Shit! What do I say? I was silent for a few moments as I was a bit distracted by Pete’s gaze. He has very intense blue eyes. They search. He is obviously interested in people. Behind Blue Eyes and all that.
I finally started in by thanking Pete for his inspiration. That he was one of the main reasons I picked up the guitar in the first place and continue to this day. That perhaps my parents were not so much in debt to him as I was since they’ve never really understood the whole process to begin with. I have no idea why I said that. It just came out. No comment from Pete.
I told him about seeing The Who in NYC at Madison Square Garden in the fall of 1979. How when the the bright white lights lit up the crowd during Won’t Get Fooled Again there was a certain 16 year old boy standing on a railing above the crowd, his arms stretched toward the ceiling in ecstasy – just about 50 feet from stage left at eye level – when Pete Townshend had suddenly pointed at him. He grinned and mentioned that he “vaguely remembered those shows” (Pete was quite a drinker in those days).
I told him that I had seen the show last night in Berkeley, which had prompted me to seek him out today and that I very much enjoyed the reach of his new work. That it was important he was still taking risks, however good or bad they might be or be received. He very much appreciated that.
He did not hesitate with his answer,
A sharpie pen was produced and the guitar signed, just below the tailpiece where it would be rather safe from wear and tear.
Until now, Pete’s entourage had stayed respectfully away, but was starting to shuffle a bit. As Pete made a turn to leave, I thanked him again and said,
“Hey Pete, keep on pushing.”
He turned back and said,
“I intend to.”
It has been over ten years now and I don’t play the guitar as much. Mostly because I love my Telecasters, but also because I don’t like hauling it to gigs.
I have used it for shows with the HO! (a punk rock, tongue-in-cheek, Live at Leeds era Who cover band) as a backup to my red Gibson SG and for the songs that needed a capo. In fact, at our “last show ever” the SG got damaged and for My Generation, I went to the PT signed Les Paul Special and proceeded to bash it around on the stage and snapped the bottom straplock off of it in true Pete fashion. It’s a working guitar, dammit. You can witness this at the end of this promo trailer:
I still use it for recording and every once in a while I take it out when I feel like jacking up some power chords though my Hiwatt head. It always feels right.
A friend asked recently if I ever worried about losing the guitar.
I believe my response was, “It doesn’t really matter because I’ll always have the story.”