Pete Townshend Reveals His Favorite Punk Album
Pete Townshend - Radio X / Youtube
Pete Townshend, a co-founder of The Who, serving as the guitarist, primary songwriter, and occasional vocalist, stands as one of the most iconic figures in the history of music.
He consistently sought to explore and incorporate various musical genres, including Punk Rock, which emerged in the mid-1970s and caused a seismic shift in the music industry, reshaping its direction.
Whether overtly acknowledged or not, most punk bands drew inspiration from the influential mod pioneers. Tracks like “I Can See For Miles” and their live rendition of “Summertime Blues” undeniably paved the way for the emergence of punk music. Townshend may not have been the godfather of punk, but he was undeniably close.
In a 1979 radio interview, the Almost-Godfather of Punk revealed his thoughts about the genre and the punk period of music and even candidly revealed his favorite record, Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks.
“Pretty Vacant”… is like a modern “My Generation”
“My favorite album of the period (of Punk) was the Sex Pistols album, which was produced by Chris Thomas, Never Mind The Bollocks. I think ‘Pretty Vacant’, that track ‘we’re so pretty…we’re so pretty, vacant…’, I think is like a modern ‘My Generation’ (The Who song), really,” Townshend shared.
The guitar legend observed that the song wasn’t as overt as their hit “My Generation” but rather embodied a similar essence. He went on to note the remarkable intensity and disorderliness of the concerts, particularly during the initial six months of the movement.
This period featured bands like The Clash, The Vibrators, and Townshend’s favorite, the Sex Pistols, who were embroiled in so much chaos that they couldn’t even perform in public, necessitating their participation in unannounced shows.
“Consequently, there is very, very few people who ever saw them appear,” Townshend added. “I never saw them appear. But I saw several other bands. I used to go to clubs and stand and get insulted. Just stand there and just endure these snotty little kids saying ‘boring old fart!’ (laughs).”
Townshend thinks Sex Pistols were “the most significant”
In another interview, in 1995 with Time, Townshend remarked that having three exceptional artists like The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and Elvis Costello fall under the umbrella of punk highlighted the limitations of categorization.
He noted that during that era, there was a growing need for a new cultural wave, and there was an expectation that a single band, much like what happened with The Beatles, would lead this charge. However, it ultimately turned out to be not just one band but rather a multitude of bands.
“The Sex Pistols were obviously the most significant because they were the first and because (Malcolm) McLaren was organizing them and allowing their anarchy. He gave them the space to play, the space to be anarchic,” the guitarist commented.
Townshend also praised the musical abilities of Paul Cook and Steve Jones in the band, asserting that despite their claims of not being able to play, they were, in fact, skilled rock and roll musicians. He reserved special acclaim for John Lydon, describing him as an extraordinary talent and a star as he exclaimed, “You know, he is a star! He is just one of the world stars. You see him and you know: ‘He is going to be famous’.”
Lydon was Pete’s first choice for the movie Quadrophenia
Interestingly, Tonwshend’s adoration for Lydon goes beyond music. He once wanted him to play a starring role in the film adaptation of their highly-praised rock opera, Quadrophenia.
Five years later after unveiling their iconic album, in 1979, Quadrophenia was adapted into a film directed by Franc Roddam, featuring actor Phil Daniels in a starring role. Interestingly, as Pete Townshend disclosed to Music News in 2011, his initial preference for that role was actually John Lydon.
“knew him as he’d been using my studio in Soho, what a f*cking diamond. So smart but unfortunately we went out with the director. Johnny Rotten liked to drink and so did I. We went out and got pissed. I drove my car the wrong way around a roundabout. We went to Camden Palais together and I got stopped by the police and they hauled us out.”
Townshend added that he believed Lydon chose not to take the role, and he expressed that it wasn’t due to their influence. Townshend personally wanted the Sex Pistols frontman for his intense personality. ”He could have been good,” the guitarist lamented.