How Pete Townshend’s giant nose changed his life



petePete Townshend was ruthlessly bullied in school because of his large nose. It was “an experience that profoundly affected him,” and could have ultimately led to him becoming a virtuoso guitarist – forcing him to retreat from socialization and focus on his playing.

“When I was in school the geezers that were snappy dressers and got chicks like years before I ever even thought they existed, would always like to talk about my nose,” Townshend said in a 1968 Rolling Stone interview. “This seemed to be the biggest thing in my life: my fucking nose, man. Whenever my dad got drunk, he’d come up to me and say, ‘Look son, you know looks aren’t everything’ and shit like this. He’s getting drunk and he’s ashamed of me because I’ve got a huge nose and he’s trying to make me feel good. I know it’s huge and of course it became incredible and I became an enemy of society. I had to get over this thing. I’ve done it, and I never believe it to this day, but I do not think about my nose any more. And if I had said this when I was a kid, if I ever said to myself ‘One of these days you’ll go through a whole day without once thinking that your nose is the biggest in the world, man’—you know, I’d have laughed.”

“It was huge. At that time, it was the reason I did everything. It’s the reason I played the guitar — because of my nose. The reason I wrote songs was because of my nose, everything, so much. I eventually admitted something in an article where I summed it up far more logically in terms of what I do today. I said that what I wanted to do was distract attention from my nose to my body and make people look at my body, instead of at my face — turn my body into a machine. But by the time I was into visual things like that anyway, I’d forgotten all about my nose and a big ego trip and I thought, well if I’ve got a big nose, it’s a groove and it’s the greatest thing that can happen because, I don’t know, it’s like a lighthouse or something. The whole trip had changed by then anyway.”

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To this day, his nose impacts him. “I get lots of pictures of children with big noses who claim I’m their dad,” he said in a 2012 interview. There’s even a Facebook page called “The Society for the Appreciation of Pete Townshend’s Big Nose.” It’s got 82 fans and counting.

If he could go back in time, would he change things now? Probably not. We can thank his nose for giving us the No. 10 guitarist on Gibson.com’s list of the top 50 guitarists.

“It’s so much like a fucking fairy tale in many ways,” he said in 1968.

Check out the full 1968 Rolling Stone interview for a great read.

Photo credit: Klaus Hiltscher, CC-BY-SA

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