The Who Song Pete Townshend Regretted Writing

Pete Townshend has made significant contributions to the rock scene with his songwriting as well as his talent for stringed instruments, primarily guitar. The musician who rose to prominence with the Who, especially in the ’60s and ’70s, was behind the creation process of the band’s numerous songs with his original lyrics. Townshend’s distinctive style was shaped by his interest in spirituality and continued by absorbing the writings of the spiritual master Meher Baba. This inclination of him became the starting point for the stories of many of the Who songs.

The guitarist analyzes and combines what he reads with his perspective and presents them to his audience by narrating them in his songs. Thus, reflecting his unique writing style, he became the most important name while creating the Who’s 1969 rock opera album, ‘Tommy,’ which discussed how Tommy Walker lived his life after experiencing trauma. The pieces in the record appealed to the audience with their powerful story and lyrics and achieved success. Although Townshend received praise for these tracks, there was one among them he immensely regretted writing.

Pete Townshend Was Not Satisfied With ‘Pinball Wizard’

In the ‘Tommy’ album, the main character Tommy Walker was traumatized after witnessing his father murder his mother’s lover, and his parents carried this trauma further by denying this experience. Each song talks about the difficulties Tommy faced in his life after that event and his coping methods from a philosophical point of view. During a part of the story, the main character takes an interest in playing pinball to cope with his trauma, and his fascination with pinball is mentioned in the song ‘Pinball Wizard.’

Moreover, Townshend initially wrote the song to impress a crucial rock critic named Nik Cohn of that time. When Cohn did not like the album’s draft, Townshend wrote ‘Pinball Wizard’ and ultimately achieved his aim. Although the audience liked the song, which brought commercial success to the band, the musician disagreed with them, as he revealed in the album’s liner notes.

Pete Townshend stated that he was ashamed of this song because it was the most clumsy work he had ever done. As he said, he started to feel dissatisfied while making the song but continued to write and add guitar parts. The musician indicated that after completing the demo, he took it to the studio, and unlike him, everyone admired the song.

Townshend said the following about the song:

“The most clumsy piece of writing I’ve ever done. I’m embarrassed. This sounds like a Music Hall song. ‘Sure plays a mean pinball.’ I scribbled it out, and all the verses were the same length, and there was no kind of middle eight. It was going to be a complete dud, but I carried on. I attempted the same mock baroque guitar beginning that’s on ‘I’m a Boy,’ and then a bit of vigorous kind of flamenco guitar. I was grabbing at ideas, I knocked a demo together and took it to the studio, and everyone loved it.”

You can check out the song below.