The Who’s Pete Townshend is gifted with genius capabilities, as a songwriter, guitarist and especially as a gobshite. Townshend has opened his mouth to deliver outspoken opinions about why he dislikes almost every fellow rock ‘n’ roll legend. Still, his reason for Jimi Hendrix might be the most beautifully petty reason he’s ever provided for holding disdain.
It didn’t take long for the American to quickly become the talk of London Town after landing on British shores amid the swinging sixties, blowing away every soul who were fortunate to witness his greatness during a short stint on the club circuits before graduating on to the world stage. As The Who began to taste the highs of fame, Townshend and Hendrix’s paths rarely crossed. That said, the Brit still vividly remembers his first experience in the presence of the greatest ever to pick up a guitar. Although he was in total awe of Hendrix — Townshend characteristically still found a bone to pick.
“Well, that was a cosmic experience,” he admiringly told Rolling Stone in 2019. “It was at Blazes, the nightclub in London. He was pretty amazing. Now I think you have to have seen Jimi Hendrix to understand what he was really about.”
“He was a wonderful player,” Townshend uncharacteristically noted. “He wasn’t a great singer but he had a beautiful voice. A smokey voice, a really sexy voice… When you saw him in the live arena he was like a shaman. It’s the only word I can use. I don’t know if it’s the right term. Light seemed to come out of him. He would walk onstage and suddenly he would explode into light. He was very graceful.”
Townshend continued: “I met him, of course, because he was on our record label. He’d come to the studio. He came with his manager Chas Chandler who was the bass player of The Animals. Chas had left and gone into management, discovered Jimi Hendrix, put a band together. When I’ve seen him in the studio, he had this military jacket that I suppose was supposed to evoke the hippy era. It was covered in dust and dandruff. It just looked scruffy. I thought, ‘Well, this guy might turn out to be okay.”
Now all Townshend’s love for Hendrix is over and done with, let’s get stuck into the gripe that the guitarist managed to find with him. “What I did for Jimi – which I always regretted doing for Jimi,” he recalled to Ultimate Classic Rock Radio. “His manager brought him to meet me at a recording studio when he first arrived, and he asked me what equipment to buy. I told him that I’d been using a mixture of an amplifier called Sound City. Which was a Marshall substitute, with a Marshall, to get this really kind of slabby sound.”
“Then, a couple of weeks later, we did a show with him at the Saville Theatre with him allegedly supporting us,” recalled Townshend, “I wish I’d never given him the tip! I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, this guy’s brilliant enough without being a thousand watts loud.'”
Townshend’s dislike for Hendrix came solely down to jealousy, and his open nature about this is nothing short of admirable. If it weren’t for Hendrix’s endless talent, then the mastermind behind The Who wouldn’t have minded him supporting them, but being outshone at your show was one step too far for Townshend, who felt embarrassed to headline his own concert. Sure enough, Hendrix would quickly stop supporting anyone after evidently nobody on the planet could follow his radiance.