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Music

The guitarist Pete Townshend wanted to replace him in The Who

@josephtaysom

Pete Townshend’s relationship with The Who is a complex one. On the one hand, it was his band and without him, they’d collapse. However, there have been copious times of hardship too and, once upon a time, he very nearly recruited Pete Frampton as his replacement.

The incident occurred during the 1980s when The Who were flying high while Frampton was down and out. It was the mid-70s when the latter became a sensation. However, his time in the sun didn’t last forever, and Frampton soon found himself out in the cold. Then, an offer came through out of nowhere to join one of the most successful bands in rock.

After the demise of his band Humble Pie, Frampton went solo, and after a few years of releasing at a prolific rate, his live album, Frampton Comes Alive!, took him to the stratosphere. Remarkably, the LP spent ten non-consecutive weeks on the Billboard 200 and, to date, has sold an estimated 11 million copies worldwide.

However, Frampton failed to replicate the record’s success, and his 1982 album The Art Of Control peaked at 174 on the same chart. It was a dramatic change of fortunes and difficult for him to take. He expected to be a star forever, but instead, the guitarist found himself back at square one.

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“My career was in the toilet, basically. I can’t afford the mortgage; it’s not looking good,” Frampton wrote in his memoirs. “I was in the kitchen one day and I got a phone call from Pete Townshend. I love Pete. We’ve known each other for a long time. I wouldn’t say we’re close friends, but we have a mutual respect. So I get this call from England. ‘Hey, Pete, it’s Townshend here, Pete Townshend.’ Oh, blimey, how are you? Long time”.

He added: “He said, ‘Yeah, so I’ve made this decision that I’m not going to tour with the Who anymore. I’ll still write the songs, but I want you to take my place, and . . .’ Wait, what? I remember the first thing that I said — when he paused — I said, ‘That’s an enormous pair of shoes to fill! I can’t do that.’ He said, ‘Yes, you can. I’ll be there with you.”

Although he was slightly frightened by taking on such a prestigious role, Frampton wasn’t in a position to be picky and was ready to jump into it with every fibre of his being. Unfortunately for him, Townshend had a change of heart and realised he didn’t want to leave The Who after all. Although he promised Frampton he’d inform the rest of the band the following day, Townshend couldn’t bring himself to depart the group, and Frampton was left agonisingly waiting.

Three weeks later, Frampton eventually managed to track him down while Townshend was working in a London studio. “I said, ‘You haven’t called me back in three weeks! I got nothing going on in my career and the inventor of the Who—the songwriter, and the major player in the Who—calls me up and offers me his position in the band and then doesn’t call me back!'”

He continued: “‘You’ve left me hanging.’ He said, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry.’ I’ve never heard Townshend like that before. I had to make him understand, hey, you fucked me up for three weeks here; it’s not been a good three weeks for me. He apologised profusely saying, ‘I’m so sorry, I should never have done that.'”

In the end, Townshend made the right decision by staying in The Who, and without him, they would have likely fallen apart. Furthermore, Frampton’s career was soon saved by his old-school friend, David Bowie, who recruited him to his band, and everyone was a winner.

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