Pete Townshend says the death of John Entwistle forced him to become a better guitarist

Pete Townshend (left) and John Entwistle
(Image credit: Sergione Infuso /Corbis / Richard E. Aaron/Redferns via Getty)

Pete Townshend has revealed that the death of his The Who bandmate and bass guitar icon John Entwistle in 2002 prompted him to become a better guitarist.

Speaking to Rolling Stone, the electric guitar heavyweight noted that, upon Entwistle’s passing, a broad sonic space was left in the band – a space that he ultimately had to fill by experimenting and developing new approaches to playing, owing to the bassist’s nontraditional sound.

Townshend – who also reflected on the sonic space left in the wake of drummer Keith Moon’s death in 1978 – commented, “When John Entwistle died, there was another space left. That was because he was filling up so much of the musical spectrum with his bass sound, which was not a traditional bass sound. 

“And so when he was gone,” he continued, “there was suddenly space for me – not so much to try and fill up the void he had left, but a space where I could have a different approach.”

It was an approach, Townshend said, that saw him put greater emphasis on his soloing, and one that saw him take his practicing seriously for the first time. 

“I started to solo,” he continued. “I had to learn to practice the guitar, which I hadn’t done much of before. I’ll never be a famous shredder, but I can play better than I could when we were in the Live at Leeds years, for example.”

Entwistle passed away in 2002, after contributing to all of The Who’s studio albums that were released during his lifetime, from their 1965 debut, My Generation, to 1982’s It’s Hard. For the band's 2006 effort, Endless Wire, their first since Entwistle’s death, the band brought session ace Pino Palladino onboard to fulfill bass duties.

Palladino, along with Gus Seyffert, was also enlisted for The Who’s most recent LP, 2019’s Who.

In other Who news, Townshend and Roger Daltrey recently announced The Who Hits Back! tour – a 29-date stint around the US, and their first time in the country since 2019’s Moving On! tour.

Split into spring and fall legs, the tour will kick off on April 22 at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood and conclude on November 5 at Dolby Live at Park MGM in Las Vegas, with a four-month summer break taking place between May 28 and October 2.

For tickets and more information, visit The Who’s website.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.