9 Sep 2016
EINE KLEINE WHOMUSIK
Just before we launch into this short European leg, here’s a small update.
Everyone’s had (for the most part) a pleasant summer break. Many continued working – with other tours, some worked on home-remodeling, some did summer beach holidays with their families, and others remain a mystery.
We’ve gathered in Oberhausen, Germany to re-set and check the gear for this brief tour. So far everything looks good. There are some new crew members on the lighting and video crews, but generally everyone is back. New faces are always welcome as someone new to talk to, and hopefully they’ll be good company and workers up-to-par. Usually so…
Some changes are afoot. Most of all, a HUGE change:
Bob Pridden, longtime (looooooong!) soundman since 1966 is not on these shows. Literally he’s missed only about 3 shows since 1966 – one for his daughter’s wedding (and that was even a difficult choice). Bob’s seen many more WHO shows than Keith Moon or John Entwistle did, at this point, and his absence will be a similar feeling. Bob is a massive character in WHO history, from the days when he set up the amps and drums, PA system, ran the sound for the show, packed the gear afterward, drove to the next show – as part of a 2-man road crew. He was tasked with building PA’s, rebuilding guitars, designing tape playback, mixing records in the studio. Bob is credited (rightfully so) with “inventing” stage monitors, the speaker systems that allow a band (especially singers!) to hear themselves over the din of the band and crowd onstage. Until about 1970, The Beatles, Stones, Who etc had nothing but the amps and drums, with the poor singer fending to hear themselves over the ever-more-powerful stage volume. Imagine 1969 “Live at Leeds” volume and trying to hear and sing OVER that!? So Bob first tilted back one of the PA cabinets toward Roger, but then realizing feedback could be best-avoided with a floor-mounted speaker angled up toward the singer, he created a “wedge” shaped floor speaker – common ever since on every stage in the universe.
Last year, our friend Matt Frost wrote this for Sound On Sound (just an online teaser here): http://www.soundonsound.com/people/my-generation-fifty-years-who It’s a very detailed article, the first to delve deeply into Bobby’s role in The WHO.
His face may not be familiar to many, but if you’ve seen films and photos of The WHO over the years – he’s ALWAYS there. The hardworking, much-abused technical wizard of The WHO. The band have been extremely loyal to him, as he to them. Most of you will have seen him running the stage monitor systems just to the right of Pete. During shows, Rog and Pete often talk (or scream) to him by name, as he struggles to handle their many needs during the shows. You have seen Bob in a football helmet posed for the rear cover or Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy. He’s there with the band on the Rock and Roll Circus film, swaying in the audience behind Pete and in front of The Stones! Every WHO historical moment – Leeds, Woodstock, MSG 9/11 concert, 12/12/12, Isle of Wight, Monterey, Hyde Park, Cleveland, the Kenny Jones era, Zak/Pino/Simon etc, the Quadrophenia sessions, Shepperton Studios filming, Who’s Next in NY and London – he was there.
Bob Pridden on stage with Keith Moon playing the intro to ‘Magic Bus’ on the 1968 US tour. Photo: Miss Josh Emmett.
This is serious family history – and this week’s shows will be the first since this big change. Trevor Wait will be stepping up to take his place, partially, running Pete’s monitors. I’ll take over his tape-playback duties, the backing for the famous Who’s Next songs and so on. We’ve all had moments of “filling in” before, and no one is new to this band, so it will be just another change as life goes on.
Nothing really problematic had happened with Bobby, it’s simply doctor’s orders to “stay off the road” as the travel and stresses get to be a little too much. Safer to stay back in the UK and work in The WHO’s studio to mix and master projects that continually come up.
More changes: Pete has been ruminating again, and may have a few changes in these upcoming shows. IF they happen, you’ll know it.
The coming Desert festival – Coachella – is really on our minds as we gear into this leg. After 2 weeks in Europe (beautiful places) we’ll have a week off before “Going To California.” There we’ll warm up with a show at the smaller, but vibe-y hillside amphitheater in Santa Barbara. Next into the wide desert for the big Fest (more on that to come.) With a Mexico City show in the middle of the two desert weekends (I believe the first WHO venture into that country) it will be easy pace, but unique shows and crowds.