The members of the Who have considered reentering the studio together for well over a year, and on Friday they met at their management's London office to talk about it.
Because of prior commitments by each of its members, the band will be unable record for an extended period any time soon. Nevertheless, the Who plan to schedule two short recording sessions before the end of the year, bassist John Entwistle said from his home in rural England.
"We know the magic happens onstage," he said, "but we haven't tried it in the studio yet. We're eager to see what happens. It's a long time between albums."
Eighteen years, to be exact. In 1982, the band released the uneven studio record It's Hard but broke up soon afterward following an alleged farewell tour. Since then, they've reconvened numerous times to perform "Tommy," "Quadrophenia" and greatest-hits concerts with deluxe orchestration and backing musicians. Then last year, the Who hit the road once again as a five-piece, a move that reignited their enthusiasm for playing together.
"I think that made us feel a lot closer," Entwistle said. "We're working so well as a five-piece that we want to try to carry that onto the album somehow."
The band will work on the new material at both Entwistle's and guitarist Pete Townshend's recording studios. At the moment, both artists have plenty of ideas for new songs but nothing completely written although Entwistle has two tunes, left over from a TV project he did titled "Vampires," he might convert into Who tunes.
"They're only possibilities at this point," he said. "I'd have to change the words and a lot of stuff because they were for a kid's program and they're pretty tame. I just have ideas, riffs I know I could write songs from. But whether they're going to be in a bluesy style or something else, I don't know yet."
Entwistle said he hopes the band will also write material based around improvised passages the Who developed during their most recent tour.
"Whenever we do the jams at the end of some of our songs onstage, I try to work out some new songs around those jams," he said. "There's always loads and loads of songs in bits and pieces from that. It's basically just a matter of grabbing the bits and joining them together to see what comes out."
Even if the Who can't recapture the magic of yesteryear, the band probably won't wither up and fade away.
"Most people who come to a concert want to hear old stuff anyway. They don't want to hear new stuff they've never heard before or are just getting into," Entwistle said. "And we're still playing great together. I don't think we'll be breaking up again."
Before heading into the studio, the Who will participate in the October 20 World Trade Center benefit concert at Madison Square Garden in New York, which will also feature Paul McCartney, Bon Jovi, John Mellencamp, Macy Gray, the Goo Goo Dolls, James Taylor, India.Arie and Melissa Etheridge (see "Paul McCartney Joining Bon Jovi, Macy Gray For New York Benefit").
Entwistle said the band will play five or six songs but has yet to decide upon a setlist.
"Let's just hope they're easy ones, because we won't have much time to rehearse," he joked.
While he's honored to play the benefit, he has reservations about the size and scope of the show.
"I think it can get a little bit too much," he explained. "The more musicians on it, the less time people have to play. Also, when we did Live Aid, there was utter confusion backstage. It was a complete catastrophe as far as we were concerned. We had no monitors for the tapes we were using so everything fell apart. I'd hate to get involved in another fiasco like that."