Pete Townshend Says Rock Isn’t Dead, But Guitar-Based Rock Is
Pete Townshend argued that rock music wasn’t dead, but that guitar-based rock was, simply because virtuoso players had “exhausted the possibilities” of the instrument.
However, the Who guitarist said that similar trends were developing in more recently-developed forms of musical expression, and that things would change again in the future.
“The guitar may be losing ground, but in part, that's because if you spend an hour on Instagram or YouTube, you will quickly discover unknown people playing the guitar the way a great orchestral violinist like Yehudi Menuhin once might have played his instrument,” Townshend told the Dallas News in a new interview.
“These are virtuosos of the highest order. They can shred like Eddie Van Halen or play jazz like John McLaughlin. They've literally exhausted the possibilities of the guitar. This kind of virtuosity is already happening with beat box-based rap, and with laptop-supported pop. Everything will change again, maybe faster than it did for guitar music – who knows?”
He continued: “It is… ‘guitar-based rock n roll’ that is losing ground, not rock itself. Hip-hop is rock to my ears: music for the neighborhood, the street, the disenfranchised, the downtrodden, the young, the ignored. That used to be what I focused on. Now, I try to write real operas, and want my stage work to be like art installations — and why not? Kanye West has been doing the same thing.”
Townshend framed his argument within the changing music industry, noting that many young artists hoped to place their songs in TV shows in the hope of making better money than they can via streaming services, and also achieving greater exposure. “I'm not complaining,” he added. “I had my day when a TV show would pay $350 per replay of a song in a series. (CSI has been my pension fund). Some of us, many of us, didn't get into this business to be millionaires or billionaires; we just wanted to connect, to raise the bar, make people dance, join together.”
He described himself as “addicted” to music on social media. “I think I am connected today to about 20 or 30 young musicians and artists who I would not have found without Instagram, YouTube and BandCamp. This is living in the moment for me.” He continued: “We will sort this out, we should not panic. There are always good and bad sides to new tech.”