Pete Townshend Part Four
I been looking for the right time to do Pete Townshend Part Four, and now that time is here.
Townshend leaping into air in concert
Throughout his solo career and his career with the Who, Townshend has played a large variety of guitars— mostly various Gibson and Fender and Rickenbacker models. He has also used Guild, Takamine and Gibson J-200 acoustic models, withthe J-200 providing his signature recorded acoustic sound in such songs as“Pinball Wizard“.
In the early days with the Who, Townshend played an Emile Grimshaw SS De Luxe and6-string and 12-string Rickenbacker semi-hollow electric guitars primarily (particularly the Rose-Morris UK-imported models with special f-holes). When the excited audience responded enthusiastically after he accidentally broke the head off his guitar on a low ceiling during a concert at the Railway Hotel pub in Wealdstone, west London, he incorporated the eventual smashing of his instrument into the band‘s performances. However, as instrument-smashing became increasingly integrated into the Who‘s concert sets, he switched to more durable and resilient (and, importantly, cheaper) guitars for smashing, such as the Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster and various Danelectro models. On the Who‘s The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour appearance in 1967, Townshend used a Vox Cheetah guitar, which he only used for that performance; and the guitar was destroyed by Townshend and Moon‘s drum explosion. In the late 1960s, Townshend began playing Gibson SG Special models almost exclusively. He used this guitar at the Woodstock and Isle of Wight shows in 1969 and 1970, as well as the Live at Leeds performance in 1970.
By 1970 Gibson changed the design of the SG Special which Townshend had been using previously, and he began using other guitars. For much of the 1970s, he used a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, some with only two mini-humbucker pick-ups and others modified with a third pick-up in the “middle position“ (a DiMarzio Super distortion/ Dual Sound). He can be seen using several of these guitars in the documentary The Kids Are Alright, although in the studio he often played a ’59 Gretsch 6120 guitar (given to him by Joe Walsh), most notably on the albums Who‘sNext and Quadrophenia.
During the 1980s, Townshend mainly used Fenders, Rickenbackers and Telecaster-style models built for him by Schecter and various other luthiers. Since the late-1980s, Townshend has used the Fender Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster, with Lace Sensor pick-ups, both in the studio and on tour. Some of his Stratocaster guitars feature a Fishman Power Bridge piezo pick-up system to simulate acoustic guitar tones. This piezo system is controlled by an extra volume control behind the guitar‘s bridge.
During the Who‘s 1989 Tour Townshend played a Rickenbacker guitar that was ironically smashed accidentally when he tripped over it. Instead of throwing the smashed parts away, Townshend reassembled the pieces as a sculpture. The sculpture was featured at the Rock Stars, Cars And Guitars 2 exhibit during the summer of 2009 at The Henry Ford museum.
Townshend playing a Fender Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster
There are several Gibson Pete Townshend signature guitars, such as the Pete Townshend SG, the Pete Townshend J-200, and three different Pete Townshend Les Paul Deluxes. The SG was clearly marked as a Pete Townshend limited edition modeland came with a special case and certificate of authenticity, signed by Townshend himself. There has also been a Pete Townshend signature Rickenbacker limited edition guitar of the model 1998, which was his main 6-string guitar in the Who‘s early days. The run featured 250 guitars which were made between July 1987— March 1988, and according to Rickenbacker CEO John Hall, the entire run sold out before serious advertising could be done.
He also used the Gibson ES-335, one of which he donated to the Hard Rock Cafe.Townshend also used a Gibson EDS-1275 double neck very briefly circa late 1967, and both a Harmony Sovereign H1270 and a Fender Electric XII for the studio sessions for Tommy for the 12-string guitar parts. He also occasionally used Fender Jazz masters on stage in 1967 and 1968 and in the studio for Tommy.
In 2006 Townshend had a pedal board designed by long-time gear guru Pete Cornish.The board apparently is composed with a compressor, an old Boss OD-1 overdrivepedal, as well as a T-Rex Replica delay pedal.
Over the years, Townshend has used many types of amplifier, including Vox, Selmer,Fender, Marshall, Hiwatt etc., sticking to using Hiwatt amps for most of fourdecades. Around the time of Who‘s Next, he used a tweed Fender Bandmaster amp (also given to him by Joe Walsh in 1970, which he also used for Quadrophenia and The Who by Numbers. While recording Face Dances and the collaborative album Rough Mix, Townshend made use of a Peavey Vintage 4 × 10 amplifier in the studio.Since 1989, his rig consisted of four Fender Vibro-King stacks and a Hiwatt head driving two custom made 2 × 12“ Hiwatt/Mesa Boogie speaker cabinets. However,since 2006, he has only three Vibro-King stacks, one of which is a backup.
Townshend figured prominently in the development of what is widely known in rockcircles as the “Marshall stack“. It has been recounted by others during the start of popularity of Jim Marshall‘s guitar amplifiers, that Townshend became a user of these amps.
He also ordered several speaker cabinets that contained eight speakers in ahousing standing nearly six feet in height with the top half of the cabinetslanted slightly upward. These became hard to move and were very heavy.
Jim Marshall then cut the massive speaker cabinet into two separate speakercabinets, at the suggestion of Townshend, with each cabinet containing four 12-inch speakers. One of the cabinets had half of the speaker baffle slanted upwardsand Marshall made these two cabinets stackable. The Marshall stack was born, and Townshend used these as well as Hiwatt stacks.
He has always regarded his instruments as being merely tools of the trade and has, in latter years, kept his most prized instruments well away from the concert stage. These instruments include a few vintage and reissue Rickenbackers,the Gretsch 6120, an original 1952 Fender Telecaster, Gibson Custom Shop‘s artistlimited edition reissues of Townshend‘s Les Paul DeLuxe models 1, 3 and 9 as wellhis signature SG Special reissue.
Townshend played keyboards on several Who songs. On Who‘s Next, he began to work with analogue synthesizers, using the ARP 2600 model that he first encountered at Cambridge University. He had this to say about the instrument: “I like synthesizers because they bring into my hands things that aren’t in my hands: the sound of an orchestra, French horns, strings. There are gadgets on synthesizers that enable one to become a virtuoso on the keyboard. You can play something slowly and you press a switch and it plays it back at double speed. Whereas on the guitar you‘re stuck with as fast as you can play and I don’t play fast, I just play hard. So when it goes to playing something fast I go to the synth.“
The synths Townshend was referring to include the EMS VCS3, the ARP Instruments, Inc. ARP 2600, some of which modified a Lowrey TBO Berkshire organ. Current photos of his home studio also show an ARP 2500. Townshend was featured in ARP promotional materials in the early 1970s.
Since the late 1980s Townshend has predominantly used Synclavier Digital Audiosystems for keyboard composition, particularly solo albums and projects. He currently owns three systems, one large Synclavier 9600 Tapeless Studio system, originally installed in his riverside Oceanic Studio, later transferred to asea going barge moored alongside the studio on the River Thames, and currently based in his home studio. He also uses a special adapted smaller Synclavier 3200 system which can be transported, enabling him to carry on working away from his main studio. This 3200 system was modified to be of similar specification to the 9600, including the addition internally of FM voices, stereo Poly voices and with the large VPK keyboard. This is the only Synclavier 3200 system of this specification in existence, custom designed and built for Townshend by Steve Hills. The third system Townshend owns is one of the first Synclavier II system sever built. The ORK (original smaller) keyboard of which is on display in his company‘s head office alongside a pink Vespa scooter.