Townshend wishes Daltry and Entwistle well but won't join them

August 12, 1994|By Gary Graff | Gary Graff,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

The Rolling Stones are out there. So are Pink Floyd and the Eagles.

But where's the Who?

In its 30th anniversary year, the group -- part of a legendary British rock troika with the Beatles and Stones -- is not entirely quiet. There's a new boxed set in stores, "The Who: Thirty Years of Maximum R&B." Singer Roger Daltrey also has released "Daltrey Sings Townshend," a tribute to Who guitarist and chief composer Pete Townshend that was recorded with an orchestra and guests -- including Mr. Townshend -- during a pair of February concerts in New York.

And Mr. Daltrey, accompanied by Who bassist John Entwistle, is on the road for a "Daltrey Sings the Who" tour, a 50-city trek.

This is quite a bit of activity, especially for a band that's been broken up since 1982.

But the Who has not joined its contemporaries by opting to re-form for a proper -- and profitable -- reunion tour.

"I thought briefly about doing it," Mr. Townshend, 49, says. "There's never been a tour planned, to my knowledge. There was lots of supposition about it, but nobody ever ran a list of dates or a budget by me.

"Ultimately it's not something I really want to do. It's an absolute no -- forever."

Mr. Townshend is the lone hold-out. In the wake of the success of the theatrical adaptation of the Who's rock opera "Tommy," he's smitten with theater; Mr. Townshend is working on a stage adaptation of his 1989 album "The Iron Man" and is collaborating on new ideas with "Tommy" director Des MacAnuff.

In his foreword to the booklet accompanying the boxed set, Mr. Townshend even writes, "I don't like the Who much."

Mr. Daltrey and Mr. Entwistle, on the other hand, love the WhoThey were chomping at the bit to take the band back on the road -- as they did for a lucrative 25th anniversary tour in 1989. Mr. Entwistle says he has tried to persuade Mr. Townshend to relent "probably three times a year for the last five years."

But it's clear that their main musical contributor and spokesman is gone for good.

Mr. Daltrey and Mr. Entwistle don't feel Mr. Townshend's decision bars them from playing Who music, however. They know they can't credibly tour as the Who without the guitarist, even though Mr. Townshend has told them they can. But he's a far more vital cog than, say, Bill Wyman in the Rolling Stones or even Roger Waters in Pink Floyd.

Still, Mr. Entwistle says, both musicians felt "we'd rather be out there playing Who music than listening to someone else play it."

Mr. Daltrey came up with the "Daltrey Sings Townshend" concept last year, when he began feeling antsy after three years of relative inactivity in the music business.

"My 50th birthday was approaching," explains the man who sang Mr. Townshend's famed line "Hope I die before I get old" in the hit "My Generation." "I think that's quite an event for rock 'n' roll people; we're the generation who never expected to be here. I thought I'd like to address that and do something different musically.

"I sat down and said, 'What can I do? What do people want? What do I like to do best?' The answer was 'I like best the music of Pete Townshend.' It's the music I love the most, and that's what people want to see me sing the most."

The tour will be a harder-rocking endeavor. In each city, a local orchestra will join Mr. Daltrey for 10 songs, while the bulk of the show will be the band -- which includes Mr. Townshend's brother Simon on guitar and Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey on drums -- bashing out Who hits.

Mr. Entwistle plays during the second half of the show. "I get paid by the note," he says with a chuckle. "They couldn't afford to have me the whole show."

For his part, Mr. Townshend is flattered by the tribute. But he also calls the venture "very dangerous and risky."

"What Roger has to do now is try to find somebody to work for him, write for him in the way I did for such a long time," Mr. Townshend says. "He's facing the fact that he's been my mouthpiece for a long time, and I think that's wrong. Roger is capable of so much more than the work he's done.

"But right now he has the narrow vision of a dedicated artist in this respect; he's confident that this tour, this tribute, is something he wants to do. It's fine by me; anything that continues the work we've done in the past is terrific."

Roger Daltry

Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion

When: Saturday, 8 p.m.

Cost: $20-60

Call: (410) 730-2424 for information; (410) 481-SEAT for tickets

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