I started this record in 1990. It was ready to deliver as a bunch of songs in September 1991. On Friday 13th of that month, in that year, I fell from a bicycle and shattered my right wrist into a dozen fragments. Rather than put out an album I wouldn't be able to play live, or even feel inclined to talk about much, I held it back.
In '92 I listened occasionally to the songs I had recorded and wondered about them. While writing them I had been obsessed with an idea: that in this highly computerized age the truth is being lost in our easy access to facts. I saw some moral issues too; is the nature of truth actually changing? Each song I'd written addressed this in a different way. It was a good notion. They were good songs. But the real idea didn't come across.
Heart Of Darkness, the best known work of Joseph Conrad, first reappeared in modern life in the '30s as an Orson Welles radio play. I think he may also have intended the play to be a treatment for a movie. Many years later, Francis Ford Coppola used the story once again as the basis for Apocalypse Now. It struck me that my new album could also begin its life as a radio play. The songs might be better served and clearer in this context. For a while I toyed with the idea of using my own favorite Conrad story, Nostromo, as the basis for my play. But let's fact it, I ain't Francis. I decided I would instead utilize a small story of my own I had been working on since 1989. It was originally called Ray High and The Glass Household.
Later, with the help of my old friend, Richard Barnes, I hit on the proper rock and roll form for this thing. IT'S GONNA BE A FUCKING CONCEPT ALBUM! A CD-rama; Headrock; Rockertext; Cock-o-text; Pop-o-scope; Cyberopera; Yobbogram; Grid-o-gram; Vertigram; Matrix-o-gram; Gramodream; Talkup; Poptalking-Dream-o-gram.
The triangle of characters you meet in the play are metaphors for real people. RAY HIGH is a rock artist (he might in fact be several rock artists), but also a complex child. RUTH STREETING represents the press, the political establishment and the audience all rolled into one, but also the critical and loving mother, ultimately forgiving. RASTUS KNIGHT is the symbolic father, always absent even when he's around; ambitious, stupid and heroic in pursuit of opportunity and sustenance for his kids. Finally, tired and apologetic: doing his best.
That's the story of how PsychoDerelict took its final shape. If you are a rock artist, work in radio or press, or you're a manager or an agent - don't be hurt by the story I've written. I don't put myself above you. I am certain that you feel pissed as I do about what's happening to the world. Look at it! To borrow an image from Somerset Maugham as one of his imperious heroines looks at a cholera-stricken corpse: "It's hard to think that not so many years ago he was just a little boy tearing down a hill and flying a kite."
As a new convert to Eric Bogosian, I now believe tragedy can only really be sublimated in comedy. For years, probably because of a life with Keith Moon, I had started believing it was the other way around. These new songs are for you if you still believe in truth, or you still believe you can find truth if you try hard enough. Whether you read newspapers or listen to the radio, you probably think that what you suspect is what is really going on is - in fact - close to the real truth. I know I do. We need to be told.
Talk to me. I need to know. Talk to me soon. Tell me a fucking joke for God's sake!
— Pete Townshend
Psychoderelict Story Synopsis
Veteran rock performer RAY HIGH has lived for about two years as a recluse in plush isolation, dreaming about Gridlife, a musical project he abandoned in the '70s. Witty, cynical, clever, and ambitious music critic RUTH STREETING devotes an edition of her successful network radio show, Streeting's Street, to attack Ray, whom she despises.
Ray's manager, RASTUS KNIGHT, is unaware of Gridlife and is frustrated that Ray has lost interest in recording and performing. Meeting Ruth in a nightclub, he confides his problem to her. Ruth suprises Rastus be claiming that, of all people, she could find a way to inspire Ray and resurrect his career. When Rastus offers her a percentage, she hatches a plot.
Meanwhile, we learn that Gridlife is a futuristic musical about a global Virtual Reality system which provides its subscribers with entire lifetimes of karmically tailored experience. ATHENA, the controller of the Grid, uses a jingle to promote her Gridsuits as safe havens from the heavily polluted atmosphere. But the young hero, SPINNER, is concerned that Athena has too much power and is distorting the truth. He plans to expose her and lead a rebellion.
Back in real life, Ruth believes her attack has forced Ray out of isolation: he appears in a London club with Rastus. Ruth returns to the fray, broadcasting a second public assault, with increased venom.
Around the same time, Ray receives a letter from a young American fan, ROSALIND NATHAN, who encloses a provocative photo. She wants to be a singer. Ray recognizes something in her and begins a correspondence, helping Rosalind with her problems and inducting her into the mysteries and mechanics of stardom.
Ray sens Rosalind a song which he says is from his Gridlife project. She returns a tape of her singing. He ends the correspondence, in his last letter revealing his innermost secret.
At this point, Ruth informs Rastus that her plan is nearing its climax. During her next radio show, she viciously lays into Ray. Ruth has obtained all his letters to Rosalind, and she twists and distorts the contents, insinuating that Ray was sexually exploiting Rosalind, an innocent, naive, underage fan.
Ruth blatantly exploits the situation, creating controversy about Rosalind, who, with Ruth's help, has just released a record. A huge media furor follows, and the "Porno Pen-Pals" scandal looks as though it could destroy Ray.
Later, Ruth shows up at Ray's house for an encounter with Rastus, during which she claims credit for both Rosalind's hit and the resurrection of Ray's career. Rastus is overwhelmed at the scale of Ruth's deceit. Ruth collects her commission from Rastus and is impressed at the amount Ray is now earning as a result of the scandal.
Ray finally gets to record his Gridlife project. We hear Spinner, in a scene from Ray's dream, explain that everything in the Universe is composed of music and vibrations, and that soon the whole world will experience their adventure. Ray's story closes as he compares the deceit of today with the optimism of the time when he was composing Gridlife. He longs for a return to the values and visions of the early '70s.
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STORY NOTE: PsychoDerelict contains references to another fiction called Gridlife. On the album, the songs associated with Gridlife are prefixed "Meher Baba" and originated on eight-track demos first recorded in 1970/71 for Lifehouse. The latter is Townshend's aborted Who project, which started life as a screen treatment. In collaboration with The Young Vic theatre in London, it evolved towards an unrealized experimental live theatre performance piece. Several subsequent albums contain songs from the project, including: Who's Next, Who Came First, Rough Mix, Who Are You, Empty Glass, Scoop, and Another Scoop. Pete is currently working with Who biographer (and PsychoDerelict story consultant) Richard Barnes to revive Lifehouse as a film, theatre musical, live rock performance piece, or theme-park ride.