The Who Return With ‘WHO’: Listen

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The Who have released their first studio album in over 13 years. Simply titled, WHO, the Dec. 6 release is a welcome return for Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey. Many—including Daltrey—are touting it their best album since 1973’s Quadrophenia. In their heyday, before the death of Keith Moon in 1978, a new Who studio album became an increasingly rare event: in the ’70s, they released only four true studio albums.

Three tracks were released in the months’ prior to WHO‘s release, a tantalizing tease for what their longtime fans could expect. Two songs—including “Ball and Chain,” which was also the album’s first single—were regularly worked into the band’s setlist during their fall 2019 U.S. tour.

Watch the lyric video for “Ball and Chain”

Daltrey had a procedure done on Nov. 22 at an undisclosed hospital to scrape his throat to check for pre-cancerous cells. The Who’s lead singer called the operation “routine” in a brief interview with The Sun (U.K.). In 2009, Daltrey had been diagnosed with dysplasia – abnormal growths in his vocal cords. Last Sept. 25, The Who were forced to cut short their performance at Houston’s Toyota Center when the singer lost his voice eight songs into the show.

The band subsequently postponed the next two scheduled dates to allow the 75-year-old singer some time to recuperate from what they described as bronchitis. Their Moving On! tour ultimately resumed on Oct. 9.

[The impacted concerts—in Houston, Dallas and Denver—have been rescheduled for Spring 2020 with several other U.S. dates, including a Las Vegas residency, which follows the group’s 10-date U.K. tour. See below.]

The Who announced the new studio album on Sept. 13, via Interscope Records. [It was originally scheduled for Nov. 22 but (on Oct. 3) was pushed back to Dec. 6.] A third song, the muscular “I Don’t Wanna Get Wise,” was released in advance.

The final song that Daltrey sang lead at the truncated Houston concert on Sept. 25 was “Who Are You.” (Pete Townshend handles lead vocals on “Eminence Front,” which followed.)

Watch them perform “Who Are You” on Sept. 25 in Houston

Townshend took to Instagram to say that they’d return “next April or May,” adding “we’re doing the New Orleans Jazz Festival, I believe.”

On Oct. 3, the Who released a second song, “All This Music Must Fade.”

The new album, which includes 11 songs, plus three more on a deluxe edition—scroll down for the track list—features a cover by artist Peter Blake, whose past work includes the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as well as the Who’s own 1981 release Face Dances. The cover was unveiled Sept. 12 at an event at the Pace Gallery in New York City.

One of the album’s standout tracks is “Break the News,” a very un-Who-like song, which several reviewers have compared favorably to Mumford and Sons.

WHO is the band’s first new studio album since 2006’s Endless Wire. In addition to surviving founding members Townshend and Daltrey, it features the band’s longtime drummer Zak Starkey.

The album, recorded in London and Los Angeles, was co-produced by Townshend and D. Sardy (Noel Gallagher, Oasis, LCD Soundsystem and Gorillaz), with vocal production by Dave Eringa (Manic Street Preachers, Roger Daltrey, Wilko Johnson).

Listen to “Street Song,” sung by Daltrey, with backup vocals from Townshend

In support of WHO, the band will embark on a U.K. tour that launches March 16 in Manchester and touches down in 10 cities in all, leading up to a gig on April 8 at London’s famed Wembley Arena. The tour will feature the Who accompanied by orchestras, as they did on the recent U.S. tour.

Townshend and Daltrey are joined by guitarist/backup singer Simon Townshend, keyboardist Loren Gold, bassist Jon Button and Starkey.

Related: Our recap of the Who’s September show at Madison Square Garden

Listen to one of the few new cuts with Townshend singing lead

The Who began recording the new album in March 2019. In a quote posted by Britain’s, Daltrey said of the album, “I think we’ve made our best album since Quadrophenia in 1973, Pete hasn’t lost it, he’s still a fabulous songwriter, and he’s still got that cutting edge.”

Townshend, who turned 74 on May 19, is quoted as saying, “This album is almost all new songs written last year, with just two exceptions. There is no theme, no concept, no story, just a set of songs that I (and my brother Simon) wrote to give Roger Daltrey some inspiration, challenges and scope for his newly revived singing voice. Roger and I are both old men now, by any measure, so I’ve tried to stay away from romance, but also from nostalgia if I can. I didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Memories are OK, and some of the songs refer to the explosive state of things today. I made new home studio demos of all these songs in the summer of 2018 using a wide collection of instruments old and new.”

Those “two exceptions” that Townshend refers to are songs he wrote in 1966, which were never released by the Who. “Got Nothing to Prove,” in particular, has been significantly enhanced with a retro big band arrangement reminiscent of a James Bond theme.

WHO Track Listing

All This Music Must Fade
Ball and Chain
I Don’t Wanna Get Wise
Beads On One String
Hero Ground Zero
Street Song
I’ll Be Back
Break The News
Rockin’ In Rage
She Rocked My World
This Gun Will Misfire
Got Nothing to Prove
Danny and My Ponies

The Who 2020 Tour Dates (Tickets are available at Ticketmaster and here)

Mar 16 – Manchester Arena
Mar 18 – Dublin 3 Arena
Mar 21 – Newcastle Utilita Arena
Mar 23 – Glasgow SSE Hydro Arena
Mar 25 – Leeds First Direct Arena
Mar 30 – Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
Apr 01 – Birmingham Resorts World Arena
Apr 03 – Nottingham Motorpoint Arena
Apr 06 – Liverpool M&S Bank Arena
Apr 08 – London SSE Wembley Arena

TBA – New Orleans, LA – Jazz Fest
Apr 21 – Hollywood, FL – Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
Apr 23 – Highland Heights, KY – BB&T Arena
Apr 27 – Dallas, TX – American Airlines Center (rescheduled)
Apr 30 – Houston, TX – Toyota Center (rescheduled)
May 02 – Denver, CO – Pepsi Center
May 05 – Las Vegas, NV – The Colosseum at Caesars Palace
May 07 – Las Vegas, NV – The Colosseum at Caesars Palace
May 09 – Las Vegas, NV – The Colosseum at Caesars Palace
May 12 – Las Vegas, NV – The Colosseum at Caesars Palace
May 14 – Las Vegas, NV – The Colosseum at Caesars Palace
May 16 – Las Vegas, NV – The Colosseum at Caesars Palace

Watch the Who perform “Hero Ground Zero” at Madison Square Garden in September 2019

Best Classic Bands Staff

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  1. Mack
    #1 Mack 8 December, 2019, 09:34

    Hope I die before I get old….no, wait a minute….

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