Pete’s mixed media daring has been inspiring me since I was twelve. A high school civics teacher had this on tape and lent it to my 15-year-old self. Now, thanks to the internet’s assault on copyright, here is the full film that accompanies one of Pete Townshend’s greatest albums, White City:
It’s fun to imagine a pre-Gatsby or a pre-Hemingway world. I think the real treasure of these ads is unearthing the lost art of blurbs. Check out the closing line on the Gatsby one below: “A romantic, mysterious, frustrate figure, his story as it unfolds in a swiftly moving narrative gives on an almost breathless insight into the life of today-shining and beautiful on the surface, thrilling, glamorous, and yet, at bottom, false.”
The ad for Joyce’s Ulysses might be the most fun!
There were tomato worms, peagreen and fat, bedecked like floats in a Chinese New Year’s parade, and a tiny scarlet bug no bigger than the head of a pin that I watched once move across the moonscape of a rock that I was playing hide-and-seek behind, knowing even then that I would never forget him for the rest of my days as indeed I never have, the meeting of that boy and that bug half a century ago, before time started.
Frederick Buechner. Sacred Journey, 1982.
My first favorite band. Alvin Lee quickly dashed my pubescent hopes of playing guitar. Anytime I was feeling confident, I’d come across some Ten Years After disc and his speed, precision, and soul would practically take the guitar from my hands and set it down for me. More young guitarists were discouraged by this guy than by any other player.
Here’s how you know him.
The below clip is special to me. My dad didn’t let me listen to the song ‘I’m Going Home’ until I could watch the definitive performance from Woodstock. I was young. In that magical age before I could date girls but after I had already become obsessed by them, that age where I could focus every second on a passion, whether it was guitar or comics, I had time for it. I was at that age, so the thought of a perfect Ten Years After performance in a movie was pretty exciting.
I’m thirteen when I watch this.
It’s also the end of the road for Ten Years After. This moment I was so excited for marked our split. I came to this movie for them but left with The Who. It might not mean much to some people, but switching allegiances meant the whole rhythm of my life was changed. Alvin Lee’s soulful, piercing guitar solos might have built a different person in me than Pete Townshend’s crunchy, scatter-shot playing did.
Lee’s plays his guitar like a lion tamer. He holds onto it like it might get loose and he’s the only one that can tame it. He sings as if Rock and Roll never died and was never resurrected by the Beatles. There was Little Richard and Elvis and now we’re playing Rock and Roll like this. The jazz in his voice keeps it cool when the blues in his fingers is accelerating to the point of almost losing control. But he never lost it. I’ve listened to all the old records and a few new ones, a few boots and any live stuff I could find. Alvin Lee always kept it together and he always kept it bopping.
I’m Going Home (by helicopter). And don’t forget your watermelon!
by Merry-Joseph Blondel
He’s been dead for so long. His coat was probably left on him or it was tossed over a chair in an attic somewhere. The flesh-based coat was treated, so it’s probably more intact than its owner right now.
He hasn’t even really been dead for so long. A lot of people have been dead for longer. People we think we know something about have been dead for longer. George Washington, Michelangelo, Charlemagne, Queen Elizabeth, St Peter, King David. This guy was around at a time that many of us can trace our direct ancestors to. Yet every single person that has ever known the sound of his voice, the peculiarity of his walk, and the shy way he smiled is dead too. People like to say that dead people aren’t really dead as long we remember them. Besides the obvious problems, this statement doesn’t comfort so very much because, unless the deceased have an immortal friend or two, they will be forgotten.
I don’t know what this man smelled like, or how he moved when he walked. I do know that he was capable of a pretty good stare. How his stare matched the other stares of his time, of course I must admit ignorance. But if he were alive today, and he could stare like that, he would have a class-A stare. And he really did. He really actually met Blondel, said good morning, drank some coffee, and sat still while a painted copy of the image of his face was applied to the longer-lived canvas. “Should I smile, or, I don’t know. I’ve never done this kind of thing before.”
He left Blondel’s studio, ate some bread on his walk home. Maybe he was dreading telling his wife that he had posed for a painter. She was decidedly more common than he. He was not so rich now. Nobody was. He stayed in the country during the revolution, hiding on the farm of a friend. It was really his father’s friend. The brother of a cousin’s sister, or something like that. He married the daughter of the farmer. Anyway. Doesn’t matter now. Everyone that he offended when he took her as his wife is gone. The boy that was five years her junior that wanted to marry her is gone for over a century. The little son that was born seven months after they wed is gone. Their grandkids who never knew about this painting, the one grandkid that did spot grandpa’s face hanging in a gallery (based on the hair, of course) is also gone.
I don’t mean to depress anybody. It’s just the fact of life. It’s going to end and everybody will forget you. Unless, like I said, you have an immortal friend.