Pete Townshend: On Sex, Crying, and Pretending to be Drunk

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So, to clarify, in your life when you had sexual encounters with men, did that have anything at all to do with expressing that feminine side?
No. I think what it had to do with – and to be honest [laughs], I can't remember much about any of it – was to do with the fact that I was actually completely smashed out of my head. I'm fifty-seven, I've got a young girlfriend, I'm not gay. I'm not interested in men. I don't think I ever really have been. I've had a high sex drive all my life, which has actually been difficult sometimes to reconcile with some of my spiritual aspirations, which are just like, you know, a monk, I suppose. But, no, I think it would have been because I was completely off my face with something. If you want to talk about this, and Danny's the one that's gone into print . . . [loudly] if Danny fucked me, Danny drugged me first. So if you want to fucking print that, then print it. Because that's the truth. It fucking hurts, that he so fucking carelessly said this in the papers. He should have fucking told me what he did to me first.

Aside from the newspaper side of it, do you feel like if that's the case that he mistreated you on a personal level?
No, I don't give a damn! But to actually say that we were boyfriend and girlfriend! Boyfriend and boyfriend. I don't know what he's fucking talking about. [Louder] And this is it. This is the fucking thing that stinks about this whole fucking thing of doing a fucking interview with fucking Rolling Stone magazine in the first place when I don't need to! I don't need the magazine, I don't need you. . . . The tour is sold-out. I don't want to talk about my work, I don't want to talk about the Who, I don't want to talk about any of this shit. But you go and you talk about it, because it seems the polite thing to do. [Shouts] Live in the real fucking world! Live in the real fucking world! . . . I just don't know what Danny is talking about. I know that I spent a night in his house. I don't remember much else about it. You know, I did not go out with him. He is not my type. [After our conversation, Townshend contacts Fields through an intermediary and, after receiving an e-mail from Fields, leaves me a message in which he clarifies: "I think, just for the record, there's only two cases where I've experimented, consciously, and I think Danny's situation might be one where it might be said I experimented unconsciously, which he'd admitted to me for the first time in this e-mail. It's a bit of a shock for me, but there it is." For his part, Fields says he doesn't remember saying that they were on-and-off boyfriends for the book, nor does he understand why he would have said it, as it was never true. As for whatever fleeting sexual contact occurred between them – "I never fucked him," Fields chooses to clarify – he rejects any suggestion, no matter what drugs were around at the time, that he drugged and took advantage of Townshend. "I adore him," says Fields. "I wish I had ever a boyfriend or girlfriend in my life as magnificent as him, or as gorgeous as he was and is."]

You wrote a couple of years ago that it's all been downhill since the first concert with Keith Moon.
I think that's right, yeah.

That's an extraordinary thing to say.
Yeah. I think just because creatively it was a mistake. I think I made a mistake. Being in the Who? Yeah. Yeah. I think it wasn't really what I was destined to do [laughs]. Difficult to argue with reality, isn't it? And for whatever reason, I didn't go back to finish studies [at art school]. I had a number of opportunities to leave the band in the early days and didn't – I don't quite know why I didn't. I could have done.

The band kind of blew up a few times in the early days. Roger left the band a couple of times, was kicked out a few times, Keith and John nearly formed Led Zeppelin with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. I never left.

How much of what the Who have been, both good and bad, has been a function of you not getting on with one another?
It's been an interference, really, rather than a help. We did grind to a halt, didn't we, ultimately?

Do you think you like one another yet?
[Quietly] Yeah. Yeah. I really like them. I really like Roger and John a lot.

You've written on your Web site recently about your habit of pretending to be drunk and off your head onstage. . . .
Yeah, I've decided to stop doing that. I actually had to meet with a girl who I hurt. I fell on her with my guitar [at London's Royal Albert Hall in 2002], and she could have sued me or sued the band or the hall or something, but she didn't – because she's right in the front row, she's obviously a hard-nosed fan. My guitar fell on her neck and damaged her collarbone. And I didn't hear about it until quite recently, and she wrote a letter saying, "I can't believe that you haven't sent a letter saying sorry." And I was – I didn't fucking know about it. And she came and we talked about it. And I was, "What was I doing? Oh, that's right, I was pretending to be drunk" [laughs].

What's the thought process when you decide to do that?
I need to end the show. I enjoy the fact that if I pretend to be drunk for fifteen minutes, the crowd go wild. And, you know, I'm a recovering alcoholic and it's a good laugh to pretend to be drunk. But to be celebrated for it, there's a kind of weird irony of it where, in actual fact, one of the only reasons I can be up there at the moment is because I'm healthy.

But most performers don't feel the need to find that kind of closure.
I don't know. The Who's show this year will be different, I hope, because we can end with some music. But, you know, who knows, I'll probably get to the end of it and want to do something. . . . I suppose it's like a musical equivalent of smashing a guitar. I feel like I want to do something that's a transcendent final act, and that everybody's waiting for that.

These days, are you more likely to smash a guitar when you don't really want to, or to not smash when you do feel like doing it?
The first. It feels childish, it feels petulant. It doesn't come from the same place. You know, when I used to smash guitars I was an artist. I'd never smash guitars in a rage – it demeaned the whole thing. But now I'll have a quick fit and go, "Oh, fuck everything," smash the guitar and think, "Oh, dear, look at that."

Will you smash any this summer?
No. If it happens, I certainly won't be surprised, but it's not something that I plan on doing. I think it would be quite a good thing if I could avoid it.

This story is from the August 8th, 2002 issue of Rolling Stone.

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