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Pete’s Gear: Smashed Guitars

Click to view larger version. Rolling Stone poster of “How to Lunch your guitar in 17 steps.”

A very incomplete list of documented guitar smashes by Pete Townshend. This information has been compiled from various resources, primarily including The Who Concert File, by Joe McMichael and “Irish” Jack Lyons, and Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, by Andy Neill and Matt Kent.

Got details of a smash? Let us know!

Smashed guitars, by date/venue (incomplete)
Date Venue Guitar
(8?) September 1964 The Railway Tavern, Harrow and Wealdstone

1964 Rickenbacker Rose Morris 1998

His first public guitar smashing, where he cracked the headstock of his guitar on a low ceiling, pulling it out and realizing the damage, he smashed the remainder in disgust, then turned to pick up his Rick 12 and continued playing. The next gig at the Railway, the crowd expected him to smash a guitar again.

Pete: (After cracking the headstock) I was expecting everybody to go, “Wow, he’s broken his guitar, he’s broken his guitar,” but nobody did anything, which made me kind of angry in a way. And determined to get this precious event noticed by the audience. I proceeded to make a big thing of breaking the guitar. I bounced all over the stage with it and I threw the bits on the stage and I picked up my spare guitar and carried on as though I really had meant to do it.

8 April 1965 Olympia Ballroom, Reading

Anyway Anyhow Anywhere:

Kit Lambert invited Virginia Ironside (Daily Mail) and writer Nik Cohn along to this gig and briefed Pete to create an impression by smashing his £400 Rickenbacker, despite the expense. This he duly did, and Keith joined in by smashing his drums. However, Lambert had been waylaid in the bar with the journalists when this grand spectacle occurred and was reportedly horrified to find he had been taken at his word.

25 November 1965 Goldhawk Social Club, London Rose Morris Rickenbacker (— Max the Mod)
7 June 1966 Fyens Forum, Odense, Denmark

Danelectro guitar (unknown; likely Guitarlin) and Fender Telecaster.

When Pete accidentally knocked over his amp stack, it fell on a Fender guitar and broke it in half.

16 June 1966 Hull University

Fender Stratocaster

“Not totally destroyed but plenty of flying bits as Pete rammed it and poleaxed it into the stage.” — Keith Cheesman

30 July 1966 6th Jazz and Blues Festival, Windsor
30 July 1966, 6th Jazz and Blues Festival, Windsor

Fender Telecaster, white, with rosewood Stratocaster neck.

October 1966 Ready Steady Who Rickenbacker Rose Morris Model, Vox Violin Bass (cream; later sold at Sotheby’s)
12 November 1966 Duke of York’s Barracks, Kings Road, Chelsea, London Rickenbacker Rose Morris Model
12 February 1967 Starlite Ballroom, Greenford, West London Gibson ES-345 Stereo (completely destroyed — the same instrument played at 29 January, 1967, Saville Theatre show)
13 March 1967 Granby Halls (De Montfort Hall), Leicester
13 March 1967, Granby Halls (De Montfort Hall), Leicester

Fender Stratocaster, red with rosewood neck (headstock smashed in half).

25 March–2 April 1967 RKO 58th Street Theater, New York
Click to view larger version. March/April 1967, Murray the K shows

Four Fender Stratocasters and one Fender Telecaster, cream with rosewood neck.

8–19 April 1967 German tour Guitars including Fender Telecaster (sunburst, maple neck), the same guitar body as above but with different rosewood Strat neck, and Fender Stratocaster (CBS model, sunburst with rosewood neck).
3 May 1967 Lorensbergs Cirkus, Gothenburg, Sweden Fender Stratocaster, sunburst finish with rosewood neck
5 May 1967 Eskilstuna Sporthalle, Sweden
5 May 1967, Eskilstuna-Sporthalle, Sweden

Fender Stratocaster

6 May 1967 Kungliga Tennishallen, Stockholm, Sweden Unknown?
20 May 1967 Woluwe Festival, Brussels, Belgium
20 May 1967, Woluwe Festival, Brussels, Belgium

Fender Stratocaster, maple neck and black pickup covers.

27 May 1967 Pembroke College May Ball, Grand Marquee, Oxford Pete’s Fender Jazzmaster stolen after set
18 June 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, Monterey County Fairgrounds, Monterey, California
18 June 1967, Monterey Pop Festival, Monterey County Fairgrounds, Monterey, California

Fender Stratocaster, sunburst, maple neck

12 August 1967 Convention Hall, Asbury Park, New Jersey

Fiesta Red Fender Telecaster

Bob Cianci:

I own the left half of a Fiesta Red Fender Telecaster Pete smashed in 1967 in Asbury Park, NJ. I was not at the show, but bought the smashed Fender a year later from Jim McGlynn, of Montclair, NJ, who was the teen columnist with the now-defunct Newark Evening News. He was there and interviewed Pete after the show, who presented him with the left half of the body. Jim sold it to me a year later for $10.

13 August 1967 Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C.
Click to view larger version. Remains of tri-coloured sunburst with added glitter and “coins. Photo courtesy Dadion Lester.
Click to view larger version. Remains of tri-coloured sunburst with added glitter and “coins. Photo courtesy Dadion Lester.

Photos courtesy Dadion Lester

Fender Stratocaster – tri-coloured sunburst with added glitter and “coins.”

Dadion Lester:

I have the right half (body) of the Stratocaster played and destroyed by Pete at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., August 13, 1967. It was a tri-colored sunburst that has some glitter and a few U.S. coins glued to it. It was scarffed from the show by a longtime family friend and obtained in a trade with my oldest brother for a human skull soon after. Those were the days. This family friend is now a big wheel at P.R.S. Guitars, and he asked me to bring it so that he could see it again after many years. He confirmed that the guitar is in the exact same condition that it flew off the stage including the coins and sparkle.

23 August 1967 Atwood High School Stadium, Flint, Michigan
23 August 1967, Atwood High School Stadium, Flint, Michigan

Fender Stratocaster, sunburst, rosewood neck

8 September 1967 Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, California

White Fender Stratocaster and bass (by John; likely Fender Precision, which would eventually comprise “Frankenstein”)

Pete played the Gibson SG EDS-1275 double-neck through most of the show, then exchanged it for a white Stratocaster for destruction. (Craig Folkes)

15 September 1967 CBS Television Studios, Los Angeles, California 1967 Vox Cheetah V267
8 October 1967 Kinema Ballroom, Dunfermline, Scotland

Playing remaining half of the Gibson SG EDS-1275 double-neck.

Geoff Davidson:

I can verify adamantly that when The Who played Dunfermline Kinema on Sunday 8th October ’67 he was playing the remaining bottom half of the double neck SG. It was splintered straight across the factory-glued join and Pete’s right-hand fingers were bleeding from the constant catching on the splinters. His frilly yellow satin shirt front was splattered with blood. I’ll never forget it. Then a few weeks later they were on Top of the Pops (to premiere “I Can See For Miles”) with the guitar rebuilt with the necks V’d rather than parallel. I said to my mate — that’s half of the guitar I saw him play!

29 October 1967 Coventry Theatre, Coventry

Unknown, smashed when the curtain is mistakenly lowered during The Who’s set.

I used to break a guitar every performance — if not two sometimes — and they would always cost around $150. They would always cost me an incredible amount of money to find — they’d cost, like, road manager’s time and my time to look through pawn shops, local music stores and things like that.

1 November 1967 Empire Theatre, Liverpool Unknown. Concert File: “Pete had a faulty guitar cord which gave him problems during the second show and, out of frustration, he eventually smashed the guitar to pieces.”
17 November 1967 Shawnee Mission South High School Gymnasium, Overland Park, Kansas, USA
17 November 1967, Shawnee Mission South High School Gymnasium, Overland Park, Kansas, USA

Gibson Les Paul Special, modified with three pickups

18 November 1967 The Cow Palace, San Francisco, California
18 November 1967, The Cow Palace, San Francisco, California

Gibson ES-335 dot neck

19 November 1967 (late show?) The Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, California Gibson Les Paul Junior
22 November 1967 Southfield High School Gymnasium, Southfield, Michigan cherry Gibson SG (— Rob Ober)
25 November 1967 The Village Theatre, New York
25 Nov. 1967, at the Village Theatre (later the Fillmore East), New York, with a Gibson 335.

Sunburst Gibson ES-335 (replacement purchased by Bob Pridden)

Bob Cianci:

Part of the back was already broken off, and at certain angles, you could see right through the guitar. I was standing right at the foot of the stage and was hit with a few splinters of wood after Pete smashed it.

29 November 1967 Union Catholic High School Gymnasium, Scotch Plains, New Jersey
Click to view larger version. Remains of black Coral Hornet, smashed at Union Catholic High School, Scotch Plains, N.J., 29 Nov., 1967 – front. Photo courtesy Bart Koster.
Click to view larger version. Remains of black Coral Hornet, smashed at Union Catholic High School, Scotch Plains, N.J., 29 Nov., 1967 – rear. Photo courtesy Bart Koster.

Coral Hornet

Pete handed the remains to Bart Koster:

Pete Townshend handed me the remains of the black Coral Hornet after smashing it at the Nov. 29, 1967, Scotch Plains Catholic High concert. What I have is about 3/4 of the body of the guitar.

See Bart’s story.

1 December 1967 Long Island Arena, Commack, New York Fender Stratocaster, Sonic Blue
22 January 1968 The Stadium, Syndey, Australia
22 January 1968, The Stadium, Syndey, Australia

Richard Grosser, Sydney, Australia:

As a 15-year-old student, I was at this concert with my school-mates on Mon. 22 Jan. 1968 in Sydney, at The Stadium. We were collectively seated in the third row from the front. I was seated right in front of Pete Townshend.

At the conclusion of “My Generation,” Roger Daltrey handed Pete a replacement stage guitar with a Telecaster guitar with black pickguard set-up to fall apart in the final moments when the smoke bombs went off! It was just hanging together before it was swung and destroyed. The illusion and the distorted sound effects were complete.

Keith had to have the pentultimate “word” in rolling his drums off the stage into the audience and kicking the skins in at the end after Townshend’s antics.

25 and 26 January 1968 Festival Hall, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Ron Blackmore (tour manager):

I was out there trying to find guitars every day from guitar shops. I’d loosen the neck and try to get it ready, and hope that Pete could just drop it so that it fell in half, and didn’t smash it completely, because we couldn’t replace the bits.

Fender Stratocaster, requiring “Emergency guitar replacement” the following day, causing one-hour delay of the show.

During Shakin’ All Over, the neck snapped off of Pete’s Fender Stratocaster, blue with white scratchplate, then borrowed Steve Marriott’s black Gibson Les Paul but didn’t break it.

Update, from Geoff Lowe:

The blue and white Stratocaster first had the neck detached from the body and was taken backstage, then in the closing song (I thought it was I Can See For Miles) it was definitely completely smashed. My friend and I bought the scratchplate with pickups and knobs intact from a guy near the front for A$20. A few days later we sold it to a guy in Richmond called McCarty who made Maxim amps and guitars (often to copy the sound of Chuck Berry and other famous musicians). He gave us the $20 we paid for it. I saw someone else, a girl, walking out with the neck.

29 January 1968 Town Hall, Auckland, New Zealand Fender Stratocaster
31 January 1968 Town Hall, Auckland, New Zealand Steve Marriott’s Gibson guitar (unknown model) spray-painted pink.
1 March 1968 The Agrodome, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Fender Telecaster


It was caught by my friend at the concert. The Who were at a local radio station the next day. He took it there and Pete autographed the base of the neck.

2 March 1968 New Edmonton Gardens, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
2 March 1968, New Edmonton Gardens, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Fender Stratocaster

10 March 1968 Opera House, Peoria, Illinois Fender Stratocaster (sunburst, with rosewood neck)
15 March 1968 Municipal Auditorium, San Antonio, Texas Gibson, unknown model
22 March 1968 Curtis Hixon Hall, Tampa, Florida Gibson Firebird VII, reverse body, sunburst
23 March 1968 Code 1, Fort Lauderdale, Florida Fender Stratocaster
31 March 1968 DAR Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C. 1965 Fender Stratocaster, sunburst finish. Not smashed, Pete threw it out into the audience and quite a row ensued amongst several fans, but only one walked away with it. It had apparently been played in previous shows because it had been repaired — had new screws and glue on it. It’s banged and scraped up, but still in fine playing condition. Owned by private collector, from WJHS Class of ’68. Also, Pete possibly smashed another guitar (a doubleneck?) earlier in the show, with remains retrieved by audience members.
5 April 1968 Fillmore East, New York Fender Stratocaster, white
23 April 1968 The Marquee, Soho, Central London

Gibson ES 345 Stereo and Coral Hornet

Pete in Melody Maker:

“I smashed up two guitars at the end of the show, because one I was using had recently been repaired and broke as I came on stage, so I played another one I use for recording. At the end, I though, ‘What the hell,’ and smashed them both. The Gibson Stereo cost £200 and the amps, which were borrowed, will cost about £20 each to repair. I can’t put it down to tax because when I say I use 70 guitars a year, they don’t believe me.”

28 June 1968 Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, California Unknown
29 June 1968 Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, California Fender Stratocaster, sunburst, maple neck
13 July 1968 Grande Ballroom, Dearborn, Michigan
13 July 1968, Grande Ballroom.

Fender Stratocaster, Turquoise Custom Color (Larry T. Malinowski); plus unknown instrument

14 July 1968 Musicarnival, Cleveland, Ohio

Fender Stratocaster (sunburst)

Rory Callaghan:

He smashed a sunburst Stratocaster. I cannot remember if it was a maple or a rosewood neck. He then proceeded to smash an amp or two. I believe that tour was sponsored by SUNN amplifiers. I think the guitar was smashed in frustration with the amplifiers. After a break, they returned to finish the show borrowing the local band’s amps (Cyrus Erie, whose members later formed the Raspberries).

15 July 1968 Memorial Centre, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

1958 Fender Stratocaster supplied by promoter from local source when the Who’s gear was retained at customs. (Guitar was restored and owned by Mike Moore of Calgary)

Click to view larger version. 1958 Fender Stratocaster

From the Concert File:

The Who arrived at Kingston two hours late and eventually played this show before 1,300 fans in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Although the band were scheduled to be on stage at 10.00pm, three local support acts kept the audience entertained. Trouble started for The Who when they landed en route in Toronto. With Daltrey and Townshend now without passports, the customs officials demanded a $20,000 bond to release the band’s equipment, among other formalities. James McCormick, the promoter, chartered two aircraft to fetch The Who and entourage from Toronto after the customs had been satisfied, but the equipment stayed behind. McCormick supplied instruments and equipment from a local source, although this didn’t stop Pete smashing a 1958 vintage Fender Stratocaster. According to McCormick, The Who “put on a wonderful show”. Incidentally, the restored guitar is now owned by Mike Moore of Calgary.

See 1958 Fender Stratocaster for full story (via

23 July 1968 The Mosque, Richmond, Virginia Fender Jazzmaster, custom color
2 August 1968 The Singer Bowl, Flushing Queens, New York Fender Stratocaster
4 August 1968 Melody Fair, Wurlitzer Park, North Tonawanda, New York Fender Stratocaster

Dennis [Spike] Seitz, West Seneca, NY, owns a piece of this guitar and has contributed the following essay and photos:

I have a piece of Pete Townshend’s guitar from the show the Who played at Melody Fair, Wurlitzer Park, North Tonawanda, NY, on August 4, 1968. I obtained this from my friend’s father who was at the show. When Townshend smashed his guitar, my friend’s father grabbed the piece from the stage then the roadie grabbed him and tossed him off the stage head first, he landed on his head. The roadie asked him if he was OK, he said yes then the roadie gave him two of Keith Moon’s broken drum sticks.

The piece is the top of the guitar where the strap connects to the guitar. The metal piece that the strap connects to is still on the guitar. I swear there is Pete’s blood is on it. The color of the guitar was like an orangish color now because it was stored away for 44 years; it’s now a dark purplish color. It is 9 inches long and the width is 3.5 inches.

Click to view larger version: Piece of Fender Stratocaster from Melody Fair, Wurlitzer Park, North Tonawonda, NY, Aug. 4, 1968, courtesy Dennis [Spike] Seitz – 1
Click to view larger version: Piece of Fender Stratocaster from Melody Fair, Wurlitzer Park, North Tonawonda, NY, Aug. 4, 1968, courtesy Dennis [Spike] Seitz – – 2
Click to view larger version: Piece of Fender Stratocaster from Melody Fair, Wurlitzer Park, North Tonawonda, NY, Aug. 4, 1968, courtesy Dennis [Spike] Seitz – – 3
Click to view larger version: Piece of Fender Stratocaster from Melody Fair, Wurlitzer Park, North Tonawonda, NY, Aug. 4, 1968, courtesy Dennis [Spike] Seitz – – 4
Click to view larger version: Piece of Fender Stratocaster from Melody Fair, Wurlitzer Park, North Tonawonda, NY, Aug. 4, 1968, courtesy Dennis [Spike] Seitz – 5
Click to view larger version: Piece of Fender Stratocaster from Melody Fair, Wurlitzer Park, North Tonawonda, NY, Aug. 4, 1968, courtesy Dennis [Spike] Seitz – 6

Click images to view larger versions. Photos courtesy Dennis [Spike] Seitz, West Seneca, NY

7 August 1968 Wolman Skating Rink, Central Park, New York Unknown (likely Fender Stratocaster)
17 August 1968 Tempe Diablo Stadium, Tempe, Arizona, or Phoenix Municipal Stadium, Phoenix, Arizona Gibson SG Special
24 August (late show) 1968 Wedgewood Village Amusement Park, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Unknown (likely Fender Stratocaster)
27 August 1968 Community Concourse, San Diego, California Unknown (likely Fender Stratocaster)
28 August 1968 Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, California Fender Stratocaster, Olympic White
30 August 1968 Earl Warren Showgrounds, Santa Barbara, California

Fender Stratocaster

Jay from Brooklyn:

I was in the second row, right in front of Pete. They were mind-blowingly great, and Pete systematically destroyed a Stratocaster, starting with shaking the guitar, pickups facing straight up, and getting the whammy bar to spin out of it like a helicopter blade. It flew into the gleeful audience, and he proceeded to wallop this poor Strat in an exhibition of destructiveness I have yet to see him top, on film or live.

5 October 1968 The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, London Unknown
1 March 1969 Mothers Club, Erdington, Birmingham Likely Gibson SG Special
27 April 1969 Kinema Ballroom, Dunfermline, Scotland

Cherry Gibson ES-345

Geoff Davidson:

PT regularly eyed up the straightness of the neck of a cherry stereo 345 between numbers. We could tell its life was endangered and in between some very rough treatment, which must have hurt his pelvic bone, the guitar was poked through the stage ceiling and rotated ’til it roared like an airplane engine. It was then battered senseless on the floor and totally shredded beyond repair. A middle section of fretboard flew in my direction. Despite my rapid response, a girl fan snatched it. I remember also Bob Pridden having a terrible time of it with PT who upended all his Hi-Watt head amps gesturing there was a problem. BP scrambled on stage unaware of the specific problem. When he shrugged his shoulders, PT went ballistic and kicked his ass all over the stage playing all the while!

24 MarchMay 1969 The Electric Factory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Gibson SG Special
5 July 1969 The Pop Proms, The Royal Albert Hall, London Gibson SG Special?
9 August 1969 Plumpton Racecourse, Lewes, Sussex Gibson SG Special
16 August 1969 Woodstock Festival, Bethel, New York

Gibson SG Special (wasn’t actually smashed; tossed into audience and reportedly retrieved (or strong-armed) by a roadie for subsequent use.)

A review of the 1970 Hull City Hall show mentions that the guitar was caught by an audience member named Kurt Pfeiffer, and later retrieved. See story on (h/t Trevor Cobain.)

The putative Woodstock guitar is now owned by the Hard Rock, see SG Specials.

Mike L.:

Came across the site and wanted to add some info on the Woodstock SG. The SG was caught and returned by Dennis Keller, who formerly owned Cambridge Music in Cambridge, MA.

Dennis and some friends drove up in a van behind the stage — not being aware of the size of the event — and somehow simply made their way to the front. Dennis can be seen in the posters, and at the time, the billboards and life-size stand ups at the premiere of the film. Several of the concertgoers near the front were used for the advertising.

Dennis caught Townshend’s guitar, and returned it; if I recall correctly, he handed it to a roadie to pass back up. There are a few other people that claim to be that person; in the photos it’s clearly Dennis and his distinctive baby-face!

I recall the first time I was told the story; I thought they were yanking my chain. Apparently I was the only person around that didn’t know the story. They showed me the pix in a recent anniversary article in Rolling Stone that was the topic of discussion, and then sent me over to the Woodstock movie poster on the wall. I was like “Hey, that’s Dennis!” He also said that his father found out about it while driving by a billboard.and seeing a giant picture of him. If I recall correctly, Townshend was quoted in the Rolling Stone article about the guy giving the guitar back.

7 June 1970 Metropolitan Opera House, New York Gibson SG Special (headstock broken, tossed into audience, caught by Binky Phillips)
7 July 1970 Tanglewood Music Shed, Lenox, Mass. Gibson SG Special (wasn’t actually smashed)
25 July 1970 Civic Hall, Dunstable, England Gibson SG (likely Special)
29 October 1970 Hammersmith Palais, West London Gibson SG (Special)
10 July 1971 Civic Hall, Dunstable Gibson SG Special (one of three)
29 July 1971 Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, Flushing, Queens, New York An SG broke at base of neck with just one strike! Gibson Thunderbird (JAE).
31 July 1971 Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, Flushing, Queens, New York Two Gibson SG Specials, smashed midair.
2 August 1971 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, New York
2 August 1971, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, New York

Gibson SG Special, remains of which is owned by Jeff Stein (director of The Kids Are Alright), as featured in his book, The Who.

3 August 1971 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Gibson SG Special (— Michael Nolan)
4 August 1971 Music Hall, Boston Gibson SG Special
9 August 1971 War Memorial Auditorium, Rochester, New York Gibson SG Special
13 August 1971 Hara Arena, Dayton, Ohio

Gibson SG Special

The body and neck were separated. Pete kicked it to the front of the stage where fans fought over the pieces. The body and neck had separated but were still connected by the strings. Fans were ripping the parts in different directions until the strings broke. I was in the 7th row center and remember it well. (Rex)

16 August 1971 Edwardsville Campus, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, Illinois Gibson SG Special
17 August 1971 The Auditorium Theater, Chicago, Illinois Gibson SG Special
18 August 1971 The Auditorium Theater, Chicago, Illinois Gibson SG Special
18 September 1971 The Oval Cricket Ground, Kennington, South London
18 September 1971, The Oval Cricket Ground, Kennington, South London

Gibson SG Special

21 October 1971 Green’s Playhouse, Glasgow, Scotland Gibson SG Special
23 November 1971 Municipal Auditorium, Atlanta, Georgia Gibson SG Special
7 December 1971 Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix, Arizona

Gold-Top Les Paul

“It looked as though the strap came unhooked on a jump and hit the floor. He decided to finish it off.” (John Rollason)

It was on the third song — “Won’t get Fooled Again.” I was in the front row aisle — we rushed the stage. An unforgettable evening. The Who sat everyone down, even us in the aisle, after Pete hurled the guitar in the audience (three pieces). (Larry T. Malinowski)

13 December 1971 Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, California Gibson SG Special
12 August 1972 Hamburg Unconfirmed: Supposedly the B&W footage during end credits of The Kids Are Alright are from this gig — Pete kicking over something backstage and Keith turns over his drums. Closer inspection shows that Pete’s stacks have been knocked down.
14 September 1972 The Palaeur, Rome, Italy Gibson Les Paul Deluxe. Reported as “first smash” of the 1972 tour in the Concert File.
3 October 1973 BBC Television Centre, White City, West London
On “Top of the Pops,” 3 Oct. 1973, with Gretsch “having an accident.”

Gretsch Chet Atkins

5 November 1973 Odeon Cinema, Newcastle
5 November 1973, Odeon Cinema, Newcastle
Click to view larger version. Gibson cherry sunburst Les Paul Deluxe. Courtesy Clint Nurse.

Courtesy Clint Nurse.

1972 cherry sunburst Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, smashed into five pieces (subsequently owned and auctioned by Clint Nurse);

(The following day, Bobby Pridden purchased a new guitar with his own money due to the band’s cash flow problems.)

7 November 1973 Odeon Cinema, Newcastle
1973 Les Paul Custom (destroyed), courtesy
The Kids Are Alright poster: This guitar has seconds to live.
1973 Les Paul Custom (destroyed), courtesy

Courtesy Rock Stars Guitars.

1973 Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar, as seen in the “This guitar has seconds to live” poster.

22 November 1973 The Forum, Los Angeles, California
22 November 1973, The Forum, Los Angeles, California

Reported as “Numbered” Gibson Les Paul Deluxe; cracked around 12th fret.

Joe Barnes:

It was a Cherry sunburst LP Deluxe and I recall they carried the remains in a roadie trunk flight case they used on stage.

4 December 1973 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, cherry sunburst

Joe Barnes:

He trashed one of the LP Deluxes in Philly at the Spectrum. I worked for the opening act, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and stayed to watch this show from the press box on the side of the arena. Always a WHO fan and this was a GREAT show.

23 December 1973 Edmonton Sundown, North London Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, cherry sunburst(?)
10 February 1974 Palais Des Expositions, Paris

Gibson Les Paul Deluxe (£350)

Melody Maker, 23 Feb. 1974:

...Townshend takes off his Les Paul, swings it over his head and dashes it to the ground. It bounces twice causing two tuning pegs to snap off. He picks it up and repeats the demolition. Retrieving his instrument for the third and last time, Townshend squares up to his speaker stack and, with the experienced eye of a mad axeman, severs the body from the neck with one swift classic stroke.

The audience goes bananas as the instrument lies mortified at his feet.

8–10 May 1974 King’s Theatre, Albert Road, Southsea, Hampshire, Portsmouth

Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, Gold Top, during Pinball Wizard sequence in Tommy film. (Note: PT is seen with a No. 1 cherry sunburst model at first, but has switched to a Gold Top model for smashing sequence.)

Anyway Anyhow Anywhere:

There was an anxious moment when Townshend’s falling Les Paul grazed a young extra’s head. ...“She was carried off to hospital. But she came back a few hours later and told us she was ‘very honoured’ to have been smashed over the head by Pete Townshend’s guitar. I gave her the guitar.”

22 May 1974 Guild Hall, Portsmouth
Broken Les Paul on Hooligans cover.

Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, Gold Top. Remains featured on cover of Hooligans.

11 June 1974 Madison Square Garden, New York Gibson Les Paul Deluxe
14 June 1974 Madison Square Garden, New York

Four Gibson Les Paul Deluxes (three by Pete, one by Keith)

Pete smashes first Les Paul at end of regular set (My Generation), then two together at end of encore (Naked Eye) with help from mic stand. Keith then smashes fourth.

8–10 May 1974 King’s Theatre, Portsmouth

Gibson Les Paul Deluxe cherry sunburst: for filming of Tommy film’s Pinball Wizard sequence.

Pete in Anyway Anyhow Anywhere:

After one retake, there was an anxious moment when Townshend’s falling Les Paul grazed a young extra’s head. “There was blood everywhere, and she was carried off to hospital. But she came back a few hours later and told us she was ‘very honoured’ to have been smashed over the head by Pete Townshend’s guitar. I gave her the guitar.”

(See video on YouTube)

14 December 1975 Civic Center, Springfield, Massachusetts Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, Gold Top
15 December 1975 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
15 December 1975, The Spectrum, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Gibson Les Paul Deluxe gold top: Two Les Pauls: one at end of Baba O’Riley due to malfunction, one at end of Won’t Get Fooled Again.

23 December 1975 Hammersmith Odeon, London
Click to view larger version. No. 6 two-pickup Les Paul Deluxe, repaired.

Gibson Les Paul Deluxe gold top, #6, s/n 133592, after the show. See account of repair.

1 April 1976 Boston Gardens, Boston, Massachusetts Gibson Les Paul Deluxe in gold top with middle humbucker, neck smashed off halfway down.
21 October 1976 Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario
21 October 1976, Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Gibson Les Paul Deluxe (#4 in Wine Red)

1 September 1979 Zeppelin Field, Nuremberg, Germany Gibson Les Paul Deluxe
1 March 1981 Apollo, Manchester Schecter Telecaster (black with white pickguard), smashed accidentally
12 October 1982 Shea Stadium, Queens, New York Schecter Telecaster (all black), not properly smashed. At the end of “See Me, Feel Me,” Pete bounced his black Schecter a few times on stage before tossing it up and over the amps. It didn’t break, though. Then, at the end of “WGFA,” Pete kept prolonging the ending until John finally unplugged his bass and tossed it to the center of the stage like a slow pitch softball. It didn’t break, though. (Ron Kiska)
13 October 1982 Shea Stadium, Queens, New York Schecter Telecaster (all black), not properly smashed. At the end of “Twist and Shout,” Pete banged his black Schecter on stage a few times and whacked the mike stand. It didn’t break, though. (Ron Kiska)
25 October 1982 Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California During the mid-song guitar solo of “WGFA,” Pete’s black Schecter acted up and in frustration he banged in several times on the stage before walking to the side of the stage to get another guitar but rather than hand it to Alan Rogan, he threw/slammed it into the stage and in the process snapped the neck. (Ron Kiska)
30 November 1982 Jefferson County Civic Arena, Birmingham, Alabama

Schecter Telecaster (not full smash)

Tom Parker:

PT smashed his Schecter Telecaster on the stage right in front of the drums. He lifted it above his head, shook it and then used both hands to really smash it down but it stayed in one piece.

4 December 1982 Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas

Schecter Telecaster (tobacco sunburst) (not full smash)

Stuart R:

Because of the location of the scratches, I think this guitar is the same one Pete beat up in Dallas that day.

Between the Billy Squier set and The Who’s set, the crew had considerable trouble keeping the projection screen above the stage in place, because the cold wind started to carry it away like a boat sail. One or two of the corners came loose from the rigging, and after some time they finally secured the screen, and had no further trouble.

Being December, it was pretty cold outside, and evidently this caused tuning problems. Pete had trouble with the stage sound all night, often gesturing with an outstretched thumb to Bob Pridden for things to be turned up or down in the monitors. Clearly he was irritated at certain points during the set, as the closed-circuit TV images showed his face on the giant projection screen.

At the very end of the show, Pete surprised everyone by taking his irritation out on the guitar. Holding it by the neck, Pete slammed it on the stage with an “axe-chopping” motion, maybe two or three times. It didn’t break, so he threw it at his Mesa-Boogie speaker stacks, headstock-first, from about eight or ten feet away. The guitar sort of ricocheted off the top of the speaker stacks, bouncing up a bit as it continued its flight into the backstage area and disappeared from view, probably crashing into some road cases. I noticed one of the roadies watching from the side of the stage (perhaps it was Alan Rogan), with kind of a mixture of concern and amusement.

The scratches on the guitar body (where Pete’s right arm would have touched while playing) are about where the body would have contacted the stage when Pete swung it down. The scratches near the lower strap peg would be consistent with where the body contacted the speaker cabinet in mid-flight. It’s possible the strap buckle was involved somehow in the collision.

6 or 7 July 1989 RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.
Smashed 360/12 Rick.

Rickenbacker 360/12V64 Fireglo (unknown vintage), reportedly destroyed accidentally.

Pictured on 1990’s Join Together cover, English Boy CD-single cover, and Psychoderelict-related releases. It was on display in 2009 at the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan, USA.

12 July 1989 Sullivan Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster. At the conclusion of “Twist and Shout,” Pete bounced the guitar on stage a few times, whacked the mike stand and the gave the guitar one good overhead wallop on the stage but it didn’t break apart. (Ron Kiska)
3 October 1989 Hard Rock Café, London
Click to view larger version. Hard Rock Café in London, 3 October, 1989.

Jackson guitar, during press conference. (See video on YouTube.) (SoundCityChris)

26 October 1989 Wembley Arena, Wembley, North West London Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster. Attempted … and apparently smashed during Won’t Get Fooled Again (see video on YouTube, h/t Cliff Todd and Marko Toikkanen)
17 June 1993 NBC Studios (Late Night with David Letterman), New York
Click to view larger version. Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas display, ca. 2004.

Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar, for charity (see video at YouTube)

29 July 1993 KLOS 95.5 FM studios, Culver City, California

KLOS 95.5 “Fun Zone” promotion, where Pete smashed a fan’s Takamine acoustic. See photos: 1, 2 and 3.

Brett McConnell:

There was a Pinball Wizard play along in the parking lot of the radio station and afterwards Pete was signing guitars. Well, I (along with 100 screaming fans) managed to get Pete to smash my guitar after signing it. He refused to smash any others.

22 December 1999 Shepherds Bush Empire, London

Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster (gold), hurled to the stage causing break following amp malfunction.

Alan McKendree:

Pete had one episode of trouble with — I suppose — the amp, and the second time it happened he was upstage, facing the audience, when holding the guitar by the neck, near the headstock, with one hand he simultaneously turned to face upstage (away from the audience) as he swung the guitar in a full overhead windmill/smash. With this one stroke the guitar almost literally exploded when it hit the stage in front of the amps.

9 July 2000 Jones Beach, Wantagh, New York Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster (See video via Marc Starcke)
27 January 2002 Portsmouth Guildhall, Portsmouth, England
27 January 2002.

Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster, black

6 July 2002 Gorge Amphitheater, George, Washington Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster, red (See video h/t Marko Toikkanen)
24 July 2004 Yokohama Stadium, Tokyo, Japan Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster, gold. Auctioned for charity by Rachel Fuller. Earlier in the set, a crack in the in the back of the body is visible. (See video at YouTube)
Smash! (Photo: SoundCityChris)

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