The Who, 1970: Behind the lens in Pete Townshend’s inventive home studio

March 1, 2012 | By Chris Morphet | Archive

There was something slightly Heath Robinson and British inventor about Pete Townshend’s home studio, where these photos were taken, all with plugs and cables scattered everywhere. It was a hotbed of creativity and Pete was always crammed full of energy and musical ideas.

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This was Pete’s home studio in Twickenham, opposite Eel Pie Island. It was in quite an old house, somehow built like an old boat with winding stairs, small windows and cosy-sized rooms. It was probably on the first floor, and Pete (being a bit of a sailor himself) loved creating a studio with all his gear inside, and could nimbly get about it from room to room.

When you look at the photos, they give lots of information about the whole set up in there — with guitars from Coral, Harmony, Gibson, a Danelectro Bass, banjo, etc. There was a Wurlitzer electric piano, a Lowrey Berkshire organ, a synthesiser and a piano,Marshall and Fender amps. Then various tape machines to record it all on using a Kudelski  Nagra, Revox and other recorders. It was a rich mix of music and technology, all watched over by Meher Baba whose photo took a prominent place on the wall. It was truly exciting and Pete was on a roll and a pleasure to watch and be around. I suspect some of the demos for Who classics like “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Baba O’Riley” were created in this space.

Pete was full of invention and driving forward and utilising some new techniques and combining them with the classic rock guitar input. Pete’s guitar playing is always a joy to be in the same room with, and he seemed to make use of jazz and flamenco influences to bring about The Who sound of the time. Outside of any recordings, we would make time for cups of tea and talk ideas in the atmospheric kitchen below.

Because the rooms were so small with lots of equipment in, I decided to specially hire in a very wide-angle lens, and although it was far too wide and bendy for most of the things I shot, it does this location justice, and I love the way in one frame it brings in so much information, and makes a real record of how it was at the time.

Editor’s note: Chris Morphet is a renowned photographer, who shot many of the rock legends of the 1960s and ’70s. And he knows this studio space well:

“Funnily enough, I also played blues style harmonica on two tracks (“Look Around” and “Accidents” on Side One), in this same studio with the Thunderclap Newman band who Pete produced and recorded. I think he may have played bass on the record as someone called Bijou Drains is credited for bass.”

Images in Slider:

Pete Townshend of the Who takes a moment in his home studio, amongst his keyboards, guitars and gear. All photos by Chris Morphet/Redferns/Getty Images. Image numbers are: 85003942, 85003985 and 126319169, respectively. 

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