NEW YORK (October 19, 2006) — Most of the 24 years since the last time the Who released a new album passed with the group’s creative force, guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend, believing there would never be another one.
Although the Who is down to only two original members in Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey, the first disc to carry the group’s name since 1982 is set for release at the end of October.
“Endless Wire” is familiar in its crunchy rock ‘n’ roll and literary aspirations; half is a rock opera based on a mini-novel Townshend wrote and distributed online.
From “My Generation,” to “Baba O’Riley” to “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Who Are You,” it’s a daunting legacy to live up to.
Townshend has always considered live performances as important a part of the Who’s legacy as recordings, and the band has sporadically performed both before and after bassist John Entwistle’s death in 2002.
He said he never wanted to release an album that he wasn’t sure was good, and he couldn’t say that for the previous two, including 1982’s aptly titled “It’s Hard.”
“I’ve just been waiting,” he told The Associated Press, “waiting, I suppose, for science to take over and give me the right to have another baby as a 60-year-old woman and suddenly it’s arrived and there’s a baby and it feels good. It think it’s a good record. It feels like a record I may have made way back, back in 1968 or 1970.”
The wait may have been longest for Daltrey, who’s always been impatient for new Townshend songs to sing.
“Roger would say, `all we have to do is get in the studio and play and the music will happen’ and I’d have to say to him, `No, Roger, it won’t,” Townshend said. “So we would try it, the music wouldn’t come and he’d have another press conference where he’d claim to have written four songs and I said, `can I hear them?’
“He’d say, `it’s about this and that’ and I’d say, `No, Roger, I want to hear them.”’ Came the reply: “Well… they’re not quite finished.”
A number of factors came together to push Townshend toward finally making another Who record, including Entwistle’s death.
Entwistle died on the eve of a brief Who tour of the United States that was organized, in large part, to make money so the bassist could maintain the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle to which he was accustomed, Townshend said.
The guitarist agonized during a sleepless night over whether the tour should be canceled in Entwistle’s honor, or whether he and Daltrey should press forward.
He thought back to his parents’ generation, for whom duty meant putting their lives aside to fight World War II. He concluded his own duty was to everyone else involved in the undertaking — the crew, the promoters, the fans who had bought tickets and were looking forward to a night out.
The first performance was at the Hollywood Bowl and “it was a riot,” Townshend said.
“We missed John, of course, but we were able to go on without him,” he said. “I thought, hell, people die, things change and it’s OK. I suppose I thought then that maybe I could make a Who record under these changing circumstances and maybe I can say to people that it’s not the old sound or the old machine … At that moment, I knew we would make a Who record.”
Another incentive? While Townshend said he enjoys the old hits, he couldn’t stand the idea of another Who tour with nothing new to say musically. The band has just begun a 15-month concert tour all around the world, its largest ever.
Daltrey, who wasn’t made available for an interview, said in a statement: “When John died, it changed the balance of the band. Pete and I are at two opposite ends of the globe and John was the equator. Something happened. And it has given us a whole new edge.”
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