Talk about your relationship with Roger.
We've never hated each other in the way that the press has sometimes portrayed, but we've never found it easy to get on with each other. We've never socialized very much, and we still don't.
But what has emerged in the past 10 years, particularly with the death of [bassist] John Entwistle, which was the last big shock we went through, is a tremendously supportive friendship. Roger and I have become friends who can say we love each other, and at our age that's wonderful. I've known Roger since I was 11 years old.
What's your take on the latest Who "Greatest Hits" project that was released in December?
It's interesting because it's got a couple of the more recent songs on it. It's got "Real Good Looking Boy" from the EP we did in 2002, which is the last recording we made with John Entwhistle on bass. And its' got "It's Not Enough" from the last album we did together called "Endless Wire."
Normally 'Greatest Hits' give a sense that there's no continuum beyond "Emimence Front," I suppose, which is 1982, that there's this great void. It's really nice to be able to get a sense that when you listen to a record we are actually recording music that compares pretty well to what we did in the old days.
Are you satisfied with the Who's place in history?
We were lucky in a lot of ways. We hit the spot with our audience, particularly in America, in a way that was pretty accidental. I think I was really good at writing for the English working class boys in my early days, and when we started to work in America I think I got a little bit lost. I didn't really know what to write or how to write, and some of the big bands when we first went into American in 1966 or '67, were bands like Jimi Hendrix, who was writing about angels in the sky, the color purple; Cream, Crosby Stills & Nash -- the music at the time was quite romantic and quite drug-fueled.
The Who were just a hard drinking rock 'n roll band dealing with the kind of working class stuff that I think became the essence of what happened later on with Bruce Springsteen. Bruce used to come watch our band in the early days quite a lot. I'm not saying he was studying or copying, but there was definitely a resonance.
When the Who suddenly passed through events like Monterey Pop Festival or Woodstock, those things for us made us rather a romantic musical entity. Because we were so hard-working and so good on the road live, when we finally came up with a definitive album in "Who's Next," the timing was absolutely perfect for us. Songs like "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Baba O'Riley" were written for a movie score for a movie that never ever got made in the shape of "Lifehouse." Those songs were not written for a specific audience, but they really seemed to hit the spot in the USA.
And strangely enough, "Quadrophenia," which is a piece about mods in London in the early '60s, has worked for several generations. That's the one piece that always surprises me when I talk to young people that hear it for the first time. They always say this is something that really reflects the way [they] feel about growing up.
What are you working on these days?
I'm working on a musical play called "Floss" about a girl who rides horses, whose husband is a retired musician. I've been working on it for a long time. First I wrote the story, then I wrote the book. It's about the idea that there is a tremendous feeling of fear today about the future and about our responsibility for the future, whether we're worried about global warming, our behavior as aggressors, or as guardians of world peace. The middle classes of America and Europe have taken this position almost that they have to make amends. They look at the future and they don't see any answers, and they don't see very much hope. In a sense, as an artist and a songwriter what I want to do is reflect some of that, but also to demonstrate that music has a function in all this.
I finished the story in November and I've written quite a lot of lyrics, and I've been doing demos since the beginning of December. I've done about 10 songs so far. Whether or not this will work as a Who project I don't know, but I'm pretty sure there are a few songs that I've done which Roger will enjoy singing. So there's a possibility we might be able to release some of the songs from the play as an album or an EP.