Pete Townshend Just Got His First Jackson Guitar… At Age 78!

Author: Santiago Motto | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

There’s no age limit to be a rock star. Indeed, we’ve witnessed what a band like the Rolling Stones can do at almost 80 years of age with their newest hit album Hackney Diamonds.

But the real challenge is keeping the interest going and the hands on the six-stringer for decades without just repeating old patterns and structures.

Well, Pete Townshend is one of the most influential guitar players of his generation and one who continues to defy himself to get to new sonic territories.

Join me to find out about his latest adventures deep into metal land.

The Riffmaster and His Guitars

Pete Townshend has amassed a great collection of vintage originals during his 5+ decades of activity in the music business. Yes, from the Rickenbackers of the early ‘60s in songs like “I Can’t Explain” to the Polara White Gibson SG Special, the heavily modified Les Paul Deluxe (with that awkward humbucker in the middle!), he’s played all the iconic guitar shapes we drool over.

Lately, though, his guitar pilgrimage seems to have come to an end since Townshend has played almost exclusively maple-neck Fender Stratocasters for the past decades. More precisely, he has been playing Eric Clapton Signature models.

Yet, his spirit as a musical innovator has never rested and, as he says, he’s still ‘learning and having fun with guitars’. For a man who has had more than one holy grail in his hands, that’s saying a lot.

Venturing into New Territory

In this never-ending search for new tones and inspiration, Pete Townshend said recently he thought ‘It’s time for me to try a Charvel or one of these sort of heavy metal guitars.’

Yes, believe it or not, Pete Townshend had never owned a super Strat before. Yes, he survived the shredding ‘80s without touching one of those brightly painted, pointy, flashy, super-fast guitar creations of the decade.

Moreover, he held a prejudice against those guitars thinking that they all sound the same and have only one sound. He says the same about his old Les Pauls and SGs which he keeps at home because they “don’t have enough scope and change on stage.”

Yet, curiosity was more powerful than prejudice and the rocking legend decided to go for a brand-new Jackson guitar with all the appointments of a metal-ready guitar. Yes, including the humbuckers, the ultra-fast neck, and, of course, a locking tremolo.

What? Instant Speed Boost?

The first impression Pete had with his brand-new acquisition was that he “was playing faster.” But this wasn’t just a small speed increase (like we all have when we strap on one of these pure-blood race guitars) but he was playing at the speed of light. In his own words, “I was playing at three times the speed that I normally play at.”

That, for a rocker responsible for great riffs, chords, solos, arpeggios, and songs is saying quite a lot. It’s even more because Pete Townshend is 78 years old and has been playing guitar, at least, for the past 60 years. Can you imagine unblocking a new level of speed at that tenure as a player?

The Marvels of the Floyd Rose Technology

Maybe you, me, and many other guitar players in the world have had our share of time with Floyd Rose double-locking tremolos. I mean, I know what it feels like to break a string while playing a solo and have the whole thing go out of tune instantly.

I also know how much time it takes to restring your guitar, and how cool it is to take it out of the case after months of not playing it and finding the rusty strings are still in tune.

But Pete was unaware of this marvelous new technology, so in a recent interview, he described it in an almost childlike way. He said “I got it out of the box and it’s got very light strings on and a notch where the strings are locked down, and it’s got the strings locked at the other end, too, and you tune them with little buttons. And so, the whammy bar is extraordinary!”

Well, Pete, welcome to the wonderful world of double-locking tremolos, I hope you can soon try a guitar with an Evertune bridge and have your mind blown again. In the meantime, enjoy those dive-bomb moves and stratosphere-high harmonics playing with the whammy bar.

Keeping It Fun is The Name of the Game

In another recent interview, Pete Townshend, who was famously intimidated by Jimi Hendrix when he landed in the UK scene in the late ‘60s said that he feels most modern guitarists are intimidated by the internet personalities and Instagram celebrities capable of some serious shredding.

He doesn’t feel that intimidation himself because, as a true bold innovator and composer, Pete Townshend thinks of his guitar as an instrument that allowed him to develop a personal style and write a bunch of hit songs. In that vein, what he said was “I’m still stuck with the old order, which is trying to make sure I don’t let my fingers play a series of cliches,”

This is not a minor detail, but the key to Pete’s longevity as an influential guitarist: keeping it interesting.

In that quest to keep it exciting, interesting, inspiring, and awesome, this guitarist has left us with some amazing riffs, bombastic live performances, and a unique voice that’s as beautiful as it is uncanny.

I’m left with this lesson from a humble, very talented man, to keep it always fresh so I can continue playing. After all, isn’t that why we pick up the guitar every day? To have some fun?

Let’s follow Pete’s path and grow old following his motto: “I’m still learning and I’m still having fun with guitars.”

Happy playing!

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About Santiago Motto

Santiago is a guitar player with over 25 years of experience. A self-confessed guitar nerd, he currently tours with his band 'San Juan'. Called 'Sandel' by his friends, he has a pop palate for melodies, ballads, and world music. San especially has an immense love for telecasters and all-mahogany Martins.

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