Pete Townshend is never short of an opinion, nor has he ever been one to mince his words. The Who guitarist has also completed the obnoxious stance, never really caring about anyone else’s opinion—it’s why he has never had any issue with his band being branded ‘sell-outs’. Perhaps it should come as no surprise considering they titled their 1967 album The Who Sell Out.
The tongue in cheek title name for the record was the band’s way of letting people know early doors that they were not ones to take themselves too seriously. Filling the album cover with magazine-style ads as well as radio-style jingles throughout the record, the theme of the album was influenced intended to poke fun at people who had tried to ridicule the band for doing commercials during this period.
Townshend, who is the band’s chief songwriter, has received a barrage of abuse in more recent decades from some quarters of the rock ‘n’ roll world for allowing Who songs to be used on a wide-spread of adverts. The material has been plastered across our screens promoting products ranging from Nissan cars to T-Mobile subscriptions and the band couldn’t care less. The criticism has fallen on deaf ears as Townshend continues to laugh off the rock ideals forced upon him.
In an interview with Rolling Stone last year, Townshend explained that the band were ripped off for the twenty years of their career and if they make up for that by so called ‘selling-out’ then that’s absolutely fine by him. “I never gave a shit,” says Townshend.
“I’ve always said the composer is king. It’s my music, not yours,” he added. Detailing further, Townshend went on to explain how little he cared about the opinions of other musicians and his commercial exploits. “I knew that in the end, they would be doing the same thing,” says Townshend.
He then took a swipe at his contemporaries who might have looked down at his artistry: “One other difference between me and the Lou Reed and Iggy Pop smart-alecks of the New York art scene is that I fucking saw the internet coming. I knew music was going down the tubes, and they didn’t.”
In 2012, Townshend made the bold move to sell his entire back catalogue of material which industry experts estimated to have earned the songwriter somewhere between $70-100 million dollars. The move was perhaps a tremendous foresight, allowing him to sell-up just before streaming took over completely and the money which was to be made from music suddenly dramatically diminished.
Undoubtedly, there are probably a few artists out there who secretly wish they did the same.