The Guitar Smash Heard Around The World

Often revered as the quintessential component required to complete the ultimate trifecta that is British Rock, The Who is  held within the ranks of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones as one of the most influential bands of the 1960’s and 70’s. Known as the pioneers of rock opera as well as the first rock band to successfully integrate synthesizers into their music, The Who have never been a band to fall victim to the status quo. The mastermind behind a large majority of their lyrics, musical composition, and stylistic stance is non-other than their guitarist, Pete Townshend, who in the midst of a live performance mistake, altered the guitar game for good.

In September of 1964 The Who were performing at The Railway Tavern in Harrow and Wealdstone. Performing there every Tuesday night, this was not a venue or crowd to which the band were unfamiliar. Townshend, being a man of 6 foot stature, recalls his guitar hitting the ceiling and breaking. Sadden by the incident, Townshend wasn’t prepared for his guitar to go. Expecting someone, anyone, to notice the unfortunate happening and feel mournful for the loss of a man’s instrument, Townshend became enraged that no one seemed to care. Determined to have this precious moment accounted for, Townshend began smashing and bashing the guitar across the stage until the once prized possession was nothing but bits and bolts and there wasn’t a person in the room who hadn’t noticed the occurrence. Townshend, now satisfied, strutted to the side of the stage, picked up his spare guitar, and began playing as if nothing had happened.

This moment, rooted in rage and discontentment, sparked interest to those who had witnessed its happening and became celebrated as an instance of raw human emotion, that of which Rock N’ Roll was becoming known for. Pete Townshend went on to smash hundreds of guitars as well as influence the likes of Eddie Van Halen, Matt Bellamy, Paul Stanley, Bill Joe Armstrong, Kurt Cobain, Paul Simonon, Jimi Hendrix, and many more to unleash their passion and emotion into a moment that the audience is sure to remember and to always acknowledge.


–Victoria Shaffer



 Parco, Nicholas. “A Look at Iconic Dates in Rock ‘n’ Roll History.” NY Daily News. N.p., 06 July 2016. Web. 19 July 2017.
Wenner, Jann. “Pete Townshend Talks Mods, Recording, and Smashing Guitars.”Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone, 14 Sept. 1968. Web. 19 July 2017.
“The Who Biography.” Rolling Stone. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 July 2017.

12 thoughts on “The Guitar Smash Heard Around The World

  1. While Pete Townsend is a dynamite guitarist, the thought of him smashing hundreds of electric guitars actually pains me somewhat. At the time I got my first electric guitar, the equipment was really expensive. The idea my beloved instrument would break was horrifying; proactively destroying it was unthinkable!


    1. Absolutely! That’s why I think initially he was heartbroken… then pissed no one cared… then starting selling more tickets and making a name for himself based on his smashing of guitars… so he just kept it up. I too thought the image of hundreds of broken guitars to be extremely depressing! Thank you for your input!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Especially if you’re a “regular kid” who wishes they could have one of the guitars he smashed, since they don’t have the money to buy it. Seriously, he should have given them away!

        I know he did it out of frustration initially, but then it become a regular part of Who performances the fans expected. And, yes, I also get the raw energy it projects. Still, at the end of the day, I find it a bit depressing!

        Liked by 1 person

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