When it comes to British rock bands that emerged in the 1960s, three names sit alone among the elite: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who. Today, on guitarist Pete Townshend‘s 77th birthday, we take a look inside The Who’s glorious reign as hard rock champions.
The Who were something of a paradox in their nature, both setting the world record for “loudest rock concert” and simultaneously releasing two “rock operas” in their prime years. While The Stones had an “edge” to their music, that band just riffed on African-American blues styles in their own distinct way. The Who’s music was all original, and it rocked like no other.
Live Who shows in the ’70s were powerful affairs, with emphatic vocals from Roger Daltrey, thundering bass from John Entwistle, and logic-defying drumming from the one and only Keith Moon. The classic crew really made a splash in America with their 1969 album Tommy, only following it up with acclaimed releases like Live At Leeds, Who’s Next, and Quadrophenia. The four-album run from 1969–1973 ranks among the finest.
Unfortunately, it was Moon’s death in 1978 that brought the band to a halt. While the group did release two albums in the post-Moon years, Townshend would find success as a solo artist before eventually reconnecting with Daltrey. It was during those initial post-Moon years, specifically 1981, when he would link up with another band that we cover extensively: the Grateful Dead.
On March 28th, 1981, The Who opened up for the Dead at Gruga Halle in Germany, and Townshend joined the Dead for a rendition of “Not Fade Away”. You can watch a full video of the sit-in below. As you can observe in the video, Pete appeared to get a bit lost in the Dead’s psychedelic cacophony during the one-time-only collaboration, but it’s easy to see how much he enjoyed himself jamming with the grateful Californians all the same.
The Grateful Dead w/ Pete Townshend – “Not Fade Away” – Essen, Germany – 3/28/81
Happy birthday Pete!
[Originally published 5/19/16]