September 28, 2020

’67 Disc interview with Pete Townshend

Pete discusses recent violence at a Who show

PETE TOWNSHEND was placid, pleasant and unrepentant when I asked him whether he regretted the incidents of violence that broke out during the first two nights of the Who’s tour with Traffic, Herd and Tremeloes.


"I’m not apologizing to anyone," he said very firmly.


"The trouble is that at Sheffield, for the second house, we were told to cut down to three minutes by the manager of the hall, and we did three numbers. When we came off there was a scuffle with the management and I really lost my temper and began smashing the place up.


"Then the same thing happened the following night when I suffered the embarrassment of having the curtain dropped with me in front of it, and The Queen playing.


"I was just about to launch into ‘My Generation’ and then that happened!"


Pete in fact has very strong views about managers.


"I hate tour promoters; I hate theatre managers; in fact I hate the whole gamut of tour circuits and the power that goes with them.


"They ask you to play in their theatre because they know the kids will want to see us smash our equipment up. Then at the last minute they turn round and tell you ‘No violence, no smashing of equipment’.


"They refuse to admit that in many cases it’s the pop concerts that bring in the profits. They’ve got no respect for pop artists."


Was that, I wondered, because the Who had no respect for their theatres?


"We DO have respect for their theatres. In fact we take more care to ensure safety than many of our plagiarists. We used to bring fire extinguishers, fire buckets and trained men for our ‘explosions,’ so that our act would be as safe as a raging drunk in a padded cell!"


But all this doesn’t really explain why Pete Townshend has such a passion for uninhibited destruction. Is he really as short-tempered as he makes out?


"I really just get angry in theory," he replied. "I don’t’ react on impulse. I think I should be angry because something has gone wrong, so I am.


"It’s really all a result of our act. For years now the act has been a continual working up to a climax. I work up such a high adrenaline level and high nervous tension that if something occurs to break this before the act is over I really go wild.


"I can remember occasions when the climax has been an anti-climax and I’ve just broken down on stage half laughing, half crying.


"It’s a small paranoiac thing that’s built up in me over the years, and now I find I can’t go to sleep unless I’ve smashed the gear up.


"Take Liverpool, for example. During the second house, the sound on my guitar kept going on and off. After a while I couldn’t stand it any longer.


"The guitar became my enemy and I was going to teach it a lesson – so I smashed it in pieces over my knee. So then I hadn’t got a guitar and I borrowed one of the Tremeloes’ only to find the trouble wasn’t the guitar but the lead!


"I was actually moved to vent my anger on the lead and cut it into thousands of little bits! But it’s not just temperament – a lot of it is far far deeper than that.


"And as far as the opening nights of the tour are concerned – I’m not going to say sorry to anyone!"