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Townshend, Pete

Pete Townshend

Singer, songwriter, guitarist

Pete Townshend, the Who's principal songwriter and lead guitarist, is among the most mercurial figures in rock. As a raging young mod in the late 1960s, Townshend made concert history by smashing his guitar in frenzied moments onstage; his music mirrored the anger and alienation of a whole generation. Townshend first rose to prominence with the songs he wrote for and performed with the Who, including the rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia, and the anthemic singles "Won't Get Fooled Again," "My Generation," "I Can See for Miles," "Who Are You," and "Eminence Front." While his output with the Who reflected blustering male adolescent angst, Townshend's later solo material showed the mature and well-rounded artistic side of the guitarist, singer, and songwriter. His bestselling 1980 solo album Empty Glass, for example, contains songs that deal frankly with the onset of middle age, the media treatment of rock stars, the death of Who drummer Keith Moon, overt homosexual references, and a reliance on spiritual themes culled from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes and the philosophical teachings of Townshend's guru, Meher Baba. Outside the Who, Townshend also worked as a rock impresario, producing such songs as "Fire" by the Crazy World of Arthur Brown and the album Hollywood Dream by Thunderclap Newman, and organizing the all-star Rainbow Concert to commemorate Eric Clapton's return to performing after overcoming heroin addiction in 1973.

Peter Townshend was born in London on May 19, 1945. His parents were both professional musicians, and as a child he accompanied them on dance band tours. By the age of 12 Townshend was experimenting with a guitar; he was quite taken with rock 'n' roll, especially Bill Haley and the Comets. A shy teenager, he spent hours by himself practicing the guitar, and later the banjo, which he performed in a Dixieland-style band founded by his friend John Entwistle. Initially Townshend preferred jazz to rock, but his high school friendsEntwistle and a maverick named Roger Daltreywere gravitating toward a rock style that incorporated R&B elements in their music. Soon after graduating from high school, Townshend, Entwistle, and Daltrey formed a band called the Detours. They held daytime jobs while performing in small London clubs at night.

England's youth scene in the early 1960s featured sometimes bloody clashes between "mods," dandyish middle-class teens, and the rowdier "rockers" or "skinheads." The manager of Townshend's group decided to direct his musicians toward the mod audience. Soon the Detours were known as the High Numbers and were playing in Soho's Wardour Street clubs. During this time the group picked up its fourth member, drummer Keith Moon. Fortunately for the High Numbers, their contract was bought out by new management, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp. Townshend in particular benefited from the management transition; Lambert introduced the young artist to traditional musical forms and state-of-the-art recording techniques. Lambert also allowed the group to change its name to the Who, and he promoted his charges tirelessly. By 1965 the band had an enormous following in England, especially among mods. The Who also broke through in America with two songs, "Can't Explain" and "My Generation." Some critics feel that in the latter song, with its stuttered phrases, hard beat, and defiant "hope I die before I get old," Townshend and the Who created nothing less than an anthem for the times.

Following the drug-overdose death of drummer Keith Moon in 1978, the band soldiered on with replacement drummer Kenney Jones. In 1984 Townshend officially disbanded the Who, although the three original members of the band periodically reunited for highly successful tours, including a 1988 venture that showcased the 1969 rock opera Tommy and a 1996-97 tour that showcased the 1973 rock opera Quadrophenia. In 2003 the band was on the verge of another monster tour when Entwistle died in a Las Vegas hotel room.

Throughout their history, the group reigned as a premier rock attractioneven though none of its songs ever went to number one on the Billboard charts. Analyzing his band's constant popularity, Townshend told Rolling Stone: "Always, always, there is a very, very strong grab a deep, instant grabwhich lasts forever. It's not like a fad. People who get into The Who when they're thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, never stop being fans. The Who don't necessarily captivate the whole teenage generationas each batch comes up every yearbut we certainly hit a percentage of them, and we hold them."

A Who Alone

Townshend's solo albums never generated the sales that his Who albums did, but critics have praised them as significant steps in the evolution of a mature artist. By many critic's standards, Townshend's initial solo release, Who Came First, is a tentative affair, featuring demo recordings of songs that he wrote for the Who, songs inspired by his devotion to Meher Baba, and a collaboration with fellow Baba acolyte Ronnie Lane. Like the songs that appeared on the Who's landmark Who's Next, many of the songs on Who Came First were written for Townshend's aborted follow-up to his 1969 rock opera Tommy, which Townshend titled Lifehouse.

For the Record

Born Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend on May 19, 1945, in London, England; son of Clifford (a musician) and Betty (a singer; maiden name, Dennis) Townshend; married Karen Astley, 1968 (divorced); children: Emma, Aminta. Education: Attended Ealing Art College, England.

Professional musician, 1960; with John Entwistle and Roger Daltrey, formed the Detours, 1962; added drum mer Keith Moon, changed band name to the High Num ber, 1963, and the Who, 1964; member of the Who, 1964-84; released debut solo album, Who Came First, 1971; established Eel Pie Recording Ltd. 1972; founded Eel Pie publishing company, 1976; appeared in film version of rock opera Tommy, 1975; released collabo rative effort with former Faces bass player Ronnie Lane, Rough Mix, 1977; solo contract with Atlantic Records, 1979; coproduced film version of rock opera Quadrophenia, 1979; released Empty Glass, 1980; released All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, 1982; released White City and published Horse's Neck: Lyrical Prose, 1985; released Iron Man song cycle inspired by poet Ted Hughes children's book, 1988; released solo album PsychoDerelict and premiered stage version of Tommy, 1993; arrested and released for downloading child pornography from the Web, 2002; toured with Who, 2003.

Addresses: Home The Boathouse, Ranelagh Dr., Twickenham, TW1 1QZ, England. Office Entertain ment Corporation of America, 99 Park Ave., 16th Fl., New York, NY 10016-1502. Website Pete Townsh end Official Website: http://www.petetownshend.com.

A multimedia science fiction extravaganza that ultimately contributed to Townshend's nervous breakdown, Lifehouse confused producers, rock journalists, and his Who band mates with the complexity of its plot and thematic elements. Nevertheless, this period remains Townshend's most productive in terms of the amount of commercially and critically successful songs he wrote. Who Came First includes the Lifehouse composition "Pure and Easy," which had appeared in an abbreviated version as a coda to the Who's Next track, "Song Is Over." Discussing the origins of "Pure and Easy," Geoffrey Giuliano quoted Townshend in the biography Behind Blue Eyes : "From the peace of the original note, the single unmultiplied breath of life, the eternal silent singing that pervaded all, came this. What are we supposed to be doing? Here am I, in suburban Twickenham, skinny, vain, and obsessed with the word 'forward'; how am I equipped to begin to understand Infinite Love?"

Another album track is "Nothing Is Everything (Let's See Action)," his original demo of the Who single "Let's See Action." Giuliano finds Townshend's solo recording far more satisfying than the blustering, macho version recorded with his band: "Only Townshend's version hits the mark with an intricate web of complex lyrical assaults heralding the cause of spiritual freedom as well as the profound hypocrisy of everyday society, the collective power of the individual, the apathy of ignorance, man's quest to see God face-to-face, the hope of expanded consciousness, the eternality and majesty of the soul, the expansive nature of nothingness, surrender to the finite ego of the Great Oversoul, and finally the simple, plaintive, pitiful pleas for some kind of direction home. Quite a lot to be accomplished by one three-minute [actually six-minute, 21-second] so-called pop tune!"

Rough Mix and "Rough Boys"

In 1973 Townshend helped organize Eric Clapton's return to live performing at the all-star Rainbow Concert, which featured Clapton's former Blind Faith bandmates Steve Winwood and Rick Grech, Traffic drummer Jim Capaldi, and Faces lead guitarist Ron Wood on bass guitar, who collectively called themselves Eric Clapton and the Palpitations. Townshend released the Who's double album rock opera Quadrophenia that same year, which was followed up by 1975's Who By Numbers. His next project apart from the Who, 1977's Rough Mix, began as a request to produce a solo effort by Ronnie Lane. The duo enlisted guest musicians Clapton, Entwistle, Charlie Watts, Bad Company bass guitarist Boz Burrell, keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick, drummer Henry Spinetti, harmonica player Peter Hope Evans, and former Slim Chance band members Graham Lyle, Benny Gallagher, and Charlie Hart. The result was a collaborative effort that is a panoply of rock musical forms encompassing the Appalachian and English folk, American R&B, the irony of Townshend's "Misunderstood, and the art rock ambitions of Townshend's "Street in the City." While the Lane and Townshend play on each other's songs, the only two songs they sing together are a cover of the Don Williams' country chestnut, "Til the Rivers All Run Dry" and the Townshend composition "Heart to Hang Onto." "I wanted to do something with Ronnie and I knew he would stir me up from my veritable complacency," Townshend told Gig interviewer Bart Mills. "I felt sure my writing, and ultimately the Who, would benefit." While Gig and New Musical Express gave the album mild reviews, Dave Marsh hailed it as "a triumph" in the Rolling Stone Record Guide. Marsh awarded the album the five-star status that describes a recording as "indispensable: a record that must be included in any comprehensive collection."

The three years following the release of Rough Mix were dedicated to the release of the film version of the Who rock opera Quadrophenia, the Who documentary The Kids Are Alright, the release of the Who album Who Are You, and a worldwide Who tour that was delayed a year due to the death of drummer Keith Moon, and was subsequently marred by the deaths of eleven fans who were stampeded in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1979.

In the meantime, Townshend obsessed over middle age, his marriage, his sexuality, spirituality, the punk and New Wave music movements, and media coverage of the death of Moon. These subjects inform the prevalent themes on his 1980 solo release, Empty Glass, which takes its title from the Bible's book of Ecclesiastes. "When you hold out an empty cup to God, and demand that he fill it with wine," Townshend wrote in New Musical Express, "He fills it faster than you can ever drink. Then you know that the fault lies in your own incapacity to receive His infinite Love, rather than His capacity to give it." Produced by Chris Thomas, who also produced the Pretenders debut album, Empty Glass also features members of the band Big Country as instrumental backup. Townshend dedicated the album's first single, "Rough Boys," to his two daughters and the Sex Pistols.

In a New Musical Express conversation with Charles Shaar Murray reprinted in Trouser Press, Townshend explained his views of rock star sexuality: "People in rock imagine that they're so incredibly f***ing liberated and anarchistic, but they're not. They're so incredibly closed up and macho. In many ways rock is more reactionary than the rest of society, because the business side of it is so super-corporate, the money flow of it so controlled, and the forefront of it is so commando-trained, so macho, so concerned with uniforms and hardness. I would never do a [overtly homosexual rock performer] Tom Robinson, but it was refreshing that he nearly managed to do it within a rock framework. But it's easier in rock 'n' roll to look tough rather than be tough, since everyone in rock 'n' roll believes what you look like anyway."

The song "Jools and Jim" refers to rock critics Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons, who had raised Townshend's ire by casually suggesting that Keith Moon's life and death were essentially pointless. "Typewriter tappers/You're all just crappers Everybody's human 'cept Jools and Jim," sang Townshend in response. He also added a retort to the duo's disparagement of Moon for his penchant for violently rearranging hotel rooms: "Morality ain't measured in a room he wrecked." Empty Glass reached platinum sales partially due to the hit single, "Let My Love Open the Door," which introduced the singer to a new generation of popular music fans who may or may not have ever listened to the Who.

From Self Destruction to Redemption

Moon's death, Townshend's frequent close calls with drugs himself, a catastrophic 1979 event in which eleven people were trampled to death at a Who concert, and the onset of middle age, threw Townshend into a binge of cocaine, tranquilizer, and alcohol abuse. During the recording of Empty Glass and the Who's tour and recording of the 1981 release Face Dances, Townshend separated from his wife, and descended further into drug addiction and alcoholism. In addition, his finances were in disarrayhe was close to bankruptcy. During this period, he overdosed on heroin while nightclubbing with Jam front man Paul Weller, but began using the drug again despite the incident. "From the moment I touched smack," Giuliano quoted Townshend, "I felt as if I'd joined forces with the devil. I went from being unbeatably lucky to becoming a powerful foe, my own worst enemy. I had opted for self-destruction."

Townshend sought a cure from his addictions with Dr. Margaret Patterson, the same doctor who had helped cure Eric Clapton's heroin addiction in the early 1970s. Rejuvenated in 1982, Townshend recorded and released the critically lambasted It's Hard with the Who and his solo album, All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes. The latter album is perhaps Townshend in his most self-conscious and pretentious artistic mode. However, the net effect is of an artist experiencing a creative rebirth. Such songs as "The Sea Refuses No River," "Somebody Saved Me," and "Slit Skits" deal with the redemption possible for even the most decadent individual through spiritual and human love. "For all its wordiness, its trad-Townshend sound, its frequent moments of bathos and its return to perennial themes, it remains an astonishing record: painful, awkward and boundlessly courageous," wrote Murray in New Musical Express. "Pete Townshend has compounded all his faults and virtues into one record, made no concessions to stadium rock nor to what's supposedly 'relevent.' He's risked making a fool of himself and provided one of the year's most inspiring albums." Townshend dedicated the album to Dr. Patterson.

In 1983 Townshend announced he would no longer record and tour with the Who. He was appointed assistant editor at the prestigious London publishing house Faber and Faber, where he was able to write and publish his 1985 short story collection, Horse's Neck, which Mick Brown described in the London Sunday Times as "a series of elliptical commentaries on childhood, the tribulations and degradations of fame and the obsessiveness which lies at the heart of the contract between star and fan." In 1985 Townshend scored another hit single with "Face the Face" from the album White City. The album's themes and accompanying gritty short film caused many critics and listeners to infer that the album's main character is a grownup version of the protagonist Jimmy from the 1973 rock opera Quadrophenia. Other critics have interpreted the estranged relationship depicted on the album to be a metaphor for the repressive system of apartheid in South Africa. The album features guitar work from Pink Floyd guitarist Dave Gilmour, who also cowrote one of the album's several standout tracks, "White City Fighting," and whose own 1984 solo album, About Face featured the song "Murder," which was, in turn, cowritten by Townshend.

Taking the Who to Broadway

In 1985 the Who reunited for an appearance at Live Aid. They also regrouped to tour in 1989 and several times in the 1990s. On the 1989 tour the band played Tommy in its entirety while also focusing on songs from Townshend's 1989 solo album The Iron Man, which drew its inspiration from the children's novel by Ted Hughes. The album also featured Daltry and Entwistle performing a remake of the hit single Townshend produced in the 1960s for the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, "Fire," as well as the song "Dig." Other guests on the album include singers John Lee Hooker, Nina Simone, Chyna, and Deborah Conway.

In 1992 Townshend collaborated with director Des McAnuff on a theatrical version of Tommy, which went on to become an enormously successfulTony Award-winning production. In 1993 a stage version of Iron Man debuted in London with Daltry starring. This play, however, was less successful and closed after only a few performances. In that same year Townshend released PsychoDerelict, a radio play that incorporates the story of an aging rocker and the vagaries of stardom with music Townshend had recorded in the 1970s for his Lifehouse project. While eliciting positive critical reviews, the album sold poorly. "I sell records in much smaller numbers, but to a much more exclusive crowd, but that's the apology of a dying act," he was quoted by Giuliano. "Some of the things I write about in middle age and will probably continue to write about in late middle age are not quite so palatable as some of the slightly more raunchy, more distasteful problems of being adolescent."

Following the release of PsychoDerelict, Townshend continued to issue releases of his home demo recordings, which began with the release of Scoop in 1983, and continued with Another Scoop in 1987, Lifehouse Elements in 2000, and the six-disc set The Lifehouse Chronicles in 2000, which also features the 1999 radio play adaptation by Jeff Young from a script by Townshend. He also released recordings of live performances such as the 1970s The Oceanic Concerts to raise money for the Meher Baba Institute and Pete Townshend Live: A Benefit for Maryville Academy, which features reworkings of such Who classics as "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere," as well as a collaboration with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder on the Rough Mix song "Heart to Hang Onto."

In 2002 Townshend was arrested for downloading child pornography on his home computer. He defended his actions as research for a project he was working on in which he explored his claim that he was molested as a child. After a four-month investigation the charges were dropped. In 2003 the Who reunited for a world tour. When bassist Entwistle died from a cocaine-induced heart attack in his Las Vegas hotel room, Townshend and Daltrey cancelled several dates but continued the tour despite negative reaction to their supposedly mercenary motivations. In 2004, Townshend and Daltry released another anthology of Who hits, which included bonus songs that represent the first new songs by the Who since the release of It's Hard.

Whether playing with the Who or recording solo albums, Townshend has remained one of the most articulate purveyors of rock music. His songwriting captured first the frustrations of male adolescence and then the equally frustrating progression of middle age compounded by substance abuse, spiritual questioning, and sexual exploration. As a guitar player, he consistently earned critical accolades and appearances on lists denoting the best guitarists of rock and roll. His singing voice, which he has compared to that of Andy Williams, is by turns plaintive and playful, taunting and regretful, masculine and feminine. His stage persona, punctuated with smashed guitars and gravity-defying leaps, set the tone for many of the rock stars who followed him, including Jimi Hendrix. Pete Townshend is, simply put, among rock music's most celebrated performers and writers.

Selected discography

With the Who

Happy Jack, MCA, 1966.

My Generation, Decca, 1966.

The Who Sell Out, Decca, 1967.

Magic Bus, Decca, 1968.

Tommy, Decca, 1969.

Live at Leeds, Decca, 1970.

Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy, Decca, 1971.

Who's Next, Decca, 1971.

Quadrophenia, MCA, 1973.

Odds and Sods, MCA, 1974.

The Who by Numbers, MCA, 1975.

Who Are You, MCA, 1978.

The Kids Are Alright (soundtrack), Polydor, 1979.

Hooligans, MCA, 1981.

Face Dances, Warner Brothers, 1982.

It's Hard, Polydor, 1982.

Who's Missing, MCA, 1986.

Two's Missing, MCA, 1987.

Solo

Who Came First, MCA, 1972; reissued, Rykodisc, 1992.

Rough Mix (with Ronnie Lane), MCA, 1977.

Empty Glass, Atco, 1980.

All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, Atco, 1982.

Scoop, Atco, 1983.

White City: A Novel, Atco, 1985.

Another Scoop, Atco, 1987.

Deep End Live, Atco, 1987.

The Iron Man: A Musical, Atlantic, 1989.

PsychoDerelict, Atlantic, 1993.

The Best of Pete Townshend, Atlantic, 1996.

Pete Townshend Live: A Benefit for Maryville Academy, Platinum, 1999.

Lifehouse Chronicles, Redline, 2000.

Lifehouse Elements, Redline, 2000.

Oceanic Concerts, Rhino, 2001.

Sources

Books

Barnes, Richard, The Who: Maximum R & B, Plexus, 1982.

Giuliano, Geoffrey, Behind Blue Eyes: The Life of Pete Townshend, Dutton, 1996.

Herman, Gary, The Who, November Books, 1971.

Marsh, Dave, Before I Get Old: The Story of The Who, Plexus, 1983.

Marsh, Dave, and John Swenson, The Rolling Stone Record Guide, Random House, 1979.

Pareles, Jon, and Patricia Romanowski, editors, The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock 'n' Roll, Summit, 1983.

Simon, George T., The Best of the Music Makers, Doubleday, 1979.

Stambler, Irwin, The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul, St. Martin's, 1974.

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, October 3, 1982.

Creem, November 1980, p. 25.

Gig, December 1977, p. 22.

Los Angeles Times, 1999.

Mojo, December 1999.

Musician, August 1982, p. 48; July 1989, p. 64; February 1993, p. 47; July 1993, p. 34.

New Musical Express, November 5, 1977; July 3, 1982; July 23, 1994.

Newsday, October 24, 1982.

Other, August 1992.

People, May 12, 1980.

Rolling Stone, July 1327, 1989, p. 86.

Sunday Times (London, England), 1985.

Trouser Press, July 1980, p. 16; August 1980, p. 20.

ZigZag, June 1974.

Bruce Walker

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Townshend, Pete

Pete Townshend

Singer, songwriter, guitarist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Pete Townshend, The Whos principal songwriter and lead guitarist, is a respected seminal figure in modern rock n roll. As a raging young rocker in the late 1960s, Townshend made concert history by smashing his guitar in frenzied moments onstage; his music both mocked and mirrored the anger and alienation of a whole generation. Townshend is practically canonized for the songs he wrote for and performed with The Who, including the rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia, and the driving singles Wont Get Fooled Again, My Generation, Behind Blue Eyes, Who Are You, and You Better You Bet.

According to a Rolling Stone Record Guide contributor, Townshend and The Who were initially considered much better in live performance than on record, but today the groups albums transcend their flaws and rank among the most influential rock albums ever released. Speaking directly to Townshends contribution to modern music, the critic adds: Using a few standard chord progressions as motifs, Townshend constructed a virtual theory of essential rock forms, running each progression through its possibilities. Now well into his forties, Townshend continues to write and record as a solo performer. His more recent work deals with the problems faced by an aging rocker who wonders if he can still keep it together, to quote the Rolling Stone Record Guide, as well as the political and social malaise of the late 1980s.

Peter Townshend was born in London on May 19, 1945. His parents were both professional musicians, and as a child he accompanied them on dance band tours. By the age of twelve Townshend was experimenting with a guitar; he was quite taken with rock n roll, especially Bill Haley and the Comets. A shy teenager, he spent hours by himself practicing the guitar, and later the banjo, which he performed in a Dixieland-style band founded by his friend John Entwhistle. Initially Townshend preferred jazz to rock, but his high school friendsEntwhistle and a maverick named Roger Daltreywere gravitating toward rock and incorporating elements of rhythm & blues in their music. Soon after graduating from high school, Townshend, Entwhistle, and Daltrey formed a band called The Detours. They held daytime jobs while performing in small London clubs at night.

Englands youth scene in the early 1960s featured sometimes bloody clashes between Mods, dandyish middle-class teens, and the rowdier Rockers, or skinheads. The manager of Townshends group decided to direct his musicians toward the Mod audience. Soon The Detours were known as The High Numbers and were playing in Soho in the Wardour Street clubs. During this time the group picked up its fourth member,

For the Record

Full name, Peter Dennis BlandfordTownshend; born May19, 1945, in London, England; son of Clifford (a musician) and Betty (a singer; maiden name, Dennis) Townshend; married KarenAstley, 1968; children:Emma, Aminta. Education: Attended Ealing Art College, England.

Professional musician, 1960; with John Entwhistle and Roger Daltrey, formed band The Detours, 1962; added drummer Keith Moon, changed band name to The High Number, 1963, and The Who, 1964; member of The Who, 1964-84; solo contract with Atlantic Records, 1979; owner, Eel Pie Recording Ltd. 1972; established Eel Pie (book publishing company), 1976; composed and appeared in motion pictures Tommy (rock opera) and Quadrophenia (rock opera); author of Horses Neck: Lyrical Prose, 1985.

Awards : With The Who, numerous gold and platinum records; Academy award nomination for soundtrack to movie Tommy, 1975.

Addresses : HomeThe Boathouse, Ranelagh Drive, Twickenham, TW1 1QZ, England. Office Entertainment Corporation of America, 99 Park Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10016-1502.

drummer Keith Moon. Fortunately for The High Numbers, their contract was bought out by new management, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp. Townshend in particular benefitted from the management transition; Lambert introduced the young artist to traditional musical forms and state-of-the-art recording techniques. Lambert also allowed the group to change its name to The Who, and he promoted his charges tirelessly. By 1965 the band had an enormous following in England, especially among the Mods. The Who also broke through in America with two songs, Cant Explain and My Generation. Some critics feel that in the latter song, with its stuttered phrases, hard beat, and defiant hope I di e before I get old, Townshend and The Who created nothing less than an anthem for the times.

The Whos first tour of America was in 1967. The last was late in 1982. Throughout that fifteen-year period the group reigned as a premier rock attractioneven though none of its songs ever went to number one on the Billboard charts. Analyzing his bands constant popularity, Townshend told Rolling Stone: Always, always, there is a very, very strong graba deep, instant grabwhich lasts forever. Itsnot like a fad. People who get into The Who when theyre thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, never stop being fans. The Who dont necessarily captivate the whole teenage generationas each batch comes up every yearbut we certainly hit a percentage of them, and we hold them. Fans were fascinated first by the sheer physical catharsis of the live performances, then by the albums featuring Townshends melodic hard rock and emotionally-charged lyrics. As with many rock groups, however, problems beset the band almost from day one. Moon died of a drug overdose, Townshend had several close calls with drugs himself, and in 1979 eleven people were trampled to death at aWho concert. Those events, coupled with the onset of middle age, forced Townshend into what he describes in Rolling Stone as a two year binge of cocaine, tranquilizer, and alcohol abuse, from which he emerged, more introspective than ever, in1983.

"I ultimately had to stop using [The Who] as a vehicle for my songwriting, Townshend told Rolling Stone. In a way, Ivegot the punk explosion to thank for making that decision. Commercially, leaving the Who was the dumbest thing Ive ever done in my life. But artistically, it was undeniably the most logical thing for me to do. It was the most important thing Iveever done for meto allow me to have a new beginning, to actually grow. Certainly Townshends solo albums have not generated the sales that his Who albums did, but critics have praised them as a step in the evolution of a mature artist. A reviewer in the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock n Roll argues that Townshend, now a generation older than the fans he had initially spoken for, has begun to agonize over his role as an elder statesman of rock. This is not to suggest that Townshends work has lost its bite, however. His recent single Give Blood is an angry denunciation of violence in all its formsstate-supported and otherwise. Having sworn off drugs and alcohol, and having somewhat regretfully ended his tenure with The Who, Townshend plans to continue making music on his own. He is also becoming better known as a prose writer, contributing essays and short stories to periodicals in England and America.

Townshend reflected on his singular career in Rolling Stone : At [one] time, rock & roll to me was another word for life. What I was experiencing in rock then was a great introduction to what might have been a closeted and isolated, protected view of life, but one that I wouldnt have swapped for all the world. I still feel I hold that key. I am one of those characterswho, like a teenager, sits at home witha guitar infront of a full-length mirror, and I do it. And I can do it nowjust as well as Idid it then. And it gives mejust as much pleasure as it did then. Once youre in, yourein."

Selected discography

With The Who

My Generation, Decca, 1966.

Happy Jack, MCA, 1966.

The Who Sell Out, Decca, 1967.

Magic Bus, Decca, 1968.

Tommy, Decca, 1969.

Live at Leeds, Decca, 1970.

Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy, Decca, 1971.

Whos Next, Decca, 1971.

Quadrophenia, MCA, 1973.

Odds and Sods, MCA, 1974.

The Who by Numbers, MCA, 1975.

Who Are You, MCA, 1978.

The Kids Are Alright (soundtrack), Polydor, 1979.

Hooligans, MCA, 1981.

Face Dances, Warner Brothers, 1982.

Its Hard, Polydor, 1982.

Whos Missing, MCA, 1986.

Twos Missing, MCA, 1987J.

Also recorded Greatest Hits, MCA.

Solo albums

Who Came First, MCA, 1972.

Rough Mix (with Ronnie Lane), MCA, 1977.

Empty Glass, Atco, 1980.

All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, Atco, 1982.

Scoop, Atco, 1983.

Another Scoop, Atco, 1986.

White City: A Novel (soundtrack), Atco, 1986.

Deep End Live, Atco, 1987.

Sources

Books

Barnes, Richard, The Who: Maximum R & B, 1982.

Herman, Gary, The Who, November Books, 1971.

Marsh, Dave, Before I Get Old: The Story of The Who, 1983.

Simon, George T., The Best of the Music Makers, Doubleday, 1979.

Stambler, Irwin, The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul, St. Martins, 1974.

The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock n Roll, Summit Books, 1983.

The Rolling Stone Record Guide, Random House, 1979.

Periodicals

Chicago Tribune, October 3, 1982.

Newsday, October 24, 1982.

People, May 12, 1980.

Rolling Stone, November 17, 1977; June 26, 1980;June 24, 1982; November 5, 1987.

Anne Janette Johnson

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"Townshend, Pete." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Townshend, Pete." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved July 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/townshend-pete

Townshend, Pete

PETE TOWNSHEND

Born: Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend; London, England, 19 May 1945

Genre: Rock

Best-selling album since 1990: The Best of Pete Townshend: Coolwalkingsmoothtalkingstraightsmokingfirestoking (1996)


Pete Townshend is one of the most revered songwriters in rock and a founding member of the Who, a classic rock band. He created the rock opera, which combines the storytelling skills of Broadway musicals with contemporary rock music. As much as Townshend is known as a conceptualist who is responsible for dozens of endurable hit songs, he is also an influential rock guitarist. With the Who he created the type of guitar thunder and violent stage behavior most would associate with the punk rock of the 1970s. The tremendous energy Townshend threw into his playing complemented his songwriting, which celebrated the power of individuality and the importance of spiritual wholeness in the face of adversity. The Who formally broke up in 1982, prompting Townshend to launch a full-time solo career. In the 1990s he looked back at his large body of work and repackaged it for a new audience.


Beginnings

In 1965 Townshend wrote the Who's three defining hit singles: "I Can't Explain," "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere," and "My Generation." In packages of just three minutes, they announced the arrival of a new wave of teenage rebellion, one that was self-assured and intense. Townshend was anointed as the spokesperson of his generation and was a hit with the "Mods," a British youth movement that embraced modern trends in music, fashion, and attitude. The Who capsulated this energy into their chaotic live shows. After Townshend happened to destroy a guitar in frustration, guitar-smashing quickly became an awaited climax of Who shows.

Townshend used the Who as a vehicle to address an array of serious subjects in his songwriting. He began writing longer songs that incorporated classical and baroque structures and themes. In 1969 he released Tommy, a double-album rock opera that told the story of a boy who goes deaf, dumb, and blind due to a childhood trauma and ends up a messianic idol. Tommy was a smash hit and paved the way for Quadrophenia (1973), an epic rock opera about the harrowing life of a Mod youth. During this period Townshend worked on a third rock opera about virtual reality called Lifehouse but could not finish it. The remaining songs ended up becoming Who's Next (1971), the Who's best-known album, which brought in synthesizers and dramatic guitar hooks.

At the height of the Who's success, Townshend began studying with the Eastern mystic Meher Baba, who inspired him to write gentler and more personally introspective songs. The first result of Baba's teachings was Townshend's debut solo album, Who Came First (1971). He followed it up years later with Rough Mix (1977), a breezy and intimate collaboration with folk songwriter and fellow Meher follower Ronnie Laine.

The Who suffered a major setback with the death of drummer Keith Moon in 1978. Although drummer Kenny Jones was recruited to fill Moon's spot and two more albums were released, the band played its farewell tour in 1982.


After the Who

In the meantime, Townshend was already actively engaged in a solo career. His most successful and most critically praised non-Who album is Empty Glass (1980). Featuring his first solo hit, "Let My Love Open the Door," the album is deeply introspective and hints at his struggles with alcohol and drugs. Without the swaggering vocal power of the Who's lead singer Roger Daltrey, Townshend was free to explore his metaphysical side, with several songs hinting at bisexuality. All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (1982) deals with the malaise of stardom and the quest for salvation.

After that creative endeavor, Townshend retreated from making albums about his own personal demons and, once again, moved toward more conceptual music. White City (1985) is subtitled A Novel. It accompanied a short film he wrote about life in a West London public housing complex. He followed up with an elaborate album, The Iron Man (1989). Based on a children's story by the English poet Ted Hughes, it features songs sung by guest vocalists including Daltrey, blues legend John Lee Hooker, and jazz diva Nina Simone. It sold poorly.

Even so, the album prompted a Who reunion tour the same year, in what would become a routine occurrence throughout the 1990s. The reunited group (later featuring Zak Starkey, son of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, on drums) would play greatest hits shows to mixed reviews over the years. Psychoderelict (1993) remains Townshend's last solo album as of 2003. Another semi-autobiographical look at the trappings of celebrity, it tells the story of Ray High, a rock musician on the comeback who is fighting alcoholism and the disdain of a rock journalist bent on destroying him. Interspersed with spoken dramatic segments, the music includes instrumental passages that pay tribute to Meher Baba as well as self-deprecating rock songs ("Let's Get Pretentious") mocking the cult of fame. It yielded the minor hit single, "English Boy." For the most part, Psychoderelict confused Townshend's audience and failed to break into the Top 100. The album was accompanied by a tour that featured multimedia visuals and actors who performed between songs.


Tommy and Beyond

Townshend's energies during the 1990s focused on the past. He broke ground on Broadway with a restaging of Tommy in 1993. Although it had already been a film and a concert tour, its Broadway incarnation exceeded expectations. It was a box office blockbuster. Featuring a cast of unknown musical theater singers and dancers, it received mixed reviews with some critics accusing Townshend of shamelessly exploiting his past for the sake of nostalgia and a quick buck. Nevertheless, The Who's Tommy (its new title) received five Tony Awards in 1993 and toured the world. The same year Townshend staged The Iron Man in London. He later regrouped the Who in 1996 to resurrect Quadrophenia. The band embarked on a tour to perform the rock opera in its entirety. By this point, his guitar playing had diminished due to ear damage and he stuck mainly to playing rhythm, not lead. Townshend also finally got around to completing Lifehouse, the musical project he had abandoned nearly thirty years earlier. He adapted it into a radio play for the BBC in 1999 and the next year released The Lifehouse Chronicles (2000), a six-CD set of songs and spoken word that he released on his own Eel Pie label.

In January 2003 Scotland Yard arrested Townshend under suspicion of possessing child pornography. Townshend admitted he had visited child porn websites but maintained it was only for research for an autobiography he was writing that explored sexual abuse in his childhood. He was later released and never charged.

Townshend is one of rock's most complex figures. He broke out of the conventional pop song mold and created the rock opera. With the Who, he delivered classic rock anthems, yet when he retreated to his solo work, he freely explored a sensitive and philosophical side.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Who Came First (Decca, 1972); Rough Mix (Decca, 1977); Empty Glass (Atco, 1980); All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (Atco, 1982); White CityA Novel (Atco, 1985); Pete Townshend's Deep End Live! (Atco, 1986); The Iron Man (Atco, 1989); Psychoderelict (Atlantic, 1993); The Best of Pete Townshend: Coolwalkingsmoothtalkingstraightsmokingfirestoking (Atlantic, 1996); The Lifehouse Chronicles (Eel Pie, 2000). With the Who: The Who Sings My Generation (Decca, 1965); Tommy (Decca, 1969); Live at Leeds (Decca, 1970); Quadrophenia (MCA, 1973); Who Are You (MCA, 1978).

WEBSITE:

www.petetownshend.com.

mark guarino

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"Townshend, Pete." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Townshend, Pete." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved July 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/townshend-pete