Pete Townshend's Gibson Les Paul guitar broken on stage

Pete Townshend's Gibson Les Paul guitar broken on stage

The Who was one of the greatest and most progressive bands of the 1960s and 1970s. As with the first rock ’n’ roll bands, its songs were about teenage angst, but with a more realistic, and darker humour than its romantic predecessors with songs like My Generation, I’m a Boy and Pictures of Lily. The Who’s musical style was as radical as its subject matter with Townshend’s power chords and Keith Moon’s frenetic drumming. In 1969, the band created the first rock opera, Tommy, followed by Quadrophenia in 1973, both of which were subsequently made into films.

Townshend’s guitar smashing habit became an integral part of the band’s act, a form of ‘auto-destructive art’ (works of art which destroy themselves after a set time). However the practice allegedly originated by accident. In 1964 the band was doing a weekly set at the Railway Hotel in Harrow, where the ceiling was so low that Townshend took the top of the instrument’s head off while swinging it - he then trashed the whole thing and the crowds loved it so much it became a weekly event.