SkeletonPete Says

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Music SkeletonPete Says

Whose Nexus?: A Life (House) with “Who’s Next”

The Who, Who's Next Anniversary
In 1971, an unrealized sci-fi film concept, the teachings of Sufi Master Meher Baba, an acetate of new tunes, and an inspired jam session with Leslie West, all informed what became the Who’s Next album.

52 years ago today, what is now considered a milestone album in the history of rock music, Who’s Next was released. With a massive Super Deluxe Edition of early 70s Who music looming I had cause to reminisce about my personal attachment to the Who‘s Next album and the uncompleted project called Lifehouse that spawned it.

Go West Young Man…

The first time I heard any music connected with The Who’s now classic Who’s Next album was either in late July or early August 1971.

I remember sitting on my neighbors’ stoop in Brooklyn, New York talking with a few friends. A transistor radio was a ubiquitous companion at these hangouts. Through the conversation, a pulsating electronic sound eventually caught my ear. It was the percolating rhythm of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” generated by the ARP synthesizer driven arpeggios of Pete Townshend‘s Lowrey organ. I was immediately hooked.

In pre-Shazam days researching a song was limited by the whim of the radio DJ and the luck of timing. Based on a tell-tale guitar lick, I decided that this was new music from one of my favorite bands, Mountain. To my surprise, I came to learn that the song was part of a soon to be released new album from another one of my favorite bands, The Who.

I had spent the better part of the previous year listening to and proselytizing about the power of The Who’s Live at Leeds album. Consequently I took quite a chiding from my friends when I failed to identify them. Even so, I was thrilled that there would be new Who music to experience.

The Who Who's Next Anniversary
Won't Get Fooled Again 45 rpm
Peek-A-Who: The 45 RPM (severely edited) version of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” lounging in it’s home of the last 52 years.

Though Pete Townshend’s appropriation of a few Leslie West licks seemed obvious to me at the time, I eventually forgot about it and just enjoyed the new tunes.

A year or so later Cream magazine ran a short interview with West that vindicated me for my first impressions. West talked about how exciting it was jamming with The Who during spring 1971 sessions at New York City’s Record Plant studio.

According to West in later interviews he had been contacted by The Who’s manager Kit Lambert. He told Leslie that Townshend wanted to enlist him as lead player for the recordings so that tracks could be captured with a live feel and a minimum need for overdubbing.

Surviving March 1971 session tapes reveal West added his tone monster sound to takes of “Baby Don’t You Do It,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and a very electric version of “Love Ain’t For Keeping.”

Although Leslie West does not appear on the original release of Who’s Next, it is undeniable that the spirit of his playing, as channeled through Townshend, is part of the DNA of the album. The double stop bends that punctuate many of the songs and the squall that is unleashed as “Behind Blue Eyes” moves from pastoral tranquility to raging exclamation point, all speak to his influence.

I’m A One Man Band…

Who’s Next was released during my formative guitar learning period. I was not a “natural.” I loved playing but knew I was unlikely to match the nimble lead work of my favorite guitarists, Jimmy Page, Carlos Santana, and Eric Clapton. So the chord driven style of The Who and their attention to song-craft became my benchmark. I would endeavor to write tunes with memorable riffs, using big blocks chords and interesting rhythms. I bought myself a used Gibson SG because Pete played one.

In several print interviews of the time Townshend explained that he created demonstration versions of his songs in his home studio and presented them to the band as blueprints for potential Who recordings. The concept wasn’t new to me. After all, Paul McCartney had played just about everything on his first solo album released the year before.

An opportunity to hear those demos of Who’s Next material turned up in the form of an “underground” LP titled The Genius of Pete Townshend. It was offered by a label called Trademark of Quality. Did it seem sketchy? Yes. I ordered it immediately.

The Who Who's Next Anniversary
The Genius of Pete Townshend Trademark of Quality
The Bizarre Mister Pig, rendered by artist William Stout, was the mascot of the “underground” record label Trademark of Quality.

I remember returning home from school one afternoon to find the package had been delivered. Even listening today I can feel a rush of excitement as the first track “Pure and Easy” is heralded by dry drum cracks. “Pure and Easy” is a pivotal song in Townshend’s Lifehouse concept that had been left off of Who’s Next.

Lifehouse endeavored to follow the hugely popular Tommy rock opera with a film that would interweave eco-consciousness, audience participation, science fiction narrative, and Sufi transcendence.

The lyrics of “Pure and Easy” outlined the whole story of a polluted future where the “chords of life lose their joy” and the promise of the single musical note that liberates those open to experiencing it. This was as close to secret knowledge as a burgeoning songsmith (me) was likely to get.

SkeletonPete Says…

So, whose nexus? Mine for sure. A chance connection with The Genius of Pete Townshend album sent me on a lifelong path of home recording experimentation and validated my songwriting as a creative outlet. I’m still exploring a half century later.

The Who, Who's Next, Peter Townshend, Lifehouse, The Genius of Pete Townshend, trademark of quality
Toys & Collectibles

‘Tater Skins: Super Impulse Poptaters Offer an Array of Fan Favorites

super impulse, sweet suite, toys, hasbro, mister potato head, the toy insider, the pop insider

Hot Mash…

Super Impulse, famous for their line of impossibly small replicas of iconic toys, games and products, showed off a basket full of their Poptaters at the recent Toy Insider Sweet Suite Event.

Poptaters are a mash-up of Hasbro’s Mr. Potato Head and the world of pop culture personalities. A bit bigger than SI’s usual licensed collectibles, Poptaters feature characters from fandoms both obvious and surprisingly obscure. There are also generational leaps from Boomers to Gen A giving the product a wide appeal. 

The Spud Abides…

At the Super Impulse booth, Lucky Trolls (aka Wishnicks) and Garbage Pail Kid Adam Bomb sat next to Child’s Play’s Chucky and Sonic The Hedgehog. Painter Bob Ross seemed prepared to render a happy little portrait of The Office‘s Dwight Shrute and there was even Kiss’s Gene Simmons replete with axe bass and dragon boots. 

super impulse, sweet suite, toys, hasbro, mister potato head, the toy insider, the pop insider

My favorite in this series is the perfect presentation of Jeff Bridges as “The Dude” from the film The Big Lebowski (1998). It’s the piece that made me laugh out loud.

super impulse, sweet suite, toys, hasbro, mister potato head, the toy insider, the pop insider
These boots are made for rocking. Gene Simmons’ dragon boots are just one of the fun details found on Super Impulse’s Poptaters Mr. Potato Heads.

I was a Pre-Teen Couch Potato…

National Toy Hall of Fame inductee Mr. Potato Head has gone through many revisions since its launch in 1952. I have fond memories of sitting on my living room couch (circa 1959-1960) happily pushing combinations of various eyes, noses, brows, and mouths into a variety of vegetables. Unfortunately, the original kit had a fatal flaw in requiring that kids raid the refrigerator for suitable noggins.

Tuber or Not Tuber…

I don’t think my parents realized when I convinced them to buy the toy that it would lead to a daily attack on the family food stock. Honestly, finances were tight and food security was the number one priority in my house. Finding me mangling the contents of our vegetable bin became contentious. 

In the mid-1960s Hasbro rolled out a revamp with the inclusion of a plastic potato surrogate to host the facial parts and accessories. That likely saved innumerable pounds of produce from the waste bin and allowed for safer rounded points on the pieces.

super impulse, sweet suite, toys, hasbro, mister potato head, the toy insider, the pop insider
The ever-mellow Bob Ross prepares to paint a happy little vegetable garden..

SkeletonPete Says… 

Getting a chance to relive a legacy play experience while celebrating a favorite franchise is the lure of Poptaters for me and I assume other collectors. Super Impulse keeps growing the options.

Just announced at San Diego Comic-Con and coming in the fall are Poptaters of Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, Sesame Streets Bert and Ernie, Silent Bob, and Vocaloid virtual popstar Hatsune Miku. They’ll also be starchy renditions of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

super impulse, sweet suite, toys, hasbro, mister potato head, the toy insider, the pop insider
Due in autumn 2023, Poptaters Series 3 will include Vocaloid Hatsune Miku,
Sesame Street‘s Bert and Ernie, Star Trek‘s Mr. Spock, and other pop culture faves. (image courtesy of Super Impulse)

Poptaters figures stand approximately 4 inches tall and come with a selection of 11-14 interchangeable pieces. They come packaged in clear cylindrical display cases to show off on your collector shelves but don’t leave ‘em boxed up. Mixing and matching the various face and body parts is where all the fun lies. 

The Pricing by item runs from $14.99 – $17.99.

super impulse, sweet suite, toys, hasbro, mister potato head, the toy insider, the pop insider
Mind Blown: Oppenheimer scion Adam Bomb of Garbage Pail Kids fame
is easily triggered.
Toys & Collectibles

Tot Fun in the Summertime: Toy Insider’s Sweet Suite 2023

Scenes from The Toy Insider Sweet Suite event 2023 #weknowplay

The Toy Insider’s (TI) Sweet Suite event was back in full swing this past week. The 2023 installment brought together media outlets from across the continent. National news agencies to social app influencers of all ages convened at Manhattan’s Chelsea Pier to alert the public to what will be the most sort after toys throughout the summer and into the year-end gifting season.

Art Photography SkeletonPete Says

Amazing Journey: American Museum of Natural History Previews Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation

American museum of natural history, the gilder center for science education and innovation
The Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation melds unique organic architecture with the classic facades of The American Museum of Natural History. (Images © 2023 Peter M. Parrella)

Come on the Amazing Journey….

I know quoting a song by The Who is pretty cliché for me, but I could not think of a better description of my experience at the newest wing of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City. The Gilder Center for Science, Education and Innovation will open its doors to the world at large on May 4th, 2023, but reporters were gathered on April 26th for an advance look.

Toys & Collectibles

Banana Bred: WowWee Fingerlings Return

WowWee Toys will launch a new series of the popular Fingerlings baby monkeys in summer of 2023

We’re a Happy Family…

You’ve heard about the monkey’s uncle I’m sure, but at the recent toy industry event The PlayDate (hosted by The Toy Association and The Toy Insider) I was introduced to the monkey’s cousins! Yes, returning to toy shelves soon are WowWee Toys’ beloved baby monkeys, the Fingerlings