Earlier this month (November 2004), Pete Townshend announced via the official Who website that he and Roger Daltrey were getting together in December, with whatever bits of song theyâd managed to write thus far, in order to see if it was worth proceeding any further with plans for a new Who album. The project was apparently tentatively title Who2, clearly a reference to the remaining original members of the band.
Okay. The name sucks. But what about the idea?
A friend of mine likens the concept of new Who songs to re-animating a dinosaur skeleton.
When I saw The Who at the Sydney Entertainment Centre some months ago, I was impressed: despite lead guitarist Pete Townshend and vocalist Roger Daltrey illuminated by a spotlight as a duo, accompanied by a backing band who spent most of the evening in the shade, they were good. The backing band were essential to the enjoyment, providing the solid bed upon which Pete and Roger could rock.
And what a backing band: Zak Starkey, forever destined to have the middle name âSon-of-Ringoâ, was the perfect drummer. Simon Townshend â slated to appear downunder as The Whoâs guitarist in a mid-90s tour that was, thankfully, called off (see, the world really is wonderful!) before it could taint the outlaw memory the band had created in their one and only previous Aussie tour, in 1968, when they were given the bumâs rush out of the country for being âunrulyâ on a flight â backed up big brother Pete as rhythm guitarist. Pino Palladino, session bass player extraordinaire deputised for the most recently departed Ox, John Entwistle. But it was John âBunnyâ Bundrick, on keyboards, who proved his worth, playing fantastically.
Indeed, âBunnyâ delivered the most gorgeously majestic introduction to âLove Reign Oâer Meâ, that Daltrey had to go and ruin. Thatâs right. Ruin. Daltreyâs onstage âmoveâ for most of the night consisted oof swinging the microphone by its lead, often having it wrap around him and then unwrap before heâd catch it. Only, one time, it led to the âSpinal Tapâ moment of the evening, when he dropped the damn thing. Which resulted in a faulty connection, static, and ultimately, malfunction. But only at the most delicately dramatic moment of the evening, after that awesome introduction that reigned over âLove Rein Oâer Meâ. And there was no choice: stop the song mid-verse, pick it up again. However, rather than risk âBunnyâ attempting to reproduce that brilliant intro again, and failing, they chose to pick it up from the verse.
But that was ultimately forgiveable. Why? The true test of whether this version of The Who cut it was with songs like âWho Are Youâ. In fact, specifically the song âWho Are Youâ. The choruses were faultless, with perfectly falsettoâd âHu! Hu! Hu! Hu!âs following each âWhoooooo are youuuuu?â.
Those harmonic interludes of âWhooooh-aaaaah-ooooh-aaaaah-ooooh-aaaaahâ were, likewise, note-perfectly reproductions of that song. It was heaven.
The band played their token new âsingleâ â the recently recorded âReal Good Looking Boyâ (a tribute to Elvis and rock, based around the âI Canât Help Falling In Love With Youâ melody) and âOld Red Wineâ. The songs appear as âbonusâ tracks in the recently released singles box set and the most recent Who compilation The Who: Then & Now. It was after playing the songs that Pete admitted that they were considering recording a new album. The cheering didnât increase noticeably, but nobody booâd. Clearly, weâd given the idea our approval.
So back to the new album.
I think the idea is almost, but not quite right, and even though Pete and Roger donât realise this, the people around them certainly do. Consider again their greatest hits collection Then and Now
Does it look familiar to you?
Hint: the word âfabâ, describing the ânew recordingsâ, is a bit of a give-away.
If youâll recall, The Whoâs âThe Kids Are All Rightâ always was the best Merseybeat song that The Beatles never wrote. So itâs kind of fitting that The Who are âripping offâ the ârippedâ artwork for The Beatlesâ Anthology series.
Indeed, The Who could have gone all the way: instead of Then and Now they could have called the album Yesterday And Today, like the Beatles did, in America, in 1965. And there you have the perfect solution to the problem. With the passing of Keith Moon (drums) and John Entwistle (bass), The Who have lost their rhythm section. All The Beatles have left is Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr â their rhythm section. They should combine forces and record an album as The Whotles.
Unfortunately, another band has beaten The Who to this collaboration: former Beach Boy Brian Wilson has already let slip, in interview, that he intends to record with Paul McCartney next year. It wonât be the first time: Paul McCartney munched a carrot on the original recording of âVegetablesâ, for the ill-fated Smile album (which, nearly forty years later, Brian Wilson has gone and re-recorded). Macca also appeared, along with Eric Clapton and Elton John, on Wilsonâs album Gettinâ In Over My Head earlier this year. However, next yearâs collaboration may prove to be more significant. Which is fitting: two great bass players who are also pushy song writers who orchestrated their respective bandsâ best albums, who also happened to be born within days of each other, and admire each other greatlyâ¦ most likely weâll get a Beachles album before we get a Whotles album.