What's Next for the Who

Townshend, Daltrey try out new songs

More than twenty years after the Who released their last studio album -- 1982's It's Hard -- Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are working on a new one.

According to a source in Townshend's camp, the guitarist has finished five backing tracks and will soon hook up with Daltrey to lay down some vocals. Though Townshend says it's too soon to talk about the recording, his friend Eddie Vedder told Rolling Stone that he heard a couple of rough demos. "They were transcendent," Vedder says. "It was just a live take and a practice session of a song Pete wrote, and one that Roger wrote. It was two-tenths of a great record."

Townshend and Daltrey have been saying that the Who would at least attempt to make another record ever since they launched their summer 2000 tour. Townshend has expressed reservations about putting together a studio effort with his former bandmates, but he said he's willing to give it a shot. "Roger has been fighting hardest to get the Who back into the studio and doing new, fresh, creative work," Townshend said in the spring of 2002, a few weeks before bassist John Entwistle died of a heart attack. "It's been an uphill struggle to get Roger to accept that it's going to be incredibly fucking hard, and it'll probably be terrible."

But, as Vedder points out, many Who fans would be thrilled to hear a new album. "You've got to give the band the benefit of the doubt that, if they've been doing it that long, they can do anything," he says. "And you're going to give it all you've got as a listener, too. In this case, it's one of the best things I've ever heard."

Two new Who songs have also been tipped for Then and Now! 1964-2004, a career-spanning compilation due March 30th. "Real Good Looking Boy" features Townshend and Daltrey backed by drummer Zak Starkey, bassist Greg Lake and keyboardist John Bundrick. That cut and "Old Red Wine" will be the first new Who songs made available to the public since 1989, when the group contributed two songs -- "Dig" and "Fire" -- to Townshend's musical The Iron Man.