Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...
A ROCK WARRIOR'S PEACE
These days, Pete Townshend is living according to one of his song titles: "A Little Is Enough." No longer the prolific songwriting guitarist for The Who (which officially disbanded in 1983), Townshend, 51, can afford to pick his spots. "I don't choose to work too hard," he says. But on June 29 in London's Hyde Park, he and former band-mates Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle will give a charity performance of The Who's 1973 masterpiece, Quadrophenia. His new CD, The Best of Pete Townshend (Atlantic), is a compendium of his solo hits.
You used to drink heavily. Looking back, did it ever do any good?
Oh, yeah, I think booze is wonderful. When it works, it's fantastic. Unfortunately, it's so damaging. The problem is that the window of creativity becomes smaller and smaller. You sit down, have a drink, smoke a cigarette, have another drink and the blank page is still blank. I used to write 10 sheets of lyrics and end up with a song title. For me, booze got in the way in the end. But I don't know that I could have written a song as poignant about getting old in a marriage as "Slit Skirts" if I hadn't been a wee bit drunk when I wrote it. I had to be on the wrong side of the bar, in a set-me-up-another-one mood, talking to Stan the bartender, in order to get that out.
Has your hearing loss taught you anything valuable?
It's amazing that in the debate about whether or not Pete should tour with The Who that the question of hearing is never thought about, and yet it's the first thing that comes to my mind. It makes me angry. When I'm in the back of my car, I can't hear a word my wife and 6-year-old son are saying in the front. On airplanes I can only hear children or people with high squeaky voices if they're looking right at me. I lip-read. I don't have hearing aids in my ears, but it wouldn't hurt for me to wear one, and I eventually will when I can no longer get through the day. What I've learned from some of the things that have happened to me is that in a way they're tests of my ability to accept my own frailties.