THE WHO's PETE TOWNSHEND: 'We Sort Of Invented Heavy Metal'

December 21, 2019

In a new interview with the Toronto Sun, THE WHO guitarist Pete Townshend said that fans shouldn't be surprised that the band's first new album in 13 years, "Who", bears little resemblance to THE WHO in terms of that classic ferocious rock sound. "It doesn't sound like THE WHO from those early heavy metal years," he explained. "We sort of invented heavy metal with [our first live album] 'Live At Leeds' [1970]. We were copied by so many bands, principally by LED ZEPPELIN — you know, heavy drums, heavy bass, heavy lead guitar and some of those bands, like Jimi Hendrix for example, did it far better than we did. CREAM, with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, they came along in '67, same year as Jimi Hendrix, and they kind of stole our mantle in a sense. So people who want to hear that old heavy metal sound, there are plenty of bands that can provide it. So it's not really what we can actually do today. Even if we wanted to, it was never high on my list of wishes."

Townshend told The Pulse Of Radio that THE WHO was among the most versatile bands of its era, and that its musical talent freed him to write material that frequently covered many different genres. "The band THE WHO never gave me a clear brief," he explained. "They never said to me, 'We wanna be a comedy act,' but if I gave them comedy songs, they were brilliant at them. They never said to me, 'We wanna be a girl-friendly band,' but if I gave them a love song, they would do it brilliantly. They never said, 'We want to be a heavy metal group' — if I gave them a heavy metal song, they did it brilliantly. They could do anything — but they never gave me a brief. Where did I get my brief? I got my brief from the audience."

"Who" entered the U.K. chart at position No. 3, becoming the band's highest-charting U.K. LP in 38 years.

"Who" is THE WHO's first set of new material since 2006's "Endless Wire", which debuted at No. 9 in November of that year.

THE WHO's 1981's LP "Face Dances", which also entered the chart at No. 3, peaked at No. 2.

THE WHO has released 12 studio albums and topped the chart just once, with "Who's Next" from September 1971.

THE WHO has one of the greatest rock legacies in music history — they're one of the all-time great live bands, have sold over 100 million records worldwide and scored nine U.S. and 10 U.K. Top Ten albums and 14 U.K. top 10 singles in a career spanning six decades.

Photo credit: Rick Guest / courtesy of NEC Group

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