Edit
Pete Townshend Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (7) | Trivia (42) | Personal Quotes (27)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 19 May 1945London, England, UK
Birth NamePeter Dennis Blandford Townshend
Nickname Big Nose
Height 6' (1.83 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Born in Chiswick, London just ten days after the German surrender in 1945, Townshend grows up in a typical middle-class home. His parents, Cliff and Betty Townshend, are both musicians, and as a child he accompanies them on dance band tours. Townshend starts playing guitar at 12. He goes to art school and, after several stints in local semi-professional bands, forms the rock group The Who in 1963 with singer Roger Daltrey, bass player John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon. The Who start out as the ultimate, violent anti-establishment band; they soon gain notoriety for ear-splitting live performances, smashing their equipment on stage and wrecking hotel rooms, leaving havoc everywhere they go. As the group's mastermind and main songwriter, Townshend later establishes himself as an eminent musical auteur and the thinking man's rock guitarist after penning such now legendary concept albums as "Tommy", the abandoned "Lifehouse" and "Quadrophenia", which combine the energy of rock'n'roll with the orchestral and thematic ambitions of opera. After Keith Moon's accidental death in 1978 and a few unconvincing farewell tours with new drummer Kenney Jones, The Who break up. The 80's find Townshend struggling with his identity as an aging rock godfather, fighting drug problems and increasing hearing troubles. In 1989, he roars back with a 25th anniversary tour of The Who, later a Broadway revival of "Tommy" (an eventual Tony winner) and several other ambitious musical, theater and film projects. Widely known as the windmilling, leaping about guitarist for The Who, Townshend is also a premier songwriter, accurately self-reflective lyricist and inspired multi-media entrepreneur. Both "Tommy" and "Quadrophenia" were made into energetic films. The Kids Are Alright (1979), the band's biography movie, is interesting not only for The Who fans, but also from a filmmaker's point of view. Townsend's haunting songs have been used on the soundtrack of countless pictures. He stands out as one of rock music's most gifted and influential artists who has, despite being forever tied to the rebellious image of his youth, decided to somehow grow old with dignity.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Christoph Stappert

Spouse (1)

Karen Astley (20 May 1968 - 2000) (divorced) (3 children)

Trade Mark (7)

Smashes his guitars after great live performances
"The Windmill" (strumming a guitar by swinging the whole extended arm in a circle)
Revolutionised the use of Gibson SG guitars
Powerslide (hitting a power chord while jumping and sliding across the stage on his knees)
Often starts songs with a simple four chord riff
Beard
Elongated nose

Trivia (42)

Has three children: Emma (born in 1969), Aminta (born in 1971) and Joseph (born in 1989).
Pete Townshend is the lead guitarist with The Who (rock band) along with Roger Daltrey and the late John Entwistle and Keith Moon.
Daughter, Emma, is now a recording artist in her own right.
His father Clive was a saxophonist with The Squadronaires Royal Air Force dance band.
His mother Betty was a singer.
His father-in-law Edwin Astley composed the theme music for The Saint (1962).
When he was a young boy, his parents separated and left him with his maternal grandmother, who was clinically insane.
Longtime companion is musician Rachel Fuller.
Officially left The Who in late 1983, one year after the band completed its "farewell" tour. At the time of the tour, the band had said they would continue to record and play live sporadically, but after rehearsing new material the following year, Townshend decided it was time to pack it in. They continue to play live and even tour on occasion, as bands often do after breaking up.
Best known solo albums include 'Empty Glass' (1980), 'All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes' (1982), and 'White City - a Novel' (1985).
Overcame serious drug and alchohol addictions in early 1982, in what was called a "miracle cure."
His daughter Emma sang on his 1985 song "Face the Face", the first single off his "White City" album. She also appeared in the video.
Best known songs penned by Townshend include "My Generation", "Pinball Wizard", "Tommy, Can You Hear Me?", "See Me, Feel Me", "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Behind Blue Eyes", "Baba o' Riley", and "Who are You?"
Elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as a member of The Who) in 1990.
Kicked Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman off the stage at Woodstock when Hoffman interrupted The Who's performance to complain about the festival and to make a speech about imprisoned radical John Sinclair.
The Who's 1969 album "Tommy" came third in Classic Rock Magazine's list of the 30 greatest concept albums of all time (March 2003).
When The Who appeared on The Simpsons (1989) in 2000, Townshend was actually played by his brother, Paul.
He was awarded the 1997 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Outstanding Musical Production of 1996 for Tommy performed at the Shaftesbury Theatre with John Entwistle.
Shares a birthday with ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill, AD/DC drummer Phil Rudd and Ramones vocalist Joey Ramone.
The Who were voted the 29th Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Artists of all time by Rolling Stone.
Won Broadway's 1993 Tony Award as Best Score (Musical) both music and lyrics, for "The Who's Tommy," in a tie with John Kander and Fred Ebb for "Kiss of the Spider Woman--The Musical." For the same show, he was also nominated as Best Book (Musical) with collaborator Des McAnuff.
According to Dave Marsh in "Before I Get Old," Pete started to learn the guitar, but soon gave it up to learn to play the banjo for a Trad Jazz band he was in (the Confederates). It was only after he got into a fight with the band he was playing with that he again took up the guitar.
Suffered damaged to his hearing, which affected him in later life, after The Who made their first appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967), when the smoke powder in Keith Moon's bass drums, intended as an end-of-act stunt, exploded instead of just smoking copiously.
The cousins in the movie Tommy, who babysat for the young Tommy was an insight from Pete's childhood. His mother, who was quite promiscuous, made Pete call the men she brought home, uncle.
Pioneered the concept of the "rock opera"
The Who won the British Phonographic Industry Award for Outstanding Contribution in 1988.
Winner of the British Phonographic Industry Award for Life Achievement in 1983.
The TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000) and its spin-offs CSI: Miami (2002) and CSI: NY (2004) all use songs by Townshend/The Who as their theme songs: "Who are you", "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Baba O'Riley".
The Who were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame for their outstanding contribution to British music and integral part of British music culture. (16 November 2005).
Helped Eric Clapton kick his heroin addiction. To repay Townshend, Clapton agreed to appear in Tommy (1975).
Has been involved with many charities since 1968 including the Meher Baba Association, The Children's Health Fund, the Bridge School, the Teenage Cancer Trust and Samsung's Four Seasons of Hope.
First noted rock musician to donate his service to Amnesty International, playing three songs at its 1979 benefit show The Secret Policeman's Ball (1979).
Lives in Richmond, England.
Is the best friend of Roger Daltrey, and the two are the only surviving members of The Who.
Was, along with Roger Daltrey, honored with a Kennedy Center Award (2008).
Has guest appeared as lead guitarist on recordings of Elton John, David Bowie and Mick Jagger among others.
His musical, "The Who's Tommy," at the Circle Theatre in Chicago, Illinois was nominated for a 2010 Joseph Jefferson Award (Non-Equity Division) for Production of a Musical.
Is currently working with Roger Daltrey on the first The Who album of all-new material since 1982's 'It's Hard.' [January 2003]
In 2003, was cautioned by police and placed on the sex offenders register for five years following his admission that he accessed child pornography on the Internet.
Townshend is pronounced towns-hend, not town-shend.
Was invited by Roger Daltrey to join The Who, with the encouragement of old classmate and bass guitarist John Entwistle.

Personal Quotes (27)

It's not the fact that I WAS brilliant, I AM brilliant.
The bad part about growing older is I'm going bald. The good part is my nose seems to be getting shorter.
[in 1968, about his rock opera "Tommy"] It's a very complex thing, and I don't know if I'm getting it across.
[1979, at the Cannes Film Festival in 1979] We're on the brink of something new. It will be similar to the invention of the American musical in the '30s. There will be a conceptualized, musical-video product and everyone's waiting for the first "Sergeant Pepper", if you like, on video-disc. The contemporary musical form is about to be discovered.
[about Lynyrd Skynyrd, who were opening for The Who on a tour in the early '70s] They're really quite good, aren't they?
The Kinks were much more quintessentially English. I always think that Ray Davies should one day be Poet Laureate. He invented a new kind of poetry and a new kind of language for Pop writing that influenced me from the very, very, very beginning.
[2008] There's this idea of learning to play just like Jimi Hendrix, it's still around in all these guitar magazines with their transcriptions, and I just think, "Why?". There are different kinds of guitar players. There are those who want to play the songs exactly like the record, and then they're happy. And there's others like me who want to know how the songs are made, the structure, the chords.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) has done a lot of damage to the image of swinging London, parodying what had already been parodied by lazy American newsreels over the years...It was a vital rebellion. Everything was turned on its head. Girls looked like boys, boys wore eyeliner and danced alone or in pairs like girls. Today we are facing something of the same kind of upheaval.
[c. 1966] Keith Moon is not interested in jazz and won't ever be a jazz drummer because he's more interested in looking good and being screamed at.
[1966 interview in "Melody Maker" magazine] Keith Moon used to be lots of fun. Unfortunately, he's turning into a little old man. He used to be young and unaffected by pop music, but now he is obsessed with money.
[11/20/75 in Houston, Texas, just before The Who's US tour] I've stopped drinking and I haven't lost my nerve on stage, not yet. Keith Moon has started smashing up his hotel rooms again, which is always a good sign.
There's a sense of being in front of a bunch of fans who really want to see you fight on stage, or scowl at each other, or die. They want to be there when you die. I don't like fans really. But that's because they're my employer--I don't like the boss. I feel much happier about the record company giving me a load of money to piss away rather than someone coming up to me in the street saying, "I saw you in blah, blah, blah and you were really great--when are you going to do another tour?" Of course, without them I wouldn't exist.
[on his devotion to charity work] I needed to give back, give back, give back. I felt guilty about my success. I felt uncomfortable about how easily I had been delivered this extraordinary life that I had. I have to admit that at 66 years old, of all the things I have achieved in my life, I am most proud of the work I have done - mostly behind the scenes - to help establish and run innovative systems of rehabilitation and support for what society tends to see as its human failures.
Years ago I admitted to managing to save my marriage by the occasional use of pornography on the road, particularly if I was feeling emotionally vulnerable. Pornography would be a way of surviving on the oil rig of the rock'n'roll world.
I always thought that The Who would be very brief, and that I would shut it down after a while and sit in my apartment in Soho, making kinetic sculptures. I'd say I've been in stasis for quite a long time--and the word means either perpetual motion or perpetual stillness. I've been whirling on the spot for quite a long time. The thing about The Who for me--and this is sad in a way--is the amount of control I've had to have, keeping the creative process close to my chest, making sure the other guys in the band felt they were part of the process, but they really weren't.
[on his song "Who Are You" being used as a TV theme] I can afford to sit on my haunches and watch [CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000)] and every time it goes on I go "Ka-ching!".
[on Bob Dylan] He is a rambling kind of guy. He's his own man, slightly more grounded than I am, as far as staying in his own space. He's quite a good friend, actually. We've got a lot in common.
It was very interesting to hear the Rolling Stone review of The Who show at Barclays in Brooklyn. The review said "Quadrophenia" was terrific done Roger Daltrey's way, freed from Townshend's overthinking. What made it sting a little is that I know that it's true. I do overthink.
"Who's Next" is a great record, but it's a compromise. It could have been greater if people's attention span was longer and if vinyl allowed more time.
One of our problems was UK tax at 90 per cent. We became a machine working only to keep our roadies alive. They formed their own company and became more successful than we were - they had better tax breaks at that time.
"The Who By Numbers" is high on [Roger Daltrey's] list of best-ever [The Who] records. He was a real editor on it. I delivered 35 demos and he chose the tracks we'd include.
Was I amused by the idea of "Rough Boys" as a "coming out" song? I've never hidden my sexual liberalism and I may even have played along sometimes, to the extent that there's an irony in inviting a snotty punk in a leather jacket and a dog collar to kiss you because you've mistaken them for the The Village People. But the first time I saw that kind of punk outfit was probably in the aggressive early gay clubs of New York. If I was in those clubs it would be with gay friends, usually with a girl in tow. I got knobbled a few times in gay situations and have never regretted it. I'm heterosexual but I've never really made a big deal out of it. I'm not Jack Nicholson. He won't even hug another man.
There was always great friendship between me and Ronnie [Ronnie Lane]. And this went further in that we liked exactly the same music. Ronnie had become disenchanted with his lot in The Faces, with Rod Stewart, and had left to go solo. He hit money trouble almost straight away, and needed my help to get a record deal.
When it came to do "Street In The City" I was keen to do some orchestral work with my father-in-law, Edwin Astley. He'd semi-retired from doing TV themes and I thought he was a genius. I grew up listening to George Gershwin and Cole Porter, as did so many other post-war kids. So it has to have had some influence. Edwin went on to orchestrate quite a few songs for me.
[on "All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes"] This LP is close to a masterpiece by my own terms. Yes, some critics accused me of being self-indulgent. This is the moment you realise you've become a genius when a mere critic calls you self-indulgent or pretentious. The fact that critics found it self-indulgent made me realise that they couldn't believe I could write a song about anyone but myself. Many of my harshest critics are wonderful writers themselves, but many of them really do think they can read the inside from looking at the outside. The difference between an artist and a journalist is that an artist deals in truth, whereas journalists deal in facts and opinions. If my process appears indulgent it might simply be because I take the most embarrassing risks.
I felt that The Who had ended because we'd lost touch with our original Shepherd's Bush audience. We were making good tracks--like "Eminence Front" on "It's Hard" and "You Better You Bet" on "Face Dances"--but they were more to do with the decadence of the rock world than our old crowd.
David Bowie had heard a lot of my demos and was very encouraging. He loved the William S. Burroughs 'cut-up' techniques and liked the fact I was using words for words' sake.

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page