The Who’s Pete Townshend opens up on women he wronged and suffering childhood ...

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Pete TownshendPete Townshend of The Who (Image: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

That might be news to fans of Townshend and The Who, widely considered one of the most influential rock groups of the 20th century and soon to be setting off on another mammoth global tour. But in part it explains the songwriter and guitarist's decision to channel his creative juices into other artistic areas over the years, among them book reviews, essays and scripts. It's hardly typical rock star territory, and now, at the grand old age of 72, he's taken a foray into even more unexpected quarters with his first novel, The Age Of Anxiety.

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That said, it contains plenty of sex, drugs and rock'n' roll, along with some memorable characters, including a chap called Crow who has, Townshend admits, "more than a little bit of Keith Richards in him".

But these days, such wild debauchery is not for Townshend who lives in a beautiful Georgian house overlooking the Thames in Richmond, west London, with his second wife Rachel Fuller.

"I've never wanted to live in LA or New York or central London. I've always wanted to live in the suburbs," he admits. "I like it there. It's where I grew up."

Life is certainly less frenetic. When he's not in the studio, he walks the dogs with Rachel and catches up with his old friends. He remains close to many of his superstar musical contemporaries still left, especially Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton.

"I see quite a lot of Mick - I think the person I feel closest to being able to tell the absolute truth with is Mick Jagger," he says.

"Eric Clapton and I, who've been through a lot together, are very good friends, although we don't see each other much."

He’s also hugely fond of Elton John.

Roger Daltrey and Townshend on stageThe Who's Roger Daltrey and Townshend on stage in Brisbane in 2009 (Image: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

"My wife Rachel and I went to see him in Milan. He's working on so much stuff and he's still so funny and so alert and so bitchy. He feels to me like an extraordinary survivor because I think he could have killed himself with the amount of coke he used to take."

For his own part, Townshend insists he was never the most indulgent of his contemporaries.While his life was "wild enough", drugs were never really his thing although by his own admission he was "a big drinker".

It's now 35 years since he's touched the former and 26 years the latter.

"I think I went to war with booze and drugs in the sense that it was a motivation, it was medicine, it helped me cope with the fact that I was doing something I wasn't crazy about doing," he reflects.

As for womanising - he pleads not guilty on that front too. There's one ex-wife, Karen Astley, with whom he has three grown-up children, but no notch-riddled bedpost. "I haven't got old girlfriends in the thousands - there's maybe three or four or five and they're very important to me," he says.

"In fact, one of the things that I realised when I was writing my biography was wondering why couldn't I stay with the wife I had? She was perfect in every way. It was the same with every girlfriend I had, I could have married and stayed with them, they were perfect. I was the one that was ****ed up."

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The WhoFrom left, Townshend, Keith Moon, John Entwistle and Roger Daltrey (Image: GAB Archive/Redferns)

After Townshend's well-received 2012 autobiography, Who I Am, you might be forgiven for thinking his debut novel - with its cast of young and old rockers, painters, groupies and grimy bars - is a follow-up.

Not a bit of it, he insists. "This is actually a great rock novel," he explains. "Yes it has been written by me and I come from that world but what actually happened when I wrote it was that I didn't want to touch on the obvious.

"When I wrote my autobiography, I was as honest as I possibly could be. I've told my story and I've made my apologies if I need to make them."

It's impossible to meet Townshend, of course, without recalling one of those apologies in particular - something he

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