Pete Townshend won’t shut up
December 01, 2014.
In September 2012, Pete Townshend talked to me about his post-war childhood, Shepherd’s Bush villains, punching his ex-manager, how The Who helped invent the Sex Pistols, gay British Rail guards, Mick Jagger’s penis… and much more.
This is a much longer version of an interview that ran in Mojo magazine in December 2012. It took place at Pete Townshend’s offices in Richmond, Southwest London, just before publication of his autobiography, Who I Am. There’s a lot here about Townshend’s arrest, his book and the Who’s plans to tour Quadrophenia, which happened the following year. But there’s also a lot about the Who’s early years that I used in my book, Pretend You’re In A War: The Who And The Sixties.
Pete was on good form. He talked and talked and talked… Even when I hit the ‘pause’ button and we had a quick tea break, he carried on talking (about Phil Collins, freemasonry and the police force, if I recall). In fact, Townshend was still talking when his PR started waving his hands and telling us the writer from The Guardian was due in ten minute and it was time to finish.
It’s always good when you can’t get an interviewee to shut up…
Is it true you first wanted to write an autobiography when you were twenty?
Yes. But the book I talk about wanting to write when I was twenty would have been a very different book to this one. I wanted to write about what was happening to when The Who were very young. What happened when The Who first started and around the time of [first single] I Can’t Explain was that I realised the need to talk about the function of the song and pop music. Pop hadn’t become rock yet – it was still fairly simple stuff. But I knew because of my background with my dad who was in a dance band [The Squadronaires] that something had changed in quite a dramatic way. What was interesting to me was to look back and imagine what that book would have been about. Because a lot of it was going to be about The Who’s fans, the way they perceived us. I also wanted to write about the readers of [defunct music mag] Disc & Music Echo fans, and the journalist Penny Valentine.
© Mark Blake, 2012