Happy birthday to guitarist, vocalist
and songwriter with The Who, Pete Townshend, born today in 1945 in Chiswick,
After repeatedly watching the 1956
film Rock Around the Clock, 12 year-old Townshend was given his
first guitar by his grandmother and discovered the sounds of Link Wray,
John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley and Hank Marvin of The Shadows.
The first seeds of The Who were sown
when Pete formed the Dixieland duet The Confederates, featuring himself
on banjo and John Entwistle on horns. From this beginning they moved
on to become The Detours, a skiffle/rock and roll band fronted by singer
Roger Daltrey, another former schoolmate. Renaming themselves The Who,
drummer Keith Moon completed the classic Who line-up.
Early hits in the 60's including
"I Can't Explain", "Pictures of Lily", "Substitute",
and "My Generation" set them on the path to greater things.
With the guitarist as the primary songwriter for The Who, Pete has written
well over one hundred songs for the band's eleven studio albums, including
concept albums and the rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia.
Townshend became known for his eccentric
stage style during the band's early days, swinging his right arm against
the guitar strings in his signature move; a windmill style, often smashing
guitars on stage, and often repeatedly throwing his guitars into his
amplifiers and speaker cabinets.
Add to this a drummer who was using
pyrotechnics to blow up his drum kit and you had one hell of a show!
Some would say, the greatest live band ever.
"Stairway To Heaven" was named
the UK's favorite rock song in a survey by listeners to radio station
Absolute Classic Rock.
Despite never having been released
as a single, Led Zeppelin's 1971 track "Stairway to Heaven" is
the most requested song ever at FM radio in the US.
Some "STH" facts:
In 1982 The California State Assembly
consumer-protection-committee heard testimony from "experts" who
claimed that when "Stairway To Heaven" was played backward, contained
the words: "I sing because I live with Satan. The Lord turns me
off, there's no escaping it. Here's to my sweet Satan, whose power is
Satan. He will give you 666. I live for Satan".
In 1990 a Florida radio station kicked
off its all-Led Zeppelin format by playing "Stairway to Heaven"
for 24 hours straight.
It is also the biggest-selling single
piece of sheet music in rock history, clocking up an average of 15,000
copies yearly. In total, over one million copies have been sold.
On the 20th anniversary of the original
release of the song, it was announced that the song had logged up an
estimated 2,874,000 radio plays in the US alone, which back-to-back,
would run for 44 solid years. As of 2000, the song had been broadcast
on radio over three million times.
For guitarists everywhere, Jimmy Page's
solo was recorded on his 1959 Fender Telecaster (a gift from Jeff Beck)
plugged into a Supro amplifier. In 2009, Guitar magazine rated the solo
Number 1 in its list of "Greatest Guitar Solos In Rock n Roll History".
And if you are a budding guitarist,
never play the intro to the song in your local guitar shop. Its been
banned in music shops everywhere!