Legendary British rockers the Who have gone nearly 20 years without releasing new songs, but they plan to break that streak this summer by recording new material live in concert, singer Roger Daltrey said.
"I'm hoping it will be just another live album, [but] with new songs," Daltrey said last week, relaxing in a chair in a Manhattan hotel room. "We might not make this record in the studio. I'm hoping we don't."
The 56-year-old singer's famous curly hair was cropped short, but intact. His face showed wear, but his blue eyes were as bright as ever, even behind a professorial pair of gold-rimmed glasses.
Not only does the band hope to record new material live, but they also plan to write songs through onstage improvisation, according to bassist John Entwistle.
"Maybe a lot of songs will come out of stage performances we'll go into a bit that could be a new song. A lot will come just from listening," he said, sitting in a room down the hall from his bandmate the same afternoon.
Entwistle, 55, who damaged his hearing years ago in the recording studio not during the band's notoriously loud shows leaned in close to hear questions. He wore a denim jacket bearing a Hard Rock Cafe logo.
'We Need Communication And Honesty'
Before the band embarks on its reunion tour in June, its three surviving original members guitarist Pete Townshend, Daltrey and Entwistle (drummer Keith Moon died in 1978) will join together in the bassist's home studio to listen to three new songs written by Daltrey.
"We're hoping to get together ... to chat and mix and talk," Daltrey said. "What we need is communication and honesty, really. Let's see what their feelings are about what I've written and see if it inspires them."
The singer is hesitant to flesh out the material he's written, he said, instead hoping that Townshend, who has always been the band's primary songwriter, will help shape the songs, with Entwistle.
"I don't want us to get back to the situation we used to have with Pete in the latter days, where he would come up with such a perfect demo that you'd end up just trying to copy it," Daltrey said. "I want them to be organic from the band."
In a press conference the day before, Townshend, the author of countless rock classics, including "My Generation" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Won't Get Fooled Again," said it was high time that he and Daltrey collaborate on songs.
"Roger and I have never written a song together, and that's what we're going to try to do," he said. "We're in our mid-50s if we can't do it now, we never will."
For his part, Daltrey said he hopes to help Townshend rise to the challenge of writing new Who songs that reflect the current lives of the band and many of their fans.
"It's always perplexed me that rock 'n' roll writers can write about the angst of adolescence so easily, and yet give up when it comes to all the f---ing problems of getting old and middle-aged," Daltrey said, so intensely that he began to stammer. "There's an awful lot of people [our age] out there that could do with the same help in their lives now as they got from Quadrophenia when they were that age."
Returning To Their Roots
After years of live shows in which they were backed by armies of musicians, the Who rediscovered themselves in several stripped-down performances last year, Entwistle said. Some of those performances are captured on The Blues to the Bush, the band's new Internet-only live album.
"We always had an orchestra to hide behind we never really felt like the Who back then," Entwistle said. "It's much more like the old Who we're actually playing together."
Before those scattered dates last year, the Who last toured in 1997. The band hasn't recorded a studio album since 1982's It's Hard.
This summer's reunion tour will begin June 25 at Tinley Park, Ill.'s New World Music Theater.