Pete Townshend Says New Who Songs Touch On Age And Activism

Who fans are definitely enjoying this fall, with the band out on the road backed by a symphony orchestra at every stop, and a new album, titled, WHO, coming on December 6th. Pete Townshend chatted with The San Diego Union-Tribune and shed light on what we can expect from his and Roger Daltrey‘s first new album in over 13 years.

Townshend explained, “This album has no concept, other than I wanted to write songs that might appeal to Roger and give him some vehicles for his voice — which I feel is better than ever. That proved to be tricky in the end, because Roger heard the songs as solo songs, which I understood, but I was confused. The themes are hopefully ones that give both Roger and me something to stand by and speak for. That means the songs are about getting older in pop music and in life and love. There are also songs that align with activism in some ways, especially the way we in the world respond to national and international tragedies. It sometimes seems to me that we have been ‘fooled again.'”

When pressed as to how the band’s audience never seems to age out and maintains fresh blood at its shows, Townshend said, “I don’t think the issue is as much about age as about relevance. Millennials think differently to Boomers. Rock, like jazz and blues has a legacy role now. So what I do on stage isn’t the issue, it’s why I am there in the first place, and why are people paying for me to be there? About a quarter of our concert attendees are now below the age of 40. They really don’t seem to be repelled! I hope they understand that I’m not up there to try to prove anything. That’s done. I’m there to earn my pension. I have grandchildren. Sick relatives. Charities I support. All that stuff.”

With revivals of the musical version of Tommy in the works, Townshend was pressed as to why Quadrophenia — the piece he deems his most successful creatively — has never found a proper home on the stage, and was asked if its something he would want to pursue: “Short answer is, yes, I have, and sadly none of them have really worked. Musically, it towers above most other music I have written. My hope is that I can compose such powerful music again.”

Townshend touched upon his role in the soundscape of the Who’s current tour: “I don’t change much, but I do respect the orchestra. If I play more quietly that will be for Roger. I still have my explosions. My monitor mix is pretty much the same as ever, but with some orchestra added if I need it. Remember we have a conductor. In some ways, I am driving blind.”

Pete Townshend told us the long wait for a new Who album had nothing to do with him not having enough material for the band to record: [“I could have put material together for what we would have called a Who record at any time. So, it’s not been through lack of material, it’s really been about why you would want to put a record out by the Who.”] SOUNDCUE (:12 OC: . . . by the who)