The Who’s guitarist, Pete Townshend was a revolutionary member of the rock scene. The wheeling image of Townshend thrashing his guitar and then smashing it into smithereens is rightly emblazoned upon the annals of music history forevermore. One of the finest guitarists of his generation, Townshend was never one for noodling solos or virtuosos playing, he was all about the feeling of freedom the guitar gave him. If there was one song to typify the guitarist’s power, it would have to be ‘My Generation’.
Below, we’re checking out Townshend’s unique playing style as we revisit an iconic live show and his isolated guitar. The event saw The Who provide the Leeds crowd with a night they’d never forget, the highlight of which was, undoubtedly, their riveting performance of ‘My Generation’, a song driven entirely by Townshend’s fearsome performance and vision.
Right off the bat with The Who, Townshend proved to be a formidable force in the songwriting department. His talent culminated in a cross-section between pure creative energy, musical intuition, and when to play and most importantly, when not to play. On the novelty side, Townshend is famous for smashing his guitar on stage, which became an instant signature move for the band that enthralled fans.
The first time he did this was by sheer accident. Townshend recalls this life-changing moment in an interview with Rolling Stone: “It happened by complete accident the first time. We were just kicking around in a club which we played every Tuesday and I was playing the guitar and it hit the ceiling. It broke and it kind of shocked me ’cause I wasn’t ready for it to go. I didn’t particularly want it to go but it went.”
It is important to note just how significantly Townshend’s stage antics influenced his literal guitar playing, to the point where it influenced his playing style. His minimalist approach was further developed from his notion that “‘all right, you’re not capable of doing it musically, you’ve got to do it visually,’ I became a huge, visual thing. In fact, I forgot all about the guitar because my visual thing was more my music than the actual guitar,” Townshend also said in Rolling Stone.
The culmination of these two facets come to a head on the isolated guitar track below. Lifted from Townshend and The Who’s legendary show in Leeds, captured in their iconic Live At Leeds album, the song ‘My Generation’ is a moment that every single member of the rock and roll set can enjoy. When isolating Townshend’s guitar, we get a heaving reminder of his fearsome drive and uncompromising power.
Listen below to Pete Townshend’s isolated guitar for The Who’s performance of ‘My Generation’.