The Who‘s Pete Townshend turns 72 today.
The band’s career has spanned over 50 years, and proved themselves to be one of the most influential groups of the 20th century.
As a musician, Pete has solidified his place as a guitar God with his insane dexterity and an ear for marvelous melodies.
To honour the legend, we look at ten of his songs that truly showcase his incredible work on the six string:
10. “Pictures of Lily” (1967)
There isn’t a guitar solo to be found in “Pictures of Lily”, but the brash fun riff serves as the backbone for Keith Moon and John Entwistle to build around it.
9. “A Quick One (While He’s Away)” (1968)
Chalk full of power chords and tinny guitar plucks, Townshend is in fine form on this classic Who track.
8. “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” (1965)
It’s impossible to forget the reverberated strums that open “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere”, and the rest of the song blooms around the warm tones and the echoing feedback that makes itself known halfway through the track.
7. “5:15” (1973)
Townshend’s solo here is how he made his name: it’s fearless, driving alongside the horn section without ever overshadowing its counterpart.
6. “Overture” (1969)
Those strums. Those strums! Townshend lets loose towards the end of the song with bouncing chords and tumbling plucks. It’s so meticulous and rigid in its fretwork, but so free in its carelessness.
5. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (1971)
This song features a guitar tone that would become staple to The Who’s sound. The effect pedals draw out a vintage warmth, and Townshend’s methodology when it comes to tackling this chugging rock classic is bar-none. He’s not making any safe moves here–it ebbs and flows, soaring at one point or subduing the next. The guitar dances so smoothly around the other instruments, it’s easy to get lost in its charm.
4. “My Way” (1968)
Townshend’s guitar on “My Way” carries a particular kind of charisma: the distortion and off-kilter strums showcase The Who at its bluesiest. This song is as much a showcase for Townshend’s ear as it is for the band’s versatility.
3. “My Generation” (1970)
The stutter of Townshend’s guitar perfectly mirrors the impediment Roger Daltrey parlays. Even when Moon unleashes into a tirade of a drum solo, Townshend holds together the chaos with carefully placed reverberated strings. This was rock and roll at its finest.
2. “Quadrophenia” (1973)
Here, Townshend makes a guitar sound like anything but a guitar. It’s almost like another vocalist, the way it takes front-and-centre: carefully rising and falling around the rest of this rock opera, the six-minute journey pulls out all the stops to enchant you. A timeless song, if there ever was one.
1. “Pinball Wizard” (1969)
You think the melancholic acoustic guitar that opens the song is leading you down a peaceful path… not quite. As the strumming picks up, and the electric guitar announces its arrival like a blaring an alarm, you realize: there will never be another song like this. The verses don’t feature any technical fretwork, but the subtlety and drive of Townshend’s contributions cannot be ignored.
Did we miss any pivotal Pete Townshend songs? Let us know in the comments below!
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