Recently, Pete Townshend shed light on The Who’s deliberate choice to target male audiences initially, offering insights into their journey and the ripple effect it had on rock culture, particularly the transformation of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant.
Criticism of rock culture’s male-centric focus has echoed through the ages, with iconic bands like Led Zeppelin often cited as prime examples. Townshend, in a revealing interview on the Broken Record Podcast, shared the band’s deliberate decision to eschew the teenage heart-throb image, aiming instead to resonate with a male demographic.
Townshend articulated his perspective on the shift, stating, “I’ll write songs that are about boys, sexuality, frustrations with life…” The guitarist acknowledged that as the band matured, the allure of the teenage heart-throb card diminished, leading to a strategic pivot towards a male audience. This decision, he explained, proved successful by tapping into the enduring loyalty and passion that males invest in their interests, akin to sports fandom.
Via Ultimate Guitar – However, Townshend emphasized that this approach underwent a transformation with the evolution of their lead singer, Roger Daltrey, particularly around the time of the “Tommy” movie. The glamorization of Daltrey marked a shift, drawing in a broader audience that included women, albeit not reaching the frenzied heights of certain contemporaries like The Rolling Stones.
Intriguingly, Townshend delved into the influence of Daltrey’s transformation on none other than Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. According to Townshend, Plant took inspiration from Daltrey’s Woodstock movie performance, a pivotal moment when Daltrey transitioned from a simple vocalist to a commanding, glamorous figure.
Recalling this transformative period, Townshend remarked, “And suddenly, we had a rock god. But at the same time, so did Zeppelin.” The influence extended beyond Daltrey’s onstage persona, encompassing a sartorial shift and a redefined approach to performance. Plant, spurred on by the visual spectacle of Daltrey, embraced a similar trajectory, shedding his earlier image for a more commanding and visually striking presence.
In this insightful revelation, Townshend not only unveils The Who’s strategic approach to audience engagement but also highlights the interconnected nature of rock’s evolution. From intentional shifts in target demographics to the profound influence of one iconic frontman on another, the intricate web of musical evolution is laid bare, proving once again that in the realm of rock, the echoes of influence reverberate across generations.