This generation, too, hears The Who
By Ryan Pearson
LOS ANGELES — Roger Daltrey is smacking his head.
He’s heard enough about how Pete Townshend was writing songs for a fresh album from the two surviving members of The Who. Or maybe Townshend is writing for another band. Or he isn’t writing at all.
"Just let him get on with it. It’s a cracked old record, isn’t it?" Daltrey exclaims, leaning over to hit his forehead twice with an open palm. "Oh, it’s all on, it’s all off. Oh it’s all on. It’s been 35 years, I’m tired of it. What is the point?"
Which isn’t to say Daltrey, 64, has given up on the possibility of following their last studio album, "Endless Wire," released in late 2006.
"I still feel that he still will come up with perhaps his best work," Daltrey said of Townshend in an interview with the Associated Press. "I still think that he’s still got it in him. It’s just whether he thinks that we’re the instrument that he wants to do that on. Personally, I think he’s mad to try and change it at this stage in his life. I mean, why fix something that’s not broke?"
As if to prove the point, the band was the center of a tribute concert last weekend in Los Angeles, featuring performances from Tenacious D, Pearl Jam, The Flaming Lips and The Who themselves.
The auspicious set of contemporaries who gathered pleased Daltrey. Eddie Vedder had worked with him on charity events, and Daltrey said Tenacious D frontman Jack Black "should’ve been a rock star."
"When you look at Jack Black, whatever he’s doing … it just always reminds me of that first initial feeling I had when I heard Elvis Presley singing ‘Heartbreak Hotel,"’ Daltrey said, delivering a guttural growl. "Haah! What’s that noise! Graaaawr! Yeah, just that enthusiasm."
No worse for the wear
Daltrey in person shows little of the wear and tear you’d expect in a rock veteran. He looks ready to hit the gym, and whirls his way out of the interview room with a bottle of water in hand, not stopping to eat a single bite of the Japanese breakfast that had been ordered for him.
He puts his energy into booking charity concerts, small acting roles and the occasional venture back out onto the road. The Who will be touring Japan and the U.S. this fall.
Sure, it’s been more than four decades since "My Generation." But the two aren’t ashamed of sparking fans’ nostalgia. Daltrey says the memories of drummer Keith Moon (who died in 1978) and bassist John Entwistle (dead since 2002) still resonate when he and Townshend perform.
"We’re left with … the way they played, the way we reacted to the way they played. So that kind of stays in our subconscious forever," Daltrey said. "But the communication on the sublevel between Pete and I is the same as ever. And that’s the bit that I get off on. Not particularly the formatted stuff that’s written. It’s just when it flies off at an angle and you’re jamming. Because when it comes out of the air, it’s wonderful, man."
The result may not be timeless, exactly, but it ages gracefully.
"You listen to ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again,’ it still could be a new band," Daltrey said. "It’s almost as old as The Platters. They still sound great, but it sounds dated. There are still young bands making our kinds of music. And our music holds up well with those young bands."
Daltrey calls himself a fan of Scottish band The Fratellis and English acts Razorlight and Metro. He hasn’t yet listened to Coldplay’s latest release and is looking forward to something new from Amy Winehouse.
"She’s something very, very special," he said. "I’m bored … of that album (‘Back to Black’). And I hope she takes care of herself. She needs to really go and talk to some survivors. I’m sure she will."
On technology and music
The Who recently licensed downloadable tracks for the video game "Rock Band." Daltrey said he tried it and got bored quickly. "They’ve destroyed the form, as soon’s it went digital," Daltrey said. "It wasn’t just music that people used to buy, it was a total art form. … I think that’s what people like. They like it personal."
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