Five Musicians Pete Townshend Picked As The ‘Ideal Rock Stars’

Pete Townshend is responsible for creating so many celebrated songs and controversial opinions. He emerged as a young rock star in the late ’60s and reflected upon the anger of a generation. The rocker made The Who one of the most influential bands with his bandmates Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon. Known as a free spirit, after the death of his two bandmates, Entwistle and Keith Moon, the guitarist made a sensational comment by stating that he felt freer to be in The Who.

He has opinions about the music industry and the creative process of music that is interesting for so many of his fans. Even though he influenced numerous people, he also had many influences and musicians in the industry that shaped him, inspired him, and made him admire their music. Hence he wrote a novel titled ‘Age of Anxiety’ in 2019. It’s a rock novel with Townshend’s witty writing comments on rock’s madness and creativity. He conducted his research as a considered stereotypical rock star and talked about other authentic rock stars.

Who Are Townshend’s Proper Rock Stars?

In a 2019 interview, Pete Townshend talked about the mood of being a rock star and the themes surrounding the rock industry. He stated that he wrote the book because he knew the industry well after being in it for 55 years. He also revealed that he wanted to be a ‘proper’ rock star, but those who achieved that were other people who stayed authentic to that stereotypical image.

He gave the names of David Byrne, Mick Jagger, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Deborah Harry by stating that they are truly authentic. He further explained what this authenticity means by commenting on modern-day music. He touched upon the subject of ‘Rock is dead.’ He defended that nowadays, rock stars are those who have physical durability, including those artists who don’t fit in the stereotypical rock star image.

Townshend mentioned authentic rock stars by stating:

“You’re looking for clues in the wrong place. I couldn’t write about Wall Street. I couldn’t write about crime. I have spent 55 years working in rock. I remain in familiar territory. I’ve always regarded the rock star phenomenon with immense disdain. I’ve had my moments, which have been gloriously recorded and exalted, but brief, when I’ve felt: I’m going to try and do this job. I’m going to try to be a proper rock star. Then I would do it, and it wouldn’t work. I was counterfeit. There are very few people truly authentic to the cause: David Byrne. Mick Jagger. Neil Young. Joni Mitchell. Deborah Harry.

He explained this authenticity by saying:

“Authentic to the perceived, accepted ideal of a rock star. Now, online, you’ll see a throwaway statement, ‘Rock is dead,’ which is something that we in our genre have been considering since the ’70s. But what is rock? Rock is hip-hop. Rock is probably Taylor Swift. Rock is, dare I say it, Adele and Ed Sheeran. They’ve dared to take on that mantle, and they have to deliver. They’ve got to do something spectacular as performers. Not just as recording artists. They’ve got to do something amazing, and if it includes dancers, if it includes too much video, then they’re cheating.

They know that we know that, and the audiences know that. That’s why audiences will come to something like a Who concert or a Stones concert, where there might be some video, there might be a symphony orchestra, but at the end of the day, it’s about, ‘Can you dance for two and a half hours without dropping dead? Can you sing without lip-syncing for two and a half hours?’ It’s about sport. It’s about entertainment as a physicality. It’s about an endurance test.”

According to Townshend, these five names present the rock star image. Still, rock these days doesn’t necessarily mean fitting in those images proposed by David Byrne, Mick Jagger, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Deborah Harry. Instead, it could be all genres and images, including names like Adele, Ed Sheeran, and Taylor Swift, because they have the physical durability to be on stage singing live for hours and keep the crowd active and excited.