Wir waren niemals Freunde!
Nov. 3, 2006
Surviving members of The Who: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend
It's been 24 years since there's been a new album by the legendary rock band The Who, a band that used to destroy their instruments onstage and who created a new yardstick with their rock opera, Tommy. In this Stern interview, Pete Townshend sums up his life.
Mr. Townshend, who's your favorite musical artist these days?
Joni Mitchell, her album Travellogue, that's the record with the orchestra songs.
Why do you think it was easier in the 60s to become a rock star?
There were no rules, apart from those of our parents. We were unknowns, but we had our dreams. We lived in a denial caused by the trauma of war that our parents had suffered through. We borrowed the blues, classical music, country, western, 50s pop, and created our own style of music. It wasn't so much about being young, as it was about separating ourselves from the views of our parents.
What's been the high point in your life?
Completing my book, The Boy Who Heard Music. That led to my composing the music for the album, Wire and Glass (EP, published July 2006 as a teaser for the forthcoming Who album). As soon as I finished the book, I knew that I'd found something that would inspire me for a second life with The Who. It wasn't necessarily something that I'd wanted, but it was clear to me that this was a second chance.
And your low point?
The death of John Entwistle (bassist for the Who, died 2002). And the death of two adults who had been sexually abused in their childhood. I wanted to help them, in that I wanted to pay for their therapy.
Is there a song you wish you'd written?
"Three Steps to Heaven" by Eddie Cochran. If I had to choose just one song, then it would be, "People are All the Same" by The Sugababes.
Does it bother you that your audience doesn't want to hear anything but old classic Who songs?
That's not true! They listen to everything as long we play the classics too. But for 24 years we didn't have any new songs. Now we play 8 or 9 new songs at our shows, and people are happy.
You're 61 years old. What would you still like to do?
Write my autobiography -- hopefully before I turn 64, so that I can publish it when I'm 65. Other than that, I'd like to expand my knowledge of German. And have all the important sailing certificates (?) under my belt. I'm an experienced seeman, but my qualifications are modest. And I'd like to be a granddad one day.
If you could have given yourself some advice 20 years ago, how would it have sounded?
You're doing everything great, Pete! Don't worry about anything. Twenty years ago I had just released my solo album, White City. Aside from that, I was working on writing the stage musical, Iron Man, by Ted Hughes. I worked on many different things which were all fun for me. But in spite of all this, I was still somehow unfulfilled. It had to do with needing to bring my therapy to an end. When I finally completed it, I was satisfied. I still sometimes go for therapy, when I feel the need for it.
Are you and Roger Daltrey still friends -- or more like business partners?
We were never friends! But we've been creative partners for many years. Today we're closer than ever before, because we only have each other. (Who drummer K.M died in 1978, bassist John Entwistle in 2002)
How will people remember The Who 50 years from now?
People will remember My Generation. The way we destroyed guitars and hotel rooms. But our music will also be remembered seriously. We had social relevance. But we weren't responsible for this, our audience was.
Interview: Hannes Roß / translated by Lucy D.
Sidebar: The Who's last studio album "It's Hard" appeared in 1982. It was an appropriate name for the album, which came at the end of the career of a legendary but uninspired rockband. This new album, Endless Wire (released Nov. 3, 2006) hints once again at their great success.