The relationship between Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey has been notoriously quarrelsome throughout their nearly 60-year partnership. While today they’ve bonded as the last survivors of The Who, the two were often either aloof of each other or at each other’s throats during the band’s lengthy career. The battle for control over the band’s music, image, and style has been a cornerstone of their tempestuous union, but both seem to appreciate the role that the other plays in their collective success.
Since the two seem to have mellowed as they’ve aged, we’ve been handed two new Who albums in the 21st century. 2006’s Endless Wire came two and a half decades after their previous album, 1982’s It’s Hard, and contains a fair number of hidden gems. After another decade-long break, Townshend and Daltrey returned with 2019’s Who, which is a little more crotchety but still contains some classic Who ferocity.
Back in 2019, Townshend sat down with the Gold Radio show and discussed why the gaps between Who albums is so large. “What I’m proud of is that I managed to get 12 or 13 or 14 songs past Roger Daltrey, who’s a very, very difficult guy to write songs for,” Townshend explained. “He likes to get inside songs. He’s like a really great writer, like Christopher Plummer or somebody, who, unless he’s doing Shakespeare, the writing needs to be top-notch.”
High praise from Townshend, but Daltrey’s difficulties almost meant that the songs didn’t get recorded. “He didn’t like any of them. But he agreed to try to record them. And then when he started to record them, he did like them, but he said to me that he thought that they would be good for me to sing. I said, ‘I don’t want to sing. I want to write the songs’. Anyway, he’s done an amazing job. He’s sung them really, really well,” Townshend explains.
Thankfully Daltrey came around, but it’s of little surprise that two of the most strong-willed musicians of all time butt heads in their old age. We should be happy any time a Who album sees the light of day, because at this point, there’s no telling when it could possibly be the last.