Pete Townshend may often come across as dark and skeptical in his songwriting--but it turns out the 66-year-old Who guitarist has a decidedly bright outlook these days. As he revealed during an intimate and revealing chat Tuesday, he was even able to find a positive way to work through the death of a bandmate.
"I have to say as a guitar player, I prefer working without John," he admitted regarding the loss of the Who's masterful bass player, John Entwistle, who died in 2002. "When John died, there was a hole in the sound onstage and I was able to grow into that and find space."
Regardless, Townshend--who was visiting a New York City Barnes & Noble to promote his new autobiography, Who I Am: A Memoir--concluded that the Who's sound will never be the same without Entwistle. "As a member of the Who creating the incredible, powerful, driving, visceral sound, he's gone. I can't really do that again." (Original drummer Keith Moon died in 1978; his and Entwistle's roles are now handled by Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey and Pino Palladino, respectively.)
Townshend's engaging and open attitude extended to discussions of other painful memories in his life, including his recollections of abuse at the hands of his grandmother, who cared for him for two years in his early childhood. "I wanted to be angry," he said of the memories, which he called upon his mother to help him flesh out. "But it was exactly the opposite...I started to see why so much of my writing is so dark, why so much of my cold presence on the stage appeared to be angry."
Townshend says that fans shouldn't feel sorry for what he had to go through--that "it was great" because it made him the person he is today. "What I was doing was making it okay to be a little bit different, a little bit damaged."
He also revealed that he's always had a distinctly modern outlook on the future of music, claiming to have predicted digital downloads as early as the '70s and '80s. "I knew there the digital revolution would change the way art happens and is made and is sold, and we're not finished yet."
And as for modern music itself? Townshend admits he's a Lady Gaga fan.
Townshend's interview was conducted by another legendary figure: Rolling Stone's editor and publisher Jann S. Wenner, whose professional history with the guitarist/songwriter dates back to the '60s. As a final treat to the audience, Townshend delighted all present with a short acoustic performance, including one of his most classic compositions, "Won't Get Fooled Again." (You can hear the musical segment in the above video starting at around 25:00.)