The guitarist, singer and songwriter Pete Townshend started his career in 1962 and had the chance to see the evolution of Rock and Roll music up-close. As the main writer in The Who, the musician helped the band alongside his bandmates Keith Moon, Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle to become one of the biggest bands from the United Kingdom in the 60s and 70s.
Their legacy continues to be important and influential to this day and they are one of the best-selling bands of all time with an estimated amount of more than 100 million records sold worldwide.
For countless fans all over the world they are the best band that ever existed, but for Pete Townshend there is a group that no one can top. He once said that there is one band that started in the early 60s that is the “greatest” one.
The band that Pete Townshend called the greatest
Pete Townshend is not only known for his musical talent but also for being a very sincere person. He never was afraid to criticize acts he didn’t like or to praise the ones he love. So it’s really easy to believe that he really means when he calls a group the “greatest one”.
The Who was part of the so called “British Invasion”, when groups from the UK caused a revolution in Rock and Roll in the 60s, conquering the United States market and also reaching the rest of the world. But there were a few groups that managed to get overseas before them. One was The Rolling Stones that for Townshend are the greatest ones.
They were formed in 1962, two years before The Who and Townshend was always a huge fan of the group. His group was invited by The Stones to be their opening act in the early 60s many times, what made him a good friend of the members of the group.
So he was lucky enough to have seen them playing in the early days before they achieved global fame. Many decades later, he was the one who inducted them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and it was when he said they were the greatest group that ever existed.
In his speech, during the 1989 ceremony, Townshend said (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage): “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.”
“The Stones were really what made me wake up. On the Beatles shows there were a lot of screaming girls. 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.”
Pete Townshend continued:
“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. 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,” Pete Townshend said.
His “windmill” guitar move was inspired by Keith Richards
Pete Townshend was one of the earliest guitar heroes in Rock and Roll and many of his moves and stage presence served as inspiration for future generations of musicians. One of the most famous ones is the “windmill” guitar move that became one of his trademarks. Curiously, he first got that idea watching Keith Richards playing with the Rolling Stones in the early 60s when The Who was their opening act.
He recalled that in an interview with David Letterman in 2012. “(We) supported the Stones for two shows. They were young, they were brand new and they had one hit, with a Chuck Berry song called ‘Come On.’ I met them back stage and they were all very charming.”
“As the curtain opened, Keith Richards is doing this (The windmill move). I was thinking, ‘Wow, that’s so cool!’ I thought it was part of his ‘thing.’ A couple of weeks later, we supported them again in a club in south London. I’m watching carefully, waiting, and he didn’t do it.”
He then went to ask Richards why he didn’t do it and “He went, ‘What?!’ I can’t tell you what exactly what he said. But the inference was, ‘I’m Keith Richards. Do you really think I’m gonna do ballet?’ That was the inference,” Pete Townshend said.
Just like The Who, The Rolling Stones are one of the few British bands from the 60s that are still active touring and creating new music with some original members. They also are one of the best-selling bands of all time with an estimated amount of more than 200 million records sold worldwide.