Enough said? Not quite.
With such a pedigree, one might think Simon’s musical endeavors might be overshadowed by those of his famous brother. Not so.
“I really don’t feel I have had any shadows to step out of,” Simon said. “I am 15 years younger than Pete, so really I don’t remember much about he and his friends, especially when it came to my home life—he had left home by the time I was three years old.”
But that doesn’t mean he was not aware of his brother’s success.
“I have always been immensely proud of Pete,” said Simon. “I knew from a very young age—maybe four years old. I don’t remember it any other way. The Who, in my eyes, were always huge stars. In reality, though, they were just starting out, but to me they were incredibly famous already. My mum used to help them with their gear occasionally on some of the smaller, local gigs, and I used to tag along. The attention they were getting was something I knew I wanted to follow in the footsteps of.”
Music and entertainment go back generations in Simon’s family. In addition to his father and brother, his mother was a singer and his grandparents were stage and street entertainers.
“I was always going to go that way, as are my children,” Simon noted. “My son Ben plays drums on my CD (Looking Out Looking In, Eagle Rock Entertainment, 2012). He is an amazing player—a groove master. My other son Josh is gifted and teaches guitar. Then there’s my daughter Hannah; she has an awesome singing voice—in fact, she will feature on my next CD on a track called ‘Meet in a Dream.’”
Simon continued, “Also, my father was a superb musician, reed player (sax, clarinet), and he often took me to the last of his big band rehearsals and shows before it fizzled out completely. This was always incredible. The sound of these amazing musicians ‘having a blow,’ as they called it, was immense. I have a lot to thank my father for; he pushed me into writing, as he could see I had a lot of talent in that department, and the change in the music business—he foresaw that in the future it was going to become more important to write music than to play it.”
And so it was to be. Recently, Pete wrote about his tumultuous childhood, filled with character shaping experiences. The age distance between the brothers allowed for distinction, but Simon remembers some similarities.
“There was a long period when my father and mother used to go out drinking and I would be left at home alone,” Simon recalled. “I used to listen to records, sit and play guitar/piano, write music and lyrics that were eventually to shape my life. There were times I felt very lonely and music was my only company, my escapism —but I have no regrets, as this is what made me what I am. This is when I learned the tricks of the trade.”
And so, at the tender age of nine, he started to put those tricks into practice by singing backup vocals on The Who’s Tommy and later starring as the “newsboy” in the film adaptation. Simon was on his way. A record deal with Polydor in the early ’80s yielded two great albums: the Pete produced Sweet Sound (1983) and Simon Townshend’s Moving Target (1985). Both albums have been (sadly) long out of print and not currently available for download.
“This is a question I am often asked,” Simon said. “It is really down to the major label that owns the rights to the recordings. I would love to see this happen, as would a lot of my fans. The demand is growing, so it’s only a matter of time. Sweet Sound has some of my best early material, and Moving Target, although in my opinion, way over produced, has a few very cool tunes, “Sorry,” “Barriers,” and “Moving Target” being my pick of the bunch. Perhaps my next move with Sweet Sound is to try and get the rights back and reissue on Stir [his own label]. I am very proud of these early records—I still play some of the tunes in my set today.”
A series of solo records have been issued over the years, including 2012’s wonderful Looking Out Looking In, and various one-off projects. Simon started touring with The Who’s Roger Daltrey in 1994 and took a brief turn in a supergroup (if you will) called Casbah Club in 2004. Featuring Bruce Watson and Mark Brzezicki, from Big Country, one album was yielded from this stellar lineup (Venustraphobia, 2006).
But it is his strong family ties and affiliation with his brother’s music that has supplemented his own drive to create.
“I had been touring with Roger on his “Daltrey Sings Townshend” tour,” Simon explained. “Zak Starkey (Ringo’s son and current drummer for The Who) and I joined up with Rog at the same time for that tour, and that was the beginning of our affiliation with The Who. Pete hadn’t been doing much Who work since their 1989 tour, and I firmly believe that our youth and exuberance for the music brought Pete back and got him firing on all cylinders again. In fact, we had a half hour Quadrophenia segment in the “Daltrey Sings Townshend” show which led to the full-on Who incarnation of 1996, 1997 and 1998.”
Simon has been a touring member of The Who since 1996. In between Who tours he maintains a healthy schedule of solo shows.
“After the next Who leg is over at the end of Feb 2013 I’m going on to support Heart in Canada solo acoustic, then in April I have a string of UK shows, again solo acoustic,” Simon said. “I am releasing four of my latest songs on vinyl in February too, which is the first of three releases between now and next fall when the next CD will be officially released in North America. Come summer 2013, I want to be back with my band playing major festivals and then in the fall doing a tour of the U.K. and U.S. in 300-600 capacities. This is the plan, and I’m confident we are going to make it happen.”
“I don’t know anything else,” Simon concluded. “This is me. This is what I do. Music is my life, and it’s the only thing that I fully understand and love outside of my family. Music has always fed and clothed me, paid the rent. It’s in the blood.”
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Tags: Simon Townshend, The Who