Story 2015-05-28 New York City, NY
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28.05.28 New York City, NY, MusiCares Special Benefit, The Who Induction Speech
I wouldn't be windmilling a Fender Telecaster if it weren't for Pete Townshend. It's the summer of 66 or 67 [actually August 12, 1967], it was the first American tour that the Who were on, and I was in a long line staking out Convention Hall down the boardwalk. The billboard read in big type 'Herman's Hermits' then 'The Who'. I was a young pimply-faced teenager who managed to scrap enough together to go see my first rock concert ever. Pete and The Who were young pimply-faced teenagers with a record contract, a tour and a rude aggressive magic. They were on this tour of all things opening for Herman's Hermits and there was no justice.

So I scrambled to my seat in the cavernous Convention Hall and I waited for the rumble to start. The first band out I think was a band called the Blues Magoos out of New York City. … They came out and they had these electric suits and when all the lights went out in the hall, all the electric suits lit up and it was high-level special effects.

The Who came out and they played for probably no more than 30 minutes. Pete, in a cloud of smoke, demolished his guitar bashing it over and over into the floor and his amplifier. The audience was filled with a significant number of teeny-boppers who were waiting for 'Mrs.Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter.' So they sat there with their mouths agape wondering: 'Who are you'? Who are these guys? What are you doing? Why are they doing it?'

All I knew, for some reason, this music and the demolishing of all these perfectly fine instruments filled me with incredible joy. It was something wonderful about the wanton destruction of good commercial property - it was the joy and giddiness of the riot that The Who somehow managed to safely attain…semi-safely attain. All I knew was that it made me happy and it thrilled and inspired me, and inspired me to a degree where I was in a young band called the Castiles and we had a gig the next weekend at St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in the basement for the CYO dance.

So I went out and bought a smoke bomb and a strobe light and I brought them over to the gig. and as the night neared its end, I wasn't able to smash my guitar – it was the only one I had! – so I lit the smoke bomb in the Catholic school basement and turned on the strobe light and I climbed on top of my amplifier holding a vase of flowers that I stole from one of the upstairs classrooms, and with this huge flourish I raised the vase of flowers as the flickering, blinding strobe lit me, with smoke all around me, and as the nuns looked on in horror, I smashed them onto the dance floor. I jumped off the amp and stomped all over the petunias!.

The vase of flowers simply failed to have the grandeur of a newly minted Telecaster being smashed to splinters, but we worked with what we had. I went home smiling, feeling a blood bond with Pete Townshend, and I never looked back.

As I grew older, the Who's music seemed to grow with me the sexual frustration, politics, identity. These things course through my veins with every concurring Who album. I always found myself there somewhere in their music," Springsteen continued.

'The Seeker' is the guy in 'Born to Run.' There'd be no 'Down in Jungle …. LAND' without Pete's slashing bloody attack on his instrument. Pete is the greatest rhythm guitarist of all time. He showed you, you don't have to play any lead. It's an amazing thing to behold.

Pete managed to take the dirty business of rock and roll and somehow make it spiritual and turn it into a quest. He may hate this, but he identified the place where it was noble, and he wasn't afraid to go there," Springsteen continued.

I took a lot of that with me as the years passed by. So Pete, I'm here to say, congratulations, well deserved, and thanks for not just Who's Next and 'Who Are You,' but for who I am.

Compiled by : NJ.com

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