Horatio Caine puts on his sunglasses, says a badass one liner (my personal favorite is “They brought the war to us… Now we’re gonna take it to them”) and before anybody can say anything in reply, rock music. Specifically, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” an iconic song in the classic rock catalogue. Full of rowdy playing, synthesizers from the future, and power chords that hit your bones, The Who had found their sound. The mastermind behind this and many other the Who hits is Pete Townshend, who just turned 70 yesterday.
The guitar hero was born to Cliff and Betty Townshend, both musicians, on May 19th, 1945. His artistic family was more than happy when he started studying at Ealing Art College (the same art school that also taught rock stars like Freddie Mercury and Ronnie Wood), but his buddy John Entwhistle turned him on to the rock band lifestyle with his current band the Detours, led by Roger Daltrey. A name and drummer change later, and the Who as we know it today was born. With these four talented musicians united, the Who could have easily have just been a tight band that knew how to groove right. Thanks to Townshend’s ambition, the Who became influential to almost all branches of rock music.
Pete Townshend is the one who came up with and wrote most of Tommy. A rock opera, the whole album is supposed to be a sort of loose narrative of the life of Tommy, a deaf, blind, mute boy who has a good knack for playing pinball and inner reflection. This revolutionary idea was the start of album rock, the idea that pop musicians could make total pieces of work to be listened together, like a classical symphony, as opposed to the collection of singles that was predominant before. Townshend used the same idea of a rock opera in Quadrophenia. This time our hero’s name is Jimmy, a mod who feels disillusioned and anxious about his future in the adult world. This time Townshend wrote and arranged the whole shebang by himself. Both albums were favorites of fans and the band.
Not only a visionary songwriter, Townshend was also a clever fellow on the guitar. The man hardly played guitar solos, but he still made his presence very well known. It’s true, playing with the maniacs that were Keith Moon and John Entwistle, Townshend had to play smartly if he didn’t want the band to sound too muddy. He would sometimes play the perfect open ringing chord, but other times he would just play a dramatic power chord. He’s probably the reason we call it a power chord. If people didn’t pay attention to this sonic brilliance, they certainly payed the man attention when he would do windmill strumming or freaking break a guitar. Okay, not too outlandish today, but these are the things that inspired most of punk rock, and for that Townshend deserves some recognition.