September 21, 2020

’66 Disc and Music Interview with Pete Townshend

Pete’s views on the Beach Boys and his feelings about The Who’s recordings

 "WRITTEN FOR an audience sympathetic to Brian Wilson’s personal problems" — that’s Pete Townshend’s considered opinion of the much-praised Beach Boys’ "Pet Sounds" album.

The Who’s "Birdman" went on to expound: ‘You’ve just got to listen to the words—like "I’m searching for places where new things can be found but people just put me down."

"It seems that now Brian Wilson has left the Beach Boys to be a record producer he wants to do these fantastic, way-out LP’s and they want to do all the old stuff."

Pete’s outburst is pretty surprising as one of the Who’s favourite standards is" the Beach Boys’ "Barbara Ann"—they have even included it in their new LP.

"Yeah, the Beach Boys’ sound used to influence us a bit when we first started," agreed Pete. "Keith Moon likes all their surf stuff and we once met two of them—Bruce Johnston and Mike Love.

"We do ‘Barbara Ann’ on stage because it gets the audience going.

"But the Beach Boys’ new material on the LPs is too remote and way-out. It’s written for a feminine audience."

The Who are half way through their next LP, due out early next month. Except for the couple of standards and a few numbers by the rest of the group, the bulk are again Townshend compositions.

But, said Pete, he has not bothered to develop any new techniques such as last year’s feedback.

"Whatever anyone says I regard myself as the first person to do feedback," he added. "And I was naturally disappointed when the credit went on several occasions to the Beatles and Yardbirds.

"So I called it off and concentrated more on writing.

"I prefer to be called a showman and writer. Although I can play the guitar as well as most guitarists on the scene I only specialise in big chords played very loud—which has got nothing to do with music. It’s more to do with volume and impact."

Musician or not, Pete can take the credit for the Who’s dual hits "I’m A Boy" and "The Kids Are Alright."

"I’m not surprised both discs got in the chart," said Pete. "We haven’t released a record for so long that the shock of seeing a Who record out made all the kids go out and buy it.

"We haven’t recorded or made television appearances for six months now.

"We were getting pretty worried. But ballroom attendances haven’t suffered at all."

Even so, Pete still is not happy about the records the Who are releasing.

"’Substitute’ was a straight joke which we laughed at but was released," he recalled. "And ‘I’m A Boy’ was a logical development.

"Records today are all right, but they’re too easy—they don’t say anything."