The First Time: Pete Townshend - Rolling Stone
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The First Time: Pete Townshend

The Who guitarist recalls first hearing the Beatles, watching Jimi Hendrix and coming to America

Pete Townshend released his first novel, The Age of Anxiety, earlier this year. And when he sat down with Rolling Stone in a New York City hotel room to talk it over, he also looked back to share several other firsts from his long life, from his first time seeing Jimi Hendrix to his first time hearing the Beatles and his first time writing a song he was truly proud of.

He also revealed the first time he thought about quitting the Who. “Pretty much day one,” he said. “I always wanted it to be as brief as possible and it hasn’t been. And this is not a judgement on them. It’s a judgement on me…Immediately I started to realize it wasn’t a job that I like. I didn’t like the the traveling. I didn’t like being on stage. I didn’t like the fact that it all seemed like all the other guys in the band just wanted to get girls. It didn’t seem like art to me and I’d been to art school.”

Conversely, he also recalled the first moment he did enjoy being a part of the band. “That was probably quite a way down the road,” he said. “It may have been around the time we first started to work in the United States playing places like the Fillmore and the Electric Factory and the Boston Tea Party where we were allowed to stretch out and explore.”

Finally, he discussed the first time he realized the Who were past their prime. “It was when the punk movement came along,” he said. “I loved the punk movement because that’s what I wanted the Who to be…I remember after seeing Generation X and Siouxsie and the Banshees just thinking, ‘Wow, this is what we used to do. They aren’t doing it quite as well as we did, but they’re doing it really, really well.'”

The Who wrapped up an extensive North American tour in October, but they return to the road in March for a run of UK arena dates before returning to America in late April. They just released Who, which is their first album of new material since 2006’s Endless Wire. “We’ll probably try to include a few new songs [next year] from the album, but maybe not,” Townshend says. “I don’t know. We don’t have much time to build that.”


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