Pete Townshend, co-founder of The Who, guitarist, occasional singer, and principal composer, is renowned for having a very honest personality. Over the years, he consistently expressed his genuine opinions about other bands and their music.
One of them is The Rolling Stones, a band that was established just two years before The Who and was a part of the so-called “British Invasion,” during which British bands gained international recognition.
The two bands had the opportunity to encounter each other early on since they began their careers virtually simultaneously, barely a few years apart, and attained recognition around the same time. In the 1960s, The Who frequently opened for The Rolling Stones, and the members of the two bands grew close. Pete Townshend has frequently stated that the band greatly influenced him in his formative years, particularly as a result of their live performances.
In 1989, he had the good fortune to preside over their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and expressed his unbridled admiration for the group in his address.
He said, “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.”
Pete Townshend continued, “The Stones were really what made me wake up. On the Beatles shows there were a lot of screaming girls and 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.”
“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 and 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.”
He has also talked about him seeing the Stones play live for the first time. When Phillip Norman’s history of the Rolling Stones was published in 1984, Pete Townshend did an interview on the band and the book. He remembered the first time he had ever seen them perform live.
“When Phillip Norman’s history of the Rolling Stones was published in 1984, Pete Townshend did an interview on the band and the book. He remembered the first time he had ever seen them perform live.”
“I had fairly long hair and I had seen a lot of things and I thought I was pretty cool. (Then) I saw these (guys) that looked to me like absolute animals in a bunch, going together to get a train at Ealing Broadway Station.”
He added, “I said to my friend: ‘Look at those geezers, look at their hair…’ I was actually quite repulsed and he said ‘That’s The Stones’. Then I knew that they were going to be enormous. They were that much rougher and nastier looking than The Beatles. I first saw them Saat Saint Mary’s Ballroom in Putney.”
“I arrived and we were going to warm up, we were still called The Detours, I think and Keith Moon wasn’t in the band. We were just a small group that used to copy Beatles hits and stuff like that. Jagger came out an he was just gross looking and he was doing the twist. There were two girls looking at him.”
“When they went out to play, Keith Richards immediately did this (The windmill movement), which I immediately copied and have used all my life. That was it, they were the band for me, they always have been and always have been my favorite band.”
Pete Townshend has previously acknowledged how much he loves the Rolling Stones, but Keith Richards cannot make the same claim about The Who. Over the years, the artist has frequently stated that he never really liked the band. He described them as a wild band and referred to Roger Daltrey, the group’s frontman, as “all flash” in an interview he gave to Rolling Stone in 2015.
“I always thought (Roger) Daltrey was all flash. And I love Pete Townshend, but I always thought the Who were a crazy band, anyway. You would say to (Keith) Moon, if you were in a session with him, ‘Just give me a swing,” and he (couldn’t). He was an incredible drummer, but only with Pete Townshend. He could play to Pete like nobody else in the world. But if somebody threw him into a session with somebody else, it was a disaster. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you’ve got that one paintbrush, and you rock it.”
Keith added, “I just was never really interested in that many English rock & roll bands actually, at all. I mean, I usually like guys like Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, and that was before I was even recording. But there was something (about) the Yeses and the Journeys and all them that just left me a bit cold.”
However, the vocalist of the Rolling Stones absolutely loves Pete Townshend.
Pete Townshend is a favorite of the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, who previously described him as an explosive performance in a 1995 Rolling Stone interview. Mick said, “I always loved Pete. He’s very bright, always thinking. He had this insane, rebellious, self-destructive streak. The first time we traveled with him, we were on the same plane going somewhere like Belgium. He got on the plane and got completely drunk in an hour – drunk and crazy. We just watched. But I love Pete. He was an exciting performer in the heyday of the Who.”