Yes, it had certainly been an extraordinary experience...we had set out on a mission...and a very targeted one at that. We wanted to know Roger Daltrey. We didn't just want to meet him, or have him sign an autograph, or take a picture with us. We wanted him to know us by name, and have a closer, more familiar relationship with us. He did....and he does...
From the very start, we both felt we really were connected to him. That it was only a matter of time before that encounter would happen. Not if, when. Do all fans feel that way? We have no idea. In the long run, we suspect that our instinct counted for something, because the wheel did not stop turning on our ride with The Who....in fact, little did we know...it was just beginning.
Quite a bit happened over the next couple of years. The most notable, of course, was the the tragic loss of Keith Moon. For those who knew him, and those who were lucky enough to have witnessed his magic on stage, it was an unexpected, devastating hit...one that would leave a permanent mark, particularly on the the band. Everyone suffered the loss of an incomparable talent....an unpredictable force to be reckoned with....but for the remaining members of The Who, Keith Moon was an equal part of their equation as a whole...an integral component of their musical success....a success that gave them the freedom to reach as far and as wide as they could imagine. It was the end of an era....and...it would never be the same....it would be different.
We had remained in touch with Roger since our time with him in England.
When Keith died, we were compelled to speak with him. We decided it was appropriate to call him. We didn't have the Roger's home phone number, but we convinced the pub down the road to give it to us...We called the house, and the anguish in his voice was palpable. He sounded so hollow, so deflated, that it was almost painful to talk with him....He was nearly unable to communicate... out of respect, we kept it brief, and just let him know our thoughts were with him.
A few years had passed since our visit with Roger. There was no touring for The Who, for the obvious reasons, and while they were going through their recovery, we were doing a bit of re-grouping as well. Our sheltered lives as ballerinas had kept us far away from the world of rock n' roll and all the enticing, dangerous facets that world has to offer. It was no surprise that we were easily seduced by the music scene we had encountered in London....and we began to explore the music circuit in New York City. When that rock n' roll bug bites, the stinger is in you for life, and we had a fucking blast. From Max's Kansas City, to CBGB's, and a whole host of underground clubs in between...after all, we were a little older...only slightly less naive....and ready for everything.
Our connection and love of the music didn't waiver...in fact, the power of the musical genius of Pete Townshend became so pervasive that it began to take on a life of it's own. We continued to adore The Who, and listen to them, but something began to shift....we were hearing them in a different way. We had been listening to The Who as Roger Daltrey....after all, he is a powerful singer and performer....and clearly, our attraction to him was not unlike many who are drawn into the intensity that he exudes.
Those who know are clear...it is impossible to listen to The Who with the frequency or intensity that we did, without being stopped dead in your tracks by Pete Townshend. And, we were.....stopped....dead in our tracks. The power of his words, the depth of his mind, his range as a man and an artist are ....in the words of Pete himself.....
" A force you can't oppose..."
Pete's work on various solo projects gave his audience an opportunity to really hear him, to really experience the vast playground of his spectacular mind. And while we hate to admit it, particularly given the beginning of this story, we were smitten. Pete Townshend had become a whole new obsession, although a very different one...It was almost as if we had been hypnotized...as so many of you know...it is unavoidable.
In addition, we were no longer 17 going on 18. We were 21 years old and a bit more worldly, a bit less naive...we were young women as opposed to teenage girls and we were becoming a force to be reckoned with as well. We were absolutely smitten with Pete Townshend and on the heels of our dedicated and successful pursuit with Roger Daltrey...we knew if it was something we were after...we would find a way to make it would happen. And so it began...we had our sights on Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend...and we were not stopping until we faced him head on.
We had met Roger in 1976, and it wasn't until 1979 that The Who announced their plan to tour the U.S. They would be doing a week of shows at Madison Square Garden....same bat time...same bat channel.
You do the math...it's been quite awhile since this time...and while we would love to say our memories are crystal...it simply isn't true. The only thing we are really clear on is the critical moments. The connecting details...who told us what and when they said it...well, that's of less importance. One thing is clear....someone tipped us off that Pete would be in New York the week before the shows, and he would be staying at The Navarro Hotel, on Central Park South.
With no hesitation, we made tracks to the hotel, with the clear intent of finding Pete Townshend, and meeting him face to face. You're never alone when you have a plan like that. There are always other people who have been 'tipped off' as well. So, it was no surprise when we arrived at The Navarro only to find other Pete Townshend fans waiting for him. It was a relatively controlled group of fans, and they had gathered outside his hotel on the sidewalk, patiently awaiting the opportunity to see him in person, or shake his hand. Townshend fans are very different from Daltrey fans, which tend to be more of the female variety, for the obvious reasons.
We had arrived early enough to be able to walk in to the lobby, and sit quietly without raising a red flag. There were two other people waiting inside....Raphael Rudd, and his girlfriend, and we struck up a conversation with them. We were unaware that Raphael was a close friend of Pete's, as well as a musical collaborator, but the fact that they were there meant the rumors had been true, and that at any moment, Pete Townshend would enter the building.
We thought that given our Roger Daltrey experience, we were more than ready to meet Pete Townshend. We were admittedly smitten with him, but everyone is 'smitten' with Pete. But we thought, somehow, this would be a piece of cake compared to meeting Roger. In hindsight, we knew less...than nothing.
When Pete Townshend enters a building, you know it. Not only does the energy in the room shift, you almost feel as though you are in another dimension.
He is almost a contradiction in terms....he presence and his size alone are so potent. His demeanor however, is the polar opposite of his physical being. His words and music lead the listener to a perception of him that is significantly different than the way he presents. He is very tall, his face angular, his features strong....and he is...a rock star. His disposition....gentle, sweet, funny....but his intellect is so beyond that there is a little tinge of arrogance...and you could eat him up with a spoon.
So there we sat, on that little couch, very much aware of the presence that was walking through the door...and...there he was...Peter Dennis Blanford Townshend...standing less than 6 feet away from us. It took several moments to get past the way he affects your being just by being nearby. He was completely unaware of us, and so gracefully casual and charming as he said hello to Raphael. They chatted for a little while, shook hands, and then Pete began to make his way toward the elevator. He was going upstairs and time was running out.
One or both of us called his name, "Pete?" He turned around slowly and looked at us, the corners of his mouth turning up a bit into what appeared to be a smile...The first thing we both noticed as he approached us, were his eyes....
a pale, translucent blue...they were kind, appealing and intense all at once. There was an immediate comfort being in Pete's presence.
While we attempted to spit out reasons that gave us credibility...or a reason for being there...he simply wasn't interested. We mentioned that we knew Roger, we loved his music, anything we could come up with....but while we sputtered, he was moving toward us... and when he had made his way to the couch, and sat down in between us, it's amazing we both survived.... Everything about him rendered us helpless.
Pete smiled and let us finish our 'bit.' He didn't really seem interested in our reasons for being there. He immediately took a shine to us...but nothing in comparison to the shine we took to him.....And then, in that inimitable voice, he said, " You know, I'm having a little party in my room tonight. There will be a lot of very cool people there. Would you like to join me?"