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Peter Dennis Blandford "Pete" Townshend ( ; born 19 May 1945) is an English rock guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and author, 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."

Townshend is the primary songwriter for the Who, having written well over one hundred songs for the band's eleven studio albums, including concept albums, and the rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia and popular rock radio staples including 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 that have appeared on his solo albums and various compilations of rarities. Although known primarily as a guitarist, he is also an accomplished singer and keyboard player and has played many other instruments - such as banjo, accordion, synthesizer, piano, bass guitar and drums) - on his solo albums and on some Who albums.

He has also written newspaper and magazine articles, book reviews, essays, books, and scripts. Townshend was ranked #3 in Dave Marsh's list of Best Guitarists in The New Book of Rock Lists and #50 in Rolling Stone magazine list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".

Early life

Born in Chiswickmarker, London into a musical family (his father Cliff Townshend was a professional saxophonist in The Squadronaires and his mother Betty (nee Dennis) was a singer), Townshend exhibited a fascination with music at an early age. In the mid-1950s he was drawn to American rock and roll; his mother recounts that he repeatedly saw the 1956 film Rock Around the Clock. When he was 12, his grandmother gave him his first guitar, which he has 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.

Townshend's brother Simon (who also became a musician) was born in 1960. 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 Roger Daltrey. With the encouragement of his old classmate Entwistle, Daltrey invited Townshend to join The Detours. 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 failed single ("I'm the Face/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. Drummer Keith Moon was delighted; he loved attention and destruction on any level, and smashed his drum kit as well. The press sensationalized the incidents. 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. However, on several occasions, he admitted that the destruction was a gimmick that set the band out apart from the others, and gave them the publicity edge that they needed to be noticed.

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 live bands from a period of time that stretched from the mid-1960s to the 2000s, 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 highly regarded performances at The Concert For New York City in 2001, the 2004 Isle of Wight Festival, Live 8 in 2005 and the 2007 Glastonbury Festivalmarker.

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 dramatic stage persona; 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 studio recordings also feature Townshend on piano or keyboards, though keyboard-heavy tracks increasingly featured guest artists, both in the studio and on tour, such as Nicky Hopkins, John Bundrick or Chris Stainton .

Townshend's experimentation with feedback and sound effects had an impact on Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck and many rock guitarists have cited him as an influence such as Slash and Eddie Vedder .

Solo 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". While not a huge commercial success, noted music critic Timothy Duggan listed it as "Townshend's most honest and introspective work since Quadrophenia." 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 White City: A Novel (1985), The Iron Man: A Musical (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 concert 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 Broadwaymarker 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 debuted as part of Vassar Collegemarker'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 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.

Hearing loss

Townshend suffers from partial deafness and tinnitus believed to be the 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 as the "Loudest Concert Ever" by 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 1967 appearance on the The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour contributed to the musician'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).


Townshend leaping into air in concert

From The Who's emergence on the British musical landscape, Pete Townshend could always be counted upon for a good interview. 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". In a 1967 interview, however, Townshend complimented one of The Beatles' songs: "I think "Eleanor Rigby" was a very important musical move forward. It certainly inspired me to write and listen to things in that vein." 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 a 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 unflattering 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. 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 Living Legends radio show in an exclusive interview with Opal Bonfante. The live interview was broadcast worldwide on Radio London, his first live interview in 15 years. Townshend spoke about his forthcoming UK tour, his online novella and his memories of the old pirate radio stations.

Also in late 2006, Townshend granted an interview with author Mark Wilkerson, which led to Wilkerson's 2008 biography Who Are You: The Life of Pete Townshend.

In a BBC Radio 4 interview, first broadcast on 27 October 2009, Townshend informed the audience that from the time he was involved in writing the music for the Who's first album, he has been influenced by the works of the English Baroque composer Henry Purcell.

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 The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour appearance in 1967, Townshend used a Vox Cheetah guitar, which he only used for that performance; and the guitar was smashed to 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 Woodstockmarker and Isle of Wightmarker shows in 1969 and 1970, as well as the Live at Leeds performance in 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 in the "middle position", it was a DiMarzio Superdistortion / Dual Sound. 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 Fenders, 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.

During The Who's 1989 Tour Townshend played a Rickenbacker guitar that was ironically smashed accidentally when he tripped over it. Instead of throwing the smashed parts away, Townshend reassembled the pieces as an sculpture. The sculpture was featured at the Rock Stars, Cars And Guitars 2 exhibit during the summer of 2009 at The Henry Fordmarker museum.

Townshend playing a Fender Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster
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 circa late 1967, and both a Harmony Sovereign H1270 and a Fender Electric XII 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 speaker cabinets.

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, an original 1952 Fender Telecaster, 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. 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). Townshend's art school friend Mike McInnerney gave him a copy of C. B. Purdom's book The God-Man, introducing him to the writings of the Indianmarker "perfect master" Meher Baba, who blended elements of Vedantic, Sufi, and Mystic schools.

Townshend swiftly absorbed all of Baba's writings that he could find; by April 1968, he announced himself Baba's disciple. At about this time, 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. 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 the U.S. 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 Baba's sayings, 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.

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 Centermarker in Myrtle Beach, South Carolinamarker. 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 former addictions to cocaine and heroin made him a poor candidate for spokesman. Nevertheless, his discipleship remains an ever-present element of his career.

Personal life

Townshend met Karen Astley (daughter of composer Ted Astley and sister of record producer Jon 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 Richmondmarker, England. He also owns a house in Churt, Surrey, England.


In 1998 Townshend was named in a list of the biggest private financial donors to the Labour Party .

Charity work

Performing in Austin, Texas in 2007
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 was in 1968, when 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 Gardenmarker's Paramount Theatre, for The Children’s Health Fund. The following year, Townshend performed at a benefit for the Bridge School Benefit, a California facility for children with severe speech and physical impairments with concerts organized by Neil Young each year. 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. His 1998 album A Benefit for Maryville Academy was made to support their activities and proceeds from the sales of his release were donated to them.

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. In a 1985 radio interview, he said:

 The "large clinic" Townshend was referring to was a plan he and drug rehabilitation experimenter 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 former Clash drummer Topper Headon to undergo drug rehabilitation treatment. Townshend's 1985–86 band, Deep End, played two benefits at Brixton Academymarker 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 Hallmarker 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 Playhousemarker 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 Mozambiquemarker 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 recovery from his own heroin addiction, and comeback show at the Rainbowmarker. The guitar was ultimately purchased by Pete Townshend, Mick Jagger and David Bowie, and presented to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
  • Performing with The Who at the 2001 all-star Concert for New York City at Madison Square Garden, honouring policemen and emergency personnel killed in the September 11 attacks.
  • Performing at the Royal Albert Hallmarker 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.
  • Performing with The Who in Detroit in 2008, donating all profits to local charities.

Operation Ore investigation and police caution

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. He stated in the press and on his website that he had 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 14 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 Yardmarker'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, 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.

In April 2007, an article in The Guardian stated that Townshend was "falsely accused of accessing child pornography". 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.


Guest appearances

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.

In 1984, Townshend contributed lyrics to two songs ("Love on The Air" and "All Lovers are Deranged") on David Gilmour's solo album About Face.

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.


See also

Further reading

  • Horses Neck by Pete Townshend Mariner Books 1985, new edition, (May 21, 1998) ISBN 0395905591 ISBN 978-0395905593

  • The Who: Maximum R&B by Pete Townshend and Richard Barnes Plexus Publishing; 5th edition (September 27, 2004) ISBN 085965351X ISBN 978-0859653510

  • Pete Townshend: A Minstrel's Dilemma by Larry David Smith Praeger Publishers (March 30, 1999) ISBN 0275964728, ISBN 978-0275964726

  • Who Are You: The Life Of Pete Townshend by Mark Ian Wilkerson Omnibus Press; 1st edition (November 30, 2008) ISBN 1847722431 ISBN 978-1847722430


Other notes

  1. "The Rolling Stone Interview: Pete Townshend." by Jann Wenner, Rolling Stone, 14-18 September 1968
  2. "Pete and Tommy, Among Others" by Rick Sanders & David Dalton. Rolling Stone, July 12, 1969
  3. "In Love With Meher Baba" by Pete Townshend, Rolling Stone, November 26, 1970
  4. "The Pete Townshend Pages" by Pete Townshend, Melody Maker, 22 August 1970 - 14 April 1971
  5. "Pete Townshend: The Penthouse Interview" by Cameron Crowe, Penthouse, December 1974
  6. "The Spiritual Responsibility Of Pete Townshend" by Joseph Rose, Hit Parader, June 1975
  7. "The Punk as Godfather" by Roy Carr, New Musical Express, 31 May 1975
  8. "The Punk Meets The Godmother" by Pete Townshend, Rolling Stone, 17 November 1977
  9. "Conversations With Pete" by Charles Shaar Murray, New Musical Express, 19 April 1980
  10. "Interview with Pete Townshend" by Greil Marcus, Rolling Stone, June 26, 1980
  11. "Heroes and Junkies" by Pete Townshend, Time Out, 12-18 March 1982
  12. "Pete Townshend: The Penthouse Interview" by Kathleen McAuliffe, Penthouse, August 1983
  13. "Pete Townshend: The Playboy Interview" by David Sheff, Playboy, February 1994
  14. "An Introduction to Lifehouse" by Pete Townshend, The Richmond Review, 1999
  15. "Machine Gun" by Alan Di Perna, Guitar World Acoustic, no. 38, Summer 2000
  16. "Not F-F-Fade Away" by Gary Graff, Guitar One, September 2000
  17. "Pete Townshend: The Rolling Stone Interview" by Chris Heath, Rolling Stone, July 2002
  18. "Pete Townshend Smashes Guitar... for Charity" Modern Guitars Magazine, 12 August 2005
  19. Welsh Affairs Committee - Fourth Report, British House of Commonsmarker. 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."
  20. Pete Townshend: 'I am not a paedophile', The Daily Mail, 11 January 2003
  21. Pete Townshend's statement in full, BBC News website, 11 January 2003
  22. 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
  23. Child porn probe police meet musician Townshend, The Daily Mail, 13 January 2003
  24. I need to clarify a few things I think, Pete's Diaries, 10 November 2004
  25. Townshend arrested over child porn, The Guardian, 14 January 2003
  26. 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."
  27. 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.'"
  28. 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."
  29. Silence Day, Pete's Diaries, 10 July 2003
  30. "Pete Townshend Blows Off Howard Stern", 26 October 2006
  31. "Operation Ore Exposed" PC Pro, 1 July 2005
  32. "Child porn suspects set to be cleared in evidence ‘shambles’" The Sunday Times , 3 July 2005
  33. David Jensen's Celebrity Podcasts: Pete Townshend." Download David Jensen's interview with Pete Townshend recorded for Capital Gold UK Radio in March 2007

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