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The artist The Who's Pete Townshend called a "truly great genius"

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The Who’s Pete Townshend scarcely praises other artists, and it takes an extraordinary talent for the guitarist to recognise their brilliance. His kind words are reserved for a select few, and only a special kind of musician will see Townshend label them a “truly great genius”.

Usually, when Townshend talks about other artists, he’s in a scathing mood and leaves n holds barred. Even Led Zeppelin and The Beatles have been brutally attacked by the guitarist who has also torn apart his own band, The Who. However, one person you won’t find him criticising is Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys.

Wilson is a paid-up member of one of the most exclusive clubs in rock ‘n’ roll, which is made up of musicians who are immune from criticism by Townshend.

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The Who founder has been lauded as the pioneer of the modern concept album with Tommy, yet, Townshend believes Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys and The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band marked the beginning of this trend. “Although neither of them were narrative concepts, they were definitely poetic stories,” Townshend explained. “They were gatherings of images and ideas that added up to a new way of putting songs together. And from that moment on, I think the message was out there: ‘If that’s what you wanna do — do it.'”

On another occasion, Townshend cast his mind back to when he first heard Pet Sounds and explained the transformative effect the album had on the musical landscape. “When Pet Sounds came along, I think really what happened is that for me is the whole world was turned on its head, and I think for a lot of people,” he suggested. “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.”

Additionally, Brian Wilson’s website boasts a quote from Townshend, which labels him a “genius”. It reads: “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.”

Townshend rightly pointed out that he is usually reserved with superlatives when speaking about his peers. However, with Wilson, The Who axeman simply can’t resist waxing lyrical. His admiration for the singer-songwriter is boundless ⁠— even though the intoxicating love affair makes him green with envy at Wilson’s aptitude.

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