I’m not sure of all my lifetime guitar influences, but I am sure that Pete Townshend provided the biggest push for me to take the instrument seriously. Of course, with him it’s all good; his singing, his songwriting, and his performances. When anyone makes a list of guitar gods, he’s always near the top for a reason.
When I hear Townshend play, I can’t help think of comments made about Robert Johnson using the guitar to simultaneously play bass, harmony, and melody on the one instrument. Pinball Wizard really highlights that skill in Townshend. I was fortunate enough to have seen The Who live in 1980. Keith Moon has passed by then, but the other three were at the top of their game. Daltrey would swing the mic wildly on its cord only to have it come back to his hand just as he began the next vocal phrase. Entwistle stood in place and made the bass guitar do what no other bass guitarist could. Townshend, injured only a couple nights before, wind-milled with his right hand almost completely covered in bandages. Amazing.
This video shows a live performance of three amazing songs: Pinball Wizard, Drowned, and We Won’t Get Fooled Again. The last one played as a duet with classical guitarist John Williams. The first two are solo guitar and voice, and I must say that both songs done this way lose nothing from the full band versions. Townshend’s rapid strumming in Drowned defies belief, but what really astounds me is how clean he plays. It’s guitar perfection.