The Who’s current shows feature two video screens full of vintage shots of mad, mad Moon and Entwistle in his bemused and haunting solitude. I asked Townshend if he ever got nostalgic looking up at the pictures of his fallen bandmates. He snorted like an old horse.
“It’s not going to make Who fans very happy, but thank God they’re gone.”Because?
“Because they were fucking difficult to play with. They never, ever managed to create bands for themselves. I think my musical discipline, my musical efficiency as a rhythm player, held the band together.”
Townshend took on his bass player first. “John’s bass sound was like a Messiaen organ,” he says, waving his angular limbs. “Every note, every harmonic in the sky. When he passed away and I did the first few shows without him, with Pino [Palladino] on bass, he was playing without all that stuff…. I said, ‘Wow, I have a job.’ ”
He was not finished. Moon is an easier target; he once passed out during a 1970s show in San Francisco, forcing the band to pull a drummer out of the crowd. “With Keith, my job was keeping time, because he didn’t do that,” says Townshend. “So when he passed away, it was like, ‘Oh, I don’t have to keep time anymore.’”