PETE TOWNSHEND - The Age of Fear: An Art Novel

11. September 2020

Pete Townshend The Who

PETE TOWNSHEND- Das Zeitalter der Angst: Ein Kunstroman

In addition to his main job at The Who, Pete Townshend has earned an extra income as an editor for various publishers. The sideline became a passion which he now crowns with his first novel. "The Age of Fear: An Art Novel" is also intended as the basis for an upcoming rock opera.

The following book excerpt describes a reunion concert by Walter, who had retired from the music business for a long time because he was plagued by visions of other people's fears. Together with his old band and his father, after 15 years he discovers his new creativity and transforms the sounds he hears into tangible, if disturbing music. It is the beginning of a liberation

Extract from the book by Pete Townshend (from page xxx to page xx)

[...] A voice resounds over the PA speakers at a huge event. "Welcome to the gates of hell!" Hell. The Inferno. Agony. Flames. A torture rack. Evil laughter. Bodies, beaten, scorched, falling, crashing. A hideous choir. An electric guitar, strangled, torturing itself. An incredible organ. The stupid roar of a football crowd, an Islamic horde, a Pentecost procession. A preacher "casting out devils". Aspirants babbling gibberish. Crowds of people shouting angrily in choirs at many different demonstrations. Hippie drummers, native drummers drum, thunder, unite in a rising fury, whipped up by the rhythm, transforming into an old-school rock'n'roll band that goes to the limit. It's a tremendous sound. It's pub rock mixed with pomp rock, garage punk, prog rock, god rock, road rock, hell on earth rock mixed with acid, garage, rap. This huge, scary and disturbing soundscape becomes a rap-rock-pop-backing track of the most extravagant excesses of stadium rock, festival rock, heavy metal, death metal, MTV, guitar smashing and all that childish shit ..

We had all gathered at one side of the stage. This was the first time in over sixteen years that we saw Walter perform. Next to the band, an orchestra and a choir had placed themselves on stage, and behind them was a large church organ. Harry Watts played it during various passages, or he conducted the musicians who performed his orchestration of Walter's soundscapes. [...] As the introductory music faded and ambitious, daring and modern orchestral music and organ cascades floated across the park, Frank Lovelace looked extremely worried. The audience did not react as he had hoped and promised Steve Hanson. Patty Hanson waved her tambourine and swarmed across the stage boards in her wide, flowing silk dress. Crow looked tough, seemed excluded, but I thought I saw a glimmer of hope in his eyes. Of course, Crow knew that only he could get Walter to play his harmonica like in the old days, and also to his famous pose, the stand. Walter stood in the middle of the stage, singing, even howling like a wolf and conducting the orchestra when his father took over the organ. The musicians hired by Harry played together with Crow, Steve and Patty Hanson, and Walter seemed to be the only one who had little to do on stage. But he was proud, visibly moved, and when his voice came into play, he used it in a new style. Instead of singing like before, he used it like a musical instrument. The lyrics were more like lyrical performances compared to the songs he had written for Stand at the Dingwalls. In the past, Selena had described to me the almost invisible ghosts of hundreds of beings she saw in her visions, and on this day - when the Soundscapes opened dimension after dimension - I thought I recognized them: small shadowy clouds moving across the firmament like smoke, "searching for souls to take them in", as Selena would probably say. The clouds gathered, condensed, and I thought I recognized a dozen faces that revealed a possible God up there. But what could that be, I wondered, that what was in the shades of gold and gray in the sky at sunset? Was it the crowd of Nik's angels waiting for the Harvest? Was I returning to the old days of my madness, or was I expecting an event triggered by Walter's soundscapes?

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