The Who: Pete Townshend interview – 12/7/79
I’m proud of and grateful for WMMS having one of the very best teams in radio.
Our airstaff were known for their interviewing skills. They didn’t ask the predictable “How is the tour going” questions. Ours were conversational.
We always favored and encouraged one-on-one, live on-the-air with our guests rather than something prerecorded or on the phone.
Our airplay of new music afforded us another advantage. Since we interviewed nearly every act coming to town, we developed enduring relationships with many artists early in their careers that allowed us access to artists that had otherwise stopped doing radio and press interviews.
Nearly every artist that made a mark in rock and roll from the early seventies to the mid-eighties was, at one time or another, interviewed on WMMS – and often, exclusively.
A few notable interviews took place at WMMS, too. Glenn Frey announced the breakup of the Eagles, which immediately made the international wire services. On a lighter note, fellow Eagle Joe Walsh announced his candidacy for President of the United States on WMMS. His campaign slogan: “Free gas for everyone!”
And that brings us to The Who.
14,000 tickets out of an estimated 18,500 sold were for general admission.
In a futile attempt to control the crowd of thousands waiting outside the Coliseum, the concert promoter, Electric Factory Concerts of Philadelphia, opened only one or two main doors, which resulted in a mad rush of people funneling into a small entrance.
It remains the deadliest large venue concert disaster in U.S. history.
The Who were not informed of the tragedy until after the show and immediately closed off all access to the media.
Their media embargo was broken three days later when The Who played the Richfield Coliseum. John Entwistle called Denny Sanders two hours before the concert, to openly speak to those on the way to the concert and, following the show, Ed “Flash” Ferenc spoke to both Entwistle and Kenney Jones, which ran on WMMS the following morning.
Unfortunately, the interviews by Denny and Flash were lost when the WMMS Archives were dismantled in the early nineties.
Special thanks to J.D. Kunes for the interview, which he taped off the air just a month or so shy of 29 years ago and Jim Davison for preparing it for inclusion in The Buzzard book blog.