Pete Townshend, guitarist and main songwriter of The Who, revealed he’s always regretted not staying to mourn after a stampede at one of the band’s concerts. The stampede, which left 11 people dead and 23 injured in Cincinnati, occurred 40 years ago at the Riverfront Coliseum on Dec. 3, 1979.
Instead of staying around, the band moved on to the next stop on its tour: Buffalo, N.Y..
“I’m not forgiving us. We should have stayed,” Townshend said during a recent interview with the Associated Press.
Granted, the band didn’t know about the tragedy — which occurred as fans surrounded and charged the arena hoping to get a front-row seat — until the end of the show.
Townshend described seeing the shock of bodies, many of whom he said weren’t dead, left on the ground as the band left the stadium: “They didn’t know who was dead and who was just badly hurt, maybe 40 bodies under blankets.”
He recalled the anger he felt toward The Who’s manager, Bill Curbishley, for not telling band members before the show, admitting that he wanted to kill him.
“You could at least give (us) a choice as to whether or not to go on,” Townshend said. “But the choice none of us made, which was equally dim, was that we left the building. You know, we should have stayed.”
In 40 years, The Who hasn’t returned to Cincinnati. According to the band’s announcement on Cincinnati station WCPO’s documentary “The Who: The Night That Changed Rock,” that is going to change. The band will perform April 23 at Northern Kentucky University’s BB&T Arena, a venue only seven miles away from the Riverfront Coliseum.
“How are we responsible? Now, we can have a conversation about it when we go back,” Townshend said. “That conversation will pick up. We will meet people and we’ll be there. We’ll be there. That’s what’s important. I’m so glad that we’ve got this opportunity to go back. But I do think one of the things that happened at the time was that we ran away.”
The Who will donate a portion of concert proceeds to the P.E.M. Memorial, the organization founded to provide college scholarships for students at Finneytown High School, attended by some of the stampede victims.