thread for songs i like (All Songs Will Be Deeply Uncool, Target Audience For This Post Is Unclear)
Posted: 04 Jun 2022, 04:57
Pete Townshend, the guitarist and principal songwriter for The Who, made a home demo of pretty much every song he wrote. Over time producing these became a very complicated affair, as he played every single instrument he was going to use for the final recording in order to give his bandmates a better idea of what he had in mind. Many Who recordings are set to backing tracks that Pete finished for the demos. I find this process endlessly fascinating, as I am not a particularly interesting person.
These demos have achieved a somewhat legendary status as Pete releases more and more of them periodically for box sets and collections. In a video once I saw Eddie Vedder ask David Lynch if he had heard of them and David Lynch was already aware of them. It was crazy. At this point, some people argue Pete's demos are stronger than the officially released Who versions. I generally don't agree – the hyperdistinct rhythm section of The Who will always be my favorite rhythm section in Music (concept) – but the demos Pete produced in the 80s following Keith Moon's death have a distinct emotional edge that don't come across in their final versions, this song being a particularly notable example.
Pete Townshend wrote this song after he was rebuffed by a married woman he had inexplicably fallen in love with. And by "after" I mean, Pete wrote, recorded and finished the demo the day after he was rejected. That's crazy! At least it seems crazy to me! But I'm a moron! (The woman was Teresa Russell, for those who like recognizing names. As to why he fell in love with a woman he didn't know all too well, I'll chalk that up to the burgeoning drug addiction and the recent death of one his friends. We've all been there!)
I normally wouldn't put that much stock in any songwriter's biographical details when it comes to the songs he sings, but the whole recording has the weird nervous urgency of a man completely at the end of his rope, who claims to be a "suicidal psychopath" before going off into a verse that starts with the lyric "Consume, there's a beautiful white horse I saw on a dream stage". That's crazy! At least it seems crazy to me! The vocal itself is jumpy and somewhat random. Even Pete's signature flamenco-ish strumming feels like the product of a man who is angry at his guitar in a way that doesn't really manifest itself in any of his other recordings.
Wow! This sure is a crazy, almost tossed-off artistic expression of the dueling shame and resentment that can bubble up when someone is rejected by someone they thought they loved. It's, at the very least, unique!
So, of course, when it was time for The Who to record it, he changed the name to "Athena" and instead of singing "a suicidal psychopath," Roger Daltrey sang that he was "like a suicidal psychopath". Also it's slower. It sucks! Oh well!