Today ... there's a lot of interest in the album format, lots of new artists are playing their albums on stage. That's just an echo. What happened in the '60s was that singles were what pop artists did. Nobody did albums. It was "Sgt. Pepper" and "Pet Sounds" that made this thing about the album that was something worth sitting down and listening to from start to finish. Now that the Internet is getting faster ... the idea that people have short attention spans is just rubbish. Music is becoming a richer deeper field. When people find something they love, they will give it their attention.
But I do think that people, not just young people, who are communicating through email, texting, Facebook ... one of the difficulties with that is (how to) be authentic to yourself. That's what "Quadrophenia" is about: this young man who realizes he hasn't quite solved the problems of growing up, and all he can do is sit and offer it up to the universe for answers.
Townshend on his longstanding hearing problems: Well, I'm all right at the moment. The problems that I've had have been tinnitus, but I've gone through long periods of being careful about it. I love sailing, and that's not good for it, either, the wind hitting your ears. My problems were created in the studio, not on the stage. I've had some trauma on stage (related to that), but I can't imagine what it's been like for Roger. I don't actually protect my ears (live). I don't use in-ear monitors either, because they actually give me very bad tinnitus.
Q: In light of Roger Waters going all out with "The Wall" recently, would you ever expand "Quadrophenia" into a larger production in the future?
Townshend: I would, he wouldn't (pointing to Daltrey). As the composer, I like the idea of it being as grand as possible. I think what Roger wants is to be able to sing the story authentically - to really feel it. That's why I think it's important that Roger should drive this.
Daltrey: For me, as a singer, you have to know what you're inhabiting when you're singing it. It's a strange process; you can't just be in a vacuum. That's always been a bit of my difficulty with "Quadrophenia," in the production from '96-'97. One of the problems I think Pete in some ways had in putting this music into stage form is that people tend to put it into a standard Broadway production. His music and the things he writes about are so different, you almost have to invent a whole new staging, a whole new world to inhabit. That's what we're trying to do with this.
Q: Many people consider it your crowning achievement, maybe your masterpiece.
Daltrey: I think Pete's written equally good stuff, but as an album that holds together most, maybe it's this one, because there was no input from the other writers.
Townshend: It's funny, I was thinking just the other day, someone asked me to comment on "It's Hard" (1982), the last Who album before we split up. I always think of it as an unsuccessful album, but it's actually quite extraordinary. ... "One Life Is Enough" has one of the most extraordinary vocal performances ... (turning to Daltrey) It reminds me of when you cracked that "see me, feel me, touch me, heal me" part on "Tommy."
All of the albums have their qualities. We're not prolific like AC/ DC or the Rolling Stones. If the Beatles had kept making albums, they'd have made about 150 by now. We didn't really make that many. We took our time. But it's the most successful rendition of the band as a guitar/ bass/ drums band. Funny enough, there's lots of brass, lots of synthesizers, I play some violin here and there badly, but the most important thing for me is that the band was on fire. I gave the band a really great piece of music, then jumped in and it worked.
Q: What can you tell us about your upcoming performance at the Olympics?
Daltrey: Has it been announced that we're gonna be there? We've prepared ... well, I've prepared something and Pete's given me free rein to do it ... it's a great finale. But it's not a rock show. W can't do it live. We could do it live standing on our heads after 50 years, but there's athletics going on, so we can't do it live.
(The ceremony) is about all the great music that has come out of this country. It isn't about us being on the end of the Olympics. It's not about the Who being on a TV show. It's about making great music that is apropos to that event. People have given years of their lives to be on that field.
Q: Will there be any new Who material? Will you record together again?
Townshend: I'm writing right now. Once I put down this bloody life story (he's prepping memoirs for publication), I went back to music. The only thing is that I'm not sure if what I write today, whether you can rubber-stamp it as Who music, though with the last album (2006's "Endless Wire"), we proved that we can adapt.
Daltrey: I just think that whatever you're writing, even if it's a bit of a jazz instrumental ... if you write it, and I sing it, that's Who music.
Townshend: I agree with that. But as a Bruce Springsteen fan from the very, very start, I want to hear him grow within that framework that he's always been in, not some hee-haw-on-the-Hudson-River nonsense.
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