SXSW 2007 Keynote Interview: Pete Townshend

SXSW always opens "officially" with a keynote talk by a big-name artist. In past years, speakers have included the likes of Little Richard, Ray Davies, and Lucinda Williams. This year, it was the Who's Pete Townshend - and in keeping with more recent practice, it wasn't actually a keynote speech but an interview, conducted by veteran rock journalist and current Executive Vice President of MTV Networks Bill Flanagan. Following are excerpts from Townshend's wide-ranging discussion.


It's very weird being in a band.... The day I first realized I was in the Who was when I was driving in my neighborhood in my mother's little yellow van, which she used for delivering furniture for her junk shop. I borrowed it for something, and suddenly on the radio came the Who's first single, "I Can't Explain." And I thought, "Oh, f---. I'm no longer an artist. I'm something else." I knew that I'd been, in a sense, captivated by hearing something I'd written for the kids in my neighborhood - written for them, about them - on the radio. And I suppose I felt like I'd been voted in and couldn't get out - a bit like The Sopranos.

But ever since then, I've felt like I've had the right to say no. That right is still something I hang onto dearly because, although I'm really enjoying being on the road now with [singer] Roger [Daltrey] and calling ourselves the Who, what's important is that I have the power to stop it if I need to stop - and to stop it if I'm not happy and not having fun doing what I'm doing.

Subsequent to the 25th-anniversary tour in 1989, I got back with the Who to help [the late bassist] John [Entwistle] with his money problems. It helped him briefly ... but I think he spent most of the profit on cocaine.

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