The Who guitarist Pete Townshend says he once overdosed after taking drugs with Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott.

Townshend led a relatively clean life, but the 1978 death of Who drummer Keith Moon left him in a disturbed state of mind. He’s now been sober for over 30 years.

“Phil Lynott was a good friend, but he was a heroin addict when I knew him,” Townshend told the Irish Times in a recent interview. “He reminded me a lot of Jimi Hendrix – who, in the flesh, had no light. But as soon as he started to play music, light would happen, like a shaman. Phil was like that. He’d work at my studio in Isleworth, and when he played, he kind of caught fire.”

Townshend went on to recall a night in a London club “with people like Paul Weller and Chrissy Wood, Ronnie Wood’s ex-wife.” He continued: “I woke up with a needle in my arm and Phil standing there, looking at me passed out. Do you know what my big disappointment was? That I wasn’t on the front page of the newspaper the next day. I was in a club with Paul Weller and Phil Lynott, and it was the only time in my life I was ever going to overdose, and nobody knew!”

Townshend reflected on the background to his substance abuse, saying: “I didn’t like being in a rock band, and I didn’t like the rock business, and I don’t think I would have stayed in there had I not been a drinker. It was what it enabled me to stay, because I didn’t use drugs for a long, long time. I wasn’t quite as pure as Roger Daltrey claims to be, but I stopped smoking marijuana in 1967, so I was 22. I didn’t start using any kind of drugs again until briefly in about 1979, just after Keith Moon died.”

He said the biggest “shock” was that everyone around Moon was certain it was going to happen, but didn’t know what to do about it. “I worry that we still do that in our business,” Townshend added, although he said that the backroom staff for late artists like Amy Winehouse and Avicii had no “cause to be ashamed because we certainly didn’t know what to do [about Moon].

“We couldn’t moderate Keith. He was living in a fantasy, but he was also medicating himself into inaction. We couldn’t work out what the hell was going on. His sister, for example, is still alive and perfectly normal. She had the same parents; she’s a year older than him. Why isn’t she a nutter? His mum just died last week. Lovely lady, very normal. And I know his aunts. They’re lovely and normal, and you look at Keith and wonder what was it that made him so strange. His self-destruction was poetic and creative.”


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