Endless Wire (The Who album)
|Studio album by The Who|
|Released||30 October 2006|
|Recorded||Late 2002 – mid-2006, Pete Townshend's home studio and Eel Pie Oceanic Studios|
|Label||Polydor, Universal Republic|
|Producer||Pete Townshend, with Bob Pridden and Billy Nicholls (Roger Daltrey's vocals only)|
|The Who chronology|
|Singles from Endless Wire|
Endless Wire is the eleventh album by English rock band The Who released on 30 October 2006 in the UK through Polydor Records and the following day in the US by Universal Republic. It was their first new album of original material in 24 years following the release of It's Hard in 1982. The album was originally to be released in early 2005 under the working title WHO2. Endless Wire debuted at #7 on the Billboard album chart and #9 in the UK. Portions of it were featured on The Who Tour 2006-2007. Most of the songs from this album were used in the rock musical adaptation of The Boy Who Heard Music which debuted in July 2007 as part of Vassar College's Powerhouse Summer Theater workshop series.
History and composition
Most of what is known about the development of the album has come from Pete Townshend's website. On 21 March 2005, Townshend announced the postponement of the new Who album. On 24 December 2005, Townshend announced that manager Bill Curbishley had introduced a "great scheme" to allow the band to tour in mid-2006 in support of new material, even if Townshend did not have "a full thirty tracks ready to go." On 20 March 2006, Daltrey announced that he and Townshend were making progress with the album and that Townshend had written a song about Stockholm Syndrome, entitled "Black Widow's Eyes". Daltrey also said that Townshend is playing some bass on the album.
On 28 March 2006, Townshend announced through the diary portion of his website that a mini-opera, entitled "The Glass Household" now forms the core of the album. It is based on his novella "The Boy Who Heard Music". He also announced plans to have a shortened version of the opera released prior to the release of the full album. This diary entry also confirmed the line-up of the band: Pino Palladino on bass, Pete Townshend on guitars, his brother Simon Townshend on backing vocals, and John "Rabbit" Bundrick on keyboards. Peter Huntington, from Rachel Fuller's band, was on drums because Zak Starkey was touring with Oasis.
On 9 April 2006, Townshend announced that the shortened version of "The Glass Household" had been played to executives at Polydor, and a release date has been set for June, with a tour of Europe following, and the album in September. On 3 May 2006, Pete Townshend posted on his diary page that the mastering for the new EP, titled Wire & Glass, was complete and that the tracks would soon be sent to Polydor. Townshend anticipated a mid-June release for the EP, and a mid-September release for the full album. He had also announced that The Who would begin rehearsing for their tour, during which time Townshend would finish recording the rest of the album with Roger Daltrey.
A version of "It's Not Enough" was released online at artistdirect.com. "It's Not Enough" had tentatively been announced as the first single off the album, to be released simultaneously.
On 3 October 2006, "It's Not Enough" was made available on iTunes. "Tea & Theatre" was also made available. Then on 14 October 2006, Polydor built a website for the album. It was announced from Pete Townshend's website. On the website endlesswire.co.uk, samples of the songs "We Got a Hit", "Endless Wire", "It's Not Enough", "Black Widow's Eyes", "Mike Post Theme", and "Man in a Purple Dress" are available to listen to, but not to download. As of 23 October 2006, the entire album was available to stream on music.aol.com.
On 6 September 2006, the track listing for the album was released on Pete Townshend's personal website. On 27 September 2006, a press release was issued which featured track-by-track commentary by Townshend. All songs written by Pete Townshend except as noted.
- "Fragments" (Townshend/Lawrence Ball)
This song is based on one of the very first experiments by Lawrence Ball, a composer I commissioned to create a system, and software, that would recreate the 'Method' music (music accurately reflecting an individual via a website) described in my three interlocked rock-opera projects: Lifehouse (The Who 1972); Psychoderelict (Pete Townshend solo 1993); The Boy Who Heard Music (Weblog Novella 2005–2006). In The Boy Who Heard Music, a group of three young people form a band—The Glass Household—and their first big hit is this song.
- "A Man in a Purple Dress"
After watching Mel Gibson's harrowing 2004 film The Passion of the Christ I immediately wrote three songs. This was one of them. It is not so much a rail against the principles of justice through the ages, but a challenge to the vanity of the men who need to put on some kind of ridiculous outfit in order to pass sentence on one of their peers. It is the idea that men need dress up in order to represent God that appalls me. If I wanted to be as insane as to attempt to represent God I’d just go ahead and do it, I wouldn't dress up like a drag-queen.
Another song performed throughout the 2006 US tour, Townshend and Daltrey also appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman on 14 September 2006, to perform the song, reduced by two verses.
- "Mike Post Theme"
Who songs have been used recently for TV shows. I thought a lot about why there are people who feel that isn’t a cool thing to do. Mike Post is a man who has written a number of TV themes that I feel have created a kind of regular sparkle in my life – they have reminded me that life comes one day at a time, and that it is truly the little things in life (like Soap Operas on TV) that help ease the big troubles. The larger theme in the background of this song is the statement that we are no longer strong enough or young enough to love. In a very real way, movies, novels and TV series do help us to express selfless emotions as we once did when we were in love. Men cry quietly watching TV and movies, women maybe a little more openly, but when we do that we are reconnecting with our innocent and free-flowing feelings. If only we could still do that with the principal lover in our lives.
- "In the Ether"
In my novella The Boy Who Heard Music the narrator is Ray High, a rock star whose drug-abuse has led him to a sanatorium. While there he learns to meditate and begins to sense that someone is interfering with his quietude up in the place where he allows his mind to go. It seems almost as though they are using a Ham Radio, an old fashioned long-wave radio that was the specialist precursor to the modern internet Chat-Room. He may sense another presence, but this song reinforces how lonely it is to be spiritual. If the intention of the spiritual aspirant is to 'become one with the infinite', and yet life is almost the universally finite antidote to the infinite, isn't he likely to get very lonely?
Debuted live by Townshend at a solo gig for the Poetry Olympics at the Royal Albert Hall on 25 September 2005. The song was later released as a download on Townshend's website, but fans were put off by Townshend's vocals, reminiscent of Tom Waits, and Daltrey reportedly passed over singing the song for the album.
- "Black Widow's Eyes"
A love song. We sometimes fall in love when we do not want to, and when we do not expect to. Suddenly. Foolishly. This song is about the man holding a child in the Beslan massacre who described the female terrorist who blew herself up, killing the child he held, as 'having the most penetrating and beautiful eyes'.
Daltrey talked about this song in an interview in early 2006, saying it was written about Stockholm syndrome and quoting it as one of his favourite tracks on the album. The song was performed infrequently on the 2006 US tour.
- "Two Thousand Years"
This is one of the three songs I wrote after watching The Passion of the Christ. This one is about the fact that Judas may not have been acting to betray Christ at all, but precisely following his instructions. He waits two thousand years for us to consider this a possibility. We wait two thousand years for the New Christ. We need a lot of patience.
Townshend debuted this song on the In the Attic programme in 2005.
- "God Speaks of Marty Robbins"
Very simple song. God is asleep, before Creation – before the Big Bang – and gets the whim to wake, and decides it could be worth going through it all in order to be able to hear some music, and most of all, one of his best creations, Marty Robbins.
Townshend had recorded an instrumental demo simply titled "Marty Robbins" in June 1984, which was released on his 2001 Scoop 3 album. He later debuted the song at an Internet-only streaming concert titled the Basement Jam on 4 December 2005.
- "It's Not Enough" (Townshend/Rachel Fuller)
Watching Mepris, the '60s film by Jean-Luc Godard starring Brigitte Bardot, I found myself wondering why it is that we choose people to partner who we feel aren't quite right. Bardot asks her lover, 'Do you adore my legs?' He nods. 'My breasts?' He nods. 'My arms?' He nods. She goes over her entire body. He nods every time. When she's finished she gets up and tells him, 'It's not enough.'
"It's Not Enough" started off as a Rachel Fuller track, but Townshend liked the music and asked her if he could use it for the new album. The song was released as an Internet download single in October 2006, where it reached #37 in the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks.
- "You Stand by Me"
I wrote this a few minutes before appearing on my partner Rachel Fuller's In the Attic Live webcast show from my studio in London. I had nothing new to play, and decide to write a song. This just came out. It is for her, and for Roger, for believing in me, and standing by me when I have been completely out of order. It could be for many of my family, friends and fans who have done the same. I have often been a very tricky man to live with.
- "Sound Round"*
The first song from Wire & Glass, a 'Mini-Opera', ten songs that comprise the principal music composed so far for the novella The Boy Who Heard Music. A young man (the young Ray High) is driving a large camper bus with extreme air-con around an Estuary close to a large Power Station. He can see that the sea is swarming with a plague of jellyfish encouraged by the over-heated sea water (this is based on something that happened around 1971 in the Blackwater Estuary in Essex). He stops and looks at the water, throws a stick for his dog, who he has to rescue. In the sky he sees the future – nothing ecological or apocalyptic, more a vision of a society strangled by wire and communications.
Reportedly, this track, the following track ("Pick Up the Peace"), and an unreleased track titled "Ambition" (see below) were written in 1971. The character of Ray High also appeared as the protagonist of Townshend's solo album Psychoderelict.
- "Pick Up the Peace"*
Ray High, now an old '60s rocker, is meditating in what looks like a cell in a secure hospital. He sees three teenagers from his neighbourhood getting together as kids do, playing, flirting, talking, and forming a band. Then he has an intuition that they are going to become stars. They are Gabriel, Josh and Leila. (They call their band The Glass Household). In striking contrast he sees scenes from his own childhood in the same neighbourhood, bombed buildings and old soldiers.
- "Unholy Trinity"
The three kids are from very different families. Gabriel is from a show biz family of lapsed Christians. Josh is from a fairly devout Jewish family (they observe Sabbath) who have suffered a tragedy, the loss of their father in an incident in Israel. Leila, from a Muslim family who have also suffered a loss: that of her beautiful and charismatic mother who died when she was very young. They each share fantasies, and afflictions, gifts and ideas, and become deeply committed friends. Like urchin-angels they share their secrets: Gabriel hears music; Josh voices; Leila can fly.
- "Trilby's Piano"
Josh's widowed mother vests all her hopes in her brother Hymie becoming a great man. He falls in love with Trilby, Gabriel's goofy blonde Aunt. Trilby is the one who has nurtured Gabriel's great musical talent, unnoticed by his preoccupied mother. The kids decide to put on a musical play at Leila's father's studio featuring this song, and it finally breaks Josh's mother's resistance to the love match. The song is sung by Gabriel. The play is a naïve children's effort, but with a grand proscenium stage (like a large Victorian puppet theatre) a stairway and a cherub and angel filled backdrop.
- "Endless Wire"*
At some point in their rehearsals for the play, the three teenagers unearth documents that turn out to have belonged to Ray High, Leila's father’s old studio partner. The documents refer to a crazy scheme to use the global wire network Ray saw as a young man to spread unifying music to everyone. (This matches my own vision for the Lifehouse Method, a computer-driven website through which people can commission their unique musical portrait.) They pore over the plans and realize that his scheme might be something they can make happen.
Townshend performed this song solo at Joe's Pub on 14 September 2006. The Who had also performed it live in full in Berlin on 12 July 2006.
- "Fragments of Fragments" (Townshend/Ball)
A stripped version of FRAGMENTS to show off the Method music.
- "We Got a Hit"*
In a series of intense discussions the three metamorphose from kids to adults and expert media and internet manipulators and we see them performing a hit on TV, radio and stage. The hit referred to in the lyric is FRAGMENTS.
Another song that was "extended" for a special edition of the album, with an additional verse not heard on the mini-opera version.
- "They Made My Dream Come True"*
Still in his cell, Ray High can observe the kids' rise to fame while meditating. He foresees a tragedy, someone at the band’s biggest ever, and last, concert will die. He rues the fact that the rock industry seems unable to change. What is never clear is whether the concert he foresees ever takes place in reality, or actually remains a dream forever.
- "Mirror Door"*
The three pursue their own dream: to perform an extraordinary elaboration of their children's play in Central Park in New York that is webcast to the entire world for charity, and during which they demonstrate Ray's idea to 'turn everyone into music'. Where there was once a small puppet theatre stage, there is now a massive one; where there was once a small stairway to the back of the stage, there is now a stairway hoisted by blimps that seems to reach into the heavens. The band play, it becomes clear that there are terrorists on the streets trying to distract from the celebration, but the show goes on. At the top of the stairway appear gathered a series of legendary singers from popular music, all dead. A shot rings out and the tragedy is established. Josh, a paranoid schizophrenic, has stopped taking his medication and grabbed a pistol from someone and shot Gabriel. We cannot help our own. He ascends the stairway to join the dead. Even now, it is not clear whether this particular series of events actually takes place.
It will be noted that one of the listed names of deceased singing geniuses (Doris Day) is still alive. In show-biz heaven, behind the ‘Mirror Door’ no one ever really dies (it is rather like an after-show pub gathering). FRAGMENTS, the kid's biggest hit, becomes a moment to look back and celebrate life, death, breath, creation, science, physics, maths, literature and growth.
This song was released to the radio stations ahead of the mini-opera in June 2006, and was remixed for the Wire & Glass release later in July.
- "Tea & Theatre"
Years later Josh and Leila—now old—take tea together. Coincidentally Josh's protective sanatorium cell is next to Ray's and they have just—together—revived once again the children's play, this time with the inmates of the sanatorium. They reflect on their career and lives together. The inference here is that perhaps, just maybe, Ray (the narrator) has confused the play he just saw in the Sanatorium with the one they all hoped to see happen one day in New York, in the sky, and up into the universe.
An asterisk (*) denotes songs included on the Wire & Glass EP.
There are two special edition versions: one contains a bonus DVD with 5 live songs: "Mike Post Theme", "Baba O'Riley", "Who Are You", "Behind Blue Eyes", and "Won't Get Fooled Again". The second version contains a Live CD from Lyon 2006: "The Seeker", "Who Are You", "Mike Post Theme", "Relay", "Greyhound Girl", "Naked Eye", and "Won't Get Fooled Again".
In addition to the 19 tracks listed above, three songs were either considered for inclusion on the album or reportedly recorded for the album but were left off:
Reportedly written in 1971 for the Lifehouse concept, Townshend debuted this song on In the Attic in 2006.
- "Uncertain Girl"
Another song that was debuted by Townshend on In the Attic in 2006. It was recorded in the studio with Zak Starkey on drums, and Daltrey on vocals, but Townshend expressed doubt on whether it would make it on the album or not when he first played it on In the Attic, and it was not included. However, it did make an appearance in the Vassar College workshop performance of the rock musical The Boy Who Heard Music.
- "How Can I Help You, Sir?"
On 18 December 2005, Pete Townshend posted a diary entry that chronicled the recording of this track:
Here is a film I made of a working day developing a demo of a song for the next Who album called "How Can I Help You, Sir?" I have played this in raw form on Rachel Fuller's IN THE ATTIC and last night on her Pay For View Christmas Special. That is the way it sounds played acoustic. What you can hear here is the way it is beginning to evolve as a rock track. Adding Roger's voice will increase the edge.
In a very real sense every song I write when I sit at home with an acoustic guitar has two distinct lives. The acoustic version may seem to be softer and more intimate. But in this case — in a song about a sick person's refusal to allow anyone to help them, a lonely person refusing to allow anyone to get close — the acoustic version has more bite. The rock version seems altogether more jolly, almost a throwaway. It will be interesting to see how it sounds when Roger and I get it into the studio together.
The video can be downloaded from Townshend's site.
Adaptation as a rock musical
Pete Townshend is also working the songs from this album into a full-length rock musical, a rough version of which debuted 13 July 2007 as part of Vassar College's Powerhouse Summer Theater workshop series. The production was adapted and directed by Ethan Silverman and presented as a staged concert reading with minimal dialogue. The cast included John Hickok as Ray High, Jon Patrick Walker as Josh, Matt McGrath as Gabriel, and Bree Sharp as Leila. Songs in this adaptation included:
The song "Real Good Looking Boy" was previously issued on The Who's compilation album Then and Now. The song "I Can Fly" was previously issued on Fuller's EP Shine.
All songs written by Pete Townshend except where noted.
|1.||"Fragments" (Townshend/Lawrence Ball)||3:58|
|2.||"A Man in a Purple Dress"||4:14|
|3.||"Mike Post Theme"||4:28|
|4.||"In the Ether"||3:35|
|5.||"Black Widow's Eyes"||3:07|
|6.||"Two Thousand Years"||2:50|
|7.||"God Speaks of Marty Robbins"||3:26|
|8.||"It's Not Enough" (Townshend/Rachel Fuller)||4:02|
|9.||"You Stand by Me"||1:36|
|Wire & Glass: A Mini-Opera|
|11.||"Pick Up the Peace"||1:28|
|15.||"Fragments of Fragments" (Townshend/Ball)||2:23|
|16.||"We Got a Hit"||1:18|
|17.||"They Made My Dream Come True"||1:13|
|19.||"Tea & Theatre"||3:24|
|Bonus tracks on some editions|
|20.||"We Got a Hit (Extended)"||3:03|
|21.||"Endless Wire (Extended)"||3:03|
Compact Disc edition of The Who Live at Lyon
|2.||"Who Are You"||6:58|
|3.||"Mike Post Theme"||3:55|
|7.||"Won't Get Fooled Again"/"Old Red Wine"||10:40|
DVD edition of The Who Live at Lyon
- "I Can't Explain" - 3:04
- "Behind Blue Eyes" - 4:39
- "Mike Post Theme" - 3:41
- "Baba O'Riley" - 5:59
- "Won't Get Fooled Again"/"Old Red Wine" - 10:03
- The Who
- Roger Daltrey – lead vocals
- Pete Townshend – guitars, vocals, bass guitar, drums, piano, keyboards, violin, banjo, mandolin, drum machine
- Additional musicians
- Lawrence Ball – electronic music on "Fragments"
- Ellen Blair – viola on "Trilby's Piano"
- John "Rabbit" Bundrick – Hammond organ, backing vocals
- Jolyon Dixon – acoustic guitar on "It's Not Enough"
- Rachel Fuller – keyboards on "It's Not Enough", orchestration supervisor on "Trilby's Piano"
- Peter Huntington – drums
- Gill Morley – violin on "Trilby's Piano"
- Vicky Matthews – cello on "Trilby's Piano"
- Billy Nicholls – backing vocals
- Pino Palladino – bass guitar
- Stuart Ross – bass guitar on "It's Not Enough"
- Zak Starkey – drums on "Black Widow's Eyes"
- Simon Townshend – backing vocals
- Brian Wright – violin on "Trilby's Piano"
- Richard Evans – design and art direction utilising elements created with the Visual Harmony software designed by Dave Snowdon and Lawrence Ball.
Sales chart performance
|2006||UK Albums Chart||9|
"It's Not Enough" reached #37 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, where it was released as a B-side with "Black Widow's Eyes".
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||This article's use of external links may not follow Wikipedia's policies or guidelines. (October 2013)|
- "It's Not Enough", "Tea & Theatre", "Black Widow Eyes", and "Man in a Purple Dress" streaming site
- Townshend demoing "How Can I Help You Sir?"
- New Who Album May Appear Next Spring
- "Townshend Delays Who CD", Rolling Stone, 8 Sep 2005.
- "Making Progress on New album", NME
- Recording The Who's Mini-Opera
- The Glass Household
- Wire & Glass
- Release Date
- Endless Wire
- Endless Wire Review
- Endless Wire Review
- Pete Townshend talks to Being There Magazine about Endless Wire
- Endless Wire liner notes – Song-by-song liner notes for the album