The Who co-founder, guitarist, sometimes singer and main songwriter Pete Townshend is also known for being a very sincere person. Over the decades he always shared his real thoughts on other bands and their music.
One of them is The Rolling Stones, group that was formed only two years before The Who and were also part of the so called “British Invasion”, when groups from the United Kingdom became known worldwide.
What is Pete Townshend’s opinion on The Rolling Stones
Since the two bands started their careers almost together, only a few years apart and also achieved fame during the same period, they had the chance to meet each other already in the early days. The Who was The Rolling Stones’ opening act several times in the 60s and the members of the the two groups became good friends. Townshend always said that the group was a huge influence to him in the early days, especially because of their live shows.
“Keith Richards once told me that I think too much. The truth is that I think that generally I talk to much. But I don’t think first. Faced with injecting the Rolling Stones this evening I realized that thinking is not going to help me very much.”
“I can’t analyze what I feel about the Stones because I am a really absolute Stones fan, always have. They early shows were just shocking. Absolutely riveting, stunning, moving and they changed my life completely. The Beatles were fun, no doubt about that. I’m talking about they’re live shows. I’m demeaning them in any way.”
Pete Townshend continued:
“The Stones were really what made me wake up. On the Beatles shows there were a lot of screaming girls and at The Stones were the first to have a screaming boy. The sheer force of the Stones on stage and that perfectly balanced audience: 1000 girls and me (laughs). It kind of singled them out.”
“They are the only group that I’ve ever really been unashamed about idolizing. So much of what I am I got from you, The Stones and I had no idea most of it was already secondhand (Laughs). No more gags, the Stones are the greatest for me. They epitomize British Rock for me. Even though they are now my friends, I’m still a fan.”
Also during the speech, the musician made a lot of jokes. Including saying that The Stones ripped-off many Rhythm and Blues artists.
The first time he saw the Stones playing live
Back in 1984, when a Rolling Stones biography was released by Phillip Norman, Pete Townshend gave an interview (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) talking about the band and the book. He recalled when was the first time he ever saw them playing live.
“I remember seeing the Stones when I was still at art college. It must have been 1962, 1963. They were going to rehearse (there). They had obviously been formed a couple of months before and I was an art student.”
“I had fairly long hair and I had seen a lot of things and I thought I was pretty cool. (Then) I saw these (guys) that looked to me like absolute animals in a bunch, going together to get a train at Ealing Broadway Station.”
Pete Townshend said:
“I said to my friend: ‘Look at those geezers, look at their hair…’ I was actually quite repulsed and he said ‘That’s The Stones’. Then I knew that they were going to be enormous. They were that much rougher and nastier looking than The Beatles. I first saw them Saat Saint Mary’s Ballroom in Putney.”
“I arrived and we were going to warm up, we were still called The Detours, I think and Keith Moon wasn’t in the band. We were just a small group that used to copy Beatles hits and stuff like that. Jagger came out an he was just gross looking and he was doing the twist. There were two girls looking at him.”
“When they went out to play, Keith Richards immediately did this (The windmill movement), which I immediately copied and have used all my life. That was it, they were the band for me, they always have been and always have been my favorite band,” Pete Townshend said.
The main difference between The Rolling Stones and The Beatles according to Pete Townshend
The Beatles and The Stones are the two of the most influential and successful British Rock and Roll groups of all time that appeared in the 60s. At the time music fans created a rivalry between the two groups and in an interview with Time back in 1995 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), Pete Townshend explained the main difference between the groups.
“They (The Beatles) really refreshed but also dignified (music), you know. They refreshed in the traditional pop thing they came along. So they really excited everybody but there was also a tremendous dignifying going on. They allowed people who were in Pop bands to feel they were more than just Pop stars in the tradition of the cut out figures of the 50s, who were very much just teen idols.”
“It meant that a band like The Who could happen, you know. It meant that I could be a Pop star, because what it meant is that you didn’t need people who had the kind of Latin good looks that had been a requirement up to that point. (…) I think because I saw The Stones before I saw The Beatles. The first time I saw The Beatles play live as when The Who actually supported them on a tour. I actually saw The Stones that way too. But I saw The Stones first.”
Pete Townshend continued:
“I was just blown away by them. I think blown away by everything about the band. By how wild they looked, but how friendly they were. (Also) by how eroticly charged everything around them was. It was really between Jagger and Brian Jones at the time. Brian Jones was very beautiful looking for the time.”
“Jagger was just this kind of gorky body, you know. They used to fight one another for the attention of the audience and I suppose it was my male response to that eroticism that actually suprised me. You know, it wasn’t me looking at a bunch of screaming girls, (it was) thinking ‘how the fuck do they do it?’. Which was definitely something I used to think when I used to go see somebody like Screaming Lord Sutch or Johnny Kidd & The Pirates. (…) I started to get into that loop. So I was seeing a girl at art school at the time who was just crazy about Charlie Watts, you know.”
“I used to look at him and kind of say, ‘well, it’s funny looking, you know’. In terms of that whole thing of my preconception of the way people had to look. She was actually with me, I wasn’t making that judgement. I was judging the fact that she liked Charlie Watts. She just said: ‘But Pete, he is the most beautiful man on the earth’. So values change, what we were taught male appearance should be about was changing.”
“The Stones were very much a part of that. They were in my neighbourhood. It was differente with The Beatles, they’d come Liverpool. So that was different and I was very much involved in it. I saw them a lot and they used to play the Ealing Club, I was at Ealing art school. I used to see them coming off the train and going to the show with their guitars and stuff. We were listening to exactly the same music, the exactly same Blues records.”
“I mean, precisely the same. So the empathy was complete. But the difference between the two bands was not as much as I think looking back as I think I tought at the time. I think that both bands, I’ve tended to kind of pull bands apart. I think they were very, very close together. Their function was to destabilize the Rock industry,” Pete Townshend said.
Keith Richards was never a big fan of The Who
Even though Pete Townshend already admited he is a huge Rolling Stones fan, Keith Richards can’t say the same about The Who. The artist said many times over the decades that he never was a huge fan of the group. In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2015, he called them a crazy band and said that the group’s vocalist Roger Daltrey was “all flash”.
“I always thought (Roger) Daltrey was all flash. And I love Pete Townshend, but I always thought the Who were a crazy band, anyway. You would say to (Keith) Moon, if you were in a session with him, ‘Just give me a swing,” and he (couldn’t). He was an incredible drummer, but only with Pete Townshend. He could play to Pete like nobody else in the world. But if somebody threw him into a session with somebody else, it was a disaster. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you’ve got that one paintbrush, and you rock it.”
Keith Richards continued:
“I just was never really interested in that many English rock & roll bands actually, at all. I mean, I usually like guys like Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, and that was before I was even recording. But there was something (about) the Yeses and the Journeys and all them that just left me a bit cold,” Keith Richards said.
Mick Jagger likes Pete Townshend
The Rolling Stones vocalist Mick Jagger also likes Pete Townshend and said once in an interview with with Rolling Stone in 1995 that he was an exciting performer.
“I always loved Pete. He’s very bright, always thinking. He had this insane, rebellious, self-destructive streak. The first time we traveled with him, we were on the same plane going somewhere like Belgium. He got on the plane and got completely drunk in an hour – drunk and crazy. We just watched. But I love Pete. He was an exciting performer in the heyday of the Who,” Mick Jagger said.
Curiously, Pete Townshend said in his autobiography “Who I Am” released in 2012, that Mick Jagger was the only man he wanted to have sex with. “Mick is the only man I’ve ever seriously wanted to fuck,” Pete Townshend said.