Pete Townshend wants to make sure his fans won't get fooled by Michael Moore.
The rocker recently posted a letter on his Web site asserting that he is upset with Moore for making false claims about him. "He says — among other things — that I refused to allow him to use my song 'Won't Get Fooled Again' in ['Fahrenheit 9/11'] because I support the war, and that at the last minute I recanted but he turned me down," Townshend wrote.
In the July/August issue of Film Comment, Michael Moore is quoted as saying that the moment following President Bush's final line in the film "demands that we hear [Who frontman] Roger Daltrey scream, 'Won't get fooled again!' " Moore goes on to say that Townshend blocked his use of the classic song because he is "not a fan of Michael Moore's and in fact supports the war and supports Tony Blair and doesn't want the song used in any way that would make Blair look bad."
The Who guitarist explained in his post that he was initially supportive of the war but is now "less sure we did the right thing."
Townshend wrote that when he was approached about lending his song to the film, he knew nothing of the content of "Fahrenheit 9/11," but that his publisher informed him that Moore had already been turned down because Miramax's offer was "well below what the song normally commands for use in a movie." Townshend said he did not ask for more money.
According to Townshend, Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein became personally involved in explaining the film's content to Townshend's manager, Bill Curbishley, and offered to raise his offer "substantially" for the song's use. Townshend told his manager that he had "not really been convinced" by Moore's last documentary, "Bowling for Columbine," and saw it as "a bullying film."
The musician said he felt "Won't Get Fooled Again," "not an unconditionally anti-war song," was not right for the film, and that he suggested to his publisher and manager that Moore approach Neil Young, whose catalog, he felt, included more appropriate tracks.
In his interview with Film Comment, Moore presented a different take on how the Young track "Rockin' in the Free World" was chosen. Moore said he heard it on the radio while driving through Michigan, felt it was perfect for the film and "called up Neil Young and he said, 'Whatever you need. Absolutely. It's yours.' "
The filmmaker further added that "once we started playing it in the movie, we quickly forgot about the Who. In fact, after Cannes, we got a call from their manager, who said they might be willing to reconsider. And I said, 'No, uh-uh. That's bad karma. This is Neil Young's moment.' "
Townshend asserted in his post that he has nothing against Moore personally but resents being "slurred" by him in interviews "just because he didn't get what he wanted from me. It seems to me that this aspect of his nature is not unlike that of the powerful and willful man at the center of his new documentary.
"I wish him all the best with the movie, which I know is popular, and which I still haven't seen," Townshend continued. "But he'll have to work very, very hard to convince me that a man with a camera is going to change the world more effectively than a man with a guitar."
In response to Townshend's comments, Moore released a statement Tuesday (July 13) in which he suggested that some of Townshend's ire stems from Moore turning down a request to make a movie about the Who.
"Last year," he said in the statement, "the Who asked me to do a documentary on their career. I was sorry I had to tell them that due to my need to finish 'Fahrenheit 9/11' I would not be able to make their film for them. ... I am sorry I wasn't able to do the Who documentary like they wanted me to, but this is certainly no way for Pete to show his anger, and frankly it is very embarrassing for him to behave in this manner, as he is the greatest rock star who ever lived."