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Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend

Also Known As: "Bijou Drains"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Chiswick, London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of Private and Private
Ex-husband of Private
Partner of Private
Father of Private; Private and Private
Brother of Private and Private

Occupation: English musician, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist,
Managed by: Terry Jackson (Switzer)
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

    • Private
      partner
    • Private
      ex-spouse
    • Private
      child
    • Private
      child
    • Private
      child
    • Private
      parent
    • Private
      parent
    • Private
      sibling
    • Private
      sibling

About Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

  • Birth name Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend
  • Also known as Bijou Drains
  • Born 19 May 1945 (age 70)
  • Chiswick, London, England
  • Genres
  • Rock art rock hard rock power pop jazz
  • Occupation(s)
  • Musician singer-songwriter composer author
  • Instruments: Vocals guitar keyboards
  • Years active 1962–present

Peter Dennis Blandford "Pete" Townshend (born 19 May 1945) is an English musician, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, best known as the lead guitarist and songwriter for the rock band The Who. His career with the Who spans more than 50 years, during which time the band grew to be considered one of the most influential bands of the 20th century.

Townshend is the main songwriter for the Who, having written well over 100 songs for the band's 11 studio albums, including concept albums and the rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia, plus popular rock and roll radio staples such as Who's Next, and dozens more that appeared as non-album singles, bonus tracks on reissues, and tracks on rarities compilations such as Odds & Sods (1974). He has also written more than 100 songs that have appeared on his solo albums, as well as radio jingles and television theme songs. Although known primarily as a guitarist, he also plays keyboards, banjo, accordion, harmonica, ukulele, mandolin, violin, synthesiser, bass guitar, and drums, on his own solo albums, several Who albums, and as a guest contributor to an array of other artists' recordings. 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. Townshend was ranked No. 3 in Dave Marsh's list of Best Guitarists in The New Book of Rock Lists,[4] No. 10 in Gibson.com's list of the top 50 guitarists,and No. 10 again in Rolling Stone magazine's updated 2011 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. In 1983, Townshend received the Brit Award for Lifetime Achievement, in 1990 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Who, in 2001 received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award as a member of the Who, and in 2008 received Kennedy Center Honors.

Early life and education

Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend was born on 19 May 1945, at Chiswick Hospital, West London. He came from a musical family: his father, Cliff Townshend, was a professional alto saxophonist in the Royal Air Force's dance band The Squadronaires and his mother, Betty (née Dennis), was a singer with the Sydney Torch and Les Douglass Orchestras.[7] The Townshends had a volatile marriage, as both drank heavily and possessed fiery tempers. Cliff Townshend was often away from his family touring with his band away 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, London, and the young Pete was happily reunited with his parents.

Townshend says he did not have many friends growing up, so he spent much of his boyhood reading adventure novels like Gullivers Travels and Treasure Island.[9] He enjoyed his family's frequent excursions to the English sea coast and the Isle of Man. It was on one of these trips in the summer of 1956 that he repeatedly watched the 1956 film Rock Around the Clock, sparking his fascination with American rock and roll.[10] Not long thereafter, he went to see Bill Haley perform in London, Townshend's first concert. At the time, he did not see himself pursuing a career as a professional musician; instead, he wanted to become a journalist.

Upon passing the Eleven Plus exam, Townshend was enrolled at Acton County Grammar School. At Acton County, he was frequently bullied because he had a large nose, an experience that profoundly affected him. His grandmother Emma purchased his first guitar for Christmas in 1956, an inexpensive Spanish model. Though his father taught him a couple of chords, Townshend was largely self-taught on the instrument and never learned to read music. Townshend and school friend John Entwistle formed a short-lived trad jazz group, the Confederates, featuring Townshend on banjo and Entwistle on horns. The Confederates played gigs at the Congo Club, a youth club run by the Acton Congregational Church, and covered Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball, and Lonnie Donegan.[18] However, both became influenced by the increasing popularity of rock 'n' roll, with Townshend particularly admiring Cliff Richard's debut single, "Move It".[19] Townshend left the Confederates after getting into a fight with the group's drummer, Chris Sherwin, and purchased a "reasonably good Czechoslovakian guitar" at his mother's antique shop.

Townshend's brothers Paul and Simon were born in 1957 and 1960, respectively. Lacking the requisite test scores to attend university, Pete was faced with the decision of art school, music school, or getting a job. He ultimately chose to study graphic design at Ealing Art College, enrolling in 1961. At Ealing, Townshend studied alongside future Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and future Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury. Notable artists and designers gave lectures at the college like auto-destructive art pioneer Gustav Metzger. Townshend dropped out in 1964 to focus on music full-time.

career

In late 1961, Entwistle joined The Detours, a skiffle/rock and roll band, led by Roger Daltrey. The new bass player then suggested Townshend to join as an additional guitarist. In the early days of the Detours, the band's repertoire consisted of instrumentals by the Shadows and the Ventures, as well as pop and trad jazz covers. Their line-up coalesced around Roger Daltrey on lead guitar, Townshend on rhythm guitar, Entwistle on bass, Doug Sandom on drums and Colin Dawson as vocalist. Daltrey was considered the leader of the group and, according to Townshend, "ran things the way he wanted them." Dawson quit in 1962 after arguing too much with Daltrey, who subsequently moved to lead vocalist. As a result, Townshend, with Entwistle's encouragement, became the sole guitarist. Through Townshend's mother, the group obtained a management contract with local promoter Robert Druce, who started booking the band as a support act for bands like Screaming Lord Sutch, Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers, Shane Fenton and the Fentones, and Johnny Kidd and the Pirates. In 1963, Townshend's father arranged an amateur recording of "It Was You", the first song his son ever wrote. The Detours became aware of a group of the same name in February 1964, forcing them to change their name. Townshend's room-mate Richard Barnes came up with "The Who", and Daltrey decided it was the best choice.

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. The band was soon taken on by a mod publicist named Peter Meaden who convinced them to change their name to The High Numbers to give the band more of a mod feel. After bringing out one failed single ("I'm the Face/Zoot Suit"), they dropped Meaden and were signed on by two new managers, Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert, who had paired up with the intention of finding new talent and creating a documentary about them. The band anguished over a name that all felt represented the band best, and dropped The High Numbers name, reverting to the Who.In June 1964, during a performance at the Railway Tavern, Townshend accidentally broke the top of his guitar on the low ceiling and proceeded to destroy the entire instrument. The on-stage destruction of instruments soon became a regular part of The Who's live shows.

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. Townshend wrote a song, "I Can't Explain", as a deliberate sound-alike of the Kinks, another group Talmy produced. Released as a single in January 1965, "I Can't Explain" was the Who's first hit, reaching number eight on the British charts. A follow-up single ("Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere"), credited to both Townshend and Daltrey, also reached the top 10 in the UK. However, it was the release of the Who's third single, "My Generation", in November that, according to Who biographer Mark Wilkerson, "cemented their reputation as a hard-nosed band who reflected the feelings of thousands of pissed-off adolescents at the time. The Townshend-penned single reached number two on the UK charts, becoming the Who's biggest hit. 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.

To capitalise of their recent single success, the Who's debut album My Generation (The Who Sings My Generation in the US) was released in late 1965, containing original material written by Townshend and several James Brown covers that Daltrey favoured. Townshend continued to write several successful singles for the band, including "Pictures of Lily", "Substitute", "I'm a Boy", and "Happy Jack". Lambert encouraged Townshend to write longer pieces of music for the next album, which became the "A Quick One, While He's Away". The album was subsequently titled A Quick One and reached number 4 in the charts upon its release in December 1966. In their stage shows, Townshend developed a signature move in which he would swing his right arm against the guitar strings in a style reminiscent of the vanes of a windmill. He developed this style after watching Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards warm up before a show.

In addition to his work with the Who, Townshend has been sporadically active as a solo recording artist. Between 1969 and 1971 Townshend, along with other devotees to Meher Baba, recorded a trio of albums devoted to his teachings: Happy Birthday, I Am, and With Love. In response to bootlegging of these, he compiled his personal highlights (and "Evolution", a collaboration with Ronnie Lane), and released his first major-label solo title, 1972's Who Came First. It was a moderate success and featured demos of Who songs as well as a showcase of his acoustic guitar talents. He collaborated with The Faces' bassist and fellow Meher Baba devotee Ronnie Lane on a duet album (1977's Rough Mix). Townshend's solo breakthrough, following the death of Who drummer Keith Moon, was the 1980 release Empty Glass, which included a top-10 single, "Let My Love Open the Door" and "Rough Boys". This release was followed in 1982 by All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, which included the popular radio track "Slit Skirts". While not a huge commercial success, noted music critic Timothy Duggan listed it as "Townshend's most honest and introspective work since Quadrophenia." Through the rest of the 1980s and early 1990s Townshend would again experiment with the rock opera and related formats, releasing several story-based albums including White City: A Novel (1985), The Iron Man: A Musical (1989), and Psychoderelict (1993). Townshend also got the chance to play with his hero Hank Marvin for Paul McCartney's "Rockestra" sessions, along with other respected rock musicians such as David Gilmour, John Bonham and Ronnie Lane.

In July 1983, Townshend took a position as an acquisitions editor for London publisher Faber and Faber. Notable projects included editing Animals frontman Eric Burdon's autobiography, Charles Shaar Murray's award-winning Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and Post-War Pop, Brian Eno and Russell Mills's More Dark Than Shark, and working with Prince Charles on a volume of his collected speeches. Townshend commissioned Dave Rimmer's Like Punk Never Happened, and was commissioning editor for radical playwright Steven Berkoff.

Two years after joining Faber and Faber, Townshend decided to publish a book of his own. Horse's Neck, issued in May 1985, was a collection of short stories he'd written between 1979 and 1984, tackling subjects such as childhood, stardom and spirituality. As a result of his position with Faber and Faber, Townshend developed friendships with both Nobel prize-winning author of Lord of the Flies, Sir William Golding, and British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes. His friendship with Hughes led to Townshend's musical interpretation of Hughes's children's story The Iron Man, six years later, as The Iron Man: The Musical by Pete Townshend, released in 1989.

Townshend has written several scripts spanning the breadth of his career, including numerous drafts of his elusive Lifehouse project, the last of which, co-written with radio playwright Jeff Young, was published in 1999. In 1978, Townshend wrote a script for Fish Shop, a play commissioned but not completed by London Weekend Television, and in mid-1984 he wrote a script for White City: A Novel which led to a short film.

In 1989 Townshend began work on a novel entitled Ray High & The Glass Household, a draft of which was later submitted to his editor. While the original novel remains unpublished, elements from this story were used in Townshend's 1993 solo album Psychoderelict. In 1993, Townshend authored another book, The Who's Tommy, a chronicle of the development of the award-winning Broadway version of his rock opera.

The opening of his personal website and his commerce site Eelpie.com, both in 2000, gave Townshend another outlet for literary work. Several of Townshend's essays have been posted online, including "Meher Baba—The Silent Master: My Own Silence" in 2001, and "A Different Bomb", an indictment of the child pornography industry, the following year.

In September 2005, Townshend began posting a novella online entitled The Boy Who Heard Music as background for a musical of the same name. He posted a chapter each week until it was completed, and novella was available to read at his website for several months. Like Psychoderelict, it was yet another extrapolation of Lifehouse and Ray High & The Glass Household.

In 1997 Townshend signed a deal with Little, Brown and Company publishing to write his autobiography, reportedly titled Pete Townshend: Who He? Townshend's creative vagaries and conceptual machinations have been chronicled by Larry David Smith in his book The Minstrel's Dilemma (Praeger 1999). After a lengthy delay, Townshend's autobiography, now titled Who I Am, was released 8 October 2012.[97] The book ranked in the top 5 of the New York Times best seller list in October 2012.[98]

Personal life

Relationships

Townshend met Karen Astley, daughter of film composer Edwin Astley, while in art school. They married on 20 May 1968 and moved into a three-bedroom townhouse in Twickenham in outer south-west London that overlooked the Thames. They have three children: Emma (born 1969), who is a gardening columnist, Aminta (born 1971), who works in film production, and Joseph (born 1990), who studied graphic design at Central St. Martins. Townshend and his wife separated in 1994 and divorced in 2009.Townshend currently lives with his long-time girlfriend, musician Rachel Fuller at The Wick, Richmond, London, England. He also owns a house in Churt, Surrey and in 2010 purchased a lease of part of the National Trust property Ashdown House in Oxfordshire both also in England. According to The Sunday Times Rich List his assets were worth £40 million as of 2009.

Sexuality

In a 1989 interview with radio host Timothy White, Townshend apparently acknowledged his bisexuality, referencing the song "Rough Boys" on his 1980 album, Empty Glass. He called the song a "coming out, an acknowledgment of the fact that I'd had a gay life, and that I understood what gay sex was about." However, in a 1994 interview for Playboy, he said, "I did an interview about it, saying that "Rough Boys" was about being gay, and in the interview I also talked about my "gay life," which—I meant—was actually about the friends I've had who are gay. So the interviewer kind of dotted the t's and crossed the i's and assumed that this was a coming out, which it wasn't at all." Townshend later wrote in his 2012 autobiography Who I Am that he at one point felt as if he was "probably bisexual". Townshend also stated jokingly that he once felt sexually attracted to The Rolling Stones lead singer, Mick Jagger.

Hearing loss

Townshend suffers from partial deafness and tinnitus believed to be the result of noise-induced hearing loss from his extensive exposure to loud music. Some such incidents include a Who concert at the Charlton Athletic Football Club, London, on 31 May 1976 that was listed as the "Loudest Concert Ever" by the Guinness Book of Records, where the volume level was measured at 126 decibels 32 metres from the stage. Townshend has also attributed the start of his hearing loss to Keith Moon's famous exploding drum set during the Who's 1967 appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

In 1989, Townshend gave the initial funding to allow the formation of the non-profit hearing advocacy group H.E.A.R. (Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers). After the Who performed at half-time at the Super Bowl XLIV, Townshend stated that he is concerned that his tinnitus has grown to such a point that he might be forced to discontinue performing with the band altogether. He told Rolling Stone, "If my hearing is going to be a problem, we're not delaying shows. We're finished. I can't really see any way around the issue." Neil Young introduced him to an audiologist who suggested he use an in-ear monitor, and although they cancelled their spring 2010 touring schedule, Townshend used the device at their one remaining London concert on 30 March 2010, to ascertain the feasibility of Townshend continuing to perform with the Who.

In March 2011, Roger Daltrey said in an interview with the BBC that Townshend had recently experienced gradual but severe hearing loss and was now trying to save what remained of his hearing: "Pete's having terrible trouble with his hearing. He's got really, really bad problems with it...not tinnitus, it's deterioration and he's seriously now worried about actually losing his hearing."

Referring to that, in July 2011, Townshend wrote at his blog: "My hearing is actually better than ever because after a feedback scare at the indigO2 in December 2008 I am taking good care of it. I have computer systems in my studio that have helped me do my engineering work on the forthcoming Quadrophenia release. I have had assistance from younger forensic engineers and mastering engineers to help me clean up the high frequencies that are out of my range. The same computer systems work wonderfully well on stage, proving to be perfect for me when the Who performed at the Super Bowl and doing Quadrophenia for TCT at the Royal Albert Hall in 2010. I'm 66, I don't have perfect hearing, and if I listen to loud music or go to gigs I do tend to get tinnitus."

Discography

Solo albums

Who Came First (1972) Rough Mix (1977) (with Ronnie Lane) Empty Glass (1980) All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (1982) White City: A Novel (1985) The Iron Man: The Musical by Pete Townshend (1989) Psychoderelict (1993) Townshend also released several albums dedicated to his spiritual mentor Meher Baba, listed on the discography page.

Guest appearances

In 1968 Townshend helped assemble a band called Thunderclap Newman consisting of three musicians he knew. Pianist Andy Newman (an old art school friend), drummer John "Speedy" Keen (who had written "Armenia City in the Sky" for the Who to record for their 1967 album The Who Sell Out) and teenage guitarist Jimmy McCulloch (later to join Wings). Townshend produced the band and played bass on their recordings under the tongue-in-cheek pseudonym "Bijou Drains". Their first recording was the single "Something in the Air", which became a number one hit in the UK and a substantial hit elsewhere in the world. This was the only number one hit in the UK that Townshend performed on. (The Who had none.) Following this success, Townshend produced their sole album, Hollywood Dream.

Townshend also produced "Fire" by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown in 1968 that was No. 1 in the UK and No. 2 in the US and was also an executive-producer on the band's debut album, also called The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.

In 1971 Townshend, along with Keith Moon and Ronnie Lane, backed Mike Heron (of the Incredible String Band) on one song "Warm Heart Pastry" from Heron's first solo LP, Smiling Men with Bad Reputations. On the album notes, they are listed as "Tommy and the Bijoux". Also present on the track was John Cale on viola.

In 1984 Townshend contributed lyrics to the track "I'm the Answer" on his brother Simon's debut solo album Sweet Sound which was released as a single and features Townshend and Simon on an interview that wrongly names that the track was by "Peter Townshend".

In 1984 Townshend contributed lyrics to two songs ("Love on The Air" and "All Lovers are Deranged") on David Gilmour's solo album About Face.

Through much of 2005, Pete Townshend recorded and performed alongside his girlfriend Rachel Fuller, a classically trained pianist and singer-songwriter.

In 2006 Townshend opened a website for implementation of The Lifehouse Method based on his 1971 Lifehouse concept. This website was in collaboration with composer Lawrence Ball and software developer David Snowden, with instrumentation by Steve Hills. Applicants at the website could input data to compose a musical "portrait" which the musical team could then develop into larger compositions for a planned concert or series of concerts.

Other appearances include:

"Because You're Young" with David Bowie on Scary Monsters (1980) Acoustic guitar on "Ball and Chain" with Elton John on Jump Up! (1982) Backing vocals on "I'm the Answer" with Simon Townshend on Sweet Sound (1983) "Lonely at the Top" and "Hard Women" with Mick Jagger on She's the Boss (1985) Guitar on "Town of Plenty" with Elton John on Reg Strikes Back (1988) Acoustic guitar with Prefab Sprout on "Hey Manhattan!" on From Langley Park to Memphis (1988) "Substitute" with The Ramones on Acid Eaters (1993) "Joy" and "Gun" with Mick Jagger on Goddess in the Doorway (2001) "Slow Burn" with David Bowie on Heathen (2002) "Angry" and "Move Over Busker" on Paul McCartney's Press to Play (1986) "Travelator" on Jean Michel Jarre's Electronica 1 - The Time Machine (2015)

Bibliography

The Story of Tommy (1977, Eel Pie Publishing) – with Richard Barnes Horse's Neck (1985, Faber and Faber) – short story collection The Who's Tommy (1993, Pantheon Books) The Who: Maximum R&B (2004, Plexus Publishing) – with Richard Barnes Who I Am (2012, HarperCollins) – autobiography

Awards

BRIT Awards 1983 – Life Achievement Award Tony Award 1993 – Best Original Score (music & lyrics) – The Who's Tommy (tie) Grammy Awards 1994 – Best Musical Show Album (as composer and lyricist of The Who's Tommy) Grammy Awards 2001 – Lifetime Achievement Award Ivor Novello Awards 2001 – Lifetime Achievement Award Honorary doctorate from University of West London, 2010 Classic Album Award for Quadrophenia from the Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards at The Roundhouse, 9 November 2011, London, England International Rock Awards 1991 - Man Of Rock South Bank Show Award 2007 - Lifetime Achievement Award BMI Film & TV Awards 2013 BMI Film & TV Awards 2009 BMI Film & TV Awards 2008 TEC Awards 2013 - Les Paul Award Stevie Ray Vaughn Award 2015

Other lifetime honors

1990 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2005 UK Music Hall of Fame 2008 Kennedy Center Honors


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Pete Townshend's Timeline

1945
May 19, 1945
Chiswick, London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom