Ed Driscoll

Happy 66th Birthday to Pete Townshend

I’m a day late to this one, but read Brad Schaeffer at Big Hollywood for a look at Townshend’s contributions as a musician and songwriter. As for how he wrote those songs, since so many early bloggers had a background in DIY music, here’s a look back at a post I wrote in 2003 for the then-nascent Blogcritics Website on Townshend’s “Scoop” series of albums, which helped to popularize home music recording, beginning in the 1980s, as the first affordable cassette four-track machines began to enter the market.

But years before that, beginning in the early 1960s, Townshend was first recording his music at home, initially on large reel-to-reel machines. Townshend, then a fledgling songwriter in the earliest incarnation of The Who, initially couldn’t read music. To make up for that, he started “writing” his songs by overdubbing first a drum track (first with real drums, eventually with drum machines), then a guitar track, then a bass track, and finally a vocal track to present his bandmates in The Who with an audio demo of his song.

Today, the technology has advanced sufficiently so that the line between “demo” recordings and the finished product has blurred — and the recording technology inside a $35,000 Fairlight sampling synthesizer of the early 1980s is inside almost any PC with a good quality soundcard and the appropriate software. And actually, the video below is a little outdated, since it promotes the benefits of 64-bit computing for recording, a technology that’s now fairly ubiquitous. But it does a good overview of what’s possible these days with the right hardware, software, and musical chops: