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Pete Townshend Speaks of the ‘Hatred’ in the Who’s Early Days

Pete Townshend
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

So much of the Who‘s creative tension was the result of the fact that its members didn’t particularly like each other. None of that is really any secret, but in a new interview, guitarist Pete Townshend discussed how they managed to work together despite all the animosity.

“You can walk onstage with a bunch of people that you hate and produce fantastic music,” he told Spinner. “There was a lot of hatred and uneasiness in the early Who that we tended to cover up with crazy behavior and just start losing ourselves in a kind of a running comedy act.”

The “comedy act” was led by drummer Keith Moon, whose drunken antics on the road, including destroying hotel rooms and driving cars into swimming pools, are a part of rock legend. Townshend believes that his behavior helped keep the band together for many years.

“Keith, as I mentioned many times in the book, kept the atmosphere light,” he continued. “There’s a sense that the destruction of hotel rooms was in some way very, very dark…Those dark moments were very, very few and far between. Keith just made a joke out of everything. He kept everybody happy. But there was always a strong possibility of the band flying apart at any moment.”

As opposed to, say, the Beatles, who originally put forth an image of four moptopped mates, the Who openly fought with each other in the press for many years. But Townshend, who said it’s “amazing” that he and Roger Daltrey are still working together nearly 50 years after their release of their first single, had problems reliving those memories while working on his autobiography, ‘Who I Am.’

“I loved writing about my early life,” he added. “But I didn’t enjoy writing about the Who’s career. It felt to me like a revisit to the Groundhog Day, being on the road and in the studio and writing songs…The reason I delighted in writing it was not because it was dark or light, but just because it was fabulous to remember my childhood.”

Watch Keith Moon Be Silly

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