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Spring of 1968: I Watch Pete Townshend Buy Over 30 Guitars

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The greatest music store in history was Manny's on West 48th St in Manhattan. I practically lived there as a teenager. I wrote up a full appreciation/eulogy that's up here on Huffington Post when it closed down a few years ago. I met many a star and drooled over countless exotic guitars in that magical place.

My favorite Manny's moment of all time came on one of those day I'd cut school in the middle of the week to go stare at my candy-colored electric holy grails. I walked in and, to my shocked disbelief, Pete Townshend was standing at the back counter talking to head salesman, the truly legendary Henry Goldrich. I should point out that Henry was practically a surrogate father to me. He was not happy to see me at 2:30pm on a Wednesday.

It was the first time I'd ever seen Pete anywhere other than onstage. It's a dull-as-dirt cliche, but, I felt like I was in a dream as I floated up to Pete and Henry, just in time to hear, with my own ears, Pete ordering (and this is verbatim... my brain recorded it!)...

"Give me ten Telecasters, ten Stratocasters, five Jazzmasters, five of those Corals, three Gibson Stereo 355s..."

Henry, scribbling furiously, looked up and said, "You really ought to try the Gibson SG Special, Pete. It's the best buy out there." Pete chuckled ruefully..."Okay, Henry. Spend more of my money, three of them, too, then..." [Henry was right. The Gibson SG Special was the guitar Pete would use for the entire "Tommy" era, and the model guitar he threw me at the Metropolitan Opera House a few years later.]

So, it was true!

Unlike the rumors I'd heard at the time that he was secretly ruining knock-off pieces of junk, Pete Townshend really was trashing copious amounts of really expensive guitars. Amusingly to me, over the years, Henry would only get mad at Pete when he wrecked high-end Gibsons.

An actual Henry quote, as I walked up to him one sunny summer morning as he was sweeping the sidewalk outside his store...

"Well, Binky, your friend Peter [not Pete] broke another 355 last night in Toronto. Yeah, yeah! Go on, laugh! I know you get a big kick out of it, but, it's shameful... Disgusting!"

I should add, my Dad, a life-long musician himself, was always deeply offended by Pete's wanton ruinations. Nowadays, when I see old photos of Pete playing what are now highly sought after vintage guitars, guitars that will never be equaled, guitars destined to be reduced to useless chinks, it hurts me, too, Elmore.

Anyway, Henry, the delightfully brusque father-figure to me by then, saw me walk up to this dreamed-of tableau and laughed, "Finally, huh, Binky!" He turned to Pete and said something like, "He's in here at least twice a week, waiting to meet you, Pete."

Standing there about four feet from Pete, who'd pretended to recognize me (whatta marketing genius... heck, maybe he did), I desperately tried to think of something to say that would make me stand out. He needed to know...

I wasn't a Who fan, I was The Biggest Who Fan In The World.

I suddenly flashed on the fact that I'd just found a copy of a super rare unreleased-in-the-States Who EP called "Ready Steady Who". I screwed up my courage, and then blanked!

Oh my God, what was the name of that really cool song Pete wrote on that EP?! I simply could not find it in my head.

But, desperate to let him know I was special, so special, I blurting-ly asked Pete why they never performed "Bucket T" onstage (a truly awful old Jan & Dean song... "all the girls wanna take a ride with me, but there's only one seat in my Bucket T Bucket T Bucket T Bucket T..." that Keith Moon insisted they record and that, at the time, was only available on "Ready Steady Who"). Embarrassingly, it was the only song title off that record I'd been able to pull out of my ass.

Pete scowled at me and mock-sneered, "You've heard it. You know why!"