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Friday, 3 December, 1999, 18:25 GMT
Townshend's cyber odyssey
Spokesman for many generations: Pete Townshend
Rock legend Pete Townshend's follow-up to his hit musical Tommy, is finally to be aired on BBC Radio - nearly thirty years after it was written.

Although composed in 1971, Townshend's Lifehouse remarkably predicted the coming of the cyber age.

"I thought the internet was inevitable," says the former frontman from The Who, who nonetheless admits that he has his doubts about the new medium.

"I'm uneasy and was uneasy then. I was afraid that the arts would be reduced in power and that we would end up simply interested in story and short flashes of fun, flashes of pleasure, orgasmic stuff."

Townshend is "uneasy" about the internet
Townshend feels his latest work, described as an "apocalyptic journey across the industrial wastes of Britain", has particular relevance for today's new media generation.

"It's about the importance of congregation, people meeting, showing up, it's a challenge if you like, to people involved today in media, in television, in theatre, in the internet."

It features a disillusioned former TV executive, Ray, whose daughter is missing, presumed dead. Drawn to the city to search for her on the last day of the millennium, he is magnetised by the voice of a pirate DJ who calls the like-minded to a music event called Lifehouse.

Some of the songs featured may be familiar to Who fans - tracks such as Won't Get Fooled Again, Pure and Easy and Behind Blue Eyes were recorded by the band after the project was dropped.

Townshend will perform the Lifehouse songs alongside an all-star cast including Trainspotting's Kelly McDonald, David Threlfall from the popular Sex, Chips and Rock 'n' Roll series and The Lakes actor Charles Dale.

Music for the film Tommy earnt Townshend an Oscar nomination
Now he is 54, Townshend feels lucky to have made it through the excesses of his own superstardom.

London-born Townshend shot to fame with The Who in the 1960s, which he formed with schoolfriends John Entwistle and Roger Daltrey and Keith Moon.

The band had hits with songs such as My Generation, before the success of rock opera Tommy and the film Quadrophenia turned them into international superstars.

But by the late 1970s Townshend was drinking heavily and after several deaths, including that of fellow Who star Keith Moon, he developed an alcohol problem.

"The Who played in Cincinatti in the late '70s, and 11 people from our audience were killed in a crush outside the concert.

"I was deeply, deeply affected by that and that's when my drinking went from a few beers and few bottles of brandy here and there to this serious, serious drinking"

The Who will play two gigs in London in December
The musician also experimented with drugs.

"I tried drugs because I thought drugs might stop me drinking, and they did but drugs didn't do for me what alcohol had done."

"I certainly used alcohol to repress my feelings or if not repress them to medicate them, everybody does."

Townshend, who was getting through three bottles of brandy a day at one time, doesn't drink at all these days.

"I couldn't handle alcohol and I just had to live with defeat" he says.

His self-destructive streak has also meant he has been "in constant counselling" for the last five or six years.

But at the end of the day, Townshend admits he is glad to have come through it.

"I'm very grateful, was saying to my wife yesterday - not everything in our life is perfect, but I'm glad to be here."

Lifehouse premieres on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday at 1930 GMT.

Pete Townshend: "I tried drugs"
Pete Townshend; "The internet needs to be controlled"
Pete Townshend: "The feeling at a Who concert was very special "
See also:

26 Jul 99 | Entertainment
Townshend unveils Tommy sequel
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