The Who may have been the “World’s Loudest Band” at one point, but asserting that they “sort of invented heavy metal” may be a stretch. Nonetheless, Pete Townshend makes that claim in a new interview.
The legendary UK rockers recently released their first album in 13 years. Simply titled WHO, the LP arrived on December 6th and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart.
When the Toronto Sun mentioned to Townshend that the new album “doesn’t have that classic ferocious rock sound” of The Who’s heyday, the guitarist responded as follows:
“It doesn’t sound like The Who from those early heavy metal years. We sort of invented heavy metal with Live at Leeds. We were copied by so many bands, principally by Led Zeppelin, you know heavy drums, heavy bass, heavy lead guitar and some of those bands, like Jimi Hendrix for example, did it far better than we did. Cream, with Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, they came along in ‘67, same year as Jimi Hendrix, and they kind of stole our mantle in a sense. So people who want to hear that old heavy metal sound there are plenty of bands that can provide it. So it’s not really what we can actually do today. Even if we wanted to, it was never high on my list of wishes.”
Okay, time to break it down: Yes, The Who were quite heavy for their time, and were one of the first big bands when it came to hard rock. But as far as heavy metal, Townshend may be embellishing a bit.
Live at Leeds, the iconic concert album to which he refers, was recorded on February 14th, 1970, and came out in May 1970. One day before The Who even played that concert, Black Sabbath released their self-titled debut, long considered to be the first heavy metal album.
Additionally, none of the bands to whom Townsend refers were ever considered heavy metal acts, although Zeppelin, Hendrix, and Cream definitely influenced metal.
If anything, Townshend could make the argument that The Who “sort of invented” punk rock. The song “My Generation”, which contains a number of punk-rock elements, was released in 1965, long before proto-punk albums by The Stooges and others.
As mentioned, The Who did once claim the title of “World’s Loudest Band”, thanks to a 1976 concert in London in which they topped out at a record-breaking 126 decibels. That record would later be eclipsed by Manowar and KISS.