The Who’s Pete Townshend: The Guitar’s Possibilities Have Been ‘Literally Exhausted’
Surely it can't be that simple, however. But as reported by Ultimate Classic Rock, the legendary rocker indicated that highly skilled guitarists — such as those found online — have left little in the way of creative avenues for other players to explore. However, when asked for his thoughts on rock music's waning popularity, Townshend indicated that rock itself isn't dead. Yet he proposed the idea that rock's dependence on guitar may be over.
"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 Morning News last week (Sept. 23). "These are virtuosos of the highest order. They can shred like Eddie Van Halen or play jazz like John McLaughlin."
He continued, "They've literally exhausted the possibilities of the guitar."
Rock music's declining popularity of late has been covered at length. Indeed, in an era when rap groups are winning rock awards, and certain rock stars are debating hip-hop's place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, many fans have been left to wonder what will become of rock as a whole. But Townshend offered his unique insight into the matter; he posited that artistic prowess doesn't discriminate against different types of music.
"This kind of virtuosity is already happening with beat box-based rap, and with laptop-supported pop," Townshend said. "Everything will change again, maybe faster than it did for guitar music — who knows?
Not that it's necessarily a surprising sentiment from the forward-thinking guitarist who helped define a generation with his guitar-smashing theatrics, but the Who member talked of own work's aim in outstripping notions of guy-with-a-guitar mundanity. To wit, the musician seemingly aspires to be more like other genre-challenging artists.
Townshend clarified, "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."
The Who's upcoming album, simply titled Who, is out Nov. 22. Preceded by comeback single "Ball and Chain," released earlier this month, it's the classic rock group's first studio effort in over 13 years.
See the Who in 55 Best Metal Covers of Classic Rock Hits