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Pete Townshend's deeply held political beliefs

we're been tracking Townshend and his licensing of his songs to commercial dvertizers for 2.5 years now. . . .

Pete Townshend's strongly held political beliefs

On 7 July 2004, Pete Townshend announced that more than a year ago, he had refused to let Michael Moore use the Who's 1971 song "Won't Get Fooled Again" in Fahrenheit 911. In Townshend's own words,

I had not really been convinced by Bowling For Columbine and had been worried about its accuracy. To me, it felt like a bullying film [...] Once I had an idea what Fahrenheit 9/11 was about, I was 90 per cent certain my song was not right for them and pointed out that "Won't Get Fooled Again" is not an unconditionally anti-war song, or a song for or against revolution. It actually questions the heart of democracy: we vote heartily for leaders who we subsequently always seem to find wanting. (WGFA ["Won't Get Fooled Again"] is a song sung by a fictional character from my 1971 script called LIFEHOUSE. The character is someone who is frightened by the slick way in which truth can be twisted by clever politicians and revolutionaries alike).

Townshend is partially right about "Won't Get Fooled Again": while it's true that the lyrics of the song are "against" revolution, the music -- especially the use of sequenced synthesizers -- is clearly revolutionary, or, rather, was clearly revolutionary for the time at which the song was released. That's precisely why the song is famous and worth fighting about: the tension in it, and the release that's provided by the legendary scream "Yeah!" that comes after the long instrumental break. The listener doesn't need to be "convinced" by the song (what a ridiculous idea!); the listener need only feel it.

No matter. As we've noted elsewhere, this same song -- meet the new song, same as the old song -- deemed was "right" for licensing to the MSNBC cable news program Hardball with Chris Matthews in November 2003, six months after Townshend's contact with Moore. And so Mr Townshend, he has strongly held political beliefs. He was convinced by Chris Matthews, but not by Michael Moore. A year ago, Townshend was convinced that going to war against Iraq was justified, "but now, like millions of others, I am less sure we did the right thing." (If asked, Townshend would surely go on to explain that a full withdrawal of troops from Iraq could only take place after he -- and millions of others -- became convinced that "we" did the wrong thing by killing all those innocent people.) Typical self-satisfied Bush-Blair bullshit.

Does this mean that there were also strongly held political beliefs behind Townshend's September 2003 decision to allow the makers of the "Hummer" (a truck invented by the US military and now sold commercially) to use the Who song "Happy Jack" in its TV commercials? Quite possibly. But what about the other TV commercials Townshend has allowed in the last few years? The "Overture" from Tommy was used in a spot for the anti-allergy medication Claritin; the title track from the Who Are You? album was used in a station-ID clip for the cable TV station TNN; and the solo-album hit "Let my Love Open the Door" was used in a station-ID clip for NBC-TV. None of these decisions smack of a Bush-Blair political ideology, nor of any other ideology, for that matter; what they do smack of is cynicism and greed.

--18 July 2004

q 18.Jul.2004 17:41


wew wont get fooled again!!

Boycott 18.Jul.2004 18:32


boycott "The Who" CD's, movie videos, concerts, and all Who song advertised products.

it all "meant something" at one time 18.Jul.2004 19:47


no longer.

sure from 1965-75 the music of groups like Dylan/Stones/Who/Beatles/Led Zeppelin actually 'meant something' to a generation of young people,

but after that time (post-1975) other cultural, economic and social forces / movements / changes in Western capitalist countries took over. (plus the 'boomer' generation got older, of course . . . )

post-1975, the music of The Who/Beatles/Bob Dylan/Stones/Zeppelin - if it still "meant something" at all - did so *in a past tense*, nostalgically. (yeah, yeah Townshend and Dylan still wrote some great songs post-1975, but you see the gist of what I'm sayin' . . .)

now, of course, the surviving members of these groups - short on cash, ideals and musical creativity in their sunset years, especially in the face/grip of a gigantic totally corporatized music industry they indirectly helped spawn - are cashing in their immensely popular and meaningful oeuvre to *become* the detergent-commercial soundtrack they originally had offered an alternative to.

remember and/or appreciate The Who and Pete Townshend for what they WERE . . . it's all that's left.

Stupid Morons 18.Jul.2004 19:54


Pete Townsend is gay. He's one of the first artists to every come out publicly about that. He's also an extraordinary talent who stood on the front line of conservative backlash since the 1960s. I strongly doubt he's a Bush supporter or Blair supporter.

So to boycott one of the biggest, most influential bands in rock history because he decided (a year ago) not to let Michael Moore use the song, is ridiculous. Learn how to think for yourself, dumb ass, so you Won't Get Fooled Again.

make a bet, Ted? 18.Jul.2004 20:37


"I strongly doubt he's a Bush supporter or Blair supporter."

the likelihood that a supporter of Bush-Blair's war isn't also a Bush-Blair supporter is VERY VERY slim.

worth a bet, what?

Elton attacks 'censorship' in US 18.Jul.2004 20:56


Last Updated: Saturday, 17 July, 2004, 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK

Elton John has said stars are scared to speak out against war in Iraq because of "bullying tactics" used by the US government to hinder free speech.

"There's an atmosphere of fear in America right now that is deadly. Everyone is too career-conscious," he told New York magazine, Interview.

Sir Elton said performers could be "frightened by the current administration's bullying tactics".

The singer likened the current "fear factor" to McCarthyism in the 1950s.

"There was a moment about a year ago when you couldn't say a word about anything in this country for fear of your career being shot down by people saying you are un-American," he told the magazine.

The singer said things were different in the 1960s.

"People like Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, The Beatles and Pete Seeger were constantly writing and talking about what was going on.


"That's not happening now. As of this spring, there have been virtually no anti-war concerts - or anti-war songs that catch on, for that matter," he said.

He voiced concern that it appeared acceptable to speak out if you were pro-Bush, using the example of country singer Toby Keith, but not if you were critical of the President, as in the case of country rock band, the Dixie Chicks.

"On the one hand, you have someone like Toby Keith, who has come out and been very supportive of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq - which is OK because America is a democracy and Toby Keith is entitled to say what he thinks and feels.

"But, on the other hand, the Dixie Chicks got shot down in flames last year for criticising the president. They were treated like they were being un-American, when in fact they have every right to say whatever they want about him because he's freely elected, and therefore accountable."

Sir Elton is currently in New York playing a series of concerts.

There are gay republicans, after all 18.Jul.2004 20:59


People often identify more strongly with their class, gender and race more than they identify with their sexuality. Take the Log-Cabin Republicans, for example. A PR coup for the Republicans: they are homosexual republicans, a political oxymoron, yet there they are. Especially when rich, white amd male, it's not so strange to see a gay conservative.

Sad lack of sister and brother hood 19.Jul.2004 01:37

as usuall

I think saying learn to think for yerself dumb ass- was way out of line. I also thought that Pete Townsand was not gay, I thought he was a PEDOFILE.
He has always try'd to get as much $$$$ for his music as possible. He is a Capitalist like Gene simmons is a capitalist, these people are only left cause it suits their carnal needs. Something like that, who knows. He is a rich bastard, I mean really, saying he did this or that in the 60's or early 70's means little now, especially since A. He did not do too much. Mick Jagger and the stones wrote STREET FIGHTING MAN and ABBIE HOFFMAN and BLACK PNATHERS loved that fucking song but did you ever see them put their rich capitalist ass on the line NO. Also B. Simon and Garfunkel did tons of anti war songs and played benifeits and shit, Yet now he is a BIG republican who played the BOXER on stage with Mayor Guilliani on saturday nite live after 911. Don't rush to defend these rich capitalist sanctioning murder STARS or EXPERTS, It's bad enough that radio has been corporatized and that all we get to hear now is CLASSIC ROCK over and over again. I am glad I did not have to hear that stupid song AGAIN.........GO START YOUR OWN BAND

the cops 19.Jul.2004 09:23


if the cops are monitoring this site they at least must realize that we are interested in artistic pursuits like music.they think were just cop hatersand 'america' haters. i WASNTlike that before.but now since terror attacks they have become fascists.now i DO hate cops and american military polce state.you had it wrong cops, i am a harmless artistic musical person but you decided to attack my soul.therefore YPU ARE ON THE SHITLIST PERMANENTLY.you could have used forebearence and trusted us,but no yoy had to attack.your safety is in jeapordy now because i truly want to join freedom fighters any where in the world.previosly i just wanted to live and let live but now ifeel you are trying to attack innocent peoplke.may you get every pain you inflicted come back 1000 fold!

They May Get More Exposure, But . . . 19.Jul.2004 10:19


. . . the opinions of a rock or movie star are no more important than yours or mine . . . and Pete Townshend cannot vote in this country.

rights are rights 19.Jul.2004 11:15

greg snyder

i guess pete townsend has a right to not authorize use of his music when he doesn't want it to be used. i would hope that all artists have this right. michael moore ended up filling in fahrenheit 9/11 with a very good selection of music and a fine sound track. as a filmaker he needs to accept the right of other artists to not authorize use of their work if they don't wish to. i'm sure that he would like to reserve that very right for himself too as an artist and creator in the use of his works by others. the current trend of using classic rock tunes in car commercials really is baffling to me. i hope those artists are enjoying their royalties while the environment is continuously being degraded by SUVs that have no fuel efficiency standards and which waste huge amounts of gas etc. etc..

Boycott 19.Jul.2004 13:04


" the current trend of using classic rock tunes in car commercials really is baffling to me. i hope those artists are enjoying their royalties while the environment is continuously being degraded by SUVs that have no fuel efficiency standards and which waste huge amounts of gas etc. etc.."
Chevy is heavily using The Kinks and Portland's own Dandy Warhols right now. But the worst by far is Chevy use of The Who's "Happy Jack" for its fucking Hummer commercials. BOYCOTT THE WHO!!!!

wait a second... 19.Jul.2004 15:35


didnt pete townshend get caught with child porn?

didnt he?

scapegoat his ass!

hes a nazi paedophile!

The Day 20.Jul.2004 19:12

The Music


Mis-informed and way off. 09.Sep.2004 18:30

Not a mindless sheep Rutland_Forever@hotmail.com

First of all, I'd like to start off by saying that I'm perhaps one of the most liberal people of my generation. And I was surprised and saddened to read that Pete Townshend, one of the greatest guitarists and songwriters of all time, may possibly by a conservative. However when you read things Townshend actually says, he is NOT a conservative. Far from it. And if the author of this misinformed article had actually done research on the topic as opposed to spewing their badly formed opinion, they would come to the conclusion that I have.
In a 1994 interview with Playboy, Townshend said that Bill Clinton represented the American dream "Which is not only about material gain." And he goes on to say, "Out with the Republicans, whose pragmatism is soul-killing, and in with a man who has ideals." Does this sound like a right-wing man to you?
Then in the Bush/Gore election, when asked who he was backing Townshend gave the answer, "It doesn't matter who wins. Either way America's screwed. Not even the Republicans offer free health care."
And, although he didn't allow Michael Moore to use Won't Get Fooled Again for Fahrenheight 9/11, he ALSO didn't allow the Republican national convention to use the song.
As for the matter of the child porn, the courts have decided that one and a man IS innocent until proven guilty. He was never even close to being proven guilty on that charge. The whole story was blown out of proportion.
Next time you try and bash a rock god, do your research.