Pete Townshend was born in Chiswick, Middlesex, England back in 1945 and started his musical career in 1962, helping to form The Who two years later. The band quickly became part of the so called British Invasion, when bands from the United Kingdom conquered the world being played in radio stations overseas and selling million of records worldwide.
During the past five decades, Townshend continues to be the band’s main songwriter, guitarist and sometimes singer alongside his bandmate Roger Daltrey. During his career, the guitar player talked about many of his peers and even mentioned an American musician that in his opinion is a “great genius”.
The musician that Pete Townshend said is a great genius
Since Rock and Roll’s birth, not every band shared equally the songwriting duties as many fans might imagine. There are musicians who prefers to write the lyrics and others like to focus more on the melody, for example. But some groups are known for having a creative leader, which is the case of The Who. Since they always had Pete Townshend as their main songwriter.
“I love Brian. There’s not many people I would say that about. I think he’s a truly, truly, truly great genius. I love him so much it’s just terrible. And I find it hard to live with.’God Only Knows’ is simple and elegant. Was stunning when it first appeared. It still sounds perfect,” Pete Townshend said on Wilson’s website.
How Pete Townshend reacted when he first heard “Pet Sounds”
The Beach Boys was formed in 1961, one year before The Who. They quickly became one of the most sucessful American bands of that era. But it all changed when Brian Wilson decided to take the band one step further. He made them forget about the Surf Rock sound and was the mastermind behind the groundbreaking album “Pet Sounds”, released in 1966.
In an interview from the early 00s, available on Youtube, The Who’s guitarist revealed that “Pet Sounds” was a huge influence to him.
“(Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) When ‘Pet Sounds’ came along I think really what happened is that for me the whole world was turned on it’s head. I think for a lot of people, certainly for The Beatles. The thing about Brian’s work was that he was writing with the band and voices that were part of his canvas,” Pete Townshend said.
Curiously, even before that album was released, The Who had already covered a Beach Boys song. Their version for the track “Barbara Ann” was featured on their EP “Ready Steady Who” (1966). One of the main reasons why they re-recorded that track is because their late drummer Keith Moon was a huge fan of the American group. The Beach Boys member Mike Love even said already that Moon asked them to join them when he was already a member of The Who.
For Townshend, The Beach Boys influenced The Beatles
For Pete Townshend, The Beach Boys groundbreaking record “Pet Sounds” was the main influence that The Beatles needed to make “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967). The musician said that in an interview released on the 1998 CD “Who Am I: A Conversation” and also recalled how the British bands were important. Especially to show the American groups what they could do with their own music.
“(Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage) Brian was a proper composer, a sonic producer with only one good ear. (He) produced this extraordinary sound. (…) The fact of the matter is that (Brian Wilson and others) I was influenced by when I was much younger, for me restored the true connection, the true route to of Rock and Roll. Rerouting in it’s original territory which is the USA.”
“This is not about patriotism. What we did in England was brilliant. We showed America a lot of things about their music that they didn’t know until we showed to them. We didn’t invented it. What made America the rich fertile ground was of course the fact that it was a multi-racial open society. All kinds of music gathered there. That’s what was required to produce pure Pop music.”
“How could a song written by a young Jewish boy, or a young kid on a beach, or a young chinese kid from somewhere sell in every country in the world? We all have different melodic scales that we group up with. Our parents sing us different lullabies. It has to be universal, it has to be simple because it’s universal. It has to have the essence of something we carry in all of us.”
“What was so wonderful about that period of American Pop for me, of course, ‘Sgt. Pepper’ followed ‘Pet Sounds’. And of course, ‘Tommy’ followed ‘Sgt. Pepper’. Those approaches to the whole business that made that period of the 60s, 61, 62, 63, 64. By the time we’ve got to 1964, I knew what I was dealing with. I knew what my job was, I could describe a Pop song. I knew what Pop music was, I knew what was for. And I knew it would f*cking last forever,” Pete Townshend said.