The Who Re-Viewed Part 2


I’ve been among the most vociferous critics of The Who’s stubborn determination to lay claim to that name. To me as to so many (including those born early enough to witness their prime), The Who were a four-piece band that germinated in West London in the early 1960s and died with Keith Moon in September 1978. The band only became something like The Who again in the late 1990s, once Keith’s friend and student Zak Starkey took over the drum stool, and once Pete Townshend had (for the most part) conquered his demons and reservations and learned to love playing again the music he had written. And then that Who appeared to die with John Entwistle and I, again like many, felt disgust when Townshend and Daltrey persisted with touring while John was still being laid to rest. Could Pete and Roger really lay claim to being The Who?

They need each other

Yes, as is apparent both on the new album and in concert. Rock music’s greatest drummer and bassist may no longer be with us, but the familiar interaction between Roger Daltrey, The Who’s vocalist, and Pete Townshend, The Who’s songwriter and guitarist, ensures that the music they make is instinctively recognized as The Who. Yet it’s about more than mere brand recognition. To quote the Oasis song ‘Acquiesce’ about the Gallagher brothers tempestuous co-dependency, they need each other. In writing, in talking, in song and as a solo artist, the professorial Townshend is incapable of editing himself. He rambles, he rants, he detours, and he gets so easily distracted that he repeatedly goes off the rails. Daltrey has no time for such nonsense. With his workmanlike approach to music as to life, he keeps Townshend’s words grounded, keeps the music rooted, keeps the performance centred. He is Townshend’s creative foil and Pete knows as much. For those who still think Endless Wire could as successfully have been a Pete Townshend solo effort, I have but one word: Psychoderelict.

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October 2021