The Who’s Pete Townshend has had plenty of gushing words to say about Bob Dylan over the decades. His respect for the freewheelin’ troubadour continues to be sky-high, although the time he finds in his life to dedicate to Dylan decreases every passing year.
“Dylan definitely created a new style of writing,” Townshend once said during an interview with Rolling Stone. “Dylan was the one who I think got the message across to The Beatles, that you could write songs about subjects other than falling in love,” he added.
Whether consciously or not, The Who guitarist has been inspired on a level by Dylan in a songwriting sense. However, while he still retains a soft spot towards the singer-songwriter, he is no longer on regular rotation in Chateaux Townshend.
His 2020 album, Rough & Rowdy Ways, was triumphant in every imaginable way. Dylan’s transcendent faculties haven’t wavered despite entering his autumnal years, but rather they have elegantly matured. However, the album wasn’t of any interest to Townshend, who instead gets his kicks from scouring the internet to unearth newer artists who get his pulse racing.
“I tried to listen to it, but my interest in other people’s deep journeys into self is a bit limited,” he told Uncut when asked for his thoughts on Dylan’s most recent record. “I’m a bit like Elton John in that respect: I’m more interested in what new, younger artists are doing,” he added.
Townshend continued, “I find the music world at the moment just overwhelmingly, fantastically wonderful. I’m not even that interested in Rod Stewart’s Christmas album, or even the Who album, to be honest. I’m kind of more interested in finding something amazing on Bandcamp”.
Rather than listening to the latest offerings from fellow giants of the 1960s, funk and jazz extraordinaire Thundercat is who Townshend would prefer to spend his days listening to. “I’ve been going back to [It Is What It is], which I just love. I think it’s so absolutely incredible, kind of like Sgt. Pepper – so that’s been an obsession,” he said about the bassist.
Townshend is a musician who prefers to seek out the freshest, most innovative new voices of the moment, and this personal trait is largely commendable. While he’s missing out by failing to connect with Rough & Rowdy Ways, the benefits of this progressive mindset vastly outweigh the negatives.
It’s refreshing to find an artist from the classic era of rock music still with a fervent interest in discovering new, exciting talent rather than pining for the past and disregarding the current crop of musicians as inferior. However, Dylan is still operating on a mind-blowing level, and there’s mountains worth of inspiration to be uncovered within the majestic Rough & Rowdy Ways if only Townshend would persevere.