September 26, 2020

’67 Go Magazine interview with Pete Townshend

Pete discusses The Who in America

EDITOR’S NOTE:  During their recent stay in New York, the Who were visited by GO’s reporter, Debbie Smith.  In this EXCLUSIVE GO interview, Pete Townshend, lead guitarist of the Who, tells her of the group’s plans and their impressions of the U.S.


Pete Townshend, twenty-one year-old lead guitarist in The Who and composer of their hit material, talks about his group and the American scene.


“The States have been a very successful area for British groups, but it has always eluded The Who.


“I have often received letters from American groups saying that they like our style.  One group I know is going to record ‘My Generation’ and another group has recorded ‘Substitute.’


“A lot of people on the West Coast, for example, know we are here.


“But what they know also is that we are not there.  One of the things about the American people is that they don’t want to know about things they can’t see.


“The Who have always been a group to come up with new ideas.  We have always been expected to make strides.


“We have never been a million-selling group.  We’ve never been the sort of group which had riots outside our dances, but we have always drawn a lot of kids.  We have had hits and we have been consistent.


“The States is the only country we haven’t conquered yet – perhaps ‘conquered’ is the wrong word.  The Americans haven’t accepted us yet.


“In most of the major English record market areas, France, Scandinavia, Australia, and most other European countries, we have gone.


“The States, where everyone from A to Z have gone – we haven’t.


“Why?  We all think about why.


“Everything we do for the States is what we do for England.  But we know everything about England.  We know what sort of records they want, what sort of television they want to see us on.


“But in the States it’s a different matter.  We are working in the dark.


“We do television shows for the States which we never see.  We record interviews for the States which we never hear.


“Other English groups have just done it without thinking, they’ve just shot up.


“Perhaps we have regarded success in the States as being far more important to us that any other English group.  Herman’s for instance.


“I think Herman’s Hermits would much prefer to be really successful in England.  There isn’t anything better that to be liked on your home ground.


“We have now NOT got hits where everyone else has got hits.  The Hollies, Herman and even groups like the Dave Clark Five have got hits.


“We are obviously next.


“We needed to come to the States.  In England it wasn’t just automatic success.  We didn’t bring out a hit record and suddenly make it.


“We played to the mods and we were mods at that time.  And we were being carried along by them.


“But the main thing was that kids were able to see us.  So in the end we became the thing in London – such as are The Move now.


“It’s always been that way round for us.  Even in foreign countries.


“The only country where this has been at all different was Germany, where, for some reason, we took off without much help.


“America is the same case.  We had to come here, be seen, and make sure people know we’re here and that they can’t look away while we’re around.


“And basically, unless we do this, we’re not going to make it here.


“The Who are one of the most commercial groups in England going.  We’re only interested in pop music, being commercial, and having fun.  When we don’t have fun, and when we’re not commercial, and when things become too heavy for us, we tend to chicken out.


“The group need to be big in the States.  This is a part of our career which has been unconquered.


“Okay, so the money is big in the States.  But then, we’re not living uncomfortably or anything.  We don’t need it for life or death.


“But we need it so badly for EGO.


“What we need most is the help of the kids.


“But the biggest, greatest, most fantastic thing that could happen to the Who now would be for the Who to get a hit record in the States.


“And if they did that, I think I’d break down and cry.”