Saturday, January 03, 2009

Townshend, Daltrey & THE WHO

Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey recently received Kennedy Center Honors in New York. We watched the TV presentation of this event earlier in the week. We were quite surprised to see the two Brits, leading lights of the 60s/70s rock band The Who, placed among such American luminaries as Barbra Streisand, Morgan Freeman and George Jones. There's a list of the year's honorees, and all those from previous years, here.

I'm not implying that these two don't merit the honor, but there are so many deserving American musicians, it seemed surprising that the judges needed to venture across the pond for honorees. Townshend and Daltrey appeared at The Concert for New York City, after 9/11, of course, but so did many others. That's not likely to be the reason they were chosen. However, the section of the show honoring Townshend's and Daltrey's work did include the appearance of "New York's finest and bravest", the fire fighters and police, singing along behind musicians on stage.

Anyway, seeing the two former hard-rockers sitting there, all establishment-ish, felt rather like sampling a caviar hamburger with a cherry on top - and almost as indigestible!

Speaking of digestion, I bit off more than I could chew as I started to investigate The Who's astrology. The best-known line-up consisted of Roger Daltrey as vocalist, Pete Townshend guitar, John Entwistle bass, and Keith Moon on drums. Their natal charts are included below. Times of birth, which seem to me to have been rounded-off, are as given at Astrotheme.

Extract (see here).

Few bands in the history of rock & roll were riddled with as many contradictions as the Who. All four members had wildly different personalities, as their notoriously intense live performances demonstrated. The group was a whirlwind of activity, as the wild Keith Moon fell over his drum kit and Pete Townshend leaped into the air with his guitar, spinning his right hand in exaggerated windmills. Vocalist Roger Daltrey strutted across the stage with a thuggish menace, as bassist John Entwistle stood silent, functioning as the eye of the hurricane. These divergent personalities frequently clashed, but these frictions also resulted in a decade's worth of remarkable music.

As one of the key figures of the British Invasion and the mod movement of the mid-'60s, the Who were a dynamic and undeniably powerful sonic force. They often sounded like they were exploding conventional rock and R&B structures with Townshend's furious guitar chords, Entwistle's hyperactive basslines, and Moon's vigorous, chaotic drumming. Unlike most rock bands, the Who based their rhythm on Townshend's guitar, letting Moon and Entwistle improvise wildly over his foundation, while Daltrey belted out his vocals. This was the sound the Who thrived on in concert, but on record they were a different proposition, as Townshend pushed the group toward new sonic territory. He soon became regarded as one of the finest British songwriters of his era, as songs like "The Kids Are Alright" and "My Generation" became teenage anthems, and his rock opera, Tommy, earned him respect from mainstream music critics.

The diversity of personalities within The Who could well account for its success. It's not easy to find any clear astrological linkage, apart from the outer planet placements. The four guys were born within two years of each other, so naturally Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are in similar positions - Uranus in Gemini, Neptune in Libra and Pluto in Leo.

I'll mention just one or two interesting points from the charts:

Roger Daltrey has a nice close Air trine from Uranus to Neptune with sextile to Pluto. He is arguably the most versatile of the four. He added acting to his resume, though without receiving any great acclaim, it has to be said. He did come up with competent performances in several UK TV series, and a few movies too. Four planets in versatile Gemini, including Saturn, which lay in Cancer or Leo in the other three charts, reflect his adaptability.

Pete Townshend shone as a songwriter in addition to his talent as guitarist. Jupiter in Virgo on his ascendant (one of the most powerful areas of the chart) is a good illustration of this: Virgo is ruled by Mercury the writer's planet, Jupiter is known as planet of publication and expansion.

From his natal chart (below), I don't see Entwistle being the group's "eye of the hurricane" as stated in the quote, above. Actually the author contradicts himself somewhat, because in the second paragraph he says "The Who based their rhythm on Townshend's guitar". Townshend's nitpicky Virgo ascendant would seem far more likely to provide a stable foundation than Entwistle's impulsive Aries rising. Entwistle's midheaven is in stable cardinal Capricorn, though while Townshend's is in mutable Gemini, with Uranus sitting there (if time of birth is accurate)....I'm not informed enough about rock music to decide whose astrology best symbolised The Who's "anchor".

Both Entwistle (right) and Moon (below) died too soon, their charts are similar in that the planets are huddled within half or less of the zodiac circle, leading to a less circumspect outlook in general. Both have four planets in Libra. Their deaths were in similar circumstances, Moon died of an overdose of a prescribed drug, a drug to assist in loosening an alcohol addiction - note that in his chart Mars and Neptune, the addictive planet, are conjoined within 2 degrees. Entwistle died of a heart attack due to an overdose of cocaine. In his chart Neptune and Mercury conjoin within 3 degrees and lie on the descendant angle which is one of the four most sensitive points in any chart.

Neither Townshend nor Daltrey has a personal planet close to Neptune -that's not to say that they didn't use drugs or alcohol, but they were probably more strong-minded, less the addictive type.

12 noon chart for Keith Moon as no time of birth known.

The video, from a performance in 1968, illustrates a little of the destructive motif for which the band became famous: smashing their instruments, destroying sets. The presenter individually introduces the four lads before they sing "My Generation". Towards the end we see the infamous incident when Keith Moon added 3 times the amount of explosive to a special effect, without letting the band know. Rumor had it that Pete Townshend's hearing loss started from that point, having stood close to the resulting explosion.


Wisewebwoman said...

Tommy Smothers seemed so baffled by them but of course that was his 'schtick'.
Troubled rock group for sure but so talented.
I too was surprised they were in the honours.

DTStacey said...

I'd never heard of personal planets close to Neptune being an indication of addiction before. I just checked the charts of the 3 family members I know with addiction problems. Only one of them has a personal planet anywhere close to Neptune. But it is 9 degrees away. Funny that this person is the 1 of the 3 that has best handled the problem.

In any case, I love the Who and am glad they got such a special recognition.

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ Oh, that was Tommy Smothers? - I don't know him but have heard the husband mention him and his bro. :-)

Twilight said...

DT Stacey - Hi!

Well, Neptune is said to have connection to addiction, so if close to a personal planet I guess it could in some cases indicate this - it's also the planet of creativity, imagination, not necessarily indicating addiction every time. Also aspects from personal planets to Neptune might be involved in addiction too - opposition, square, etc. and Neptune on an angle might too - but not always. Again I don't think this is the only indicator, there will be other configurations connecting to the trait. And astrology is not everything - background and circumstance has a hand in it too, of course.

I thought it a coincidence and point of interest to mention that both Entwistle and Moon had the conjunction in their charts.

The Who were second only to the Beatles, I guess. They were not my cup of tea at all, but obviously had talent in their heyday, and the two survivors have improved with age. :-)

R J Adams said...

As an amateur musician from an early age, and one (like many) who struggled to own beautifully made instruments, I've never come to terms with those who call themselves musicians, yet have no respect for the instruments they play and smash them to pieces just for effect.
The Who left me cold. Talented they may have been, but to me they were never true musicians.

Twilight said...

RJ ~~~ Wonders never cease - we agree! ;-)

I suppose The Who filled a need some of the younger generations always seem to have for rebellion, in ine form or other. Nowadays it's rap "singers" with controversial "lyrics" - I hate to use the word lyric 'cos their words are never lyrical!!

I never did "get" The Who, but back in those days I was all Sinatra all the time. I did like Marc Bolan though, for some inexplicable reason.

anthonynorth said...

The Who are a strange band who I like very much. Townshend is not a great guitarist, but a marvellous songwriter. This is why they needed such a strong backing section. The bassist was okay, but Moon was one of the best drummers in any rock band. As for Roger, he's just been voted the 5th best rock voice of all time.
It was Townshend's songs and genius that made them different, coming into their own when they switched from Mod to be the template for future heavy rock, along with Led Zep. And when Pete wrote Tommy, the era of the rock opera was with us. Quadrophenia was also excellent, even though it looked back to the Mods.

Twilight said...

AN ~~ Hi! Well here you're speaking "a language that the stranger (me) does not know" ;-) So
thank you for your input, and for reminding us of the rock operas - which I'd forgotten to mention.

As I've said, The Who were not my cup of tea, but I realise I was in the minority back then, and appreciate that they did have something a wee bit different....what they now call The X Factor, I guess. :-)