Pete Townshend Apologizes To 7-Year-Old Fan For Swearing

Apparently Pete Townshend really wasn’t in the mood to smash his guitar at last month’s Hamilton, Ontario, show. When The Who guitarist spotted a father and his 7-year-old daughter, who was holding a homemade sign saying “Smash Your Guitar, Pete!” he told them to “F**k off.”

Well, to be fair Townshend didn’t actually say the offensive phrase out loud. Instead, he mouthed the words. Since then he’s apologized to the father and daughter and offered to meet up with them.  

The Toronto Sun first reported on the incident that took place at the Feb. 19 gig at Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum.

After thanking the support act, Vintage Trouble, and telling the crowd it was great to be back in Ontario, the guitarist addressed the young fan and her father.

“Don’t wave that sign,” Townshend said on stage, as seen in the video below (about 34 seconds in). “Just don’t wave it at me. Don’t bring your children. Use them. … I want to tell you two words, but I can’t because you have a child on you.”

He mouthed “f**k off” before introducing the next song.

The description on the YouTube video points out that Townshend gave an interview in 1994 saying he finds it embarrassing when asked to smash a guitar like the old days.

According to the Toronto Sun, the father and daughter are Eric Michael Costello and 7-year-old Janey. Costello bought the concert tickets for Janey, described as “a self-proclaimed huge fan of The Who,” as a birthday present. Costello told the newspaper that towards the end of the band’s first set, he walked towards the front of the stage, with Janey on his shoulders. A couple in the fourth row offered them their seats.

“Some people have explained that (Townshend) had thought that I was using her (to get up to the front) and I want to make it perfectly clear that is not what happened at all and I support my daughter in what she wants to do,” Costello told the Toronto Sun.

He and Janey returned to their original seats after the incident and the newspaper reports the young fan “began whimpering.”

“I’d like him to know in some small way he broke a little girl’s heart,” Costello said. “Both she and I were huge fans of the band and now I’m left trying to explain to her that heroes are not infallible. Instead of being this joyous, momentous occasion, it turned into a sad, regrettable kind of incident.”

Photo: John Davisson
Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Ill.

To help with the heartbreak, Townshend wrote a lengthy apology of sorts, which was emailed to Costello and posted on the Toronto Sun’s website. Although he said he was “so sorry the story about us blew up the way it did” the guitarist said he didn’t do anything wrong.

“I am most certainly not angry. I was not angry on stage either. I was in rock star mode…… the big mouth……

“Please don’t worry about me, I thought your placard was fun. I had a job to do (to announce our musicians) and I didn’t want to lengthen the show by trying to deal with you directly and in detail. I was also worried that your daughter looked a little frightened as the crowd started to follow you down the aisle. The ushers should not have let you leave your seats and walk forward.

“All that said, you did nothing wrong, ……but I don’t think I did either – however, I could have handled it differently. I thought of sending someone to find you both and telling you I was not upset, but we were flying to New York straight after the show, and had no time to spare. I wish things had been different. It would have saved you from all this furore.”

Townshend noted that the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, is putting on the Broadway version of “Tommy.” He invited the father and daughter to the festival, explaining “We can meet, and be friends, and put this behind us.”

He added, “Of course your wife would be very welcome too, and tell her that I swear I will not swear.”

To read Townshend’s complete apology letter click here.