Pete Townshend - Pinball Wizard

Her Majesty's Theatre (London, England), 06/30/1979

Music Audio Pete Townshend
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Begun in the mid-1970s as a comedy gala fundraiser to support the human rights organization Amnesty International, the Secret Policeman's Ball and its various spin-offs can in retrospect be seen as the precursors to Live Aid and all the awareness-raising events in the decades to come. Galvanizing prominent entertainers in support of social causes was the name of the game, and by 1979, the Secret Policeman's Ball ran for four consecutive nights at Her Majesty's Theater in London, resulting in two live albums—one of comedy and one of musical highlights. One of the most memorable musical performances that year occurred on the final night, June 30, 1979, when the Who's Pete Townshend took to the stage with just an acoustic guitar.

Townshend begins with one of the Who's biggest anthems, "Won't Get Fooled Again," joined onstage by classical guitar virtuoso John Williams. Despite Williams being barely audible, this is a masterful performance from Townshend alone. Even with just an acoustic guitar, Townshend's staccato riffing retains all the tension, if not the grandeur of his work with the Who. One of his greatest lyrics, hearing them sung in his own more delicate voice (compared to Roger Daltrey's growl) is a very potent listen. The solo acoustic "Pinball Wizard" that follows is also a treat and gives listeners a clear picture of the root source for the Who's unique sound.