One the most famous lines Pete Townshend ever wrote was “Hope I die before I get old.” Thankfully, that didn’t happen. The Who’s guitarist, main songwriter and creative mastermind turns 70 today. Speaking to the BBC a couple of years ago about the sentiments he expressed in “My Generation,” Townshend admitted, “That phrase was taken out of context. We’ve never fought with that issue but…the song was more about refusing to grow old.” He added, jokingly, “That’s why I’m so proud of having the physique of a 16-year-old boy.” Pete and The Who — whose classic lineup also featured singer Roger Daltrey, bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon — emerged on the U.K. rock scene in 1964 and began making a name for themselves thanks to their dynamic, destructive concerts and Townshend’s witty and quirky pop-rock songs like “My Generation,” “I Can’t Explain” and “Substitute.” Pete himself became known for his iconic windmill strumming and regularly smashing his guitar to pieces during shows. After grabbing the attention of U.S. audiences with an incendiary performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop festival, the band became an international sensation thanks to Townshend’s imaginative 1969 rock opera, Tommy. Townshend solidified his reputation as one of the rock world’s great songwriters with The Who’s classics-filled 1971 album Who’s Next and the acclaimed 1973 rock opera Quadrophenia. Tommy and Quadrophenia ended up being turned into movies in 1975 and 1979, respectively. After Moon’s untimely death in 1978, The Who continued on for a few more years with founding Faces drummer Kenney Jones, while Townshend also began focusing simultaneously on a solo career that included hits like “Let My Love Open the Door,” “Rough Boys” and “Face Dances, Pt. 2.” The Who essentially disbanded after a 1983 “farewell tour,” but the band re-formed sporadically for special events like Live Aid in 1985, and for tours in 1989 and 1996 during which they played Tommy and Quadrophenia, respectively. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Although Entwistle passed away in 2002 on the eve of another reunion trek, Townshend and Daltrey have continued to perform together regularly under the band’s name, accompanied by a touring band. Meanwhile, Townshend also struck gold when he turned Tommy into a Broadway musical. The production took five Tony Awards in 1993, including a Best Original Score honor for Pete. Last year, Townshend and The Who embarked on a tour celebrating the group’s 50th anniversary, and which both Pete and Roger have revealed will be the band’s last major outing. However, Townshend has expressed interest in continuing to play shows with Daltrey, and also says he’d like to record new original music projects, both with the band and solo. The Who’s next show is scheduled for this Wednesday in Uniondale, New York.
I hope that current tour makes its way through the Rockies.. As many of you know, The Who is my all-time fav rock band, and I’ve had the thrill of seeing them live on several occasions. Now it’s just the Pete and Roger show. But, its cool those two are still at it after all of these decades. Thanks for the tunes, Pete! And Happy Birthday! 🙂