Friday, September 23, 2011

Can You See The Real Me?

This is a very favorite Who song from Quadrophenia (1973).  It's one of just a handful that I used to spend hours trying to mimick as a teen.  I'd wear headphones and blissfully play along, trying to get every Keith Moon chop down. I once told that to somebody more talented than me: "Well that wasn't being very original, was it?" The withering disdain stung, but now, years later? pffft, whatever. While I take the point about originality (and our garage band did have nascent originals), copying your betters is important too.  I wrote about how drumming used to benefit from having great elders worth copying here. A little bit of the great rubs off in everybody.


  1. I was watching a documentery about Hunter S. Thompson a week or so ago on cable TV. In it, he said that part of how he trained himself to write was taking a classic book, like one by Hemmingway and typing from the book, word for word.

    I can see the value in this. Writing it out makes you pay a lot more attention to the wording in sentences and the structure of paragraphs. When you are just reading, it is all about what happens next and you miss the workmanship that makes writers great.

  2. I read that too about H.S. Thompson. For someone just starting out on drums (or writing), the method makes sense. Did the docementary cover the period when Thompson was a freelance journalist for Collier's Encyclopedia? I blogged something from that time period here.

  3. I love this track because EACH part of it, (drumming, guitar, vocals, and bass) is really great and really distinct! It's very easy to concentrate on any one part and notice how great it is...

  4. Neural networks are built and reinforced with that kind of copying. I struggled with spelling until high school when got into a typing class where speed was everything (90WPM with no errors) and my fingers learned the patterns without my brain needing to think out any phonetic rules or applications. To this day, if I get stuck with a word when I'm using a pen, I type it out in my head. The body remembers.

  5. @Ron, I'm so glad you brought that up. There's another "serial" theme of four going on besides the parallel one you mention. Notice what Townshend does during each of the four sequential story "acts":

    In the first "Doctor" act verses, he plays very odd sounding clipped chords instead of letting them ring.

    In the second "act" (about his mother) he clips his chords even shorter. He's slowly disappearing, and this has the effect of revealing Moon and Entwhistle even more.

    In the third "act" about the paving stones and the girl, he's factored himself out completely! Who is leading during those verses? Entwhistle, Moon, Daltrey? Isn't it just amazing that they could do that? Momentus!

    In the last and fourth act, the one about the "preacher," Townshend comes back and really drives, herding them and getting them to harmonize, just before they all break apart again into divergent paths.

    The Who were an amazing band in that respect. Each player was an accomplished soloist, yet they managed to play in concert. You're right, this song may be the best example of it.

  6. Thanks for the tip on HST writing for Collier's Encyclopedia. The special might have mentioned it, but I was half asleep watching it and so could have missed that part.

    The writing in that yearbook excerpt (I think we got Britannica or World Book--possibly both)is very straightforward and normal sounding journalism. I think most people have only read, or heard about, his gonzo journalism and never realized the other side. I hadn't realized he did this until I read his Hells Angels which struck me at the time as very solid journalistic work.