Happy Birthday, Pete Townshend!

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Pete Townshend at The Who concert at NYC’s Madison Square Garden, March 3, 2016. (Photo: Best Classic Bands)

The guitarist and primary songwriter with The Who was born on May 19, 1945, in the Chiswick section of London, England into a musical family, 11 days after the end of World War II in Europe. His father Cliff was a saxophonist with the Squadronaires, the Royal Air Force dance band. His mother sang with the Sydney Torch and Les Douglass Orchestras.

In 1956, at 11 years old, Pete Townshend saw the film Rock Around The Clock, attended his first concert (by rock pioneer Bill Haley), and got his first guitar for Christmas that year from his grandmother Emma. Although his early ambition was to be a journalist, he soon after started his first band with his friend John Entwistle.

Townshend went on to forge one of the most distinguished careers in rock music both as the guitarist and primary songwriter with The Who and as a solo artist.

“In dreamland I always imagined that The Who were going to be the biggest group in the world,” he told an interviewer in 1974. “It was a bit daunting at one time, about three years into our career, the sheer number of groups there were. I though, Christ almighty, we’re never ever going to get our head above this lot and it was quite remarkable when we first went to America–people were talking about The Who being the number three group in England, which just wasn’t true. There were The Beatles, the Stones, the Kinks were an enormous force then, as a writing force as well, and a lot of my early writing was influenced directly from Ray Davies, who had a four year start on The Who. I can’t remember all their names but there were loads of bands around then who were all very very good. They’ve just fallen by the wayside, leaving The Who there.”

He was asked what his most satisfying work was. “I think the most satisfying thing overall has been Quadrophenia as a piece, because I saw that through from the beginning–the writing, I controlled all that, I did all the recording and the mixing, and looked after the cover.”

He is also an author – he published his autobiography, Who I Am, in 2012, and his first novel, The Age of Anxiety, in 2019 – and worked as an editor for the publishing house Faber and Faber in the mid 1980s.

Related: Townshend’s 10 best guitar moments with The Who

Townshend revealed in Sept. 2017, that he and his longtime companion, Rachel Fuller, were married in Dec. 2016.

“This is a very, very happy thing for both of us,” he wrote on Facebook. “We have been together for more than twenty years, meeting at a rehearsal studio back in October 1996 where The Who were preparing for their own first revival Quadrophenia tour.

“We… did keep it as quiet as we could, telling only close family. I am incredibly proud of her, and if there is any element of her being any kind of trophy, it’s mainly because she is a fucking genius. But she’s also beautiful and smart. We have so much fun together.”

In 2019, The Who returned to the stage and released their first new studio album, WHO, since 2006. It has since been expanded to include their live acoustic performance from February 2020. (Tickets to their concerts are available at Ticketmaster and here.)

Best Classic Bands Staff

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