Top Rock Acts Gear Up For VH1's Who Tribute

Learning covers for VH1's "Rock Honors" tribute to the Who has been a labor of love for many of the participants, including Pearl Jam, the Flaming Lips and Incubus. The event also features Foo Fighter

Learning covers for VH1's "Rock Honors" tribute to the Who has been a labor of love for many of the participants, including Pearl Jam, the Flaming Lips and Incubus. The event, which tapes July 12 at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, will also feature Foo Fighters and Tenacious D, along with a show-closing set by the Who itself.

Billboard chatted with the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne, Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament and Incubus' Brandon Boyd about the impact the Who's music has had on their lives, both on and off the stage.

Wayne Coyne:
In 1986, when we were waiting for "Here It Is" to come out, we'd be on this endless tour doing a medley of "Tommy" playing to these punk rock kids. They'd have no idea what we're playing and tell us to record them. Here we are and we're asked by VH1 to do a medley of "Tommy." It's like, "Yeah, we kinda did that back in 1986!" Hopefully it will be a lot better now.

The Who were the ones, for me. A string of great bands came through Oklahoma City in the mid '70s, and I was just old enough. I think I was 15. They still had Keith Moon. I had seen these slew of bands in high school, like Led Zeppelin and the bands that are now the pillars of classic rock. But the Who were the most religious. I walked around for years after wondering why all bands didn't play like the Who. The more I found out about music, art and intensity, the Who always remained true. They just inform you so much about a working class philosophy mixed with this transcendental energy.

I don't know why it appealed to me so much. I couldn't relate to some sides of the hippie movement, and the Who spoke to me more. I wanted to be a rock star based on their kind of mold. I met Pete [Townshend] a couple years ago, and he's so smart and sensitive. I've met some of the guys I think would be so cool, but they end up being duds in one way or another. Of all of them, he had the most to lose in my eyes, but he's better, smarter and more caring than I could have magined. When I saw the Who play here two years ago, it had been 31 years since I saw them in the same building, but this time I'm backstage with Pete Townshend!

Jeff Ament
The main thing for me is, growing up with hard rock music, I was really, really into "Quadrophenia," probably more than any of the other records. When I got into punk rock in the late '70s/early '80s, I kind of turned my back on almost all the hard rock music until I came to Seattle to see the Clash and the Who play. I came to see the Clash. I could have given two sh*ts about the Who at that point. But the thing was, the Clash were a little disappointing. They were kind of at the end of their rope and it didn't look like there was a whole lot of chemistry on stage. Nobody was looking at each other.

It was at the Kingdome in Seattle, and I remember after the Clash saying, "Man, I just spent $25 and that was pretty disappointing." So, I went to the back of the arena and sat against the wall, and the Who came out. From the first note, it was like, "Wow, this is f*cking incredible." In terms of that punk rock energy, they still had it, and the Clash had lost it. I made my way through the crowd and watched the show in the midst of 10,000 people. They won me back. I went and bought "Live at Leeds" and that became the first rock staple in my record collection back in my punk rock days.

In Pearl Jam, this was a really big connection early on. Ed [Vedder] talked a lot about how "Quadrophenia" was his reference point for living his life. It made me kind of go back and pay a little bit more attention to the lyrics, because when I was a kid I was more interested in the emotive qualities of the song. That was a big connection for me with Ed at that point.

Brandon Boyd
I've never seen them live. I was a late convert to the Who. I discovered them in early adulthood, like my early 20s. One of the things that turned me onto them was "Quadrophenia." I didn't know it was connected to the Who. But I got educated on it and was taken by the whole aesthetic and the mythology of the rockers versus the mods. It's one of the reasons I wanted to get a Vespa, which I still have.

I just know that for me as a singer, Roger Daltrey... I've stolen a lot of my tricks from him, to be completely honest. Simple things like figuring out how to not let my cord yank out of the back of the microphone. There's nothing worse then when you're really feeling it and the mic goes flying by itself. It's traumatic.