The singularly combative ‘Shepherd’s Bush entertainment' peculiar to The Who in their original four-man incarnation reached its creative, explosive zenith in the ‘60s. Here was a decade where literally anything seemed possible.
Yet even operating in the most permissive of environments, true pioneers still need be equipped with innovative balls of steel in order to fully experience every untried opportunity they encounter or, on occasion, imagine. Fortunately, The Who were fearless.
The quartet’s innate testicular fortitude was born of a skewed internal chemistry: no other band were as inwardly competitive. Townshend’s boundlessly experimental modus operandi (encouraged by classical-pedigreed co-manager Kit Lambert) would have overwhelmed lesser bandmates, but with simmering drug-free hard man, Daltrey, macabre psychedelicised bon viveur, Entwistle and actual madman, Moon, simmering alongside him in the white heat of The Who’s autodestructive crucible, Pete was often reduced to negotiating with his fists.
Mark Blake’s Pretend You’re In A War is a compelling read, not simply because The Who provide compelling subject matter, but because its story is told with such an unflinching care and infectious enthusiasm. Confirmation at last that all the mad shit you ever heard about The Who wasn’t just true – it was, if anything, understated.