Pete Townshend On Woodstock: 'We Were Brilliant'

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Pete Townshend can't help but gush at how well the Who's 1969 Woodstock performance went down. During a chat with Rock Cellar, he spoke about the band's watershed performance that helped catapult them into super-stardom, admitting, "The footage is brilliant. We were brilliant. It was all those drugged-up hippies that ended up looking like t**** in The Simpsons."

Townshend went on to say, "Listen, Woodstock should have delivered what it promised. We did. The movie delivered too, I think. The sad part is that all I remember about Woodstock is meeting Richie Havens again and thinking, 'This is a truly spiritual man.' Everyone else seemed like rabbits in the headlights. I don't f***with spirituality. I do it like it's a personal war."

Ultimately, Townshend believes the "Woodstock Nation" petered out on itself: "Woodstock could have been a beginning, not an end. There were nearly a million very good souls there, with the best intentions. What went wrong? I don't know. Maybe nothing. I didn't have a good time. It was just another gig to me."

Townshend spoke candidly about his relationship with the Who's audience, explaining, "I have always carried this strong belief that while I am on stage the audience is doing the driving somehow. This has confused some fans when they meet me off stage -- they expect to have the same control over me they enjoy while I perform. But on stage I am powerless over the process, and I think it's about the best thing I do. I am unconditional about my desire to do my best on stage, and I know how good I am. So I am confident, and secure, easy, but also determined -- and yet at the same time I am humble as a performer, I feel as though I have a duty."

One of the most notable moments of the Who's Woodstock performance was when counter-culture activist Abbie Hoffman was booted offstage by Townshend during the band's set: "What actually happened was, he interrupted me singing 'Acid Queen.' And I let him. But he went on too long for me. And then after he'd said what he said, I went up to him and I said, 'Stop.' And he started again. So I put my guitar on the side of his neck and I went like that (makes a sweeping motion) and went back to the song. A couple of minutes later I looked, and he was on the side of the stage, hunched up like a baby, kind of in shock, staring at me really, really angrily. When the song was over, I walked over to him and I said, 'I'm sorry.' And he said 'F*** you' and ran off. And that's actually what happened."

Pete Townshend returned to the Woodstock site for 1998's A Day In The Garden three-day concert, which also featured performances by Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, and Joni Mitchell, among others. Townshend was asked at the time for his feelings on developing what some people feel is almost sacred ground, and he said: "Looking at the very fact that somebody has bought this bit of land and wants there to be music here, it says a lot about what really was important about the original occasion, y'know, 'cause everything other than the music -- everything other than the actual gathering of people -- in a way turned out to be slightly flawed. If anything, what this is doing simply is honoring what was meant to happen back then."