“When a boy signs up for a soccer team, he supports them for the rest of his f**king life”: Pete Townshend on why he wanted to appeal to male audiences with The Who
The Who guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend has spoken about why he decided to target a specifically male audience when writing music for the band in their early days.
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On a new episode of the Broken Record Podcast, Townshend discusses the group’s musical direction early in their career and the reason he didn’t want to go down the teenage heartthrob route many bands have gone for.
“I just remember saying ‘No, let’s play to the male audience. I’ll write songs that are about boys, sexuality, frustrations with life,’” he recalls. “Because, when a boy signs up for a soccer team, he supports them for the rest of his fucking life.”
“It’s like sport in the US,” the musician says. “And it worked for us.”
“I mean, we drifted into a slightly more normal audience around the time the Tommy movie was on, when Roger [Daltrey] became a much more glamorous figure. Then, we started to get girls coming in, but never the kind of crazy female audience that The Stones had.”
Host Justin Richmond then points out how Led Zeppelin appears to have struck a good balance between appealing to a male audience and the “Robert Plant-ness” of things, to which Townshend replies: “Robert based himself very much on Roger’s performance in the Woodstock movie.”
“That was the point at which Roger transformed from being short-haired [and] not really having a job in the band [apart from] just singing the songs, to having a really important central function.”
He continues: “His wife ordered him this beautiful shammy leather jacket with fringes, encouraged him to stop bleaching his hair, to let it grow out. And it went into ringlets. And to display his body, because he was always very well-built. And of course, the Woodstock film was huge. And in it, he was beautifully lit, beautifully photographed.”
“And suddenly, we had a rock god. But at the same time, so did Zeppelin.”
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