Rock legends The Who have revealed they received threats from the IRA when they first played in Ireland.

The aging band is guaranteed a rapturous welcome when they perform their first Irish gigs in six years when they kick off a European tour later this summer.

But guitarist Pete Townshend admitted the English group's first-ever gigs in Dublin, Cork and Belfast shortly after they formed in 1964, were "disastrous.”

He said their concert in Belfast was ruined when Republicans took exception to the distinctive union jack-emblazoned jackets that he and fellow original members Roger Daltrey, John Entwhistle and Keith Moon wore at the time.

He recalled, "Our first shows in Ireland were in the very, very early days and they were kind of disastrous.

"One of them in Belfast was marred by a threat from the IRA because we were wearing union jack jackets."

But Townshend, whose grandfather hailed from Cork, said the intimidating experience didn't put him off the country.

And he promised Irish fans who are hurting from the recession will be "cheered up" when they open their Quadrophenia and More European tour with dates in Dublin and Belfast in June.

The 67-year-old, who along with singer Daltrey is the only surviving founder member, said, "The main thing I want to say about playing in Ireland is that this is one of the most important countries in the world for me and my past and the various bits of Irish blood we all claim to have -- which is true for me.

"Right the way across the island, north and south, I've got lots and lots of friends. Some of them are not having a good time at the moment. It will be great to come and hopefully cheer you up a bit.
"We're playing Quadrophenia and that is actually about overcoming the difficulties and the adversities of life, particularly if you're young."

The rock greats, who are currently in the middle of a U.S. tour, will play all their hits from their iconic 1973 double album Quadrophenia, along with a selection of classic Who tracks, during their Irish dates.

Songwriter Townshend, who last performed in Ireland with The Who at Dublin's Marlay Park in 2007, also revealed he is working on a "new music piece, which is partly set in Waterford.”

He added, "I can't wait to get back [to Ireland]. I love the people, love the history, love the music, love everything about it."

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