September 23, 2020

’66 Disc and Music Interview with Pete Townshend

Pete discusses Pop Art and his ambition to make it in the U.S.

"THE WHO were the first people in the world to wear pop art clothes, it was an absolute scoop," said the group’s manager, Kit Lambert over lunch with Pete Townshend this week.


True enough. Way back in the days of "Anyway, Anyhow Anywhere" it was Mr. Lambert’s idea with impressions gained by Mr. Townshend at art school to put the Who in Union Jacks and bullseye targets and start a fashion stampede. The Who are rarely seen wearing anything so patriotic these days. Is their sartorial brain-child all that old hat?


"We have finished with pop art in a way," said Pete. "Though we are not completely departing from it.


"For instance, we are thinking of starting one of our TV programmes by bursting in through Union Jacks. It will be to show group development, presenting the Who as they were a year ago.


"But that’s all it amounts to now with us – group history. We’ve passed the stage where we used it as a great promotional idea. We don’t need that now.


"I’m satisfied now just to stay with the group as it is as long as I can, because it’s great fun. In fact everyone in the group wants to stay in music for the rest of our lives.


"Obviously the Who won’t last that long. And when pop becomes completely non-existent I am leaving. What I would like to do then is to go into writing musicals and operettas.


"That doesn’t mean I’m getting fed up with writing pop songs. I think they’re as valuable musically and aesthetically as anything else. The stuff we are doing at the moment particularly gives me a lot of satisfaction.




"I’ve been writing the Who’s numbers for two-and-half yers now since the days of our first record ‘I Can’t Explain.’ The others are writing a bit of our stuff now, but I still do most of it.


"But I’m quite happy to take a background place to Roger in the group. Of course, I like the glamour but I don’t particularly want the top spot when we appear.


"I get most of my ideas in conversation with friends. I have a lot of buddies who are full of ideas.


"One of them did the art work for the ‘I’m a Boy’ publicity and another helped think up the name The Who.


"That’s what I like to do in the evenings when we’re not playing – to sit at home and work out new ideas. So does Roger.


"John and Keith also have the same choice in night life – they spend most of their free time in clubs.


"So out of working time we don’t see a lot of each other because we all live in our own places and they’re a long way apart.


"Our biggest ambition now is to break into the American chart. We’re all hoping our promotional visit there will do it for us. A film of us is being shown on TV there to coincide with the release of ‘I’m a Boy’.


"I don’t know why, but we are one of the few top British groups who haven’t made it there yet.


"People in the States seem to have the idea that we’re the third biggest group in Britain and they’re just waiting for us to hit it there.


"I think they’re just as surprised as us that we haven’t but the fact remains we haven’t."