art by: Warren Anstiss
Rockin’ in Rage and acknowledging the artistic grace of Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend
If your focus with The Who’s new record, WHO, is on banter, gossip and how often Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend tea together, well then… maybe you did get fooled again.
I’ve now had a month to think about this as the band’s 12th studio album was officially released on December 6, 2019. I recall feeling invigorated upon hearing the first single “Ball and Chain” back in September. It bled Who colors, stomped to rich beat and furthermore, felt like their signature Rock n’ Roll, which is now almost 56 years deep.
And then the new record comes out – quietly on a Friday just a few weeks before holiday festivities begin. The city streets are starting to light up with spirit as we prepare to turn into a new decade and what could be a pivotal year in America. 11 fresh tracks (or 14 in deluxe form) from legends who have not only selflessly served as rock pioneers and ambassadors since the 1960’s, but also created some of the world’s most ageless rock anthems that continue to inspire My Generation and way beyond for miles and miles and miles. But there’s concern on how Daltrey and Townshend did it with WHO? What ego swallowing occurred and was there a winner in the arm wrestle for power of The Who machine?
Well, there’s a brilliant lyric that closes the new record’s opening track entitled, “All This Music Must Fade”. It’s delivered by Townshend and it goes like this-
“Who gives a fuck?”
Who Are You?
In sequence, you’re hit with messaging from Daltrey and Townshend right from the opening riff of “All This Music Must Fade”. We may be in a streaming world where individual songs carry lives of their own but make no mistake – a ton of thought goes into sequencing a record. Maybe you’re thinking “What?” when the first thing you hear on WHO is Daltrey shout, “I don’t care, I know you’re gonna hate this song” as the record kicks off behind a subtle “What’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine” chant. But if you are really in tune, then you’re catching the fact that this song, like all its companions, is backed by Townshend’s fire blasting chords – the windmill motion where just one strike of one basic power-chord could electrify an entire arena. And then halfway through the song, you’re met with Daltrey’s melodious growl ringing out “I don’t mind, other guys ripping off my song” in the same vein as Townshend’s “The Kids Are Alright.” Now, you can adjust accordingly. Fabricate some fodder or submerse yourself in a sonic bliss and appreciate undeniable art.
“All This Music Must Fade” is accompanied by true songs of love, social challenges and acknowledgement of present societies on WHO. It’s a record that contains lyrics like, “This life was like climbing, so glad I put the time in” and some of Townshend’s deepest thoughts – that sometimes he sings himself, and sometimes he joins Daltrey.
It doesn’t take much to realize that part of the brilliance to this album is that the songs can be performed with a backing orchestra before sold-out stadiums across the world or with just Daltrey and Townshend themselves – sitting upon bar-stools with acoustics in a London Tea Shop – like beads on one string.
“Don’t you ever say never
It don’t mean a thing
Going to get us together
Like beads on one string”
art by: Warren Anstiss
Can You See The Real Me?
I’m of the mind that we should marvel at the fact that Daltrey and Townshend can join together with a band or as a pair and write new material at a range of 5,000 miles. They don’t need to be in a room with a forced hand because it’s always been the music that brings them together. Why set a fire you plan to douse? If there’s concern with the physical distance between them, maybe you need a little detour to open your eyes to the fact that along the way, Daltrey and Townshend have also raised over three million dollars (via their Who Cares Charity) towards numerous efforts combating teen cancer, while assisting in the creation of specialized centers in major cities like Los Angeles and London.
“Writing for Roger, and performing with him, is easier than the early days with the old four-piece band. Many of you will have heard me say that working with Roger these days can be tricky, and challenging, but that ultimately, I find it “easy”, said Townshend on a post to his Facebook page dated November 27, 2019.
In conclusion, there’s a track called “Got Nothing To Prove” on the deluxe version of WHO that sits pretty towards the end of the album, right before Townshend sails it away beautifully with a ballad. “Got Nothing To Prove” feels like it’s right out of a late 60’s stereo, which I take as a slight reminder relative to the song title.
The Who’s debut studio record My Generation will reach the 55-year mark at the end of 2020, shortly after Daltrey turns 76 and Townshend turns 75. The band plans to hit the road again in support of the Moving On! Tour in March, hitting 23 more dates from the UK to six nights in Las Vegas.
The arts continue to lead the way with expressive attitude. For WHO by The Who, maybe this is it. Who’s Next? Who knows? But I do know this collection of street songs that illuminates getting wise is due the respect it deserves.
Besides… You don’t need no evidence. When you’re sayin’ what you feel.