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Pete Townshend says new Who songs touch on age and activism

Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Who fans are definitely enjoying this fall, with the band out on the road backed by a symphony orchestra at every stop, and a new album, titled, WHO, coming on December 6th. Pete Townshend chatted with The San Diego Union-Tribune and shed light on what we can expect from his and Roger Daltrey‘s first new album in over 13 years.

Townshend explained, “This album has no concept, other than I wanted to write songs that might appeal to Roger and give him some vehicles for his voice — which I feel is better than ever. That proved to be tricky in the end, because Roger heard the songs as solo songs, which I understood, but I was confused. The themes are hopefully ones that give both Roger and me something to stand by and speak for. That means the songs are about getting older in pop music and in life and love. There are also songs that align with activism in some ways, especially the way we in the world respond to national and international tragedies. It sometimes seems to me that we have been ‘fooled again.'”

When pressed as to how the band’s audience never seems to age out and maintains fresh blood at its shows, Townshend said, “I don’t think the issue is as much about age as about relevance. Millennials think differently to Boomers. Rock, like jazz and blues has a legacy role now. So what I do on stage isn’t the issue, it’s why I am there in the first place, and why are people paying for me to be there? About a quarter of our concert attendees are now below the age of 40. They really don’t seem to be repelled! I hope they understand that I’m not up there to try to prove anything. That’s done. I’m there to earn my pension. I have grandchildren. Sick relatives. Charities I support. All that stuff.”

With revivals of the musical version of Tommy in the works, Townshend was pressed as to why Quadrophenia — the piece he deems his most successful creatively — has never found a proper home on the stage, and was asked if its something he would want to pursue: “Short answer is, yes, I have, and sadly none of them have really worked. Musically, it towers above most other music I have written. My hope is that I can compose such powerful music again.”

Townshend touched upon his role in the soundscape of the Who’s current tour: “I don’t change much, but I do respect the orchestra. If I play more quietly that will be for Roger. I still have my explosions. My monitor mix is pretty much the same as ever, but with some orchestra added if I need it. Remember we have a conductor. In some ways, I am driving blind.”

  • The Who tour dates (subject to change):
    October 11, 13 – Los Angeles, CA – Hollywood Bowl
    October 16 – San Diego, CA – Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl San Diego State University
    October 19 – Seattle, WA – T-Mobile Park / Home of the Seattle Mariners
    October 21 – Vancouver, BC – Pepsi Live at Rogers Arena
    October 23 – Edmonton, AB – Rogers Place
    October 24 – Los Angeles, CA – Hollywood Bowl
    March 16 – Manchester, England – Manchester Arena
    March 18 – Dublin, Ireland – 3Arena
    March 21 – Newcastle, England – Utilita Arena
    March 23 – Glasgow, Scotland – SSE Hydro Arena
    March 25 – Leeds, England – First Direct Arena
    March 30 – Cardiff, Wales –  Motorpoint Arena
    April 1 – Birmingham, England – Resorts World Arena
    April 3 – Nottingham, England – Motorpoint Arena
    April 6 – Liverpool, England – M&S Bank Arena
    April 8 – London, England – SSE Wembley Arena


  • Pete Townshend will appear on October 26th at UCLA’s Royce Hall in a live performance of his wife Rachel Fuller‘s Animal Requeum.
  • Townshend, who’ll perform along with Jewel and Jane Lynch posted on his Facebook page: “Come celebrate, honour and remember all the animals we have loved and lost. There will be no magic bus or electric guitar. But it’ll be an amazing evening.”
  • Tickets are available through the website
  • Pete Townshend will publish his third book — and first novel — titled The Age Of Anxiety, on November 5th.

CHECK IT OUT: The Who’s 2019 track “All This Music Must Fade”: