September 23, 2020

’78 New Music Express Interview with Pete Townshend

Pete talks about

The police found Pete Townshend unconscious in a Soho doorway the day after he’d been to hell and back. In the grey light of a cold dawn, the copper recognised the soiled and dishevelled figure that stank of stale booze, and gruffly shook him awake. "’Ello Pete," he said, smiling benignly. "If you can get up and just walk away, as a special treat, you can sleep in your own bed today."

Eyes screwed up against the harsh daylight, cold and confused, Townshend staggered to his feet. As he slowly made his way along the bleak and deserted streets to the tube station, the painful memories of the previous day started to come back…

He’d been at a business meeting with his former manager Chris Stamp, his accountant and the infamous rock biz troubleshooter Allen Klein. For six months he’d been trying to get back payment for his American songwriting royalties, and it was the final meeting in a series of many.

Klein apparently produced sheets of figures, totally confused everybody, haggled over his cut for collecting the monies, and after 12 hours presented Townshend with a cheque. Townshend was emotionally drained, exasperated and infuriated by the whole ordeal.

"I said to Chris Stamp," he recalls, "’I don’t fuckin’ believe all that! I don’t believe that after all these years in the rock business that I’ve sat through all that shit, and gone through all that for six months just to get a cheque.’

"I felt like a piece of shit!"

But his tortuous journey into self-abuse to visit the hell of his own personality had only just begun. After drinking his "compulsory bottle of brandy", he and Stamp went to the Speakeasy to see John Otway and Wild Willie Barrett perform.

"I burst in, ignored John and Willie who were on their last number, smashed a few glasses, trod on a few toes and hit a few people, all friends of mine. I dunno why I went. I should have just gone and banged me ‘ead against a wall.

"Then I thought I saw Johnny Rotten. I said to Chris, "Oo’s that there?’ An’ he said, ‘It’s one of The Sex Pistols. It’s…’

" And I’d already gone, and I’d got him and cornered him against the bar. I said something like, ‘What the fuck are you doing here?’ And he said, ‘Well, what the fuck are you doing here?’

"1 thought he was Johnny Rotten for about the first five minutes I was talking to him. Then I suddenly realised it was somebody else. It turned out to be Paul, the Pistols’ drummer.

"And I sat him down and I was really preaching at the poor little sod. Then Steve Jones, the guitar player, came and sat down and I went, ‘Rock’n’roll’s gone down the fuckin’ pan!’ and I tore up the royalty cheque.

"About halfway through the tirade Paul looked at me really confused. He didn’t really know what I was talking about. And he said, ‘The Who aren’t going to break up are they?’

"’Break up!’ I said. ‘We’re fuckin’ finished! It’s a disaster!’ "And he said, ‘Awww, but we like The Who.’

"I went, ‘You LIKE THE ’00! AHHHHHHHHHH!’ And I stormed out of the place, and the next thing I knew I was being woken up in a doorway in Soho…When I got in, me old lady was waiting for me…sitting there with the rolling pin, but too tired to use it. She said, ‘Where have you been?’

"I said, ‘I’ve been to hell.’ And I really did feel that I’d actually been to hell, and that’s what the song ‘Who Are You’ is about."


Paul Cook later said that you thought you were past it – which may well have been the impression you gave.

"That’s a polite way of putting it. I felt like a raging bull. I obviously collapsed just as soon as I walked out the door, but I didn’t feel so bad just because I’d been drunk in the Speakeasy; it was because I’d been stone cold sober at a business meeting in Tin Pan Alley. That sort of thing had nothing to do with why I picked up a guitar in the first place.

"I think," he adds, "the whole new album will serve as an encyclopedia of rock’n’roll for up-and-coming groups – where not to get caught."


In the three years since he last allowed the rock press to interview him at length, Pete Townshend has changed very little in appearance. Conscientiously the ’70s mod, he still gives the impression of being haunted. The smart, white shirt with a button-down collar, the crisply tailored khaki trousers and the cumbersome Dr. Martens that he wears can’t hide the nervous tension stiffening his thin, angular body. Suspicious and uneasy, his eyes dart around in their sockets.

It’s understandable that he should be wary at first. His last major interview with NME, in May 1975, told of his own disillusionment with rock and The Who and led to a public feud. Three months later, Roger Daltrey retaliated. He accused Townshend of going on stage drunk, betraying the group and their fans, and generally continued a vendetta that many expected would finally finish The Who. How does he feel about that time now?

"When Roger said I was drunk," Townshend says, "he was right. Drunk? Was I drunk!

"I felt part of rock’n’roll was going on the road, getting drunk, having a good time and screwing birds. But at that particular time I couldn’t handle it, and I was falling to bits.

"At the same time I was going slightly barmy. I was hallucinating; I was forgetting big chunks of time – I think only because I was drinking so much.

"Like, I was waking up in bed with somebody and not knowing what had led up to that particular point. Then I was going home and trying to face me old lady. It was a really peculiar period."

The Who survived, but from then until today, Townshend declined to be interviewed.

"There’s only one direct line between me and the public and that’s through the songs. And that’s obviously where I want to be judged, not on the strength of what I say in interviews. Interviews are opinions. Songs are actions."

Yet he did once break his silence, even if he remained unquestioned, to write Pete Townshend’s Back Pages, published in NME last November. It was a courageous attempt to exorcise the ghosts of disenchantment and the frustration of ‘old age’ that haunted Townshend’s career during the mid-’70s.

Undoubtedly cathartic, the piece ended optimistically; and it’s this spirit that’s been captured on the new album, ‘Who Are You’.

Now regarded as the spiritual Godfather Of Punk, and arguably the single most important precursor of rock’s new wave, he’s abrasive, animated and candid.

Once he overcomes his initial reserve, he relaxes into a comprehensive interview lasting three hours. Obviously the traumatic years have changed his attitudes, but more significantly he has regained his artistic confidence. "I’m really quite relieved that we managed to get the new album done," he says. "I’m pleased with the writing. The songs aren’t screaming vitriol, but they’re still quite hard. We’re evolving, there’s no question about it."


Were you in a better frame of mind when you wrote the songs for ‘Who Are You’ than you were in 1974/’75?

"Oh yeah," he answers without hesitation. "I was in a much better frame of mind than during and after ‘Who By Numbers’. At that particular period, I felt the band was finished and I was finished and the music was dying. There was very little sign that the new wave was gonna emerge.

"I started to get disenchanted not only with what we were doing and everything around the band, but because nobody else seemed to be pushing either.

"The band came through that very down period. I came out the other side giving up on the rock business and giving up on the band, but discovered three other blokes that I really liked. I stopped treating them as a group of partners and started to think about them as people to drink with. Suddenly I realised I liked them and liked working with them. It was a bit of a discovery.

"When the new wave came along it was, for me, a great affirmation. I thought, ‘Aye, aye, we’re not dead yet.’ I felt it was the closing of a circle. It was part of what had been nagging at me: it didn’t seem the music business was ever gonna get back to rock again, and that we were incapable of going back. We were getting older, getting more mature and we were settling down.

"Like there’s a big difference between me playing the guitar today and me playing even six years ago. It’s not just that I don’t wanna play in the same aggressive way; I haven’t got the ability to do it. I’ve knocked down that wall of screaming and shouting so often that it’s no fun to knock it down any more. So I’m going over and knocking at another wall. It’s not necessarily one that’s so romantic or macho or young and proud, but it’s nevertheless a wall and I like smashing at it.

"Nowadays, when I write, I push myself in another direction. I try and work out chord changes that turn your head inside out; I might spend a month messin’ around with a particular synthesizer sound just to try and get something that’s gonna last for ten years and not sound jaded in a week. I’m always trying to discover something else that’s as good as a wound-up electric guitar."


A lot of musicians in your age group felt threatened and intimidated by the new wave. They thought they were finished.

"Well, I can understand that. A lot of bands that felt finished, I hope are finished. I think The Who are standing on a different bit of ground to them. If you feel intimidated you have to get territorial. Say, ‘I’m on this patch of ground; if you want it come and get it.’ The strongest survive, and if a new band wants that patch badly enough, it’ll get it.

"1 don’t think enough people did that. If anybody should have felt completely superfluous, it should have been The Who. There was a line between us and the kids on the street; people The Who are finding increasingly difficult to reach. The roots of practically every new wave act I saw seemed to be The Who. Then I realised that made more of us. At least it makes us feel we’ve achieved something over a longer period of time.

"I’m a rock idealist," he laughs. "I’m not interested whether I make money out of it. When I picked up a guitar to write I’d been listening to people like Dylan. I’m interested in the fact that you can use music to communicate with people and to affirm that you share certain feelings about the world and about the music that we enjoy.

"So now I spend my time communicating through my music to people that are about 33 years old, used to live in Shepherds Bush, sometimes wear Dr. Martens…

"When I was a kid, and when I was in me mid-20s, I had something that they don’t seem to have today. And I felt very glad I could reach younger people. It’s just an amazing kick that rock’n’roll has managed to sustain.

"Admittedly I was wearing dark glasses at the time, and looking at everything in a grey way, but after ‘By Numbers’ I saw people like Electric Light Orchestra and ELP. I thought about what we were up to, and the Stones and Mick Jagger’s silk pyjamas and Elton John and Rod Stewart.

"1 thought, ‘Bloody ‘ell, it really is dead.’ "Luckily the new wave came when I was already down. They say if you’re down far enough, the gutter looks like up. Well, the gutter is where modern rock bands -all rock music – comes from. It’s where it starts and you’ve got to be in the gutter to see it.

"Also, the new wave began when I was feeling really wretched. So I took most of the insults as grand compliments."


The Jam were probably influenced more by The Who than any other new wave band. When they released their first album, ‘In The City’, they were regarded as the surrogate Who to the extent that one critic claimed they were more entitled to Who licks than The Who were themselves. But then, nobody’s a harsher critic of The Who than Townshend himself.

"I enjoy it when I’m there…and I might need it more than I think I do, but when I say there’s something wrong with The Who I’m really talking about the stage. We still go on and do that same old act again and again. It’s so backward-looking.

"The Who must never be a parody of ourselves. It started to happen in ’76 and I don’t think we realised it. I was really fucked up after that."

After you played that Kilburn gig for The Kids Are Alright movie last Christmas, the producer said he thought it’d given you the bug to play concerts again.

"Roger, Keith and John all came off bubbling. Roger said, ‘Right, Townshend, now you must feel like going back on the road.’

"That performance made me feel more than ever that we shouldn’t go back on the road. And everybody kinda went, ‘Eurghhhhh!’ Then Roger said, ‘You’re barmy. I’m not gonna let your feelings of depression affect me.’

"Of course there’s always a chance that the band affects the way I feel about it. But until I can actually feel they share my neurosis then it’s hard to begin to even talk about the problems I feel are there.

"The group has gone past the point of no return, and I haven’t now got the machinery to find me way back. But I do accept that somebody like Roger could, if he wanted to, probably bring me back. "But he’d have to work on it, because I feel such a long way from that desire to get up and play the guitar. We have to find another way to do shows if it’s gonna fit in with being a young married with a couple of kids who are nine and seven and need to see me every day.

"That’s something I could never account for when I was 19 and wrote, "Why don’t they all fade away?" I never fuckin’ knew that one day I’d have two kids who I missed with a physical pain when I was away from home. ‘Ow do you deal with that? Big fuckin’ rock star!"


We were talking about communication, and you seemed to suggest you only appeal to 30-year-olds in suburbia. Does that mean you feel bands like The Clash and The Jam now communicate with the teenage generation?

"Not entirely to the younger generation. As you probably know as well I do, a lot of the so-called young punks that you used to see down the Roxy were all about 50.

"But a lot of them were also very young people who were isolated. They couldn’t find anything in The Who’s music that appealed to them.

"It was weird. Just as somebody started to speak up, thousands of people said ‘Right, I want to hear that!’ They didn’t care whether it was music, or whether it sounded any good. It mattered more that somebody was saying it.

"I think The Clash are an amazing band. I hope they don’t break up, but unless they go to America they will.

"They’re probably regretting having said, ‘We never want to go to America, we’re never gonna leave England, fuck America and the materialistic Cadillacs an’ all that crap!’ It’s not like that.

"The Clash have not received the kind of recognition they deserve in this country, apart from a certain inspired minority, like myself. It would be balanced and more powerful in the American environment.

"They’d be acceptable in street terms because they’ve got their own cultural ground. They would feel a kinship in the States rather than feel intimidated. Whereas it’s difficult to feel you’ve achieved anything in England if you think that achievement is measured by results.

"America’s big enough to make a small result look bigger. The Who fans there don’t number anything like Elton John’s, but it’s still a significant enough group to pay the bills and allow you to go on and make you feel you’re achieving something.

"But you could put Elton’s 15 million fans against our million, and you’d have a different substance of people. They’d buy his records for entertainment. They wouldn’t listen to the lyrics. They’d listen to the clever production and the session musicians’ playing ability."


But nowadays don’t people just buy Who albums because they want to know what you’re going to reveal about yourself next? Certainly this was true with ‘By Numbers’, which contained songs like ‘However Much 1 Booze’.

"If all you had to do to sell records is be honest, it’d be really easy. ‘The Who By Numbers’ was revealing, I suppose, because it was all that I had left at the time. I just thought, ‘What am I gonna do, because I’m fucked up, not writing anything?’

Do you think it was a despairing album?

"You don’t despair about something that you feel has already gone down the pan, and I just felt the band was down the pan. I felt the situation between Roger and me was irredeemable.

"The things I said I genuinely meant at the time. The reason they got up his nose, and why what he said in reply got up my nose, was because we were both speaking the truth about one another. We both made it clear we hated one another’s guts. And you only hate somebody if you don’t know ’em. "I really feel the reverse now. Now if I was gonna pick three friends, I’d start with those three.

"Everybody’s changed in the band in the last three years. I think ‘The Who By Numbers’ was partly responsible for that, but the other thing that’s been played down like mad – because it’s very painful for the band to talk about – is that we were going through litigation with our management. Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp – people we loved.

"1 felt myself being pulled in two directions, and in the end I had to let go my friendship with Kit and Chris, and run with the band. I don’t like that, but I knew what I had to do.

"It’s like if your two kids are drowning, which one do you save? You don’t necessarily save the nearest. Somewhere along the line, you make a choice, and the choice may be selfish. In retrospect I made the right choice.

"It was when ‘The Who By Numbers’ was finished that I said to Roger, ‘ Alright, let’s get together and blow ’em out.’

"Then he dropped his armour, and we immediately became very close. He’d seen me very much as an enemy, and it explained a helluva lot. Like when we were doing ‘Quadrophenia’, I couldn’t understand why he was so aggressive toward me and about the album."


It’s obvious that Townshend was ripped apart by mixed loyalties and his own feelings of gloom at that time. Consider those lines on ‘They Are All In Love’ on ‘By Numbers’:

"Goodbye all you punks stay young and stay high /Hand me my chequebook and I’ll crawl off to die. "

Why didn’t you?

"I think I did. What the lines are about is that we went on to sue Kit Lambert. It’s not really what it seems to be about.

"The word ‘punks’ didn’t mean what it does today. ‘Punks’ is what I used to call the New York fans who used to try and get you by the ears and pin you down and take you home in a cardboard box.

"That song was about what the band had become. It was about money, about law courts, about lawyers, and about accountants. Those things had never mattered before, but the band had a backlog of tax problems and unpaid royalties. We had to deal with it.

"I really felt like crawling off and dying."

So it wasn’t abdication from rock’n’roll?

"Only in as much as I didn’t think we were gonna be able to go on. I couldn’t see how we could if we were gonna worry about these kind of things."

It must have been hard for somebody who’s a rock’n’roll idealist.

"I blame The Who fans for this!" Townshend goons. "If they hadn’t bought the records, if they hadn’t come to the concerts, we wouldn’t have had all that money, we wouldn’t have had to buy Shepperton Studios, and I wouldn’t be here. So it’s their fuckin’ fault!"

"It certainly hasn’t changed my idealistic stance. I can’t be hypocritical about it. But I’m not in the place I thought I’d end up.

"When the band started off in ’64/’65 I really thought we were just gonna explode. I thought I was gonna die. Looking at the footage of The Kids Are Alright, it’s a bloody wonder we are still here today.

"I never ate. It was all dope-dope-dope, and ‘orrible vibes of aggression and bitterness. Out of that we were saying, ‘We are the mirror for the desperation and bitterness and frustration and misery of the misunderstood adolescents; the people in the vacuum.’

"I never expected to be able to afford a reliable car or go somewhere wonderful for me holidays, or buy a big house, or run a business. And I don’t know if I want to. How many people do exactly what they want to?

"I’ve done what I want to for ten years, so I don’t mind the odd things that I don’t want to do now. Meher Baba says, ‘Don’t worry, be happy.’ I think that’s what rock’n’roll’s about.

"But it doesn’t walk away from the things that aren’t right. It lays everything out on the table, all the problems that you’ve got, and all the problems society has. It doesn’t squash that or screw ’em up and throw ’em away. It fuckin’ lives with them!"


Your definition of rock’n’roll in Back Pages was: "If it screams for truth rather than help, if it commits itself with a courage it can’t be sure it really has, if it stands up and admits something is wrong, but doesn’t insist on blood, then it’s rock’n’roll. We shed our own blood, we don’t need to shed anyone else’s."

"YEA THE TEAM!" calls Townshend, punching the air and laughing.

"It shouldn’t be said as poetically as that, but that’s really what it’s about. People talk about not taking rock too seriously. But to me it’s everything, so I can’t take it seriously enough. If it is your release, the key to happiness, then you should take it seriously."

For somebody who follows Meher Baba’s philosophies (and rock’s), you’ve had more than your share of torment and despair.

"That’s cos I’m silly. I remember Patti Smith said, ‘How can somebody like Townshend follow Meher Baba and be such a miserable bastard?’

Could it be that you’re happy when you’re depressed?

"I dunno. I definitely like a bit of drama. Like I said, I’m happy when I’m taking things seriously.

"It’s also difficult to practice what you believe, what you aspire to. It’s one thing to say "I hope I die before I get old" and it’s another matter to do it. And it’s easier to please other people than it is yourself.

"So I’m not worried about making my life cosily happy.

"But I know now my need for security and stability is greater than it ever was. People used to say to me, ‘Townshend, why don’t you learn how to relax? Go away for a week and have a holiday.’

"I’d say, ‘I don’t want a holiday; work’s a holiday, music’s a holiday to me.’ Utter crap like that.

"Now I do need to get the business and music out of me ‘ead. If you think about one thing obsessively for 15 years, you eventually go barmy, and I went barmy with rock’n’roll and The Who. Though keeping it at a distance and being objective about it for a couple of years, I feel fresher and happier."

Do you think that shows on the new album?

"I hope so. The lyrics I wrote are hard-edged and cut in the way I want them to, but there’s also a bit of joy in the music."

"If you’ve got the ability to write a song that reaches people, then it’s a God-given thing. Rock never lets go. It carries its own crap along with it; it never throws it on to someone else. It can’t, because when it does, it’s guilty of what the rest of the world does. In that sense, rock is still pure. How long it can stay that way, I don’t know."

You said earlier that The Who mirrored the frustrations of the people in a void who otherwise weren’t represented. Do you still do that with your music?

"Only partly, because I’m not trying to do the same thing any more.

"Things have apparently changed around me. Every man is a pivot for his own private universe, and that’s the way I still feel.

"I’m still Townshend and I’m still writing every now and again, but not necessarily to change things. Perhaps now, certain things could be left as they are. Certain things you can’t change. Certain things aren’t worth worrying about. Rather than getting so desperately unhappy, I come out with something like ‘The Who By Numbers’."

But you haven’t done any teen anthems like ‘My Generation’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ for years now, and perhaps that’s part of The Who’s problem. You’ve alienated yourself from the audience. Paul Weller claimed the songs you write now are self- indulgent, that you come on with "all this martyr shit" and that you can’t rest on your laurels for the rest of your life.

"There’s an element of truth in what Paul said. There have been periods – and I’m sure there’ll be more – when I’ve felt like an amazing martyr. If you think you’re doing something that you don’t wanna do, then automatically you feel like a martyr. Particularly if you feel that you’re doing it for a cause.

"To me, rock’s a cause. So I often end up going on stage or into the studio when I don’t really want to.

"As for resting on me laurels, that’s the last thing anybody should want to do.

"He’s really saying anybody over a certain age who’s achieved anything should just go off and DIE! It’s exactly the same thing I once said. Life isn’t like that. You think it is when you’re 17 – sometimes even if you’re older.

"If somebody wants to judge me in terms of what I’ve produced in the band, and then write me off, fine."


You’ve said before, in Back Pages, that you find it hard to accept you’re regarded as "well-nigh a saint", But that’s because you’re articulate and, above all, you appreciate the social and political power of rock. When the new wave emerged, rock did turn full circle. It was again about the rot in society and government: some of the issues you wrote about for another generation; most of all about adolescent confusion, with songs like ‘I’m A Boy’.

As a Who fan, there’s frustration for me now, as I want to know what Townshend has to say about the National Front or about the way this country is. But you haven’t said anything.


Is there a reason why not? Are you oblivious to it?

"No, no, no. It’s actually because I’m now actively doing something about it, whereas when you’re an adolescent, you’re not capable of doing anything.

"If I wanted to, I could become really practical, and not just write a song which I know now doesn’t change anything. It just lets you know that there are other people who feel the same way.

"I could actually be a right pain in the National Front’s arse, if I wanted to be.

"But I don’t really like Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Fonda and people involved in petty power politics in unions. But if The Who wanted to, they could. We know Lords here and MPs there.

"We don’t only meet people with problems, we do something about them. And that’s important because you feel what’s happening on the streets and you’re a part of it.

"If you haven’t been in a black squat in Brixton, you should grit your teeth and try it. It’s nothing like those squats in Westbourne Grove where they spend their money not on their rent but on their pot and heroin.

"It’s people with families, people who go out in the day labouring, and mothers who try to keep their families together –sometimes large ones. And they’ve got dignity!

"But what kind of fuckin’ music does that make? And how long can you go on doing it?

"I’ve got to the point in my life where you can’t do it all, and rock is not capable of changing society. The only thing that’s capable of doing that is power.

"So I’m more concerned now with trying to make music that makes people feel better, rather than worse.

"I don’t suppose I ever really wanted to make people feel bad. But I definitely wrote songs like ‘My Generation’ to intimidate anybody who was driving round in a Rolls Royce.

"The stupidity of writing it was that nobody in a Rolls ever listened to ‘My Generation’. Nobody in a Rolls was ever even slightly scared of people with safety pins in their ears."

But rock’s an instrument to make people aware of things, even if it doesn’t effect change. And some people who need it haven’t got that voice. Whether it’s minority groups like squatters, blacks and gays, or disturbed kids living in high-rise blocks, they want somebody to speak for them. That’s why The Clash came from nowhere and were accepted almost immediately. It’s why McLaren manipulated the whole Sex Pistols charade, which it often was. At least some truth was coming out.

"So many kids relate to me because…I’m in middle-class, confused misery!" He laughs loudly.

"I don’t know where The Clash are coming from, or even where Johnny Rotten’s coming from. But I know that when I wrote ‘My Generation’ I was in a flat in Belgravia looking down at the Rolls Royces. It was only 12 quid a week, but it was still in Belgravia.

"There was an embassy over here, another over there and the Queen Mother went past every day. I’ve always thought that was a bit peculiar.

"I hope now people will understand what I feel about the important issues, just through the way I am as a person, and the way the band conduct their lives.

"If the band are gonna be worth any thin’ they’ve got to stand up first as people. Their opinions don’t matter. It’s what they do that counts; not what you say. I’m more concerned with doing rather than pointing fingers, saying ‘That’s wrong and that’s wrong!’

"But there again, it’s less important to say it when other people are saying it, and when they’re being heard."

Didn’t you ever want to shout "Listen to ME! This is RIGHT!"

"No. Unfortunately, the only time I’d get like that was when I was pissed, and then I’m extremely uninterested in intelligent matters. I’m much more interested in getting in fights."


To suggest Townshend is uncommitted would misjudge an awareness and sense of outrage that he simply chooses not to project in his music now. He condemns the National Front, abhors pornography and is genuinely concerned that the quality of life is eroding for many kids. He talks about it all with conviction.

"It is very difficult to see the problems people have in society. And to that extent The Who have lost their roots and lost that reality.

"Roger was really upset about a Daily Mail article where they talked about him being in his big ‘ouse. Bill Curbishley said, "’Ell man, admit it! It’s true. You ride around in a helicopter – you’re not a Shepherds Bush geezer. Roger was saying, ‘Fuck it! I am still a Shepherds Bush geezer.’

"Without starting another journalistic interchange with Roger, I certainly don’t feel I’m in the same piece of space. But it’s hard to see how you change. Things change around you."

Three years ago, you talked about being too old for this kind of life and activity. Do you still feel that about The Who and rock? Does it depress you as much?

"No I don’t feel the same as I did. But a lot of crap – well-meant crap; well-meant, supportive, encouraging crap – has been written to me lately: ‘You’re only as old as you feel.’ I know that!

"I know some 60, 70-year-old people are like adolescents. But they don’t prance around on a rock’n’roll stage.

"It’s not age; it’s being realistic about the practicalities, particularly of the road. You have to be fit to do a year touring the States, because you don’t lead a regular life and you don’t have a stable existence.

"You travel a lot, which is exhausting. You’re under immense pressure. Your ego is fed left, right and centre. You tend to look for escapes by going to parties, boozing and God knows what.

"I can get in good physical shape quickly to do a certain amount of work with The Who, by running or some kind of exercise. But I never used to have to do that.

"And Moony goes to a health farm to get in shape, just to bang the snare drum. It’s absurd. Life wasn’t always like that.

"Most of all, you’ve got to be in psychological shape so you don’t fuck up. It’s not just youngness in heart.

"I don’t feel young in heart. I didn’t feel young in heart when I was 19. I believe I am over a million years old, if you want to know the truth.

"’00 wants to feel young in heart? Leave it to the butterflies."