Rough Boys

Album: Empty Glass (1980)
Charted: 39 89
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This song is about gays in America and Punks in England. Townshend was making fun of them because they dressed alike, as the fashion for both groups was leather and military-style clothing.
  • This started rumors that Townshend was gay or bisexual. In the November 14, 1990 issue of Newsweek, Townshend explained: "I know how it feels to be a woman because I am a woman, and I won't be classified as just a man." Regarding "Rough Boys," he said, "In a way it was a coming-out. That it was a real acknowledgment of the fact that I'd been surrounded by people that I really adored - and was actually sexually attracted to - who were men. And that the side of me that responded to those people was a passive side, a subordinate side." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • This attracted a new audience of gay men for Townshend, many who thought it meant he was coming out.
  • Townshend says that he made the song up in the studio on the spot with ex-Small Faces drummer Kenney Jones playing along.
  • Near the end of the song, Townshend played "anything that came under my fingers." This resulted in some very complicated chords.
  • Townshend used a synthesizer guitar here, run through two synthesizer amps. The bass part went through one amp with the chords and melody going through the other.
  • This was the first single Townshend released on his own. He had previously released singles as guitarist for the Who and in collaboration with Small Faces bassist Ronnie Lane.
  • This was released 8 months later in the US than in the UK.
  • Townshend played the bass line, chords, and melody at the same time.
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Comments: 23

  • Dan from Orlando, FlWhat the f--k does it matter? Freddie Mercury was gay and you still Clap/Stomp when We Will Rock You comes on! There are rumours of Bowie and Mick but you still Sing the hooks. Pete's a writer and that doesn't mean he has to write about himself all the time. Sometimes you challenge yourself to write outside of yourself. Christ the song Empty Glass has the lyrics "I stand here at the bar I hold an empty glass." He was heavily drinking at the time but swears it was about holding your heart to god as if the heart is the glass and god must refill it. EITHER WAY! He wrote it and it means whatever it means to him! You listened and it means what it means to you. Songs have that power to make you feel and depending on HOW you feel it may change. And as for the Child Porn? The books out read it for your damn selves!
  • Andy from Madison, WiWow, Scott, you threw away a great music CD because of homophobia over an urban legend? Pete Townsend wrote "And I Moved" specifically for Bette Midler, but her she rejected it because it seemed overtly sexual, but not in the way that she preferred when singing "smutty" songs.
  • Willie from Scottsdale, AzIf you are gripping too hard about all this, watch the two "Boyfriend" episodes of "Seinfeld" with Keith Hernandez and have a good laugh. "-)
  • John from Honolulu, Hia lot of rock stars experimented with bisexuality. ithere is a you tube videom interview where Townshend gets very upset and defensive, because an ex-friend of his said they had had sex. Townshend has a hot emper - but i never saw him so defensive. hey, supposedly, Mick Jagger and Bowie had a fling. Mick Taylor quit the Stones because Mick wanted to be his lover.
  • Eric from Aarhus, DenmarkI think you have consider that the song from 1980 is dedicated to The Sex Pistols (as well as Pete's two children).
    I see it as a tribute to punks as those new kids on the block who now are taking over musically in a way that is similar to the way that The Who did in the mid-sixties, when they were the mod-rebels of their time.
    Pete is embracing them because he is aware that he now is "pale and weedy" and wearing the ultimate midlife-bummer "Hush Puppy shoes", and at the same time he feels a connection to the younger musicians. A connection that can never be - ..."we can't be seen together"
    I personally can easily relate to the fact that he probably feels just as young inside as when he wrote "My Generation", but that the years have gone by and have inevitably left him on the sideline.
    OK, maybe there are some gay undertones to it. I never really thought about that, and to me it's not really important.
  • None from None , WyOk, come on, Pete's not gay. Seriously. Why the heck would he be married to a women half his age if he was gay? I don't really think he's bisexual, either. I mean, it's "natural" for each gender to have a certain about of attraction towards the same sex, even sexual attraction. And about him having sex with men, well, it was the 60's and he was (as he stated in an interview, though I can't remember which) very drunk. I think he's just a bit more honest about how he feels about both sexes than most people. Plus, chrissake, who cares?
  • Patrick from Toronto, OnPete said he was looking at "Kiddie Pics" as part of research for his book...Wheres the book Pete? Hes scum.
  • Brad from Lexington, KyNewsflash to anyone who thinks Pete is bi or gay: HE'S NOT and this song isn't gay either, and I have actual proof to back this up, unlike the people who take the opposite side. In the liner notes for Townshend's 'Scooped' album, Pete says this song is "a rant about British punks (like Sid Vicious) I had come across in recent years who wore outfits I had come to know in New York as the apparel of 'rough' gays." 'Nuff said.
  • Kevin from Reading , PaPete once said "I know what it feels like to be a woman because I am one." 'Nuff said to all of you who think he is primarily straight.
  • Peter from Adelaide, AustraliaJesus H Christ! How could anyone even remotely think this song is about anything other than homosexual desires/encounters is beyond me. Read the lyrics, its so bleeding obvious! Anyway does it really matter if Pete's gay or bisexual or whatever? This is a great song and the guitar work is Peter at his finest.
  • Tracey from Houston, TxPete -- despite public image -- is a bottom seeking gay encounters with with "rough trade."
    Ever seen "Prick Up Your Ears?"
  • Scott from Orchard Park, NySorry John from Hendersonville, but I sold my Empty Glass cd because I didn't want to listen to how another man "laid me down like an empty dress". Pete admitted, I think it was in Rolling Stone magazine, that this song, "And I Moved", was about a homosexual experience he had with some "waif" in the Netherlands. Pete is and will always be one of my favorite musicians and I don't think he is gay, but he's probably bi-sexual.
  • Gordon from Washington, DcFrom Wikipedia: "For many years Townshend refused to confirm or deny rumors that he was bisexual. In a 2002 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, however, he explained that, although he engaged in some brief same-sex experimentation in the 1960s, he is heterosexual. Townshend now lives with his long-time partner, musician Rachel Fuller."

    But to anyone who acts all heterosexist about how it's "Not possible Pete could be gay" please see that RS interview: .... It's clear he's more complex than the adjective "straight" implies.
  • Joe from Bellingham, Wahahhah! you guys are good! there is no way in hell pete can be gay! It's just not possible! I'm not denying it. in an interview with playboy magazine, Townshend said that all rumors anout him being gay are false. he's streight.
  • Joey from Nowhere Land, CaIt has been published (In Their Own Write: Adventures in the Music Press) that he and publicist Danny Fields were boyfriends. This is false according to both parties. Townshend did admit to Rolling Stone magazine reporter Chris Heath in 2002 that he experimented "consciously" twice with homosexuality in the 1960s, and apparently also with Danny Fields -- "sexual intimacy, yeah, quite possibly." Townshend considers himself straight.

    that's from
  • John from Hendersonville, NcPete Townshend is not gay and he is not bi. He was married and now has a girlfriend. The song isn't even about homosexuality and anyone who actually owns the Empty Glass album and has read the jacket would know that.
  • Ralph from Newton, MaI hate to disagree with Roger, but I believe Pete's admission about this song and being bisexual was very recent (2000 at the earliest but I think more like 04 on)

    The child porn charges were totally part of a witch hunt-I second everyone else's points on this issue.
  • Roger from Los Angeles, CaNot that it matters, but contrary to what is written above, Pete Townshend has come out of the closet and admitted that he is in fact bisexual. He did it as far back as 1991.
  • Nathan from Defiance, OhTownshend was abused as a child and thats why he was interested in the material, so give Pete a break.
  • Ydur from Knoxville, TnPete Townsend was recently cleared of any and all wrong-doing by Scotland Yard in relation to the kiddie porn internet incident. They (the bobbies) even publicly apologized and acknowledged that Townsend had contacted them PRIOR to obtaining the questionable materials; Townsend was conducting research for a book he was (is?) writing on the subject of Child sexual exploitation.

    Don't believe what you read or see on TV if the media that brings it to you is owned by large corporations (most media outlets are). As Paul Simon said: "They're just out to capture my dime."
  • Jonothan from Adelaide, AustraliaA piss-take on homosexuals - now not so funny given Pete's more recent activities
  • Badge from Dublin, IrelandHe's a remarkably clever and observant young man, isn't he? What a pity it seems that it's probably going to go to waste in the end.
  • Bob from Boca Raton, FlVery interesting song, especially in light of Pete's recent internet woes.
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