Pete Townshend, Prophet?
Pete Townshend is generally acknowledged as a gifted writer/composer, a flamboyant guitarist and one of the true iconic figures in the history Rock N Roll, but a prophet? Yep! Certainly not in the Biblical sense, but Pete was a bit of a futuristic visionary back in 1970.
I’ve recently been reading, “Who Are You: The Life of Pete Townshend by Steve Wilkerson (great read by the way) and I was at the point in the book where Pete is struggling to wrestle the concept for his next “Rock Opera” he had in his brain into a form the rest of the members of The Who could understand and embrace. He never did. Pete was calling the story, “Lifehouse”and the core of songs he had composed for “Lifehouse” were eventually re-tooled and become, “Who’s Next”. A brilliant rock album, one of The Who’s best, but it was a far cry from the epic sci-fi movie Pete had in his head and he always considered the album a compromise.
It would take almost 30 years for Pete Townshend to actually flesh out the concept of “Lifehouse” and technology to catch up so it could be performed on stage. Roughly the story is about a fictional post-apocalyptic society where people are cloistered in cities and forced to stay indoors… nothing new there, we’ve all seen plenty of movies and books with this theme. But it’s the next part I found so amazing and bit prophetic. People never left their homes they were forced to wear “Experience Suits” that were plugged into boxes that were in turned wired into a government system called, “The Grid”. This was a network that fed them “life experiences” – everything they were deemed to need, from entertainment, news, social interaction and even sex. The story goes on to find a Hacker breaking into the system.
This was 1970!!! Long, 30 plus years, before the Internet, the World Wide Web, household computers… and porn sites would become ubiquitous. I would say Pete Townshend’s vision was pretty prophetic.
Oh, the “Lifehouse” story goes on to have that Hacker producing a rock show in a theater and inviting people to leave their homes once more to experience music together, person to person as a community. So I say, log off, unplug, get out of the house and head to a live show with some friends sometime soon… Ok, you can bring your iPhone… (Cold turkey can be tough, I know!)