Townshend made the comment in question to Rolling Stone while discussing his appreciation for the current state of The Who, just a week ahead of the release of the band's first new album in 13 years.
The guitar icon and creative leader for The Who was clear in his initial comment that he was referring specifically to the famous challenges of being bandmates with the Moon and Entwistle. But he failed to qualify his remarks with any sentiment about what the pair were like as people or what they meant to him as friends. Many fans to interpreted the statement as Townshend saying he was glad his former bandmates were dead.
"Pete! For f--k's sake put a lid on it!" Townshend wrote in a subsequent Facebook post. "...No one can ever know how much I miss Keith and John, as people, as friends and as musicians. The alchemy we used to share in the studio is missing from the new album, and it always feels wrong to try to summon it up without them, but I suppose we will always be tempted to try. To this day I am angry at Keith and John for dying. Sometimes it shows. It's selfish, but it's how I feel."
To some degree, Townshend knew blowback was coming. He noted before making his initial statement to Rolling Stone that Who fans wouldn't like was he was about to say.
Grief is a complicated thing, he explained, and it can't be adequately distilled into a headline.
Along with the criticism should come credit to Townshend for laying bare his feelings about the untimely deaths and self-destructive nature of both of his former bandmates.
Both Moon's death in 1978 and Entwistle's death in 2002 were drug-related. Like many people who have lost friends to substance abuse problems, Townshend is clearly still grappling with his sadness, guilt and resentment years afterwards.
He continued in his Facebook post, explaining his conflicting emotions on The Who, noting he's "grateful" to still have a career absent two of the people with whom he started his legendary band. He's also happy that he's playing with more agreeable personalities nowadays, and only has to worry about frontman Roger Daltrey's "eccentricities." He's also "sad about losing old friends."
It's complicated, he emphasizes, but it's also normal. And it's okay.
"Toward the end of my mother Betty's life, she drove me barmy, and there was a huge sense of relief when she finally passed, but I miss her very much. Love has many facets."
He added apologies to Who fans who were "hurt by the way it comes across as a headline" and to Moon and Entwistle's families. He said he hopes "they know me well enough that I tell the truth as much as I can, but I also tell both sides and the upside is missing in the headlines."
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