Pete Townshend's Guitar

Les Paul Guitar broken by Pete Townshend, Gibson, 1960s. Museum no. S.12-1978, © V&A Images

Les Paul Guitar broken by Pete Townshend, Gibson, 1960s. Museum no. S.12-1978, © V&A Images

Pete Townshend (born 1945 Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend), lead guitarist and principal songwriter of one of the world's most successful bands The Who, was also known for his extravagant stage style. The Who's shows often culminated in him smashing his guitar. 

Such on-stage equipment destruction has now become part of rock and roll tradition and while Jerry Lee Lewis may have been the first rock artist to destroy pianos on stage, Pete Townshend was the first guitar-smashing rock artist. Rolling Stone magazine included his guitar smashing at the Railway Hotel, Harrow in September of 1964 in their list of '50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock & Roll'.

This remnant is of a Gibson Les Paul Goldtop Deluxe, believed to be built in the 1960s, and smashed by Townshend in such a performance in the late 1960s or early 1970s.  It is on display in the V&A's Theatre and Performance Galleries.

Townshend's career with The Who spanned more than 40 years, during which time the band grew to be considered one of the greatest and most influential rock bands of all time.

Townshend was the primary songwriter for the group, writing over 100 songs on the band's eleven studio albums, including the rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia, plus dozens of additional songs that appeared as non-album track singles, bonus tracks on re-issues, and tracks on rarities compilations such as Odds and Sods.

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