The Who’s Pete Townshend is one of the most acclaimed classic rock stars of his generation, however, even he gets impressed by the work of other artists. For example, he thought a 1950s rock hit was beautiful and poetic. Here’s a look at the song he liked so much — and how the American public reacted to it.
The Who’s Pete Townshend thinks this song about frustration is poetic
During a 1968 interview with Rolling Stone, Townshend discussed the sort of rock songs he enjoyed. “The rock ‘n’ roll songs I like, of course, are songs like ‘Summertime Blues,’ man that’s beautiful,” Townshend said. Given the date of the interview, Townshend was almost certainly referring to Eddie Cochran’s version of the song. “It says everything: don’t have the blues, it’s summertime; summertime, you don’t get the blues in summertime!” he added. “There is no such thing. That’s why there’s no cure for them.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Townshend said rock ‘n’ roll should have a certain bounce to it, however, it doesn’t have to be “physical.” He pointed to The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as an example of “non-physical” rock music. On the other hand, Townshend said The Electric Flag’s A Long Time Comin’ was the sort of rock music that made him want to get up and dance. He compared both of these albums to “Summertime Blues.”
“But when I hear something like ‘Summertime Blues,’ then I do both, then I’m into rock ‘n’ roll, then I’m into a way of life, into that thing about being that age and being this age and grooving to that thing that he’s talking about which is, like, summertime and, like not being able to get off work early and not being able to get out in the sunshine and not being able to borrow the car because dad’s in a foul mood,” he said. “All those frustrations of summer so wonderfully and so simply, so poetically, put in this incredible package, the package being rock ‘n’ roll.”
Did the public like ‘Summertime Blues’ as much as The Who’s Pete Townshend?
Townshend was clearly a fan of “Summertime Blues.” The public was as well. Eddie Cochran’s version of the track reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Summertime Blues” performed better than Cochran’s three other Billboard Hot 100 hits — “Teenage Heaven,” “Something Else,” and “C’Mon Everybody” — none of which reached the top 20.
In addition, many famous artists covered the song, including The Beach Boys, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Olivia Newton-John, Blondie’s Debbie Harry, and The Black Keys. It’s one of the more popular standards to come out of early rock music. The song meant a lot to Townshend — and it leaves behind quite a legacy.