The story of The Who's solo careers

Biography

 

People often say "I've been a fan of so and so all my life". I can almost say that because whilst the first few years of my life may have been relatively 'Who' free, the majority of it has seen more than a smidgeon of 'Who' magic involved somewhere. Although I smashed my first guitar when I was about five or six (a 'Beatles New Sound' plastic one that would be worth a pretty penny now) when I threw it off a fourth floor balcony on the Rockingham Estate, where I grew up in London and my uncle used to bring us home lots of goodies from his job as a cameraman on Ready Steady Go! (including autographs and, what I now realise were Acetates, which were promtly used as frisbees and sadly destroyed!), I don't believe I became fully aware of The Who until I was about ten or eleven when my brother brought home 'Tommy' from our local record library (those were the days...). At that point everything changed.

I first saw the band perform when I was 12 in 1971 at The Oval, a cricket ground just down the road from where I lived. The first album I ever bought was 'Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy'. I always believed the pretty blonde girl at school was my first love but, I think looking back on it, it was really The Who. The band really took over my life and every measly penny earned from my Saturday supermarket job was spent on Who stuff, be it official or unofficial (the wonderful bootleg stall in Soho market saw plenty of my cash). Who records and live shows became my main obsession.

In 1975 I went to see the stars turn up for the European premiere of the movie 'Tommy' in London's Leicester Square. Capital Radio DJ Nicky Horne was presenting a live broadcast from there. He looked at the Charlton 74 badge which I was wearing and said "Anyone who sat through that deserves to go tonight" handing me a ticket to the premiere, as though in recompense!! Not believing my luck I rushed in, leaving my brother and his girlfriend to go wait for me in the nearby Pizzaland. Before and after the show I got to say a shy (and probably unintelligible) 'hello' to some of the members of The Who. When I left the cinema I had made my mind up that one day I would work for the band.

It took a lot longer than I expected but that did eventually happen...as did some other things in between.

In 1978 myself and my brother went along to the ICA in London to see the opening of the 'Who's Who' exhibition. Again I got to meet Pete Townshend and this time managed to also spend some time With Keith Moon. Both of them kindly signed my poster (which was subsequently signed by Roger and John - it is reproduced in the AAA book) and a copy of the Who Are You signed'Who Are You' picture sleeve (left) which now resides with one of the Beachcombers, one of Keith's earlier bands. Just over a month later Keith died. Although I had seen him perform with the band a number of times, I feel privileged to have spent some time with him.

The Who Convention 1995 programmeFast forwarding from 1978 to 1994 when The Who was no more. The record company no longer cared about the band, releasing greatest hits after greatest hits and not showing any respect to their archive and the band's standing in the history of rock. The stars must have been aligned for a few people in the UK at that time though. Journalist Chris Charlesworth had contacted Pete Townshend about the appalling treatment the band's back catalogue was getting and, in return, he was charged with putting together a career defining box set, which was released in 1994. Independently, myself and five other friends also decided things needed a bit of a stir up and we decided to organise a fan convention. The convention took place in September 1995 (as near as dammit to the anniversary of that Oval gig!) in Shepherd's Bush and was a great success. It culminated in a fantastic two hour performance by Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and a band which included Zak Starkey and Simon Townshend. Many of The Who's close knit group were in attendance and although he didn't attend, Pete Townshend sent a lovely fax (remember those?) wishing us every success.

Naked Eye issue 1As a result, I (along with fellow convention organiser Mark Donovan) decided to launch 'Naked Eye' a fanzine dedicated to the band, which Pete Townshend would later describe as the best fanzine of its type. For the first issue, which was released in February 1996, we managed to capture an exclusive interview with Pete Townshend. Subsequent editions carried exclusive interviews with Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle.Within a few months the band announced that they would be performing 'Quadrophenia' at Hyde Park and the rest is history. Subsequently I was asked to be involved in future reissues from the band's archive and 'Naked Eye' became the semi official fan club for The Who. In 1997 myself and my very good friend Andy Neill decided to write a definitive history of The Who.

In 1998 another convention was organised - it has to be said that it didn't quite reach the heights of its predecessor - and a month later I received an unexpected phone call from Pete Townshend asking me if I would like to work for him at Eelpie, to start and run a website for him. A job I did until June 2006.

The book I co-authored with Andy 'Anyway Anyhow Anywhere - The complete chronicle of The Who 1958 - 1978' was released in June 2002 and was a huge hit, selling over 70,000 copies. Pete Townshend called 'Anyway Anyhow Anywhere' "a joy" and "a great book". Critically it was very well received and last year made it into Rolling Stone's top 5 essential books on The Who. In 2010 I had a second book on The Who published 'The Who Revealed'.

Matt Kent books

Pete Townshend The SeekerOn leaving employment with Pete I split my time between a desk job and dabbling in music photography until I got to the stage where the photography took over for a few years and I could call myself a 'professional'! You can visit my website mattkent.photography to see examples of my work. Pete Townshend Classic QuadropheniaNowadays I just dip my toe into the photo pit every now and then when asked, such as 'Classic Quadrophenia' at the Royal Albert Hall in July 2015, where I was the official photographer. My photos are mainly syndicated by Getty Images and have been used in publications and CDs / DVDs worldwide on numerous occasions. I've had several exhibitions over the years and a couple of my images are also included in 'The Seeker' a collection of photographs of Pete which were released by Genesis Publishing earlier this year.

My writing work has taken a back seat pretty much over the past few years but last year I was asked to write the sleeve notes to Pete Townshend's solo collection 'Truancy' and the notes to the 'Polydor singles box', the last of The Who's box set releases, which is about to be released at the time of writing this. Those two projects gave me the appetite to write again and that is where 'Four Faces - The story of The Who's solo careers' was born.

Matt Kent Photography website

Matt Kent photography (click photo to access)

 

Matt Kent June 2016.