ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, FEB. 17, 1984
By Steve Newton
“As soon as I got Pete involved at the production level, and not the musical, it was as if I’d stood up and said, ‘Look, I’m Simon Townshend. My brother Pete just happens to be producing my album. If you don’t like it, stuff it.”
Over the phone from Iowa last week Simon Townshend related how he felt about having older brother Pete produce his debut album Sweet Sound. The 23-year-old rocker–who opens for the Pretenders at the Queen E. This Tuesday–realized that the name his brother made as guitarist/songwriter for the Who will be somewhat of a burden on the establishment of his own identity. But he expects the music he’s made, and will make in the future, to be capable of standing on its own.
“Obviously, at this stage in my career I’m going to have to put up with being ‘Pete Townshend’s brother’. But I feel really confident that I’ll make it on my own merit. I think when I put out my next album a lot is going to change. People are going to talk far less about Pete and a lot more about me.”
That is very likely, if Townshend’s next LP is anywhere as impressive as Sweet Sound, which is similar–though not in the negative sense–to Pete’s excellent 1980 release Empty Glass. And the brothers’ comparable vocal style isn’t the only reason for likening the two records. Both were recorded by Bill Price, and both feature Big Country drummer Mark Brzezicki.
Simon Townshend has known Brzezicki for several years, as he previously played with he and Big Country bassist Tony Butler in a band called On the Air. Townshend was only 10 when he formed that band with Butler, and has since then played in two other recording groups, Shea Ramah and Sounds of Green Lightning.
Other notable players on Sweet Sound are pianist Chris Stainton and Visage bassist Steve Barnacle. The members of Townshend’s touring band–the one Vancouver audiences will see this Tuesday–are bassist Andy Shillito, keyboardist Paul Abbot, and drummer Gary Burroughs, all members of the British band Choirboys.
Aside from producing Sweet Sound, the only musical contributions Pete made to his brother’s record were the high backing vocals on the title tune and some vocals on “Mr. Sunday”. All the songs on the album were written by Simon.
Despite their mutual love for music, Simon and Pete Townshend did not see a lot of each other when they were growing up in England. Pete is 16 years older than Simon.
“Tell you the truth,” says Simon, “the most I’ve ever seen of him in my life is when I recorded the album. It’s as simple as that. When I did the album I was with him for four months. Some years went by when I wasn’t with him from one Christmas day straight through to the next.”
But unlike Pete–who wouldn’t see his brother during long stretches while the Who were out aiming for the title “World’s Greatest Rock Band”–Simon has taken his other brother, 27-year-old Paul, in tow.
“He’s on the road with me now,” says Simon, “helping out with all the gear. And he’s seeing America, which his nice.”