A new interview with MOJO saw The Who co-founding guitarist Pete Townshend discuss the dark connection his band shares with Pearl Jam. During the interview, Townshend revealed the advice that he gave to Eddie Vedder following the band’s concert tragedy in Roskilde: “Don’t leave.”
The Who suffered their own mass casualty event on December 3rd, 1979 at a concert in Cincinnati, OH. When doors opened to the general admission event, 11 people were crushed in a stampede at Riverfront Coliseum. Just over 20 years later, nine people died during Pearl Jam’s set at Roskilde in Denmark on June 30th, 2000.
“For us, it came close on the heels of the death of Keith Moon. So it was a double blow,” Townshend said. “I was still really pretty f*cked up from that. When Roskilde happened, I just sent Eddie a two-word message: ‘Don’t leave.’ And they did stay. And I think it was very important that they did.”
Asked if it was his advice for Pearl Jam to stay in Roskilde after the event to “talk to people and deal with it,” Townshend responded:
“Yeah. Because what we did [after Cincinnati] is we left, we left the next day, we went to Buffalo. And I remember going on the stage, and Roger saying—and I should make it clear I was perfectly behind what Roger said at the time—’Let’s play this gig for rock’n’roll and the kids of Cincinnati!’ It was just entirely inappropriate. I mean, just wrong. You know, we shouldn’t have gone on, we shouldn’t have performed.”
Townshend went on to expound on his regret for keeping The Who’s tour going following the tragedy in Cincinnati—which afterward banned festival seating at concerts until 2004. He also revisited the first time he met Eddie Vedder back in 1993 at Berkley Community College following a concert by Pete’s solo outfit Psychoderelict.
“He walked in and sat down and we started to make small talk,” Townshend said of when he first met Vedder. “And he said, ‘I f*cking hate this. I just hate it. I don’t want to be famous. I don’t want to be in a band. I’m feeling like I just want to run away. I grew up on the beach in La Jolla surfing. And that’s really what I want to do for the rest of my life.’ And he said, ‘I’ve heard that you’ve been through similar stuff’—because, ten years before, I had left the Who.”
The Who guitarist—whose career is now in its seventh decade—offered the Pearl Jam frontman some advice about the nature of rock superstardom.
“I remember saying to him, ‘I’m afraid it’s too late.’ And he said, ‘What do you mean?’ And I said, ‘This isn’t like politics, y’know, you don’t put yourself up for election, get your seat, f*ck up the country, and then retire. What you actually do is get railroaded. You just get grabbed and put on the stage and told to keep doing what you’re doing until you’re allowed to stop. And you have absolutely no choice. You’ve been elected without standing. And you just might as well enjoy it, because it’s not going to go away.’”
Check out the full interview with Pete Townshend in the new issue of MOJO, out now.