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The Who's generation remembers

The British hitmakers' upcoming Tulsa performance rekindles older fans' concert memories
BY GENE TRIPLETT Published: February 13, 2013

The Flaming Lips might never have happened if Tommy Coyne hadn't talked his kid brother Wayne into going to see The Who.

“As much as you can realize anything when you're 16 and 17 years old, I suddenly realized I wanna do that,” Wayne Coyne, 52, said of his first Who experience in the mid-'70s at what was then called the Myriad Convention Center.

Now a star in his own right, the Oklahoma City psych-rocker has since become friends with his boyhood heroes and is considering taking in the British band's Valentine's Day show Thursday night at Tulsa's BOK Center.

“The Who was one of these groups that was a little bit more — I don't know, to me anyway — about this obsession, this power, this drive to express yourself, you know?” Coyne said. “And it was radical. I mean it was just radical the way that they played and performed what seemed to be just normal pop songs, you know? When you're there in front of them, they were transformed into just these radical statements.

“And that's hard to do. I see that even now, the longer we're in a group and all that, I see it's like, damn that's hard to do, you know, night after night, them playing with that intensity and that sort of, I don't know, it's almost like violence. It's like church, but it's violent and loud and it's (bleeping) cool. I think everybody knows how radically transformed I was after seein' them.”

Other local fans have vivid concert memories of The Who that go back even further, when the hit single “Magic Bus” was racing up the charts and the band — guitarist Pete Townshend, vocalist Roger Daltrey, bassist John Entwhistle and drummer Keith Moon — flew into town for a two-night stand, Aug. 23-24, 1968, at Wedgewood Village Amusement Park, which used to liven up an area on Northwest Expressway just northwest of NW 63.

Greg Wells, now 64, was the trusted young park employee sent to pick up the band at Will Rogers World Airport.

“Townshend had a recorder and he was real quiet,” Wells recalled. “He was way, way to himself. I guess he had a lot of music goin' on in his head. Entwhistle was a regular guy, Moon was crazy, and Daltrey was carrying a ditty bag. And as he got off the plane we started walking down the concourse and he unzipped the bag and pulled out about a four-foot snake and wrapped it around his wrist and his arm and put his thumb in his pocket and walked out with a snake on his arm. And I guess it was a fashion statement, but it was something he did.”

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