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Why doesn't Pete Townshend like Led Zeppelin?

In 1960s Britain, all musicians knew each other, including The Who and Led Zeppelin. The story is a well-known one that London’s most sought after session guitarist and future Led Zeppelin mastermind Jimmy Page was there on the day of The Who’s first recording session. Here, The Who laid down ‘I Can’t Explain’, and after that, they would go on to become one of the definitive outfits of the era. 

If you were wondering why Page was in attendance, the producer of the song, the ubiquitous Shel Talmy, who had just finished working with The Kinks, enlisted Page to perform as a session musician to help The Who bring ther vision to life. Page has since discussed this moment on many ocassions, admitting that his presence there was a waste of time, because “you can can barely hear me”. However, he looks back on the session fondly, saying: “You can’t be more privileged than that”.

Both parties would then go their separate ways, and in 1968, after a brief stint in the now-defunct psychedelic heroes The Yardbirds, Page fully conceived his idea for what became Led Zeppelin. They quickly rose to become the most talked-about band on both sides of the Atlantic, as the era’s biggest band, The Beatles, gradually ran down the clock. Led Zeppelin filled the hole left by the Liverpudlians after they split in 1970 and surged to become the most successful band of the decade. 

The Who would also enjoy a highly successful run during the ’70s, releasing masterpieces such as 1971’s Who’s Next and 1973’s Quadrophenia. Howeverit’s safe to say that they were living in Led Zeppelin’s shadow across the decade. 

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Whilst there was never any rivalry or conflict between both bands, it transpires that Pete Townshend has never been a fan of Zeppelin and, in one interview specifically, he seemed to concede that it might be down to the fact that Page and Co. were much more successful than his band.

In an interview given during the ’90s, Townshend discussed his dislike for Led Zeppelin, and if he’s to be believed, it was a matter of taste and not commercial viability or jealousy. “I haven’t liked a single thing that they’ve done,” Townshend asserted. “I hate the fact that I’m ever even slightly compared to them. I just never, ever liked them. It’s a real problem for me because as people they’re all really, really great guys. I just never liked the band.”

Comparing The Who and Led Zeppelin in terms of commercial power, it is estimated that the former has sold around 100 million records over the years, and the latter has shipped 300 million, meaning that Led Zeppelin are significantly more successful than The Who. This is reflected in crowd sizes as well. In May 1973, at the Tampa Stadium, Led Zeppelin pulled in more than 56,000 fans breaking the record set by The Beatles at Shea Stadium, earning $309,000 for the band. At the time, this was the highest amount ever grossed for a rock concert.

“I don’t know if I’ve got a problem, a block, because they became so much bigger than The Who in so many ways,” Townshend said in the interview. “But I never liked them.” 

We’ll let you make your own mind up on why Pete Townshend doesn’t like Led Zeppelin, but it seems very evident. Watch Pete Townshend discuss Led Zeppelin below.

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