October 1, 2020

’66 Record Roundabout interview with Pete Townshend

Pete explains his feelings about Eric Burdon, Eric Clapton, Otis Redding, Wes Montgomery, and a bunch of other topics.

STEALTHY footsteps down a long corridor after hasty production of identity cards. The photographer looking nervously round him, or through locked doors into a dimly -lit sanctum closeted beneath the ballroom above …

He flung open the door of the empty room, peered round, then started to talk—it was the Who’s Birdman. Pete Townshend.

As the other members of the group lollopped in at irregular intervals the creative Birdman sat on a guitar case considering the words I threw at him. Inside his perch lay one of the bloodstained reminders of his violent trade—a bandaged finger on his right hand told the story.

We started off conventionally in the questions and answers method:

Feedback: I like to think I invented it as a means of putting over a dynamic sound—I feel very hurt when people say the Beatles invented it.

Eric Burdon: I’ve never spoken to him. Burdon hates the Who; the Who hates Eric Burdon. We are two completely different groups.

"So sad about us": I was violently opposed to the Merseys making this. I think it’s a terrific number—we do it on stage—but the final record was nothing like the original demo disc I made of it. I think it sold about 800 copies. Most of my demos I think are better than the end product—I play the demo "Generation" which I wrote on a train going to Bournemouth about four years ago, then ask friends if they don’t think it’s better than the one we released.

Eric Clapton: I always like to feel the respect is mutual. Jeff Beck says he likes us. Clapton says he enjoyed it when he saw us recently. I’ve never seen him play. I think he’s much better off with the Cream; there’s more scope.

Union Jack: A fine old flag. I’ve had five jackets made out of Union Jacks, and they’ve all been nicked, so it must be pretty popular. One Saville Row tailor refused to "cut up the flag" when I ordered a jacket from him. It’s the best flag in the world, visually. You’d think something as big and as powerful as Russia would have a more powerful flag. As for the United States, each time they get a new State, the whole thing just becomes more and more confused.

Wes Montgomery: I used to like him. I play jazz guitar but I have too much respect for the instrument. I couldn’t play in a jazz group context.

Charing Cross Road: Why did you ask me this? I like near it. Dobell’s. Big bookshop. Amusement machines where I used to stand waiting for the tubes to open in the morning. The worst music shop in the world where, if you owe them money and they see you walking by, they’ll come out and drag you in.

Moods: Decline and fall of a group. We’ve been forced to stay off the market because of difficulties over changing labels—what with that and playing ballrooms for three years is enough to bring out the worst in anybody. Playing the same numbers can drive you round the bend—we’ve been under terrific emotional strain. We’re unbalanced anyway—we travel separately, we find our entertainment is different.

Volume: On stage it’s just jealousy and lack of consideration for other members of the group. If Keith doesn’t think he’s getting enough attention, he’ll bash even harder or throw out a stick into the audience. It’s the same with all of us. But at least with four diametrically opposed people we all contribute something completely different, which is better than living together, eating together, and thinking exactly the same.

Progress: I won’t try and twist it and talk about the country’s progress. I don’t think the group has progressed for a long time, but with "I’m a Boy" at the top, I think we’ll begin to progress again.

Troggs: Like them. Not so hot on record, but good.

Arm-Ache: Don’t get it. I once dislocated my arm, but it wasn’t through playing the guitar.

Otis Redding: A great album man for me. I don’t rate the singles too much.

Guitars: My biggest financial setback. I’ve used all kinds, but the ones I have at the moment (Rickenbacker) give me the thick sound I want. Of this make, I’ve been through four twelve-stringers at £250, and eight normal ones. I might get two or three decent ones out of the bits. Contrary to what some people think, I don’t get any discount, either!

Blaise’s: I go there to eat.

Phonies: It’s just a word. I can’t tell them.

Hearse: It got towed away because the Queen Mother complained…

By this time the others had arrived, and as the burly Entwistle strode in there were choruses of "Anyone for tennis?" in response to his white crocheted sweater.

"Have you heard about our Ready Steady Who?" quizzed Keith Moon. "The funny thing is the only time we get to see that these days is when we play on it."

Roger Daltrey was struggling into tight white pants and a cream silk shirt as the call came through for them to get on stage.

As they filed out of the dressing-room door into a thickening wall of hysterical screams, searching spotlights picked out the Who’s silhouettes against their mighty amplification equipment. They exploded into a nuclear "Heatwave"—the Birdman heaving forearm smash after merciless forearm smash onto his complaining, groaning instrument, and I recalled his words, "I suppose I have too much respect for the instrument."

It figures.