Conductor James Levine has returned from an absence of more than two years to lead…
- Posted on Mar 17th 2013 12:10PM by Karen Bliss
Simon Townshend Facebook
"I do remember that. I did read his book," Townshend, 52, tells Spinner. "He sent me a draft before it was released. He wanted the whole family to have a copy and I was really keen to read it straight away to be honest, which I did and I learned a few things about him and his breakup with his wife and stuff that perhaps I didn't know before.
"But, yeah, I remember the Bowie thing. I sat on his knee and watched the Who. He was lovely. Those memories, they are priceless for me -- priceless."
Townshend, who is 15 years Pete's junior and plays guitar and sings background vocals with the present-day Who when he's not performing under his own name, released his debut album, Sweet Sounds, in 1983 and is now touring behind his seventh, Looking Out Looking In. He just finished dates with the Who and is currently touring across Canada with Heart before returning to the U.K. in April for solo shows and as the support act for Big Country's "The Journey" tour. In June, he has U.K. dates with his band.
For the Heart tour Townshend is back to traveling in the tour bus, "much more like being on the road." The Who has a jet, he offers.
"I've been getting it so easy the last six weeks because I travel with Pete, Roger Daltrey, [drummer] Zak Starkey and the bass player Pino Palladino. What you can't do is hang out and meet guests after shows because they always wanna to do runs."
It's good timing to be opening for Heart. The band received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last Sept., will be inducted into the 2013 Rock And Roll Hall of Fame April 18 and played an exceptional version of "Stairway to Heaven" to honor Led Zeppelin at the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors that has accumulated more than 4.6 million views on YouTube.
"I watched a bit online, but I didn't see the whole thing. But I heard all about it. Very successful, wasn't it?" says Townshend. "We were talking to the tour manager and pretty much all of the shows are sold out. I'm really pleased."
Townshend's 40-minute opening set is solo -- just him on six-string acoustic, mandolin and 12-string.
"That was all I could actually manage to carry," he says. He's playing four songs from Looking Out Looking In, "She Asked Me," "Bed of Roses," "Forever And A Day" and the title-track, plus his 1984 single, "I'm the Answer," "The Way It Is" from the '90s and two new songs.
"I think the audience become endeared to a single guy on a stage on his own, entertaining -- and if you can pull it off," says Townshend. "I've had years of experience where I've worked really hard at this solo thing -- it's something that I love doing. The audience is on your side, assuming that they like the style of music -- and I think they will. It slots into the category for the Heart support, hence that's why I got the gig.
"I usually play for an hour-and-half on my shows. When you're on a time limit, you've got to be brutal. I'm really able to hone down to the best songs that I think will work. It's been difficult. It's not been easy choosing the material."
Following his set, he can be found at merch table signing autographs and saying hello.
"What I plan to do in spectacular style is leave the stage from the front, obviously announcing I'm signing CDs -- and walk down the aisles, giving away some free download cards and then go to the back of the hall to the merch stand and sign as many CDs as I can before Heart come on," Townshend says.
When he wraps up the U.K. tours, the singer-guitarist plans to return to the recording studio to finish up his next album, which he plans to release in November. He's going through a particularly prolific phase after a fairly inactive output in the 2000s.
"I had a year of quite a bit of turmoil in my family life," Townshend says. "I love my family. I've got three kids and they're getting older and one of them got led astray. I don't like to say too much, but it's been a hard year. My other son, he lost a child, so last year I couldn't help writing. It was inspirational and, for me, the best medicine is writing because it heals me in some strange way. I don't know why. It just does.
"I wrote a whole album in probably three months and I got straight off recording it last year because I wanted to be ahead of the game. I like to have time to absorb what I'm doing, and also get the songs recorded quickly, rather than leaving it for six to eight months and then when you do it, you've lost the spark that's there when you created the song. To get that energy down, and to get the general feel, from then on it's quite easy."
Townshend will also pick back up with his brother and the Who this summer.
"We're touring in June in the U.K. and doing a couple of shows in Europe. It's a very successful tour. The shows in the U.K. sold out in a matter of hours. I'm sure if Pete and Roger want to continue, there's more work opportunities back over here in the States because they were packed to the rafters, all the shows."