Athena

Album: It's Hard (1982)
Charted: 40 28
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  • Pete Townshend wrote this song the day after he was knocked back by American actress Theresa Russell.

    The guitarist told TheWho.net how he went to see The Wall with his friend Bill Minkin and Russell. (The actress was engaged to the film director Nic Roeg with whom he was planning to work on a new version of Lifehouse.) "I got drunk as usual, but I had taken my first line of cocaine that very evening before meeting her and decided I was in love," Townshend explained. "When I came to do the vocal on the following day [February 15, 1980] I was really out of my mind with frustration and grief because she didn't reciprocate."
  • A demo version titled "Teresa" was recorded and presented to The Who by Pete Townshend during the Face Dances sessions. It can be found on Townshend's compilation Scoop 3.
  • By the time The Who came to record the song for It's Hard, Townshend was married to Karen Astley and Russell had wed Nic Roeg. The guitarist was nervous about publicly naming his crush so he renamed it "Athena."
  • Roger Daltrey felt that concealing the subject of the song's true identity was a mistake. "Pete was talking to me about Nick Roeg's girlfriend and how he fancied her, and that song was written about her - but then it changed into 'She's a bomb'. I've got a psychological problem with it," he told the News of the World in 2010. "It's a great record; there's so much energy on that thing, but I still don't think there's a center to that song. The fact that he changed the title in that and didn't stick to what it was supposed to be lost its center to me."
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Comments: 6

  • Debby from UsaThe song is indeed about actress Theresa Russell and was originally called Theresa until Roger convinced Pete to change the name so it wouldn't look so obvious.
    Pete Townshend wrote the song after a chance meeting with her after a sold out Who concert at the LA Forum back in 1979. As he puts it, he "fell in love instantly" but also adds that he was high on coke at the time. She was not interested in dating a rock star and instead went for Nicholas Roeg, the British director who she might have seen as more stable than a rock star. Heartbroken by her rejection he wrote the song.
  • Kerry from MinnesotaThe song "Athena" was never about Theresa Russell. Actually the song was written about a poster I made and dedicated to John Lennon. Then sent to Yoko Ono. Asking Ono if it was alright to sell my poster with the dedication to Lennon on it. I asked Ono to have the Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, and the Who sing songs about my poster. I asked that these songs be released in a manner similar to the Beatles "Paul is Dead" story. That way the public would have to listen to the songs and look at my poster in order to figure out if the songs are about the poster.

    When I met Pete Townshend in September of 1983 he mentioned that every good mystery needs a red herring. Theresa is that red herring. Here are the lyrics to the song. The meanings of each numbered paragraph is at the end of the paper.

    Athena
    It is up to you to solve this musical mystery by figuring out if these lyrics are written about my poster Athena, or the actress Theresa Russell.
    Are the following paragraphs making use of metaphors to describe atomic weapons as if they are a woman? I will describe the following 9 paragraphs at the end of the lyrics.
    1. Athena, I had no idea how much I'd need her
    In peaceful times I hold her close and I feed her
    My heart starts palpitating when I think my guess was wrong
    But I think I'll get along
    She's just a girl - she's a bomb
    a. Atomic weapons
    b. Theresa Russell

    2. Athena, all I ever want to do is please her
    My life has been so settled and she's the reason
    Just one word from her and my troubles are long gone
    But I think I'll get along
    She's just a girl - she's a bomb
    a. Atomic weapons
    b. Theresa Russell

    3. Just a girl just a girl
    Just a girl just a girl
    Just a girl just a girl
    She's just a girl
    a. Atomic weapons
    b. Theresa Russell

    4. Athena, my heart felt like a shattered glass in an acid bath
    I felt like one of those flattened ants you find on a crazy path
    I'd of topped myself to give her time she didn't need to ask
    Was I a suicidal psychopath?
    She's just a girl - she's a bomb
    a. Atomic weapons
    b. Theresa Russell

    5. Consumed, there was a beautiful white horse I saw on a dream stage
    He had a snake the size of a sewer pipe living in his rib cage
    I felt like a pickled priest who was being flambéed
    You were requisitioned blondie
    She's just a girl - she's a bomb
    a. My poster Athena
    b. Theresa Russell

    6. I'm happy, I'm ecstatic
    Just a girl just a girl
    Just a girl just a girl
    Just a girl just a girl
    She's just a girl
    a. Atomic weapons
    b. Theresa Russell

    7. Look into the face of a child
    Measure how long you smiled
    Before the memory claimed
    How long would children remain
    How long would children remain
    a. Atomic weapons
    b. Theresa Russell

    8. Athena, you picked me up by my lapels and screamed "leave her"
    It felt like waking up in heaven on an empty meter
    And now you're stuck with a castrated leader
    And I hate the creep, I didn't mean that
    She's a bomb
    I just said it
    She's a bomb
    I didn't mean it, please
    She's a bomb
    a. Atomic weapons
    b. Theresa Russell

    9. Athena, I had no idea how much I need her
    My life has been so settled and she's the reason
    Just one word from her and my troubles are long gone
    But I get along
    She's just a girl, she's a bomb
    She's just a girl, she's a bomb
    a. Atomic weapons
    b. Theresa Russell

    Here are the descriptions behind each paragraph numbered above.

    1. Metaphorically talks about how the nuclear powers built up and watch over their nuclear stockpiles.
    2. Talks about the diplomacy used by President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
    3. Talks about how we view these weapons as long as they are not being used and are stored carefully.
    4. Talks about the possible effects on the world and humanity if a Nuclear War were to break out.
    5. Talks about and describes the photo on my poster.
    6. The Who is singing this song about my poster, obviously I’m happy and ecstatic.
    7. Talks about and gets you thinking what would happen to the children if a nuclear war were to break out.
    8. Talks about the use of atomic weapons, and the fear of a mentally unstable leader who might use them if someone called him/her something they didn’t like.
    9. Talks about how atomic weapons have been and continue to be used to keep the peace since WW II.

    Copyright © 2016 Kerry C. Dougherty
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 29th 1982, "Athena" by the Who entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #77; and on October 24th, 1982 it peaked at #28 {for 3 weeks} and spent 14 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #3 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart...
    Between 1965 and 1983 the British quartet had twenty-six Top 100 records, with "I Can See for Miles" being their biggest hit, it peaked at #9 in 1967...
    Sadly, two members of the band have passed away, drummer Keith Moon {1946 - 1978) and bassist John Entwisted {1944 - 2002}...
    May they both R.I.P.
  • Athena from Elizabeth City, NcI was named after this song, it makes me sad to know that Daltrey wasn't too fond of it, but I think if he met me he'd like it again :)
  • Nate from New York, NyGreat lyrics.
  • Dougee from San Bernardino, CaOne of my favorite Who songs. Upbeat with a nice mix of acoustic and 'plugged in' guitar elements.
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