The Who’s Pete Townshend has never been terribly cautious with his public statements or sentimental about his departed bandmates — less than a year after drummer Keith Moon’s death in 1978, he spoke of how it “saved” the band, which had been marred by the legendary drummer’s unreliable playing as his health declined.
But he may have set a new bar with his comments in a recent long Rolling Stone interview in which he says he’s glad Moon and bassist John Entwistle, who died in 2002, are gone — because they were “f—ing difficult to play with.”
“It’s not going to make Who fans very happy, but thank God they’re gone,” Townshend said. “Because they were f—ing difficult to play with. They never, ever managed to create bands for themselves. I think my musical discipline, my musical efficiency as a rhythm player, held the band together.”
He described Entwistle’s bass sound as “like a Messiaen organ. Every note, every harmonic in the sky. When he passed away and I did the first few shows without him, with Pino [Palladino] on bass, he was playing without all that stuff. … I said, ‘Wow, I have a job.’ With Keith, my job was keeping time, because he didn’t do that. So when he passed away, it was like, ‘Oh, I don’t have to keep time anymore.’”
Although Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey, the two surviving members of The Who’s classic lineup, take frequent potshots at each other, they do express affection.
“I used to say that I love him, but with my fingers crossed,” Townshend said of Daltrey. “Now, I like him too. I like all his eccentricities, his foibles, his self-obsession, and his singer thing. Everything about him.”
For his part, Daltrey said, “I’ve always kind of known Pete cares for me. I hope he realizes I care about him. I think my actions through our career have shown that.”
However, the most telling part of the interview may be when Townshend seems surprised at something he’s just said. “I find sometimes I’ll be saying things and I think, ‘Do I really feel that, or is my mouth just f—ing with me?’” It’s a statement he could have made at any point in his 50-plus-year career.