No. 10 -- August 31, 1995

Windows 95, Me 0

Remember all of that high-handed self-congratulatory moralistic shit I was spouting last week about resisting Windows 95? Well, like Guv. Pete Wilson, -- who used to condone illegal immigration and promised the voters of California that he'd never ever run for President in '96 and pay full attention to our problems -- I changed my mind. And why not? After all, two out of my three computer gurus (Kirk, John and Barry) said "go for it." I went out and bought a copy of Windows 95, installed it, and . . . and . . . and . . . well, there seems to be a basic conflict between Win 95 and the disk management software that fools my BIOS into accepting the fact my hard drive has 850 MB, and not 540MB. Or something like that. My BIOS needs upgrading, I guess.

In any event, I had to run the uninstall and retreat back to 3.1. So not only did I change my mind about buying it, I pussed out at the first sign of trouble. Damn, this crow is tasty. Yummy yummy yummy.

And I know that everywhere, Mac snobs are laughing laughing laughing. Just like Kirk and I laughed a decade ago when someone declared Beta dead. We thought it was hilarious. How could Beta die? It was technologically superior. Oh sure, most people were buying VHS VCR's, but Beta would always have a decent share of the market, because smart people like us would buy it.

I realize that this is an imperfect analogy, but what the hell? And as soon as I figure out what "upgrade my BIOS" means in real life, I'll be back with Windows '95.

Speaking of coming back, I read in Addicted to Noise that it's time for The Who to make another comeback tour. After all, its only been six years since their last comeback tour, and Keith Moon has probably stopped spinning by now. But this will get him going once again. Having determined that Kenny Jones was not a very adequate substitute for the greatest drummer in rock and roll history, they used (I think) Simon Phillips for the 1989 debacle.

This time around, the drummer de jour is Zak Starkey, Ringo's son, who supposedly plays like Keith. Wrong. Not. Keith Moon was a mutant, he was a freak. Nobody in the history of rock and roll has ever played like him; nobody ever will. The closest I ever heard was Rick Buckler of The Jam, and he wasn't even all that close. Not really. There are tons of wonderful rock and roll drummers, from John Bonham to Bill Berry to Dave Grohl. But only one Keith Moon. He is like Jimi Hendrix, or John Coltrane.

So this time around, it will be Townshend, Daltrey, Entwhistle and Starkey. Playing the same 25 songs, of course. And oh yeah, that isn't Pete Townshend, by the way. Nope that would be Simon Townshend, his 34-year-old brother. You see, Pete has finally decided to let dead dogs lie, or at least that's how I'm interpreting it. The official excuse is, of course, that he's too worried about his acute deafness to risk it because Roger and John need some more money. Pete, of course, will never have to worry about money, because he was the songwriter, and got all of those royalties. Which makes sense, because he wrote some of the greatest songs ever.

In any event, Simon Townshend thinks he's perfect to replace his brother because "I learned to play the same way as Pete -- our style of playing is quite unique. I am one of the few people who can play "Pinball Wizard" properly. Forget the "our style of playing" for a second, as if Pete and Simon developed it together rather than Simon copying it, and lets concentrate on the concept of playing "Pinball Wizard" properly.

What made The Who the greatest band ever is that, live, they never worried about playing their songs "properly." What mattered to them was the energy of being on stage, playing music, and communicating with the audience. Worrying about getting it right would just have gotten in the way. That's why Live At Leeds is so glorious: they just plowed into the songs, taking them much further than they would have possibly imagined if their chief worry was getting the notes right.

In any event, Pete Townshend is quoted as saying it's "incredibly brave" that his brother is taking over for him, but I think its incredibly lame. And how brave can it be for Simon to do it? All he has to do is learn the songs "properly" and ride Daltrey's and Entwhistle's coattails to more money than he'll ever see before or since. I guess its a nice brotherly thing that Pete is doing for his lesser-talented sibling, but nobody involved with any of this is being brave in any fashion whatsoever. What they are being is greedy.

Some bands depend on the chemistry of all of the members to work: Led Zeppelin, The Who, R.E.M., U2. Others have been able to plug on after losing a less-than-essential member: The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, Ramones, Hole. The difference is all in how the sound of the band is defined. The former set of bands arranged songs organically -- how each member played his instrument was intrinsic to how the songs sounded.

R.E.M. knows this -- had Bill Berry died, they would have called it quits, just like Led Zeppelin did. And the fact is that it did take 15 years (not counting the special circumstances of Live Aid) for Page and Plant to work together again, and even if it was a profit-taking motive, they a) didn't use the name , b) didn't invite John Paul Jones (a shame, actually), and especially c) they didn't invite Jason Bonham (thank god). That No Quarter fails is mostly because they didn't write any new songs, and the re-arranged Zep pailed. Me, I just wish they'd put together and release the monster live set from the tapes that Jimmy Page has been sitting on all these years.

The signature sounds of the latter set of bands are more top-down. They were defined by the vocals and guitars -- Mick and Keith's singing & Keith's playing, Jerry's leads, Courtney's voice, Johnny's guitar and Joey's voice, etc. So it was easier to replace members when they died or left, because the original vision and visionaries were still there. This is oversimplification, but all of these bands produced some of their best work after original members were gone. (Well, we don't know about Hole yet, but I'm willing to give Courtney the benefit of the doubt.)

The Who should have packed it in back in 1978. It's hard for me to write this, because going to see them back in 1980 and 1982 were real highlights for me. But now I wonder if going to see them back then contributed to this sham of a mockery of a sham their post-Keith career has turned out to be. Of course, since back then Pete Townshend still seemed to be at the top of his songwriting powers (Empty Glass turned out to be his last consistently great album), how could we know it would end up like this?

So now I wonder -- as a certified-by-the-Village-Voice rock critic -- had I known back then how much my biggest rock hero, Pete Townshend, would let me down, and had I known back then the way that The Who would shamelessly trade on their unparalleled connection with their fans; had I known all that, would I trade those shows in so that the greatest rock and roll band ever doesn't piss their credibility away forever? As a rock critic, I say, well, of course.

But then I remember my 17-year-old self: not so damn cynical and head-over-heels in love with rock and roll and everything around it. And I know what I would have said then: fuck, no. And 15 years later, having made peace with my life-long love for the music, I'm pretty darn glad I made the decision to go.

Sometimes, even when you know the solution, you still gotta be part of the problem. And maybe there's some other 17-year-old kid out there, discovering Who's next and Quadrophenia and The Who Sell Out and Live At Leeds and The Who Sing My Generation and is watching the truncated video of The Kids Are Alright over and over and over, and maybe that tour will give that kid the same memories that the 1980/82 tours gave me. I almost kinda hope so. And yet, though I wish I didn't, I also kinda doubt it.

This space is available for advertising. I am so ready to sell out to corporate America for some decent money. Maybe Schlitz??

Love,

     Jim

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This rant written on 31 August, 1995.
I was listening to Chris Isaak -- Forever Blue