The Who’s Pete Townshend hates everything about Led Zeppelin
The Who’s Pete Townshend has never been shy about making his opinions known. The guitarist could be discussing how much his bandmate Roger Daltrey irritates the life out of him, or being on record stating why he doesn’t rate The Beatles’ music, somehow his opinion on Led Zeppelin captures Townshend at his most brutally scathing.
Townshend has previously slated Zeppelin for ripping off his band and trying to palm it off as their own and he has been vocal in his dislike for Robert Plant and co. for almost the entirety of their career.
The guitarist’s staunch views on one of the greatest bands of all time has always seen Townshend come under fire from Zepheads everywhere. Still, this isn’t something that he regrets speaking so strongly about in the past and in the press run for their most recent record WHO he couldn’t help himself from having another swipe at Led Zep.
The Who guitarist and songwriter general was speaking to the Toronto Sun last December when he was asked about the deviation from the band’s early sound to the sonic nature of their most recent effort. Instead of answering the question straight, Townshend saw this as the perfect opportunity to squeeze in a jab at Zeppelin.
His response to the question was: “It doesn’t sound like The Who from those early heavy metal years. We sort of invented heavy metal with (our first live album) Live at Leeds (1970). We were copied by so many bands, principally by Led Zeppelin, you know heavy drums, heavy bass, heavy lead guitar,” said Townshend, aiming at the iconic quartet.
But in the same interview, Townshend did concede: “Some of those bands, like Jimi Hendrix for example, did it far better than we did. Cream, with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker.” Townshend then continued his analysis: “They came along in ‘67, same year as Jimi Hendrix, and they kind of stole our mantle in a sense. So people who want to hear that old heavy metal sound there are plenty of bands that can provide it. So it’s not really what we can actually do today. Even if we wanted to, it was never high on my list of wishes.”
In 1995, Townshend made this vicious comment where he didn’t mince his words in the slightest. He showed his anger at the fact that Zeppelin and The Who are so often compared to one another: “I don’t like a single thing that they have done, I hate the fact that I’m ever even slightly compared to them.”
He continued through gritted teeth: “I just never ever liked them. It’s a real problem to me cause as people I think they are really really great guys. Just never liked the band. And I don’t know if I have a problem, block too, because they, well that became so much bigger than The Who in so many ways, in their chosen field, I’ve never liked them.”
When he delivered the inaugural John Peel Lecture in 2011, Townshend saw this as yet another perfect opportunity to throw Zeppelin under the bus: “Did he [Peel] really give Led Zeppelin their big break? I can’t see it myself. I don’t give a shit about making money. I think rock music is junk. I am a genius! The Who were OK but without me, they would have all ended up working in the flower market, or worse – in Led Zeppelin.”
However, in 2015 when he spoke with Rolling Stone he was incredibly candid and respectful about Led Zeppelin. He shied away from praising the principal pair of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page directly but did make this poignant remark nonetheless: “The person that I’ve thought a lot about since John Bonham’s death is John Paul Jones. He’s a beautiful looking man and a beautiful musician. He’s a fantastic experimenter in modern electronic music and other things, and he’s sort of been sitting there.”
He went on to add: “It would be interesting to see what he could bring to a new Led Zeppelin project. I think he was much more in the front line of Led Zeppelin music on keyboard work because nobody else in the band played it. It was a prog-rock era in respect to him.”
It seems that overall Townshend has no ill feelings towards the members of Zeppelin as people but the music they created is something which he despises greatly. The Who man carefully chooses to use the band as an example of everything he hated when quizzed about music in the ’70s which undoubtedly also has something to do with them becoming astronomically bigger than The Who.
Townshend wasn’t ever shy about his feelings on another iconic group either, The Beatles. The Who guitarist in 1966 referred to the band as lacking “Musical quality” after listening to Revovler. Later, speaking with Rolling Stone in 1982, Townshend was asked about McCartney’s recent record Tug of War. Kurt Loder, who is interviewing Townshend, suggested it had “virtually nothing to do with rock & roll,” Townshend replied by asking if McCartney “ever really had anything to do with rock.”
He answered his own question. “No, he never did,” Townshend said. “You know, I could sit down and have a conversation with Paul about rock & roll, and we’d be talking about two different things.”
It seems that the only band Pete Townshend’s truly liked was his own one, The Who. But, he never really liked any of them either.