Kurt Cobain and …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead may have taken the art of instrument-trashing to depraved new levels, but it was The Who’s Pete Townshend who made it cool. The guitarist was known to name-drop art theorist Gustav Metzger when discussing his penchant for destruction, but bandmate Roger Daltrey’s here to call bullshit on all of it in his new memoir, Thanks a Lot Mr. Kibblewhite. As reported by Vulture, the memoir finds Daltrey attributing Townshend’s antics to the very thing that drives boys to start bands in the first place: Girls.
“The first time a guitar died was an accident,” Daltrey writes, referencing a 1964 gig. “The only difference was a new collapsible stage, which was a few inches higher than the upturned beer crates we usually performed on. Pete was in the middle of his repertoire of moves when he stuck the guitar through the ceiling. The place went quiet. Some girls snigged.”
In an effort to prove he totally did that on purpose, Townshend went on to smash the axe to pieces. “This pissed me off,” Daltrey continues. “Pete will tell you it was art. That he was taking the work of Gustav Metzger to a new level. Gustav who? Bollocks. He’s journalizing. The hole in the ceiling had nothing to do with Metzger and everything to do with the sniggering girls. It was heartbreaking. When I remembered how much I’d struggled to get my first guitars, it was like watching an animal being slaughtered. An expensive animal that we’d have to replace with another expensive animal before the next gig. And we had to pay for the hole in the ceiling … from then on, the audience expected us to break our instruments. It was our thing.”
Daltrey apparently came around to the act, not for the physical spectacle so much as the “surreal noises” that would resound from the smashing. “You know, I’d love Pete to smash a guitar now just like he did, but he’d have to tell the crowd: don’t just watch, listen,” Daltrey writes, forgetting to note that his bandmate is 73 years old and, one might assume, not quite as equipped for acts of mass destruction. That said, we’d love to be proven wrong.