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Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend born 19 May is an English musician and songwriter best known as the lead guitarist, second vocalist, and principal songwriter for the rock band the Who. His career with the Who spans over 50 years, during which time the band grew to be one of the most important and influential rock bands of the 20th century. He has also written more than songs that have appeared on his solo albums, as well as radio jingles and television theme songs.
He is self-taught on all of the instruments he plays and has never had any formal training. Townshend has also contributed to and authored many newspaper and magazine articles, book reviews, essays, books, and scripts, and he has collaborated as a lyricist and composer for many other musical acts.
He was ranked No. He came from a musical family: Cliff Townshend was often away from his family touring with his band while Betty carried on affairs with other men. The two split when Townshend was a toddler and he was sent to live with his maternal grandmother Emma Dennis, whom Pete later described as "clinically insane". The two-year separation ended when Cliff and Betty purchased a house together on Woodgrange Avenue in middle-class Acton , and the young Pete was happily reunited with his parents.
It was on one of these trips in the summer of that he repeatedly watched the film Rock Around the Clock , sparking his fascination with American rock and roll. Notable artists and designers gave lectures at the college such as auto-destructive art pioneer Gustav Metzger.
The new bass player then suggested Townshend to join as an additional guitarist. Their lineup coalesced around Roger Daltrey on lead guitar, Townshend on rhythm guitar, Entwistle on bass, Doug Sandom on drums and Colin Dawson as vocalist. Not long after the name change, drummer Doug Sandom was replaced by Keith Moon , who had been drumming semi-professionally with the Beachcombers for several years.
With the assistance of Lambert, the Who caught the ear of American record producer Shel Talmy , who had the band signed to a record contract. The song and its famous line "I hope I die before I get old" was "very much about trying to find a place in society," Townshend stated in an interview with David Fricke.
The album was subsequently titled A Quick One  and reached number 4 in the charts upon its release in December The Who commenced their first US tour on 22 March Townshend took to trashing his hotel suites, though not to the extent of his bandmate Moon. By , Townshend became interested in the teachings of Meher Baba.
Leonard Bernstein praised the album, saying its "sheer power, invention and brilliance of performance outstrips anything which has ever come out of a recording studio. While the Who were playing, Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman jumped the stage to complain about the arrest of John Sinclair.
Townshend promptly knocked him offstage with his guitar, shouting, "Fuck off my fucking stage! In , the Who released Live at Leeds , which several music critics cite as the best live album of all time.
Dubbed Lifehouse , it was designed to be a multi-media project that symbolised the relationship between a musician and his audience. Townshend began to feel alienated, and the project was abandoned after he suffered a nervous breakdown. Townshend began writing songs for another rock opera in He decided it would explore the mod subculture and its clashes with Rockers in the early s in the UK. The tapes malfunctioned during a performance in Newcastle, prompting Townshend to drag soundman Bob Pridden onstage, scream at him, kick over all the amplifiers and partially destroyed the malfunctioning tapes.
It featured introspective songs, often with a negative slant. 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 mids to the s, 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 , the Isle of Wight Festival , Live 8 in and the Glastonbury Festival. Among his most well-known accomplishments are the creation of a second pioneering rock opera, Quadrophenia ; his dramatic stage persona; his use of guitar feedback as sonic technique; and the introduction of the synthesiser as a rock instrument.
Townshend revisited album-length storytelling throughout his career and remains the musician most associated with the rock opera form. Many studio recordings also feature Townshend on piano or keyboards, though keyboard-heavy tracks increasingly featured guest artists in the studio, such as Nicky Hopkins , John Bundrick or Chris Stainton.
Townshend is one of the key figures in the development of feedback in rock guitar. When asked who first used feedback, Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore said:. Similarly, when Jimmy Page was asked about the development of guitar feedback, he said:.
In addition to his work with the Who, Townshend has been sporadically active as a solo recording artist. Between and Townshend, along with other devotees to Meher Baba , recorded a trio of albums devoted to his teachings: It was a moderate success and featured demos of Who songs as well as a showcase of his acoustic guitar talents. In Townshend produced and performed guitar on the novelty single "Peppermint Lump" by Angie on Stiff Records , featuring year-old Angela Porter on lead vocals.
Townshend made several memorable solo appearances during the s, two of which were captured on record: The video of the Kampuchea concert, widely shown on HBO and commercially available, shows the two rock icons dueling and clowning  through Rockestra mega-band versions of "Lucille," "Let It Be" and the "Rockestra Theme"; Townshend closes the proceedings with a characteristic split-legged leap. A Novel , The Iron Man: A Musical , and Psychoderelict Townshend has also recorded several concert albums, including one featuring a supergroup he assembled called Deep End , who performed just three concerts and a television show session for The Tube , to raise money for a charity supporting drug addicts.
In he and Des McAnuff wrote and directed the Broadway 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. In February , a major world tour by the Who was announced to promote their first new album since Townshend published a semi-autobiographical story The Boy Who Heard Music as a serial on a blog beginning in September On 25 February , he announced the issue of a mini-opera inspired by the novella for June In October the Who released their first album in 26 years, Endless Wire.
On 22 March , Pete Townshend stated that a new Who album should feature original songs by Roger Daltrey as well as him. Townshend was born ten days after Nazi Germany surrendered in the Second World War and grew up in the shadow of reconstruction in and around London. According to Townshend, postwar trauma was the driving force behind the rock music revolution in the UK.
Although he grew up in a household with jazz musicians, Townshend absorbed many of his ideas about performance and rock music themes during art school. In light of these influences, guitar smashing became not just an expression of youthful angst, but also a means of conveying ideas through musical performance.
He has also used Guild , Takamine and Gibson J acoustic models, with the J providing his signature recorded acoustic sound in such songs as " Pinball Wizard ". He used this guitar at the Woodstock and Isle of Wight shows in and , as well as the Live at Leeds performance in By Gibson changed the design of the SG Special which Townshend had been using previously, and he began using other guitars. During the s, Townshend mainly used Fenders, Rickenbackers and Telecaster-style models built for him by Schecter and various other luthiers.
Some of his Stratocaster guitars feature a Fishman PowerBridge piezo pick-up system to simulate acoustic guitar tones. Instead of throwing the smashed parts away, Townshend reassembled the pieces as a sculpture.
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. The run featured guitars which were made between July — March , and according to Rickenbacker CEO John Hall, the entire run sold out before serious advertising could be done.
He also occasionally used Fender Jazzmasters on stage in and and in the studio for Tommy. In 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. However, since , he has only three Vibro-King stacks, one of which is a backup. Townshend figured prominently in the development of what is widely known in rock circles as the " Marshall Stack ". 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 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.
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