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The Who: We sort of invented heavy metal

The Who
The Who in 1970: Keith Moon, Pete Townsend, John Entwistle and Roger Daltrey (Image credit: Getty)

The Who’s Pete Townshend claims that they “sort of invented heavy metal” with the release of their 1970 album Live At Leeds.

The record launched in May 1970 – three months after they played at the University Of Leeds Refectory – and, while speaking with the Toronto Sun (opens in new tab), it was pointed out to the guitarist that their new album Who didn’t have “that classic ferocious rock sound.”

Townshend replied: “It doesn’t sound like The Who from those early heavy metal years. We sort of invented heavy metal with Live At Leeds

“We were copied by so many bands, principally by Led Zeppelin (opens in new tab), you know: heavy drums, heavy bass, heavy lead guitar and some of those bands, like Jimi Hendrix (opens in new tab) for example, did it far better than we did. 

Cream (opens in new tab), with Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, they came along in 1967, same year as Hendrix, and they kind of stole our mantle in a sense. 

“So people who want to hear that old heavy metal sound, there are plenty of bands that can provide it. So it’s not really what we can actually do today. Even if we wanted to, it was never high on my list of wishes.”

Townshend also reports that he doesn’t see rock music as a dying genre – despite claims to the contrary from some quarters, and adds: “I think there are still loads of young guys with guitars and now we’ve got loads of young women with guitars. 

"So I think rock will continue as a genre but I don’t know quite what it will touch on, what it will be able to draw on.”

Earlier this month, it was announced that The Who will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Live At Leeds on February 14 (opens in new tab) when they play at the 2000-capacity Pryzm nightclub in Kingston Upon Thames, West London.

They’ll then head out on the next leg of their Moving On tour from March.

The Who: Who (opens in new tab)
The Who return with their new studio album Who – their first record since 2006's Endless Wire. The album features the tracks Hero Ground Zero and Ball And Chain.

The Who: Moving On tour 2020
Mar 16: Manchester Arena, UK
Mar 18: Dublin 3Arena, Ireland
Mar 21: Newcastle Utilita Arena, UK
Mar 23: Glasgow SSE Hydro, UK
Mar 25: Leeds First Direct Arena, UK
Mar 30: Cardiff Motorpoint Arena, UK
Apr 01: Birmingham Resorts World Arena, UK
Apr 03: Nottingham Motorpoint Arena, UK
Apr 06: Liverpool M&S Bank Arena, UK
Apr 07: London SSE Wembley Arena, UK
Apr 21: Hollywood Hard Rock Live, FL
Apr 23: Cincinnati BB&T Arena Northern Kentucky University, OH
Apr 25: New Orleans Jazz Fest, LA
Apr 27: Dallas American Airlines Center, TX
Apr 30: Houston Toyota Center, TX
May 02: Denver Pepsi Center, CO 
May 05: Las Vegas The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, NV
May 07: Las Vegas The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, NV
May 09: Las Vegas The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, NV
May 12: Las Vegas The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, NV
May 14: Las Vegas The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, NV
May 16: Las Vegas The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, NV

Scott looks after and updates Louder’s online buyer’s guides and also scouts out the best deals for music fans from every corner of the internet. He's spent more than 28 years in newspapers and magazines as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. Scott joined our news desk in the summer of 2014, where he wrote extensively about rock, metal, prog and more, before moving to the eCommerce team full-time in 2020. Scott has previous written for publications including IGN, Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to video games, travel and whisky.