Pete Townshend: This Week in Rock History – May 13 – May 19

Happy Birthday to The Who’s Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend was born as Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend on May 19, 1945 in London, England. He was the son of two musicians, and his father even wrote the classic rock and roll ballad “Unchained Melody”. After becoming obsessed with music, Pete and schoolmate John Entwistle formed a Dixieland Jazz Band in which Townshend played the banjo while Entwistle performed on trumpet. Eventually the Dixieland band evolved into a rock and roll one. During his college years, Townshend, along with Entwistle, joined a band fronted by singer Roger Daltrey, and the group soon recruited drum master Keith Moon to play the beat. Thus, Pete Townshend’s legendary band, for which he would be the principle songwriter and the guitarist, The Who was born. The band’s first hit single, “I Can’t Explain”, was written by Townshend and released in January of 1965, reached #8 on the British singles chart.

Meanwhile, Pete Townshend was a vital, dynamic, and even violent live performer, utilizing his trademark windmill guitar strumming technique and even regularly smashing guitars on stage to great effect. Included in the the band’s repertoire were the landmark Townshend-penned rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia; with Tommy, Townshend virtually invented an entire new sub-genre of rock all on his own. As a member of The Who, Townshend was highly influential on mod culture,  as well as the punk music and heavy metal music that developed later. In 1972, Townshend would release his very first solo album, which dabbled in more gentle, folky and acoustic sounds than what he was producing for The Who. Townshend would continue to create solo records in addition to his work for the band he was so integral to. In addition to his musical work, Pete Townshend has been a prolific purveyor of the written word, having written newspaper and magazine articles, essays, books, and scripts. Happy birthday Mr. Townshend, and keep on rockin’!

Pete Townshend with The Who

Pete Townshend (second from left) with The Who

Here’s what else happened This Week in Rock History:

Born This Week in Rock History:

Jack Bruce: May 14, 1943 (Cream, bass and lead vocals)
David Byrne: May 14, 1952 (Talking Heads, guitar, vocals)
Brian Eno: May 15, 1948 (Roxy Music, synthesizers)
Darrell Sweet: May 16, 1947 (Nazareth, drums)
Krist Novoselic: May 16, 1965 (Nirvana, bass)
Taj Mahal: May 17, 1942 (Blues Singer-Songwriter)
Big Joe Turner: May 18, 1911 (Blues Vocalist)
Pete Townshend: May 19, 1945 (The Who, guitar)
Dusty Hill: May 19, 1949 (ZZ Top, bass, keyboards)
Joey Ramone: May 19. 1951 (The Ramones, vocals)


Died This Week in Rock History

Keith Relf: May 14, 1976 (The Yardbirds, lead vocals and harmonica)
June Carter Cash: May 15, 2003 (Country Singer-Songwriter)
Marv Johnson: May 16, 1993 (R&B & Soul Singer)
Ronnie James Dio: May 16, 2010 (Black Sabbath, vocals)
Johnny “Guitar” Watson: May 17, 1996 (Blues Singer-Songwriter)


Music releases and the top of the charts…

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, “Ohio” was released: May 14, 1970
Bob Dylan Blonde On Blonde was released: May 16, 1966
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s LP Deja Vu hits #1: May 16, 1970
“With or Without You” by U2 hits #1: May 16, 1987.
Bob Dylan hits number 1 with Together Through Life: May 16, 2009
The Beatles’ “Get Back” is certified gold: May 19, 1969

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan


This Week in Rock History

“Like a Rolling Stone” was voted the best ever Bob Dylan song by a panel of musicians, writers, and academic in Rolling Stone Magazine. If not his best, it’s certainly his most influential. But come on, Jokerman! (We kid, we kid.) May 13, 2011.

Buddy Holly visits his optometrist’s office to correct his horrible 20/800 vision with primitive contact lenses, but Buddy hates them, and decides to keep his signature glasses. Score a point for the image! May 14, 1956

Keith Relf of The Yardbirds tragically died by electrocuting himself while tuning a guitar that was not properly grounded. May 14, 1976

Brian Eno caught a gig played by The Talking Heads in the early days of that band. Eno, the brilliant ambient musician and sometime producer, would go on to produce for them. May 14, 1977

Atlantic Records’ 40th Anniversary celebration takes place at New York’s Madison Square Garden, featuring appearances from many famous artists on the label’s roster: The Bee Gees, Wilson Pickett, The Rascals, The Coasters, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Crosby Stills and Nash, Foreigner, Yes, Genesis, and the event’s main attraction, a rare reunion of Led Zeppelin, featuring John Bonham’s son Jason taking over drums for his late father: May 14, 1988

Bob Dylan score his first top 40 hit, with “Subterranean Homesick Blues” coming in at #39 on the charts. John Lennon was in awe of the song and doubted that he could ever write a song that could compete with its quality. Don’t worry too much John, you wrote some pretty good ones. May 15, 1965

Pink Floyd play London’s Crystal Palace Bowl, situated in front of a large lake in which, thanks to the band’s volume, most of the fish will die. But at least they went out listening to Pink Floyd! May 15, 1971

The latest and ultimately most famous lineup of Fleetwood Mac — Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, and Stevie Nicks — play their first show together in El Paso. Toto, I don’t think we’re in blues-rock land anymore. May 15, 1975

Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney hit #1 with their song “Ebony and Ivory” which would later go on to be listed by more than one publication as one of the worst songs of all time. May 15, 1982.

Billboard magazine reports that Detroit music mogul Berry Gordy is thinking of starting three new record labels, including one called Motown: May 16, 1960

During the Who’s set at the Fillmore East in New York, a plainclothes policeman rushes the stage to tell the audience that a fire has broken out, but guitarist Pete Townshend, figuring him for a rabid fan, kicks him off. Literally. In the groin, from what we’ve heard. The guitarist is arrested onstage, and later charged $30: May 16, 1969

Neil Young plays an unannounced show at the Bottom Line in New York City. So yeah, best surprise concert ever. May 16, 1971

Neil Young

Johnny “Guitar” Watson passed away mid-guitar solo during a show in Japan. His last words? “Ain’t that a bitch.” May 17, 1996

Diana Ross shocks the music industry by leaving Motown Records after 20 years for a new home on RCA. The $20 million contract sets a new record: May 18, 1981

A 17-year-old Annette Funicello blows off her high school graduation ceremony in order to perform at Radio City Music Hall: May 19, 1960

Pink Floyd’s epochal Dark Side Of The Moon LP marks its tenth anniversary, having never left the Billboard album charts. Because why would it ever leave. It should never leave. May 19, 1984

That’s all for This Week in Rock History. Did we get it all? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook or send us a Tweet.

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