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The Story Behind The Song: Jools And Jim by Pete Townshend

With Keith Moon dead, a cross-addiction to smack and booze, and a disintegrating marriage, Pete Townshend was at crisis point. In 2012 Classic Rock explained what happened next

There are plenty of books by embittered old rock stars and sorry has-beens. But in an industry where backbiting and cheap shots are a pitiful, if entertaining, by-product of lost opportunity and thwarted ambition, few books are quite so scathing as The Boy Looked At Johnny, written by NME journalists Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons. Published in 1978 and subtitled The Obituary Of Rock And Roll, the book is a venomous rant against the failed promise of punk. Its 79 pages poured bile on almost anyone and anything that dared crawl from CBGB, the 100 Club or The Roxy. The young authors said The Clash’s Mick Jones merely “chanted stray battle-cries like a harassed housewife”, and the Sex Pistols-affiliated Bromley contingent were just “a posse of unrepentant poseurs” committed to attaining fame despite their paucity of talent.

American bands fared little better. It was an unremitting stream of invective, marked by its no-prisoners approach, stray humour and the odd moment of sheer madness (Tom Robinson, they concluded, was the saviour of rock’n’roll).

Enter Pete Townshend, captain of The Who and one of the old guard that punk was supposedly meant to sweep away. The end of the 70s found Townshend in a crisis of sorts. Friend and bandmate Keith Moon was dead at 32, his marriage was collapsing and he had become addicted to heroin and booze. The great idealist and unwitting spokesman of 60s pop was suddenly unsure of his place in the future. All of this fed directly into Empty Glass, the solo album he’d been readying for 18 months.

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