Why Pete Townshend Regrets Joining The Who

For many average people, the life of a rock star is the ultimate dream. Fame, riches, adoration, sometimes a stint on a questionable reality TV show — on the surface, it sounds incredibly appealing. Sadly, the rock star life often comes with a range of problems to match the perks, and of a similar magnitude, too.

There’s no denying that musical legends have their share of regrets. From unceremonious exits from beloved bands to ill-advised marriages and other failed ventures, fans’ rock idols are far from immune to errors in judgment. Those missteps, personal and professional, tend to be broadcast for the world to see, to boot.

Pete Townshend, of beloved-yet-troubled rockers The Who, is certainly no exception. As The Who‘s website reports, Townshend was a founding member of the band and was instrumental in defining their sound through the ’60s and ’70s. It seems that in his own eyes, however, one of the biggest mistakes of his career was joining the band in the first place. Why does the iconic guitarist and songwriter think this?

The Who life wasn't all it was cracked up to be

For one thing, the band’s infamous antics weren’t his proudest moments. As he told The Big Issue in 2019, “as the television went through the window, I would look at Keith Moon and go, what a … prat. What a waste of time.” Performing these same acts himself made him feel just the same way, and though he states that he has never regretted destroying instruments (“it is how I got you to listen to me”), hindsight is a powerful thing.

In addition, as he told the one-issue magazine The Who: The Ultimate Music Guide (via Music Feeds), he feels that a solo career would have suited him better. “I am bad at creative collaboration,” he insisted in 2011. Producing and performing by himself would have been a better fit for him, he said, “the way Brian Eno has worked. I would be less physically damaged today. My ears, right wrist and shoulder would work more efficiently.”

Of course, time is a fickle thing, and there’s no telling how a potentially Townshend-free The Who might have panned out. Whether less efficient ears and shoulders were a fair trade for giving the world “My Generation” and many more beloved hits is up for debate, too. He certainly did struggle during his time with the group, though: according to Peter Frampton (per NME), Townshend once asked him to take his role in the band. Frampton responded incredulously, “three men couldn’t fill his shoes.”

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