Pete Townshend: Who He Is

Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Category: Famous or Interesting People

Intelligent Life Magazine, Summer 2011

Rock music in 2011 is not quite what it was in the mid-1960s. For one thing, it is full of challenging coincidences, such as the one reported by Pete Townshend in a recent e-mail. “I was supposed to be sailing in the St Barth’s Bucket Race on March 24th,” he wrote. That’s right: the writer of “My Generation”, “Substitute” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” now spends part of his time as a yachtsman in the Caribbean. “This was arranged last August,” he added. “In a challenging coincidence Roger Daltrey will be performing ‘Tommy’ on that very day for Teenage Cancer [Trust] at the Royal Albert Hall.”

More than most rock stars, Townshend notices what is going on in the world, and he felt he was meeting the challenge in the only decent way he could. “In these straitened and tragic times I have decided I have to do something useful rather than try to enjoy myself on a yacht while so many people are in trouble, and I am going to see Roger today at his rehearsal studio to offer my services in some way. I hope I will be able to perform with him, possibly sing ‘Acid Queen’ as I did when The Who played at Woodstock.”

Daltrey wasn’t sure. He had already announced that “Tommy” would be played by a new bunch of musicians, which meant no place for Townshend on his own rock opera about the “deaf, dumb and blind kid” who turned out to be both a mean pinball player and a misappropriated seer, a concept that has sold 20m records. “I offered to perform,” Townshend wrote the next day, “but Roger and I agreed in the end that it might be best for him to do his show alone, just to properly test the new model…” Later, he expanded. “Our manager Bill [Curbishley] says that this is a safe place for this experiment. Like doing a run-through in our living room. I know Roger is nervous, but I went to his rehearsal yesterday and his musicians are superb, calm, and will provide the musical support he needs.”

I wondered if I was a silent witness to the break-up of one of rock’s greatest bands. But the following day, at 6.46am, this landed: “Dear Simon, Roger changed his mind. He has now agreed I can walk on and play ‘Acid Queen’ solo. Things change every day at the moment. He is extremely distracted, and of course very busy as usual at this time. – Pete”

Four hours later, this: “I’m definitely back on again. Doing ‘Acid Queen’ and ‘Baba O’Riley’...come if you can.”


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