In this period of celebration for The Who’s 50th Anniversary comes this excellent book by Mark Blake. Pretend You’re In A War: The Who & The Sixties is – for me – a bit different from the dozens of other books written about the band over the decades. This is the first time I can recall reading something with depth and insight into the machinery behind The Who; it isn’t just another band biography. While it’s always been known about some of the “stunts” pulled by their management – Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp – this books tells tales that alter between shock and hysterical.
Aside from framing the band’s story with the obligatory backgrounds on the individual band members and their childhoods, Blake tries to go into detail about Stamp and Lambert and how these two, with no management or real business background, managed to take this band to the pinnacle of international fame, wealth and notoriety. Of course, with their drunken and drugged-out hi-jinks, it left the band always needing to work because as quickly as the money poured in, it was pissed right out. But it also paints the managers as sympathetic and willing co-conspirators when it came to the music Townshend was trying to drive the band toward and were as encouraging as one could hope or want.
Yes, there are some of the usual sordid tales of the band’s exploits (Keith Moon’s 21st birthday party, etc.) but it doesn’t make the story tiresome; it only reminds you how downright funny The Who could be as people and how legends are truly established. This book is undoubtedly one of the better pieces on a rock band and I rate this one right behind Richard Barnes’ authorized 1982 biography on the band. Worth every moment.
Pretend You’re In A War: The Who & The Sixties is available now