Classic Rock Corner

Happy Birthday Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend, lead guitarist of The Who, turns 64 today. The King of the Mods was the brains behind every twist and turn in the band's long history, from proto-punk stabs like "I Can't Explain" through angst template "My Generation and monolithic rock operas like Tommy and Quadrophenia. (Or, more accurately...)

Townshend also created the "windmill" guitar strum, even once impaling his hand on a whammy bar in the '70s. Imagine having a blank metal instrument going through your hand. LIkely as not, you would probably have to be coked the gills to not scream in hellish visceral agony, much like a woman giving birth to octuplets with no anesthesia, after such a thing happened.

Townshend's work has always been wholly autobiographical. The man rarely turns away from splaying out his own demons, be they family transgressions or his ever-expanding religious journey (see "Baba O'Riley"). That Meher Baba-channeling leadoff track of 1971's landmark Who's Next album was also notable for his experimentation with synthesizers, which at the time were still much more novelty than necessity.

One thing Townshend has always excelled has been the interview. At times he's cagey and evasive, others open and gracious in regards to his influences, musical and otherwise.

We pulled a few interviews with the man, the legend and his copious nose over the span of his career as a guitar legend and electronic music innovator in honor of his birthday.

Pete in 1967: "Pop music in this country was not worth talking about."

1977: "All lies! Not a word of truth!"

1979 (with Roger Daltrey): "A rock and roll band has to perform, there's no question about it."

1971 (on The Who vs. British blues bands a la Fleetwood Mac): "It's a different world, so it can't be treated the same way."

1985: "What got me into heroin was as a result of an alcohol problem, which itself I suppose was a result of drinking heavily for 20 years."

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty