How I Met Pete Townshend (part II)

The Plan

…Well, I figure the best bet is to go back over to Berkeley and catch Pete at sound check before the second show – somewhere between 3:00 and 5:00 pm. I climb into my 1989 Toyota 4Runner (the last year with a removable top and first with a V6) and head over the Bay Bridge to the far away land of Berkeley, California.

I’m headed up what turns out to be Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, not far from my intended destination, but I am completely lost and, of course, listening to The Who. As the last strains of Who’s Next taper off, the tape pops out of the deck and 1989 technology kicks in as the “auto-radio” function does it’s thing. Lo and behold, there’s Pete’s voice. Ahh! I’ve got him!

I spot a phone booth, abruptly pull over, search madly through the phone book and find the address of KFOG 104.5 FM in San Francisco. I write down the address (nice of me not to tear out the page, right?) and head back the way I came.

As I re-cross the Bay Bridge, I realize how incredibly beautiful it is here. Not a cloud in the sky – a perfect blue gradient from the white of the horizon to the deepest azure overhead. The rusty red spires of the Golden Gate bridge jut out over the horizon to my right. The San Francisco skyline is up ahead. I notice that most of the buildings in San Francisco are white – it is a very white city (not just the population). If you’re from here you might not notice that, but I can tell you that New York City is much more of a grey/dark brown…anyway, I fly through traffic listening to Pete talk about music and think, “Don’t you get off the air, fucker!” He sings a song from Psychoderelict (an interesting concept record but, unfortunately, one that contains very few tracks that qualify as a “song”). His voice is shot and he doesn’t sound great, but I’m not complaining. As long as he keeps talking.

It is now rush hour. Cars are just about everywhere and I’m in downtown SF. I make an inspired, lucky left turn and end up just a few blocks from my destination. I spot a long black limo double-parked up ahead. This is it! The parking goddess is with me and I nab a spot just a block away…

I rush over to the limo and start knocking on the rearmost window. The black mirror facade rolls down and an English gent’s long face appears in its place. He asks politely what I might want. I tell him I would like to speak to Pete. He replies, “He’s still inside, you’ll need to talk to his manager over there.” I look over and standing on the sidewalk, having a smoke is Pete’s manager, who has been keeping and eye on all this. He is nice enough when I repeat the question and tells me to wait for Pete to come out. I ask him if Pete might sign my guitar. He informs me that “Pete doesn’t sign guitars.”

I am standing on the sidewalk in front of a glass enclosed lobby with a clear view through to the silver elevator door not 25 feet way from me. There is a black canvas soft guitar case slung over my right shoulder. In it is my favorite guitar. The one I use the most. A Gibson “TV-yellow” Les Paul Special named “Mean Mr. Mustard.” There’s a pin on the strap that says “Thunders lives!” (I got the pin while Johnny Thunders was still alive). I stand there for a long time. I begin to realize that this is actually going to happen…What to say! “Hello Pete! Uhh, Hi Pete, uhh…”

After a few minutes or so of this, I spot a middle aged man running up the street. He stops in front of me and breathlessly asks if Pete has come out yet. Perhaps he thinks I’m Pete’s manager. In his hand, he reverently holds a small, white paper napkin. Apparently, he seeks an autograph. I inform him that Pete hasn’t yet materialized, but that he can wait in front of me.

We wait some more.

And then suddenly, there he is.

Pete pushes through the glass doors and seems in a bit of a hurry. Looking perfectly English in a grey tweed coat he approaches us and quickly, but politely, signs the napkin of the fellow in front of me. He then looks at me standing there with a smile and a guitar over my shoulder. Since I ask for (and seemingly offer) nothing, his demeanor changes in a most subtle way. His weight shifts backward and he pauses as if to say, “right then…” -> part iii