Last night I watched a documentary called Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who. It's not a great film, by any means, but it does feature fascinating interviews with the two surviving original members, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey. The men are interviewed separately; a fact could not be made more conspicuous. Most of the questions pit the two men against one another, each showcasing his bitterness, rivalry, and disenchantment toward the other. At one point, Townshend says that he, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon are geniuses, while Daltrey is merely a singer. And regarding the famous stutter in "My Generation," Townshend — denying Daltrey even fleeting or partial credit — lets viewers know that he had performed it that way on the demo. Daltrey, for the record, does not quite remember it that way.
Daltrey is widely considered the weakest member of The Who — his peak in the band was his embodiment of Tommy — and Townshend is fairly justifiably an egomaniac in many a fan's mind. So, maybe it was the Townshend/Daltrey tension, along with the disparity among all four members that made The Who spectacular. The Who's music was a monster, and I don't expect it to have been the product of delicate harmony behind the scenes. In other words, it might not have been the same band had its members all gotten along.
Even though tensions and clashing egos are storied throughout music — from sibling rivalry a la The Kinks to Fleetwood Mac-style ex-lovers' spats — there's only so much information that I need to help build the drama or to fill out the story of an album.
Yet it was not the he-said/he-said aspect of the film, or even The Who's members themselves, that I thought about the next day. Rather, it was whether all of the excess information I now have about the The Who changes or affects my feelings toward the music. I don't think it does. Nor have the music biographies I have read distanced me from the artists I love. But I think that all of the background chatter matters less with bands I have listened to for years, whose music I discovered free from accompanying dialog, conjecture, or gossip.
I don't always want to be inundated with the minutiae about a band these days. Perhaps my intolerance is greater because we have access to more information about not just music, but everything. Music is one part of my life where I don't need to know each and every detail. You know, how some bass player broke a finger, spent the night in a hospital, hooked up with an actress who was also in the hospital being treated for pinkeye, showed up at the Sasquatch Festival drunk, and then did an exclusive interview talking about how he's going to start thinking about working on a new album.
There's no doubt that I love the depth and detail that technology has offered to fandom, but is there certain, maybe frivolous, information about a band that you'd rather not know? Or, if you love an artist, is all of it relevant? And does it ever influence the way you hear the music, for better or worse?