In a recent interview on BBC Radio Scotland with Billy Sloan, legendary guitarist Pete Townshend of The Who delved into the fascinating dynamics between two iconic rock vocalists: Roger Daltrey of The Who and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin.
Recalling a pivotal moment during the recording of The Who’s landmark album ‘Who’s Next’ at Olympic Studios, Townshend reflected on the intense competition and pressure they felt from emerging heavy rock bands.
He shared his thoughts, saying:
“I think by that time, we’d become aware that Led Zeppelin was snapping at our heels, and eventually, of course, in heavy rock terms, overtook the Who.”
Townshend then delved into a captivating observation about Robert Plant’s early stage presence, suggesting that Plant took inspiration from Roger Daltrey. He remarked:
“But I think Robert Plant was a shrieker — he copied the way that Roger looked on stage. He had his own thing, but Robert Plant was somewhere between Roger Daltrey and Steve Marriott from The Faces. He found his own feet in the end, but I think Roger was aware that he had to really sharpen up. And he did.”
However, Townshend explained that this competitive environment ultimately had a positive effect on Daltrey.
It prompted him to treat his voice with great care and professionalism, leading him to adopt a healthier lifestyle compared to some of his bandmates. Townshend shared, “He started to really regard his voice as an instrument and to really take care of himself. He didn’t use drugs, he didn’t drink a lot, he had his issues and his eccentricities, but he really looked after himself. The rest of the band would be living hard without question.”
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The rivalry between The Who and Led Zeppelin was not only musically intense but also commercially significant.
While The Who achieved considerable success, they often found themselves living in the shadow of Led Zeppelin, who became one of the most successful bands of the 1970s, selling around 300 million records compared to The Who’s 100 million.
Interestingly, Townshend has not been a big fan of Led Zeppelin’s music, which adds an intriguing layer to the history of rock rivalries.
This fascinating insight into the rock legends of the 1960s and 1970s offers a glimpse into the competitive spirit that drove these iconic musicians to reach new heights in their careers. Listen to the full interview for more intriguing anecdotes and rock history.
Listen to the full interview below: