Why doesn’t Pete Townshend like Led Zeppelin?

Pete Townshend

In 1960s Britain, all musicians, including The Who and Led Zeppelin, knew each other. The story goes that Jimmy Page, London’s most sought-after session musician, and future Led Zeppelin mastermind, was present on the day of The Who’s first recording session. The Who recorded ‘I Can’t Explain‘ here, and they went on to become one of the era’s definitive outfits.

If you were curious about Page’s presence, the renowned producer Shel Talmy was the one who recruited him. Talmy, fresh from collaborating with The Kinks, enlisted Page as a session musician. Reflecting on the experience, Page acknowledged that his contribution was minimal. However, he cherishes the privilege of being part of the session.

After parting ways, both factions took different paths. In 1968, after a brief stint with the Yardbirds, Page fully developed his vision, leading to the formation of Led Zeppelin. The band swiftly ascended to prominence, filling the void left by The Beatles’ dissolution in 1970. They became the most successful group of the decade on both sides of the Atlantic.

Simultaneously, The Who enjoyed a prosperous period in the ’70s, releasing acclaimed albums like Who’s Next (1971) and Quadrophenia (1973). However, they lived in the shadow of Led Zeppelin throughout the decade.

While there was never any rivalry or conflict between the two bands, Pete Townshend has never been a fan of Zeppelin. In one interview, he seemed to admit that it could be because Page and Co. were much more successful than his band.

Townshend discussed his dislike for Led Zeppelin in a 1990s interview, and if he’s to be believed, it was a matter of taste rather than commercial viability or jealousy. “I haven’t liked a single thing that they’ve done,” Townshend declared. “I despise the fact that I am even remotely comparable to them. I’ve just never liked them. It’s a real issue for me because they’re all really, really nice people. I just didn’t like the band.”

In terms of commercial power, it is estimated that The Who has sold around 100 million records over the years. In contrast, Led Zeppelin has shipped 300 million, indicating that Led Zeppelin is significantly more successful than The Who. Crowd sizes reflect this as well. In May 1973, Led Zeppelin drew more than 56,000 fans at Tampa Stadium, breaking the record set by The Beatles at Shea Stadium. The achievement earned the band $309,000. This was also the highest amount ever paid for a rock concert at the time.

I’m uncertain if it’s a personal issue or a creative block, as they surpassed The Who in various aspects,” Townshend stated. “Regardless, I never had a fondness for them.”

Form your own opinion on why Pete Townshend harbors disapproval toward Led Zeppelin; the reasons seem quite apparent. Watch the interview where Pete Townshend discusses Led Zeppelin below.

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