Happy Birthday to Pete Townshend, who turns 71 today (May 19th)!!! Townshend, who is the primary creative force behind the Who, wrote nearly all of the band’s music and has been responsible for crafting the stories and themes behind such rock classics as Tommy, Who’s Next, and Quadrophenia. He is currently on tour with the Who and performs tonight at Oakland, California’s Oracle Arena.
Earlier this year, Townshend took some time during the Who’s recent stop in Detroit to record some new music. The Oakland Press reported Townshend traveled 20 miles outside the city to Waterford, Michigan to lay down “a few tracks for an acoustic project.” Townshend and longtime soundman Bobby Pridden knew 45 Factory studio engineer Ryan McGuire, who has previously helped them locate studios in France and Antigua, and were curious to check out his facilities in Michigan.
Townshend posted about the session on his official website (PeteTownshend.net), writing, “I had a great direct-to-tape session at the 45 Factory. Wonderful sound, the way it always used to be for me, and very close to the sound I get in my own ‘Vintage’ style studio. But at the 45 Factory most things are new, or fully restored to new condition and everything worked beautifully. I had a fantastic time recording a new song direct to an old Ampex 351 1/4″ stereo tape machine. Some great music is going to come out of the 45 Factory.”
2015 saw the release of Townshend’s latest project, the new album, Classical Quadrophenia. The new ‘symphonized’ version of the legendary rock opera was orchestrated by Townshend’s companion of nearly 20 years, musician and composer, Rachel Fuller. The album — which also features Townshend on vocals — is a showcase for operatic tenor Alfie Boe singing Roger Daltrey’s original parts with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Oriana Choir conducted by Robert Ziegler. The revamped Quadrophenia premiered last July 5th at London’s Royal Albert Hall starring Townshend, Boe, along with the famed orchestra and choir.
In addition to the studio version of Classical Quadrophenia , Townshend also released the 17-track solo compilation, Truancy: The Very Best Of Pete Townshend featuring two new songs.
In 2012, Townshend published his long awaited autobiography, titled, Who I Am, to critical acclaim. Earlier that year, Townshend signed an exclusive, new publishing deal with Spirit Music Group to administer and promote his past and future songwriting catalogue. The pact also includes a long-term publishing agreement for Townshend’s upcoming projects, including new songs composed for potential solo and Who releases.
That same year Townshend and his wife of 43 years, Karen Astley, were granted a preliminary divorce in London’s High Court. The couple had been separated since 1994 and has three adult children — Emma, Aminta, and Joseph. Townshend has been romantically linked with Rachel Fuller since 1996.
In 2006, after a 24-year-wait, Townshend wrote and produced the Who’s comeback album Endless Wire. Despite the album hitting Number Seven in the U.S. charts, Townshend has stated that he felt the album fell short of his commercial expectations, and complained that none of the songs garnered the level of airplay he had come to expect with previous Who projects.
A while ago, we asked Townshend why he needs grand concepts such as Tommy, Quadrophenia, and the recent Wire And Glass mini-opera, behind most of his work: “I just write. I’m just a songwriter, y’know that’s what I do. Which is why it’s very important for me to have some kind of concept to hold me down, some kind of concept to give my work shape, focus, and direction. Because I don’t feel that the Who ever had a clear brief (on what to write for them), ever, ever, ever, ever.”
Photo Courtesy of WEA