Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend

Infobox musical artist
Name = Pete Townshend

Img_capt =
Birth_name = Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend
Born = Birth date and age|1945|05|19|df=yes
London, England
Instrument = Guitar, Vocals, Bass, Harmonica, Drums, Keyboards, Banjo
Background = solo_singer
Genre = Rock, hard rock, pop rock, art rock
Occupation = Musician, Songwriter
Years_active = 1960 – present
Label = Track, Polydor, Atlantic, Atco, Decca, Rykodisc
Associated_acts = The Who, Deep End, Ronnie Lane, Thunderclap Newman
URL = [ The Who's official webpage]
Notable_instruments = Rickenbacker 330
Fender Stratocaster
Gibson SG Special
Gibson Les Paul
Gibson J-200

Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend (born 19 May 1945 in Chiswick, London), is an English rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, composer, and writer, known principally as the guitarist and songwriter for The Who, as well as for his own solo career. His career with The Who spans more than forty years, during which time the band grew to be considered one of the most influential bands of the rock era, in addition to being "possibly the greatest live band ever." [ [ "Rolling Stone" Magazine] [ First Annual Lifetime Achievement Award in Live Music] ]

Townshend is the primary songwriter for the Who, writing well over one hundred songs for the band's eleven studio albums, including the rock operas "Tommy" and "Quadrophenia" and the well-regarded rock radio staple "Who's Next", plus dozens more that appeared as non-album singles, bonus tracks on reissues, and tracks on rarities compilations such as "Odds and Sods". He has also written over one hundred songs for his solo albums and rarities compilations. Although known mainly for being a guitarist, he is also an accomplished singer and keyboard player, and has played many other instruments on his solo albums, and on some Who albums (such as banjo, accordion, synthesizer, piano, bass guitar, drums). He is rated as the 50th greatest Guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone.

He has also written newspaper and magazine articles, book reviews, essays, books, and scripts.

Early life

Born into a musical family (his father Cliff Townshend was a professional saxophonist in The Squadronaires and his mother Betty a singer), Townshend exhibited a fascination with music at an early age. He had early exposure to American rock and roll (his mother recounts that he repeatedly saw the 1956 film "Rock Around the Clock") and obtained his first guitar from his grandmother at age 12, which he described as a "Cheap Spanish thing". Townshend's biggest guitar influences include Link Wray, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley and Hank Marvin of The Shadows.

In 1961 Townshend enrolled at Ealing Art College, and a year later he and his school friend from Acton County Grammar School John Entwistle founded their first band, The Confederates, a Dixieland duet featuring Townshend on banjo and Entwistle on horn. From this beginning they moved on to The Detours, a skiffle/rock and roll band fronted by then sheet-metal welder Roger Daltrey. In early 1964, due to another band having the same name, The Detours renamed themselves The Who. Drummer Doug Sandom was replaced by Keith Moon not long afterwards. The band (now comprising Daltrey on vocals and harmonica, Townshend on guitar, Entwistle on bass, and Moon on drums) were soon taken on by a mod publicist (named Peter Meaden) who convinced them to change their name to The High Numbers to give the band more of a mod feel. After bringing out one single ("Zoot Suit"), they dropped Meaden and were signed on by two new managers, Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert. They dropped The High Numbers name and reverted to The Who.

Music career


After The High Numbers once again became The Who, Townshend wrote several successful singles for the band, including "I Can't Explain", "Pictures of Lily", "Substitute", and "My Generation". Townshend became known for his eccentric stage style during the band's early days, often interrupting concerts with lengthy introductions of songs, swinging his right arm against the guitar strings in his signature windmill style, often smashing guitars on stage, and often repeatedly throwing his guitars into his amplifiers and speaker cabinets. The first incident of guitar-smashing was brought about because Townshend accidentally broke the neck of his guitar on the low roof of an early concert venue in Harrow. After smashing the instrument to pieces, he carried on by grabbing another guitar and acting as if the broken guitar had been part of the act. The on-stage destruction of instruments soon became a regular part of The Who's performances that was further dramatized with pyrotechnics. At a concert in Germany, a police officer walked up to him, pointed his gun at him, and ordered Townshend to stop smashing the guitar. Townshend, always a voluble interview subject, would later relate these antics to German/British artist Gustav Metzger's theories on Auto-destructive art, to which he had been exposed at art school.

The Who thrived, and continue to thrive, despite the deaths of two of the original members. They are regarded by many rock critics as one of the best [ [ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame] ] [ [ Encyclopedia Britannica] ] live bands [ [ "Rolling Stone" Magazine] ] [ [ First Annual Lifetime Achievement Award in Live Music] ] from a period of time that stretched from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, the result of a unique combination of high volume, showmanship, a wide variety of rock beats, and a high-energy sound that alternated between tight and free-form. The Who continue to perform critically acclaimed sets in the 21st century, including a highly regarded performance at the Live 8 music festival in July 2005.

Townshend remained the primary songwriter and leader of the group, writing over one hundred songs which appeared on the band's eleven studio albums. Among his most well-known accomplishments are the creation of "Tommy", for which the term "rock opera" was coined, and a second pioneering rock opera, "Quadrophenia"; his wild, guitar-smashing stage persona – which has become virtually "de rigueur" in the majority of rock acts since the 1970s; his use of guitar feedback as sonic technique; and the introduction of the synthesizer as a rock instrument. Townshend revisited album-length storytelling throughout his career and remains the musician most associated with the rock opera form. Townshend also demonstrated prodigious talent on the guitar and was influential as a player, developing a unique style which combined aspects of rhythm and lead guitar and a characteristic mix of abandon and subtlety. Many tracks also feature Townshend on piano or keyboards, though keyboard-heavy tracks usually featured guest artists such as Nicky Hopkins, John Bundrick or Chris Stainton.

olo career

In addition to his work with The Who, Townshend has been sporadically active as a solo recording artist. Between 1969 and 1971 Townshend, along with other devotees to Meher Baba, recorded a trio of albums devoted to the yogi's teachings: "Happy Birthday", "I Am", and "With Love". In response to bootlegging of these, he compiled his personal highlights (and "Evolution", a collaboration with Ronnie Lane), and released his first major-label solo title, 1972's "Who Came First". It was a moderate success and featured demos of Who songs as well as a showcase of his acoustic guitar talents. He collaborated with The Faces' bassist and fellow Meher Baba devotee Ronnie Lane on a duet album (1977's "Rough Mix"). Townshend's solo breakthrough, following the death of Who drummer Keith Moon, was the 1980 release "Empty Glass", which included a top-10 single, "Let My Love Open the Door". This release was followed in 1982 by "All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes", which included the popular radio track "Slit Skirts". Through the rest of the 1980s and early 1990s Townshend would again experiment with the rock opera and related formats, releasing several story-based albums including ' (1985), ' (1989), and "Psychoderelict" (1993). Townshend also got the chance to play with his hero Hank Marvin for Paul McCartney's "Rockestra" sessions, along with other respected rock musicians such as David Gilmour, John Bonham and Ronnie Lane.

Townshend has also recorded several live albums, including one featuring a supergroup he assembled called Deep End, who performed just two concerts and a TV show session for "The Tube", to raise money for a charity supporting drug addicts. In 1984 Townshend published a collection of short stories entitled "Horse's Neck". He has also reported that he is writing an autobiography. In 1993 he and Des McAnuff wrote and directed the Broadway adaptation of the Who album "Tommy", as well as a less successful stage musical based on his solo album "The Iron Man", based upon the book by Ted Hughes. McAnuff and Townshend later co-produced the animated film "The Iron Giant", also based on the Hughes story.

A production described as a Townshend rock-opera and titled "The Boy Who Heard Music" was scheduled to début as part of Vassar College's Powerhouse Summer Theater program in July 2007.

Recent Who work

From the mid-1990s through the present, Townshend has participated in a series of tours with the surviving members of The Who, including a 2002 tour that continued despite Entwistle's death.

In February 2006, a major world tour by The Who was announced to promote their first new album since 1982. Townshend published a semi-autobiographical story "The Boy Who Heard Music" as a serial on a blog beginning in September 2005. [ [ The Who Official Band Website - Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon | Home ] ] The blog closed in October 2006, as noted on Townshend's website. It is now owned by a different user and does not relate to Townshend's work in any way. On 25 February 2006, he announced the issue of a mini-opera inspired by the novella for June 2006. In October 2006 The Who released an album, "Endless Wire". A full opera entitled "The Boy Who Heard Music" based on this concept also debuted at Vassar College in July 2007.

Hearing loss

Townshend suffers from partial deafness and tinnitus as a result of extensive exposure to loud music through headphones and in concert, including The Who concert at Charlton Athletic Football Ground, London, on 31 May 1976 that was listed in the Guinness Book of Records, where the volume level was measured at 126 decibels 32 metres from the stage. It is also possible that Keith Moon's exploding drum set during The Who's appearance on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour contributed to Pete's hearing loss. In 1989, Townshend gave the initial funding to allow the formation of the non-profit hearing advocacy group H.E.A.R. (Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers).


From the The Who's emergence on the British musical landscape, Pete Townshend could always be counted upon for good copy. By early 1966 he had become the band's spokesman, interviewed separate from the band for the BBC television series "A Whole Scene Going" admitting that the band used drugs and that he considered The Beatles' backing tracks "flippin' lousy". Throughout the 1960s Townshend made regular appearances in the pages of British music magazines, but it was a very long interview he gave to "Rolling Stone" in 1968 that sealed his reputation as one of rock's leading intellectuals and theorists.

Townshend gave interview after interview to the newly risen underground press, not only providing them with a star for their covers, but firmly establishing his reputation as an honest and erudite commentator on the rock 'n' roll scene. In addition, he wrote his own articles, starting a regular monthly column in "Melody Maker", and contributing to "Rolling Stone" with an article on his avatar Meher Baba and a review of The Who's album "Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy".

Townshend has withdrawn from the press on occasion. On his 30th birthday, Townshend discussed his feelings that The Who were failing to journalist Roy Carr, making acid comments on fellow Who member Roger Daltrey and other leading members of the British rock community. Carr printed his remarks in the "NME" causing strong friction within The Who and embarrassing Townshend. Feeling betrayed, he stopped interviews with the press for over two years.

Nevertheless, Townshend has maintained close relationships with journalists, and sought them out in 1982 to describe his two-year battle with cocaine and heroin. Some of those press members turned on him in the 1980s as the punk rock revolution led to widespread dismissal of the old guard of rock. Townshend attacked two of them, Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons, in the song "Jools And Jim" on his album "Empty Glass" after they made some derogatory remarks about Who drummer Keith Moon. Meanwhile several journalists denounced Townshend for what they saw as a betrayal of the idealism about rock music he had espoused in his earlier interviews when The Who participated in a tour sponsored by Schlitz in 1982 and by Miller Brewing in 1989. Townshend's 1993 concept album "Psychoderelict" offers a scathing commentary on journalists in the character of Ruth Streeting, who attempts to scandalize the main character, Ray High.

By the 1990s Townshend was still a popular interview subject although his comments were sometimes given a scandalous spin. A 1990 book of interviews by Timothy White, "Rock Lives", contained Townshend's thoughts on the meaning of his song "Rough Boys" that gave the mistaken impression that he was gay or bisexual. The information was picked up by the British tabloid press that spread this misinformation around the world. Townshend kept silent on the issue out of respect for his gay friends, until clarifying in a 1994 "Playboy" interview that he was neither gay nor bisexual.

Townshend still continues to write pieces on rock and his place in it, mostly for his website but he also remains a celebrity sought after by music magazines and newspapers to the present day.

On 25 October 2006, Townshend declined at the last minute to do a scheduled interview with Sirius Satellite Radio star Howard Stern after Stern's co-host Robin Quivers and sidekick Artie Lange made joking references to his 2003 arrest. [ [ Pete Townshend Blows Off Howard Stern ] ] Stern conducted an interview instead with Roger Daltrey and repeatedly expressed regret about the utterances of his on-air colleagues stating that they did not reflect his own feelings of respect for Townshend.

Later in 2006, Townshend appeared on the popular "Living Legends" radio show in an exclusive interview with Opal Bonfante. The live interview was broadcasted worldwide on Radio London, his first live interview for fifteen years. Townshend spoke about his forthcoming UK tour, his online novella and his memories of the old pirate radio stations.

Musical equipment

Throughout his solo career and his career with The Who, Townshend has played (and destroyed) a large variety of guitars.

In the early days with The Who, Townshend played an Emile Grimshaw SS De Luxe and 6-string and 12-string Rickenbacker semi-hollow electric guitars primarily (particularly the Rose-Morris UK-imported models with special f-holes). However, as instrument-smashing became increasingly integrated into The Who's concert sets, he switched to more durable and resilient (and sometimes cheaper) guitars for smashing, such as the Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster and various Danelectro models. On the Who's famous Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour appearance in 1967, Townshend used a Vox Cheetah guitar, which he only used for that performance, and the guitar was destroyed into smithereens by Townshend, and Moon's drum explosion. In the late 1960s, Townshend began playing Gibson SG models almost exclusively, specifically the Special models. He used this guitar at the Woodstock and Isle of Wight shows in 1969 and 1970.

By 1972, Gibson changed the design of the SG Special which Townshend had been using previously, and thus he began using other guitars. For much of the 1970s, he used a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, some with only two mini-humbucker pickups and others modified with a third pickup. He can be seen using several of these guitars in the documentary "The Kids Are Alright", although in the studio he often played a '59 Gretsch 6120 guitar, most notably on the albums "Who's Next" and "Quadrophenia".

During the 1980s, Townshend mainly used Rickenbackers and Telecaster-style models built for him by Schecter and various other luthiers. Since the late-1980s, Townshend has used the Fender Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster, with Lace-Sensor pickups, both in the studio and on tour. Some of his Stratocaster guitars feature a Fishman PowerBridge piezo pick-up system to simulate acoustic guitar tones. This piezo system is controlled by an extra volume control behind the guitar's bridge.

Townshend has used a number of other electric guitars, including various Gretsch, Gibson, and Fender models. He has also used Guild, Takamine and Gibson J-200 acoustic models. One Gretsch was a vintage model given to him by Joe Walsh.

There are several Gibson Pete Townshend signature guitars, such as the Pete Townshend SG, the Pete Townshend J-200, and three different Pete Townshend Les Paul Deluxes. The SG was clearly marked as a Pete Townshend limited edition model and came with a special case and certificate of authenticity, signed by Townshend himself. There has also been a Pete Townshend signature Rickenbacker limited edition guitar of the model 1997, which was his main 6-string guitar in the Who's early days.

He also used the Gibson ES-335, one of which he donated to the Hard Rock Cafe. Townshend also used a Gibson EDS-1275 double neck very briefly around 1968, and both a Harmony Sovereign H1270 [ [ Pete's Equipment | Harmony Sovereign H-1270 12-string acoustic guitar | Whotabs | Pete Townshend ] ] and a Fender XII Guitar for the studio sessions for "Tommy" for the 12-string guitar parts.

Most recently in 2006, Townshend had a pedal board designed by long-time gear guru Pete Cornish. The board apparently is composed with a compressor, an old Boss OD-1 overdrive pedal, as well as a T-Rex Replica delay pedal.

Over the years, Pete Townshend has used many types of amplifiers, including Vox, Fender, Marshall, Hiwatt etc., sticking to using Hiwatt amps for most of four decades. Around the time of "Who's Next", he used Fender amps. For some time his rig consisted of four Fender Vibro-King stacks and a Hiwatt head driving two custom made 2x12" Hiwatt/Mesa Boogie speakers.

Townshend figured prominently in the development of what is widely known in rock circles as the "Marshall Stack". It has been recounted by others during the start of popularity of Jim Marshall's guitar amplifiers, that Townshend became a user of these amps.

He also ordered several speaker cabinets that contained eight speakers in a housing standing nearly six feet in height with the top half of the cabinet slanted slightly upward. These became hard to move and were incredibly heavy.

Jim Marshall then cut the massive speaker cabinet into two separate speaker cabinets, at the suggestion of Townshend, with each cabinet containing four 12-inch speakers. One of the cabinets had half of the speaker baffle slanted upwards and Marshall made these two cabinets stackable. The Marshall stack was born, and Townshend used these as well as Hiwatt stacks.

His amplifier rig currently usually consists of four Fender Vibro King amps with extension cabinets.

He has always regarded his instruments as being merely tools of the trade and has, in latter years, determinedly kept his most prized instruments well away from the concert stage. These instruments include a few vintage and reissue Rickenbackers, the Gretsch 6120, Gibson Custom Shop's artist limited edition reissues of Townshend's Les Paul Deluxe models 1, 3 and 9 as well his signature SG Special reissue.

Literary work

Although best known for his musical compositions and musicianship, Pete Townshend has been extensively involved in the literary world for more than three decades, writing newspaper and magazine articles, book reviews, essays, books, and scripts.

An early example of Townshend’s writing came in August 1970 with the first of nine installments of "The Pete Townshend Page", a monthly column written by Townshend for the British music paper "Melody Maker". The column provided Townshend’s perspective on an array of subjects, such as the media and the state of U.S. concert halls and public address systems, as well as providing valuable insight into Townshend’s mindset during the evolution of his "Lifehouse" project.

Townshend also wrote three sizeable essays for "Rolling Stone" magazine, the first of which appeared in November 1970. "In Love With Meher Baba" described Townshend’s spiritual leanings. "Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy", a blow-by-blow account of The Who compilation album of the same name, followed in December, 1971. The third article, "The Punk Meets the Godmother", appeared in November 1977.

Also in 1977, Townshend founded Eel Pie Publishing, which specialized in children's titles, music books, and several Meher Baba-related publications. A bookstore named Magic Bus (after the popular Who song) was opened in London. "The Story of Tommy", a book written by Townshend and his art school friend Richard Barnes about the writing of Townshend’s 1969 rock opera and the making of the 1975 Ken Russell-directed film, was published by Eel Pie the same year.

In July 1983, Townshend took a position as an acquisitions editor for London publisher Faber and Faber. Notable projects included editing Animals front man Eric Burdon’s autobiography, Charles Shaar Murray’s award-winning "Crosstown Traffic", Brian Eno and Russell Mills's "More Dark Than Shark", and working with Prince Charles on a volume of his collected speeches. Townshend commissioned Dave Rimmer’s "Like Punk Never Happened", and was commissioning editor for radical playwright Steven Berkoff.

Two years after joining Faber and Faber, Townshend decided to publish a book of his own. "Horse’s Neck", published in May 1985, was a collection of short stories he’d written between 1979 and 1984, tackling subjects such as childhood, stardom and spirituality. As a result of his position with Faber and Faber, Townshend developed a friendship with the Nobel prize-winning author of "Lord of the Flies", Sir William Golding, and became friends with British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes. His friendship with Hughes led to Townshend’s musical interpretation of Hughes's children's story, "The Iron Man", six years later.

Townshend has written several scripts spanning the breadth of his career, including numerous drafts of his elusive "Lifehouse" project, the last of which, co-written with radio playwright Jeff Young, was published in 1999. In 1978, Townshend wrote a script for "Fish Shop", a play commissioned but not completed by London Weekend Television, and in mid-1984 he wrote a script for "White City" which led to a short film.

In 1989, Townshend began work on a novel entitled "Ray High & The Glass Household", a draft of which was later submitted to his editor. While the original novel remains unpublished, elements from this story were used in Townshend’s 1993 solo album "Psychoderelict".

In 1993, Townshend authored another book, "The Who’s Tommy", a chronicle of the development of the award-winning Broadway version of his rock opera.

The opening of his personal website and his commerce site, both in 2000, gave Townshend another outlet for literary work. Several of Townshend’s essays have been posted online, including "Meher Baba—The Silent Master: My Own Silence" in 2001, and "A "Different" Bomb," an indictment of the child pornography industry, the following year.

Townshend’s most recent literary contribution is "The Boy Who Heard Music", a novella which began a chapter-a-week online posting in September 2005. It is now available to read at his website. Like "Psychoderelict" this is yet another extrapolation of "Lifehouse" and "Ray High & The Glass Household".

Townshend signed a deal with Little, Brown publishing in 1997 to write his autobiography. Reportedly half-complete and titled "Pete Townshend: Who He?" this is a work in progress. Townshend's creative vagaries and conceptual machinations have been chronicled by Larry David Smith in his book "The Minstrel's Dilemma" (Praeger 1999).


Townshend showed no predilection for religious belief in the first years of The Who's career and few would have suspected that the violent guitar-smasher was even a closet acolyte. By the beginning of 1968, however, Townshend had begun to explore spiritual ideas. In January 1968, The Who recorded his song "Faith in Something Bigger" ("Odds and Sods" LP). Later that same month during a tour of Australia and New Zealand, The Small Faces' member Ronnie Lane introduced Townshend to the writings of the Indian "perfect master" Meher Baba, who blended elements of Vedantic, Sufi, and mystic schools.

Townshend swiftly absorbed all the writings of Meher Baba he could find and by April 1968, announced himself a disciple of Baba. It was at that time that Townshend, who had been searching the past two years for a basis for a rock opera, created a story inspired by the teachings of Baba and other Indian spiritualists that would ultimately become "Tommy".

"Tommy" did more than revitalize The Who's career (which was moderately successful at this point but had plateaued), it also marked a renewal of Townshend's songwriting and his spiritual studies infused most of his work from Tommy forward, including the unfinished Who project "Lifehouse". The Who song "Baba O'Riley", written for "Lifehouse" and eventually appearing on the album "Who's Next", was named for Meher Baba and minimalist composer Terry Riley. However, unlike other openly spiritual rock stars whose music became dogmatic once they discovered religion, Townshend generally soft-pedaled the religious nature of his work. This may have been because his newfound passion was not shared by his bandmates, whose attitude was tolerant, but who were unwilling to become the spokesmen for a particular religion. Few of the thousands of fans who packed stadiums across Europe and America to see The Who noticed the religious message in the songs: that "Bargain" and the middle section of "Behind Blue Eyes" from "Who's Next" and "Listening To You" from Tommy were all originally written as prayers, that "Drowned" from "Quadrophenia" and "Don't Let Go The Coat" from "Face Dances" were based on sayings by Meher Baba, that the "who are you, who, who, who, who" chorus from the song "Who Are You" was based on Sufi chants, or that "Let My Love Open The Door" was not a message from a lover but from God.

In interviews Townshend was more open about his beliefs, penning an article on Baba for "Rolling Stone" in 1970 and stating that following Baba's teachings, he was opposed to the use of all psychedelic drugs, making him one of the first rock stars with counterculture credibility to turn against their use. [Pete Townshend – "Rolling Stone", No. 71 (November 26, 1970)]

His stardom quickly made him the world's most notable follower of Meher Baba. Having just missed out on meeting his avatar with Baba's death 31 January 1969 (work on "Tommy" kept him from making the pilgrimage), Townshend made several trips to visit Baba's tomb in India as well as becoming a frequent visitor to the Meher Baba Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. At home he recorded and released his most overtly spiritual songs on records assembled, pressed and sold by Baba organizations. When these records became widely bootlegged, Townshend put together a selection of the tracks for release as the solo album "Who Came First". One of the songs from that album, "Parvardigar", a Baba prayer set to music by Townshend, would gradually be accepted as a hymn by the Baba movement. In 1976 he opened the Oceanic Centre in London, using it as a haven for English Baba followers and Americans making a pilgrimage to Baba's tomb as well as a place for small concerts (one such in 1979 was released on CD in 2001 as "Pete Townshend & Raphael Rudd—The Oceanic Concerts") and a repository for films made of Baba.

Townshend became a lower-profile member after 1982, having felt that his just-ended two-year indulgence in cocaine and heroin had made him a poor candidate to be a spokesman. Nevertheless his discipleship remains an ever-present element of his career and a key to those looking for the meaning and background to his work.

Personal life

Townshend met Karen Astley (daughter of composer Ted Astley) while in art school and married her in 1968. The couple separated in 1994 and Townshend announced they would divorce in 2000. They have three children: Emma (b. 1969), who is a singer/songwriter, Aminta (b. 1971), and Joseph (b. 1989). For many years Townshend refused to confirm or deny rumours that he was bisexual. In a 2002 interview with "Rolling Stone" magazine, however, he explained that, although he engaged in some brief same-sex experimentation in the 1960s, he is heterosexual. Townshend currently lives with his long-time partner, musician Rachel Fuller, in Richmond, England. He also owns a house in Churt, Surrey, England.

Charity work

Pete Townshend has woven a long history of involvement with various charities and other philanthropic efforts throughout his career, both as a solo artist and with The Who. His first solo concert, for example, was a 1974 benefit show which was organized to raise funds for the Camden Square Community Play Center.

The earliest public example of Townshend’s involvement with charitable causes is the relationship he established with the Richmond-based Meher Baba Association. In 1968, Townshend donated the use of his former Wardour Street apartment to the Meher Baba Association. The following year, the association was moved to another Townshend-owned apartment, the Eccleston Square former residence of wife Karen. Townshend sat on a committee which oversaw the operation and finances of the centre. "The committee sees to it that it is open a couple of days a week, and keeps the bills paid and the library full," he wrote in a 1970 "Rolling Stone" article.

In 1969 and 1972 Townshend produced two limited-release albums, "Happy Birthday" and "I Am", for the London-based Baba association. This led to 1972’s "Who Came First", a more widespread release, 15 percent of the revenue of which went to the Baba association. A further limited release, "With Love", was released in 1976. A limited-edition boxed set of all three limited releases on CD, "Avatar", was released in 2000, with all profits going to the Avatar Meher Baba Trust in India, which provided funds to a dispensary, school, hospital and pilgrimage centre.

In July 1976, Townshend opened Meher Baba Oceanic, a London activity centre for Baba followers which featured film dubbing and editing facilities, a cinema and a recording studio. In addition, the centre served as a regular meeting place for Baba followers. Townshend offered very economical (reportedly £1 per night) lodging for American Baba followers who needed an overnight stay on their pilgrimages to India. "For a few years, I had toyed with the idea of opening a London house dedicated to Meher Baba," he wrote in a 1977 "Rolling Stone" article. "In the eight years I had followed him, I had donated only coppers to foundations set up around the world to carry out the Master’s wishes and decided it was about time I put myself on the line. The Who had set up a strong charitable trust of its own which appeased, to an extent, the feeling I had that Meher Baba would rather have seen me give to the poor than to the establishment of yet another so-called 'spiritual center'."

Townshend also embarked on a project dedicated to the collection, restoration and maintenance of Meher Baba-related films. The project was known as MEFA, or Meher Baba European Film Archive.

Children's charities

Townshend has been an active champion of children’s charities. The debut of Pete Townshend’s stage version of "Tommy" took place at San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse in July 1992. The show was earmarked as a benefit for the London-based Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Foundation, an organization which helps children with autism and mental retardation.

Townshend performed at a 1995 benefit organized by Paul Simon at Madison Square Garden's Paramount Theatre, for The Children’s Health Fund. The following year, Townshend performed at a benefit for the Bridge School, a California facility for children with severe speech and physical impairments. In 1997, Townshend established a relationship with Maryville Academy, a Chicago area children’s charity. Between 1997 and 2002, Townshend played five benefit shows for Maryville Academy, raising at least $1,600,000. In addition, proceeds from the sales of his 1999 release "Pete Townshend Live" were also donated to Maryville Academy.

As a member of The Who, Pete Townshend has also performed a series of concerts, beginning in 2000, benefitting the Teenage Cancer Trust in the UK, raising several million pounds. In 2005, Townshend performed at New York’s Gotham Hall for Samsung’s Four Seasons of Hope, an annual children's charity fundraiser.

Drug rehabilitation

Townshend has also advocated for drug rehabilitation. “What I’m most active in doing is raising money to provide beds in clinics to help people that have become victims of drug abuse,” he said in a late 1985 radio interview. “In Britain, the facilities are very, very, very lean indeed ... although we have a national health service, a free medical system, it does nothing particularly for class A drug addicts – cocaine abusers, heroin abusers ... we’re making a lot of progress ... the British government embarked on an anti-heroin campaign with advertising, and I was co-opted by them as a kind of figurehead, and then the various other people co-opted me into their own campaigns, but my main work is raising money to try and open a large clinic.”

The "large clinic" Townshend was referring to was a plan he and drug rehabilitation pioneer Meg Patterson had devised to open a drug treatment facility in London; however, the plan failed to come to fruition. Two early 1979 concerts by the Who raised £20,000 for Patterson’s Pharmakon Clinic in Sussex.

Further examples of Townshend’s anti-drug activism took place in the form of a 1984 benefit concert, an article he wrote a few days later for Britain’s "Mail On Sunday" urging better care for the nation’s growing number of drug addicts, and the formation of a charitable organization, Double-O Charities, to raise funds for the causes he’d recently championed. Townshend also personally sold fund-raising anti-heroin T-shirts at a series of UK Bruce Springsteen concerts, and reportedly financed a trip for troubled former Clash drummer Topper Headon to undergo drug rehabilitation treatment. Townshend's 1985–86 band, Deep End, played two benefits at Brixton Academy in 1985 for Double-O Charities.

Amnesty International

In 1979, Townshend became the first major rock musician to donate his services to the human rights organization Amnesty International when he performed three songs for its benefit show "The Secret Policeman's Ball" - performances that were released on record and seen in the film of the show. Townshend's acoustic performances of three of his songs ("Pinball Wizard", "Drowned", and "Won't Get Fooled Again") were subsequently cited as having been the forerunner and inspiration for the "unplugged" phenomenon in the 1990s. Townshend had been invited to perform for Amnesty by Martin Lewis, the producer of "The Secret Policeman's Ball" who stated later that Townshend's participation had been the key to his securing the subsequent participation for Amnesty (in the 1981 sequel show) of Sting, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Phil Collins and Bob Geldof. Other performers inspired to support Amnesty International in future "Secret Policeman's Ball" shows and other benefits because of Townshend's early commitment to the organization include Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, David Gilmour and U2 singer Bono who in 1986 told "Rolling Stone" magazine: "I saw "The Secret Policeman's Ball" and it became a part of me. It sowed a seed...."

Miscellaneous efforts

Highlights of Pete Townshend’s other public charitable efforts include the following:
* A 1972 "Tommy" performance which raised nearly £10,000 for the Stars Organization for Spastics charity.
* A 1979 Rock Against Racism benefit concert, organized to raise money to pay the legal costs of those arrested in a London area anti-racism demonstration. Townshend helped organize the show, topped the bill, and supplied the event lighting and equipment.
* A 1981 Rock Against Unemployment benefit concert, part of the People’s March For Jobs campaign.
* A 1982 Prince’s Trust Gala Benefit performance.
* Performing with The Who at the 1985 Live Aid concert.
* Involvement in fundraising supportive of Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress.
* Performing in a 1986 Royal Albert Hall benefit show for the victims of a Colombian Volcano disaster which killed over 25,000 people.
* A 2001 benefit show for San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse which raised approximately $100,000.
* Performing in Rock the Dock, a 1998 benefit for striking Liverpool dock workers.
* Organizing an online auction in 2000 to raise funds for Oxfam’s emergency services to help those affected by floods in Mozambique and a combination of drought and food shortages in Ethiopia. Among the auctioned items were a selection of gold and platinum awards, letters from celebrities such as Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney, and musical instruments (including a smashed Rickenbacker guitar and the guitar on which Townshend composed the Who classic "Behind Blue Eyes"). The centerpiece of the auction, however, was a 1957 Fender Stratocaster which was given to Townshend as a gift by Eric Clapton after Townshend had helped arrange Clapton’s 1973 comeback show at the Rainbow. The guitar was ultimately purchased by Pete Townshend, Mick Jagger and David Bowie, and presented to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
* Performing at the Royal Albert Hall in a 2004 Ronnie Lane tribute show which served as a fundraiser for both Lane’s family and multiple sclerosis research.
* Performing with The Who at the 2005 Live 8 concert.

Legal matters

As part of the Operation Ore investigations, Townshend was cautioned by the police in 2003 after acknowledging a credit card access in 1999 to the Landslide website alleged to advertise child pornography. [ BBC] [ The Times] He claimed in the press and on his website to have been engaged in research for "A Different Bomb" (a now-abandoned book based on an anti-child pornography essay published on his website in January 2002) and his autobiography, and as part of a campaign against child pornography. The police searched his house and confiscated fourteen computers and other materials and after a four-month forensic investigation confirmed that they had found no evidence of child abuse images. Consequently, the police offered a caution rather than pressing charges, issuing a statement: "After four months of investigation by officers from Scotland Yard's child protection group, it was established that Mr Townshend was not in possession of any downloaded child abuse images." In a statement issued by his solicitor, [ CNN] Townshend said, "I accept that I was wrong to access this site, and that by doing so, I broke the law, and I have accepted the caution that the police have given me." As a statutory consequence of accepting the caution, Townshend was entered on the Violent and Sex Offender Register for five years. [,7369,951373,00.html Guardian] This would normally prevent travel abroad, but in Townshend's case such restrictions have been waived, making possible his numerous concert performances with and without The Who since receiving the caution.

A later investigator stated that he was "falsely accused". [ [,,2059832,00.html Operation Ore flawed by fraud | Special reports | ] ] After obtaining copies of the Landslide hard drives and tracing Townshend's actions, investigative journalist Duncan Campbell wrote in "PC Pro" Magazine, "Under pressure of the media filming of the raid, Townshend appears to have confessed to something he didn't do." Campbell states that their entire evidence against Townshend was that he accessed a single site among the Landslide offerings which was not connected with child pornography. [ Investigative journalist Duncan Campbell details flaws in the Operation Ore investigations.]


Guest Appearances

* "Because You're Young" with David Bowie on "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)" (1980)
* "Lonely at the Top" and "Hard Women" with Mick Jagger on "She's the Boss" (1985)
* "Substitute" with The Ramones on "Acid Eaters" (1993)
* "Joy" and "Gun" with Mick Jagger on "Goddess in the Doorway" (2001)
* "Slow Burn" with David Bowie on "Heathen" (2002)

In 1968 Townshend helped assemble a band called Thunderclap Newman consisting of three musicians he knew. Pianist Andy Newman (an old art school friend), drummer John "Speedy" Keen (who had written "Armenia City in the Sky" for The Who to record for their 1967 album The Who Sell Out) and teenage guitarist Jimmy McCulloch (later to join Wings). Townshend produced the band and played bass on their recordings under the tongue-in-cheek pseudonym "Bijou Drains". Their first recording was the single "Something in the Air" which became a number one hit in the UK and a substantial hit elsewhere in the world. Following this success, Townshend produced their sole album "Hollywood Dream".

In 1971, Townshend, along with Keith Moon and Ronnie Lane backed Mike Heron (of the Incredible String Band on one song Warm Heart Pastry from Heron's first solo LP, "Smiling Men with Bad Reputations". On the album notes, they're listed as "Tommy and the Bijoux". Also present on the track was John Cale on viola.

For albums Townshend composed as a member of The Who, see their entry. Not included are albums by other artists on which Townshend played as a session musician. Through much of 2005, Pete Townshend recorded and performed alongside his partner Rachel Fuller, a classically trained pianist and singer-songwriter.

In 2006, Townshend opened a website for implementation of The Lifehouse Method based on his 1971 "Lifehouse" concept. This website is in collaboration with composer Lawrence Ball and software developer David Snowden. Applicants at the website can input data to compose a musical 'portrait' which the musical team may then develop into larger compositions for a planned concert or series of concerts to be announced.


* BRIT Awards 1983 - Life Achievement Award
* Tony Award 1993 - Best Original Score (music & lyrics) - "The Who's Tommy" (tie)
* Grammy Awards 1993 - Best Musical Show Album (as composer and lyricist of "The Who's Tommy")

* Kennedy Center Honors 2008 - It was announced September 10, 2008 that Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey would be recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors

ee also

*Guitar Moves
*Cliff Townshend
*The Who


# [ "The Rolling Stone Interview: Pete Townshend."] by Jann Wenner, "Rolling Stone", 14-18 September 1968
# [ "Pete and Tommy, Among Others"] by Rick Sanders & David Dalton, "Rolling Stone", July 12, 1969
# [ "In Love With Meher Baba"] by Pete Townshend, "Rolling Stone", November 26, 1970
# [ "The Pete Townshend Pages"] by Pete Townshend, Melody Maker, 22 August 1970 - 14 April 1971
# [ "Pete Townshend: The Penthouse Interview"] by Cameron Crowe, Penthouse, December 1974
# [ "The Spiritual Responsibility Of Pete Townshend"] by Joseph Rose, Hit Parader, June 1975
# [ "The Punk as Godfather"] by Roy Carr, New Musical Express, 31 May 1975
# [ "The Punk Meets The Godmother"] by Pete Townshend, "Rolling Stone", 17 November 1977
# [ "Conversations With Pete"] by Charles Shaar Murray, New Musical Express, 19 April 1980
# [ "Interview with Pete Townshend"] by Greil Marcus, "Rolling Stone", June 26, 1980
# ['s%20Entertainment/pete_townshend.htm "Heroes and Junkies"] by Pete Townshend, Time Out, 12-18 March 1982
# [ "Pete Townshend: The Penthouse Interview"] by Kathleen McAuliffe, Penthouse, August 1983
# [ "Pete Townshend: The Playboy Interview"] by David Sheff, Playboy, February 1994
# [ "An Introduction to Lifehouse"] by Pete Townshend, The Richmond Review, 1999
# [ "Machine Gun"] by Alan Di Perna, Guitar World Acoustic, no. 38, Summer 2000
# [ "Not F-F-Fade Away"] by Gary Graff, Guitar One, September 2000
# [ "Pete Townshend: The Rolling Stone Interview"] by Chris Heath, "Rolling Stone", July 2002
# [ "Pete Townshend Smashes Guitar... for Charity"] Modern Guitars Magazine, 12 August 2005
# [ Welsh Affairs Committee - Fourth Report] , British House of Commons. Operation Ore "started when, in 2001, the details of 7,272 British suspects who had accessed child abuse images on a US website with their credit cards were passed to UK authorities."
# [ Pete Townshend: 'I am not a paedophile'] , The Daily Mail, 11 January 2003
# [ Pete Townshend's statement in full] , BBC News website, 11 January 2003
# [ Cops can come and get me] , The Sun, 12 Jan 2003 - Sun's archive is pay-per-view, story copied on internet at the [ Archives of The Who Mailing List]
# [ Child porn probe police meet musician Townshend] , The Daily Mail, 13 January 2003
# [ I need to clarify a few things I think] , Pete's Diaries, 10 November 2004
# [,3604,874319,00.html Townshend arrested over child porn] , The Guardian, 14 January 2003
# [ Townshend to escape charges] , Daily Mail, 10 March 2003: "Although police have not formally completed their inquiry, it is believed they are planning to caution Townshend. For that to happen, the 57-year-old would have to make an admission of guilt, therefore giving him a criminal record."
# [ Townshend on sex register] , Daily Mail, 7 May 2003: "Police stressed that access and payment for child abuse images was an offence. 'Inciting others to distribute these images leads to young children being seriously sexually assaulted to meet the growing demands of the Internet customer.'"
# [ The MAPPA Guidance] , National Probation Service for England and Wales, Circular 25/2003, 31 March 2003: "Part I of the Sex Offender Act 1997 defines registered sex offenders as those offenders having been convicted or cautioned since September 1997 of certain sexual offences, or who at that point were serving a sentence for a like offence."
# [ Silence Day] , Pete's Diaries, 10 July 2003
# [ "Pete Townshend Blows Off Howard Stern"], 26 October 2006
# [ "Operation Ore Exposed"] PC Pro, 1 July 2005
# [ "Child porn suspects set to be cleared in evidence ‘shambles’"] The Sunday Times (UK), 3 July 2005
# [ David Jensen's Celebrity Podcasts: Pete Townshend."] Download David Jensen's interview with Pete Townshend recorded for Capital Gold UK Radio in March 2007

External links

* [ Pete Townshend's official web site]
* [ The Boy Who Heard - Pete and The Who Fan Website]
* [ Pete Townshend's commercial Eelpie web site]
* [ "Pete's Diaries"]
* [ Pete Townshend's equipment]
* [ The Who Location Guide - Includes Pete Townshend locations section.]
* [ 'A Different Bomb' by Pete Townshend as posted by "The Smoking Gun" website]
* [ The Who Forum: Who & Pete Townshend News and discussion community.]
* [ "Rolling Stone" interview, 1970]
* [ The Who ("Towser") TV: Online Webcasts]
* [ The Man Who Hears Music]
* [ Pete Townshend: Who, He? (and Us)]
* [ Pete Townshend: Classy and Articulate (1982 Audio interview)] at "Crawdaddy!"

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