sales were bad and you could get them half-bat, but I wasn't arsed as we were busy sorting out the "provisions". The weather was looking grim as the boiling hot summers we were promised by the Global Warming Scaremongers turned out to be more tradional British Summer pissing down, so it was time for some precautionary extra dubbin on my Berghaus hiking boots and don't forget my kagoul.
As you may have read, the organisation of the event on the Saturday was utter wank. We're talking UEFA style incompetence here - massive queues for everything (2 hours to get served ale), massive mark-ups on everything (4 nicker for a go on the waltzers) etc etc. But to be honest, I didn't actually give a fuck about any of it cos we were there to see The Who so we put up with all the shite like any good football fan. All organizers of these big events are the same - we know you've deceived us. As per usual for these things, loads bunked in (without suffering from snotty editorials from the gobshites at the Echo) and it was funny as we stood off with our Pimms (20 minute queue) watching the Showsec mimimum wage bwanas trying in vain to stem the flow of black-socked ninjas vaulting the fence. Well in boys, after all bunking in is a revolutionary act, although if next year it's fancards, all-seaters in the mud, CCTV in the trees and the Matrix videoing us on the way in I'm blaming you.
Once we realised what a fucking useless idea it was to try and get a bevvy we bailed over to the MySpace stage to have a doss and get wasted. "Next up is Shack", said the PA at the main stage. "I can't be arsed, let's stay here, pass us the bullet and give us one of them garys", said Johnny Boy Gomez and we all agreed. Plus we were busy beasting off the absolute deluge of Grade-A minge that was bouncing around. Hot pants, fake tan and wellies were the order of the day. A few of the nipple queens were sporting rather fetching plastic macs that you could see right through, so obviously Match Tout we'd had a natter with outside had done well shifting his consignment of rain macs. He even entered into the organisers rip-off spirit with a spectacular £4.71 mark-up on each 29p (cost) mac he sold.
The toilet queues were becoming ridiculous and more and more people started using the perimiter fence by us as a outdoor urinal. It's not that often you see some little rip squatting down with her kecks round her knees having a slash in public, it's even rarer to see a feller trying to have a slash while remaining upright on 2 crutches. When you gotta go, you gotta go, I guess. One of the Showsec fellas tried in vain to keep the pissers at bay, appealing to their Catholic Guilt by asking them how they'd feel if your mum came here for a picnic tomorrow to sit in a load of piss. How we laughed. Then he radioed the police who turned up mob handed on groovy quad bikes just as we were crushing a tablet for nasal ingestion. They hung around for 10 minutes like jarg Angels before scooting off to quell a disturbance in the baboon compound at the Safari Park.
"Next up, it's the Thrills" said the main PA. "Eh ? Who are they, are they them Irish tits ? Fuck that, stay here, do a spliff, get the bullet, giz a tablet", said Keegan's Perm, and we all agreed. At this point Scal Capone's good lady decided she needed a pint and offered to join the queue for ale as long as we give her a hand at the bar, so off she went leaving SC free to join in the letching. "Anyone seen a proper mod ?", said a voice. "Yeah, there's one over there", said another and we all checked him out - stone coloured classic Macintosh, white Sta-Press drainies, suede boots, paisley scarf, Steve Marriott's 1965 barnet - looking good. Not a spot of mud on him either - clean living under difficult circumstances. "There's fuck all down for his kecks after", said some scruffy rocker.
An unknown band started up on the MySpace stage. They sounded OK, like Wolfmother or Kyuss, and the sight of loads of tapping mountaineering boots meant that the garys were starting to work their magic. Capone got the call from the bar and went over to bring back a crate of Stella. The rest of us tried to keep our chins under control. Then disaster ! Capone calls us - "There's no bottled lager left, we'll have to get pints, come over now, HELP ME!". Walking to the beer tent was the first time for a few hours we'd been in the festival proper. Straight away I had a 'Nam flashback, it was Khe Sahn all over again. Thousand yard stares, discarded parachutes on the wire, mortars coming in and sporadic sniper fire. "You gotta keep it together man, these are friendlies", said Johnny Boy Gomez. We found Scal Capone looking stressed badly. He handed me a cardboard box with 7 full pints in it, followed by 2 more boxes of the same, and we all sloped back to our HQ, dodging the occasional incoming round and keeping the ale balanced.
The soothing effects of the beer settled everyone down and we heard the sound of The Coral starting their set. "It's probably worth getting a spec soon", said someone, which was the cue for some speed quaffing. With only 2 pints each to carry, we were ready to enter the belly of the beast. We retraced our steps past the beer tent with the confident stride of a third-tour Long Range Recon Unit on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and stopped at the edge of the main audience mob to survey the scene before us. How can you describe such a spectacle, how can you put this throbbing mass of humanity into mere words ? Like this - it was a big fuck-off crowd of loons stood in a field of mud in front of a stately home. And we needed to get in and get our spec, right in the middle, not too far back. We slalommed through the throng muttering the magic words "Scuze lad, nice one lad, sound lad" and we quickly found a decent spec, surprisingly with plenty of room. "This'll do, its allright here", someone said. I turned around and suddenly it became crystal clear why we had plenty of room. We had landed in the middle of a proper horrible 30 strong stella'd-up ninja mob. Skins everywhere, mashed kites galore, everyone getting eyeballed. We fitted right in. Out of nowhere some goth type put an inflatable couch down in the mud. Before he could sit on it Skin #1 picked it up and lashed it miles away. The goth got the message and bailed. Another civillian stepped into the clearing, words were exchanged briefly before he got digged, causing his glasses to fly off. As he bent over to pick them up Skin #2 twatted him on the head with a bottle, but it never smashed . "Get on that, his head's fucking rock, incredible", I said. "Tit, it's a plastic bottle", someone reminded me. There were bad vibes everywhere, it looked ugly, but fuck it, The Who are on any minute. As we waited for them to come onstage I realised that I had sunk about 4 inches into the mud. "Mudmen in the Mud" I shouted for no reason, Skin #1 heard that, turned round and gave me a toothless smile and the thumbs up. Saved.
The Who were due on, the crowd were pumped, the anticipation was peaking and then the heavens opened for the first time that day. Proper rain. Massive rain. Raindrops the size of golf balls. Within 3 seconds I was completely soaked to the skin. Just as we contemplated the implications of this biblical moment, a giant roar went up and The Who strode onstage and straight into BAM BAM-BAM BAM BAM-BAM, the opening salvo of "I Can't Explain" and my head blew off..... there's only vague snapshots left now.....Johnny Boy Gomez frugging like he was back in the Quad to "The Seeker".....getting smashed straight in the grid by a flying inflatable couch as it landed on my head.....getting a bit verklempt during "The Kids Are Allright".....goosepimples during "Pinball Wizard" intro.......the whole of "Sparks". Early on we were nudged by 3 little teenage Scal Bjorks, all in see-through macs and runny eyeliner, who were trying to get past us. "Here's the Pixies", said someone, and they decided to stay and enjoy our witty repartee and banter for the rest of the show. In exchange for Alco-Pops, doe eyed glances and the outside chance of Hot Love, we made them extremely soggy spliffs and protected them from the gurning loon crew all around. The lights came on out of nowhere. I turned round and said "Do you reckon they'll do a encore ?". Keegan's Perm said, "They've done 2 already you bad ming, everyone's getting off". And so they were. We trudged out in the darkness, abusing the idling policemen and scaring the masses with shouts of "Lions, Escaped Lions In Here" before next thing you know we're sat off in a gaff in Huyton (nice one Scarface !) wearing lent footy shorts while our clobber was drying on the radiator, all covered in mud.
"You know what, that was fucking sound that", said Johnny Boy Gomez as he hoovered the last of the tablets.
And he was right.
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