Pete Townshend Talks About How The Grateful Dead Saved Their Career With “Acid”
Pete Townshend in an interview with Gordon Smart - Radio X / Youtube
In an insightful interview with Clash Music, Pete Townshend, the iconic guitarist of The Who, delved into the ‘Lifehouse’ concept that originated in the early ’70s, shedding light on its transformation into a graphic novel released in December 2023. Townshend credited The Grateful Dead for playing a significant role in the success of this enduring project, stating, [QUOTE] “The Who were running out of ideas pre-‘Tommy,’ the rock opera. And that album started off as a mythic tale.”
The guitarist recounted the multifaceted inspiration behind ‘Lifehouse’
Mentioning influences from Hermann Hesse’s ‘Siddharta’ and the mystical writings of Hazrat Inayat Khan, a musician and spiritual teacher. Reflecting on the psychedelic culture of the ’60s, Townshend shared a pivotal moment,
“I had this experience, post-Monterey, where I took some acid – supplied by a chemist involved with The Grateful Dead – and I had this terrifying trip where I left my body.”
Discussing the impact of this transformative experience, he added,
“I spoke about it with this guy, Mike MacKinnon, who recommended the writings of Meher Baba. I went and got a biography of him and instantly got all the answers I needed to all these questions buzzing around my head.”
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The ‘Lifehouse’ project, initially conceived as a rock opera, was temporarily set aside by The Who to create ‘Who’s Next.’
However, the concept resurfaced in 1978’s ‘Who Are You,’ and Townshend even produced two albums based on it. In 2023, ‘Lifehouse’ returned in the form of a graphic novel as part of the ‘Who’s Next’ re-release box set.
Townshend explained the genesis of the ‘Lifehouse’ idea,
“The Who had run out of hit singles, and we needed something bigger, and I had always wanted to write an opera. My manager, Kit Lambert, was a terrific mentor and encouraged me to write this song cycle.” .
He continued by sharing the evolution of the concept,
“Nick Cohn – who wrote for the Observer – said, isn’t it corny? Rock star into a guru? So we changed it to a pinball player, wrote a few extra songs… and it was in the can!”
Reflecting on the impact of ‘Lifehouse’
Townshend acknowledged its paradoxical nature,
“Piece of nonsense and also the biggest f**king thing that ever happened to anybody in their entire life. I mean, just beyond beyond beyond huge.”
Readers can explore Pete Townshend’s complete interview about the new ‘Lifehouse’ graphic novel for more insights into the creative journey of this musical legend.