Pete Townshend Is Happy to Live Off His Past
The Who guitarist Pete Townshend said he was comfortable to “cash in” on his past and added that he didn’t tour for the enjoyment of the experience.
He and singer Roger Daltrey recently announced an extended version of the band's 1967 album The Who Sell Out, which contains 46 previously unheard songs and a total of 112 tracks.
Asked in a recent interview how he dealt with the contrast between working on new projects and marking band anniversaries, Townshend told Uncut: “I cash in on my past! I live off it. If I tour with Roger, I make a bit of money, but I don’t do it because I love it. I do it because it keeps interest in the past. It leads us to a new audience sometimes.”
He noted that "the past is something I’m very, very proud of. I’m amazed at how much I achieved in the first five or six years of the Who’s career. At the same time, I’m not amazed or surprised that I eventually ran out of steam. I think it was very difficult when [drummer] Keith Moon died and when Kit Lambert, who was my friend and mentor and manager, died, which was all in the late ’70s and early ’80s. But I look back and just feel very lucky to have a catalog that people are still interested in.”
Townshend, now 75, was also asked to look back at the 1967 version of himself. “I was still growing,” he said. “A lot of people that talk to me about smashing guitars, for example, will say, ‘Oh, you must’ve been an angry young man.’ … I don’t think I was angry. I had a lovely girlfriend, good friends from art college and I had my own social circle, a very supportive bunch. So I felt okay about myself. I had an early friendship with a couple of other artists that I really liked. David Bowie was starting to emerge around that time, and he was a real friend. The [Rolling] Stones were friends of mine. In ’67, I was still seeing a lot of Brian Jones and hanging out with him.”
The guitarist also reflected on some of the reasons why the Who made relatively few albums throughout their career. “I think it was partly because I was the main writer, but we were also touring so much," Townshend explained. " I know that’s true of a lot of artists, but the way that I write is not with the band. I tend to write at home, which The Who Sell Out is a good testament to, because it’s got all the demos on, and you can see how I gathered material.”