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Brian May’s opinion on The Who and Pete Townshend

Brian May


Brian May’s opinion on The Who and Pete Townshend

The legendary Queen guitarist Brian May started his musical career in 1963, helped his father to built his indistinguishable guitar “The Red Special” and conquered the world with Queen, alongside Freddie Mercury, John Deacon and Roger Taylor. The band have sold an estimated amount of 250 to 300 million records worldwide and influenced countless generations of groups overtime.


Over the decades the musician talked about many of his peers, giving his opinion on many other band. One of them is The Who, originally formed by Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Keith Moon and John Entwistle.

Brian May’s opinion on The Who and Pete Townshend

Already a grown man in the late 60s, Brian May had the opportunity to see many classic British bands live in concert before he helped to create Queen and became a rock star himself. One of those groups was The Who, that he watched many times alongside his friend and future bandmate at the time Roger Taylor.

In an interview with BBC radio 2 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) in 2019, Brian May talked about the year of 1969, when he was 22. One of the high points of that year according to him, was to go and see The Who playing live.

“They came from Shepherd’s Bush. Very much a local phenomenon for us and we used to go and see them. Rog(er Taylor) and me. It was about the most dangerous concert you could ever go to. Because you never knew if they would turn up, to start with.”

Brian May continued:

“And when they did turn up it was mayhem let loose. It was just so loud, dangerous and anarchic, I guess. This was long before Punk. So I think The Who kind of wrote the recipe for Punk, if you like. So they played local to us and we went to see them a lot. We followed them, we loved them. They ripped out the rulebook,” Brian May said.

Only a few decades later, Brian May had the chance to share the stage with the legendary The Who vocalist Roger Daltrey. The frontman was invited to sing the track “I Want It All” at Freddie Mercury‘s tribute concert at the Wembley Stadium in 1992. Also performed the song alongside Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor, the influential Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi.

But, it wasn’t the first time that he played on stage with a The Who member. As Brian May’s official website recalled, back in June 22, 1985, he had the opportunity to play with Eddie Van Halen and the late bassist John Entwistle at a New Orleans night club, Louisiana, United States.

He said Pete Townshend is a “God of Guitar”

Back in 2020, Brian May was elected in a poll of readers of Guitar World the best guitarist of all time. In an interview with the magazine, he thanked the fans for the votes but also paid tribute to his colleagues and praised many of them. Including The Who’s co-founder, main songwriter, guitarist and sometimes singer Pete Townshend.

He said that before names Townshend, Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck electric guitars were designed not to feed back and they changed that. He also said that the musician is a “God of Guitar”.

“Previously (ironically) electric guitars had been designed not to feed back. But in the hands of Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend and Jimi Hendrix, they were forced to! My Dad had the technical knowledge and skills to make the dream come true.”

Also in an interview with Total Guitar in 2023, he said he owed a lot to Pete Townshend. “We (Queen) wanted to take people off into the stratosphere. It’s always been that way with us. We were inspired by our heroes to do that, and I put The Who way up top of that list. Pete Townshend is the master of mood change, a master of the suspended chord. I owe so much to him.”

Brian May continued:

“(…) That was the whole kind of principle of the early electric guitar. So that you could amplify it on the stage and it wouldn’t feed back. So I’d seen feedback. I’d seen Pete Townshend – again, wow! Pete Townshend’s a god of guitar and always will be! I’d seen him stand there and let the guitar explode into life on its own,” Brian May said.

Back in 2003 in an interview, he even compared the part of the track “I Want It All”, where he duets with Freddie, to a kind of thing that Pete Townshend used to do in The Who. “Interesting, I wrote myself a bit in the middle. I can’t remember quite why that was. It’s a very sort of Pete Townshend thing to do, isn’t it? But it made a nice little kind of duet in the middle. A bit of spying between me and Freddie, and I know he enjoyed that,” Brian May said.

Curiously, that track was never performed live with Freddie Mercury on vocals. The first time was with Roger Daltrey at the tribute concert in 1992.

The first time he saw Jimi Hendrix, the American guitarist was opening for The Who

Another curious fact involving Brian May and The Who, is that the first time he had the chance to watch the late legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix live in concert was when he was opening for The Who. The show happened at the Savoy Theatre in London and he recalled that experience in a conversation with Guitar Player magazine in 1983.

“I heard him play on a single of “Hey Joe”. On the flip side there’s an amazing solo on ‘Stone Free’, where he’s talking to the guitar and it’s talking back to him. I thought, ‘Well, he can’t really be that good. He must have done that with studio technique’.”

“Then when I saw him for the first time supporting the Who at the Savoy Theatre in London. He just completely blew me away. I thought, ‘He’s it’. The Who couldn’t follow him in those days, and they were really hot, big news in England. Anybody in the world would find it hard to follow Hendrix,” Brian May said.

I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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