This Day In Music 19.05.2016
Peter Dennis Blandford “Pete” Townshend, was born into a musical family in Chiswick, West London, on May 19, 1945. His father Cliff played the alto saxophone with the Squadronaires, the RAF dance band, and his mother Betty Dennis sang professionally. After seeing the movie Rock Around The Clock in 1956 he became drawn to rock’n’roll, an interest his parents actively encouraged.
Pete’s first real instrument was the banjo which he played in a schoolboy trad jazz outfit called the Confederates. The group featured John Entwistle on trumpet but after John took up the bass guitar the two friends joined another schoolboy band, the Scorpions, with Pete on guitar. Pete and John both attended Acton County School where another, slightly older, pupil Roger Daltrey had a group called the Detours. Roger invited John to join and around six months later the nucleus of the Who was in place when John persuaded Roger that Pete should join too.
With the arrival in 1964 of drummer Keith Moon and managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, The Who were on their way, with Pete increasingly cast in the role of leader and spokesman.
Pete soon found himself at the forefront of the British musical boom of the Sixties. As guitarist and composer of the band, he became the driving force behind one of the most powerful, inventive and articulate bodies of work in rock. From early classic three-minute singles like ‘My Generation’, ‘Substitute’ and ‘I Can See For Miles’, through to complete song cycles in the shape of Tommy, Lifehouse and Quadrophenia, Pete established himself as one of the most gifted and imaginative musicians working in the rock field.
Pete spent all of the Sixties and much of the Seventies concentrating his creative energies on the Who. He developed a unique guitar style, a cross between rhythm and lead which veered from furiously strummed chord patterns and crunching power chords to chromatic scales and delicate arpeggios. On top of this he frequently smashed his guitar into smithereens at the climax of a performance.
In 1967 Pete became a follower of the Indian avatar Meher Baba which inspired him to release three privately circulated devotional albums. These led him to compile Who Came First (1972), the first of a series of non-Who albums, beginning with Rough Mix (1977), Empty Glass (1980), All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (1982), White City: A Novel (1985), The Iron Man, an adaptation of Ted Hughes’ children’s story (1988), and Psychoderelict (1993). In 1984, with the Who temporarily disbanded, he led an ad-hoc group called Deep End which released a live album in 1986, and he has also issued a series of albums called Scoop which feature Pete’s demos for Who songs, solo material and miscellaneous unrealised projects.
Long acknowledged as one of the most intelligent and articulate of rock performers, Pete has run his own book publishing company and worked as an editor at the literary house of Faber & Faber which in 1985 published ‘Horse’s Neck’, a collection of his short stories. Ever inquisitive about new ideas and technology, he has turned his attention to the Internet on which his regular and often frank journals and essays provide essential reading for fans.
In the meantime Pete continues to write and perform with The Who, and 2006 saw the release of Endless Wire, the band’s first new album in 24 years. The band played the Superbowl in 2009 and at 2012's closing ceremony of the London Olympic Games.
Pete has, at last, published his memoir ‘Who I Am’. He is currently touring the world with The Who for the “Back to the Who 51” tour.
Following Pete's narrated biography