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The Who's Pete Townshend Will Release Debut Novel 'The Age of Anxiety'

Pete Townshend from the Who at his flat near Victoria Station in London in 1968. © Barrie Wentzell

The Who’s Pete Townshend is set to release his first novel. It’s called The Age of Anxiety and will be out later this year on 5 November. Townsend, famous for being the lead guitarist for The Who, has described the novel as part of his magnum opus, which also includes an opera and an art installation.

Townshend wrote The Who’s classic rock operas, along with many of their hits. Tommy and Quadrophenia both of which were made into films. Speaking about this new novel Townshend said:

“Ten years ago I decided to create a magnum opus that would combine opera, art installation and novel. Suddenly here I am with a completed novel ready to publish. I am an avid reader and have really enjoyed writing it. I am also happy to say the majority of the music is composed, ready to be polished up for release and performance. It’s tremendously exciting.”

Townshend playing at 'The Southall Kids are Innocent' benefit gig in 1979, which was organised by Rock Against Racism. © Syd Shelton

The opera and installation are both currently being made, while the novel will be published by Coronet. The publisher Mark Booth has called The Age of Anxiety a ‘great rock novel’ saying:

“The narrator is a brilliant creation – cultured, witty and unreliable. The novel captures the craziness of the music business and displays Pete Townshend’s sly sense of humour and sharp ear for dialogue. First conceived as an opera, The Age of Anxiety deals with mythic and operatic themes including a maze, divine madness and long-lost children. Hallucinations and soundscapes haunt this novel, which on one level is an extended meditation on manic genius and the dark art of creativity.”

The Age of Anxiety. Image via Hachette UK (hachette.co.uk)

Along with the rock operas and many of The Who's songs Townshend has also written a short story collection, called Horse's Neck, which contains stories he wrote between 1979 and 1984. And he’s also published a memoir, Who I Am.

Along with the novel, the guitarist has also been working with his bandmates in The Who, penning their first new material in 13 years for a new album. It’ll be the first since their 2006 album Endless Wire. Earlier this year Townshend said the material would be “dark ballads, heavy rock stuff, experimental electronica, sampled stuff and Who-ish tunes that began with a guitar that goes yanga-dang.” The album is due to be released later this year with more details coming out about it in the coming months.

The album is currently being recorded, which Townshend has been documenting in the form of video diaries and writing about some of the studio sessions on The Who's website. The latest post from 5 March states, "While Dave Sardy [their producer] and I work in London, putting tracks together, and adding bits and pieces, Roger is working on his vocals – ready for critical recording soon – somewhere in Kent at a wonderful studio I will namecheck when he’s finished. I am also doing work on a couple of new songs that we may include which will be good to see in these video diaries because we will be starting on songs from the ground up if they happen. Drums, bass, guitar and maybe keyboards. Maybe even a Roger vocal if he is around."

The Who at the Melody Maker Awards in London in 1969. © Barrie Wentzell

Along with that, the band are also touring this year. They’ll be touring the US and Canada from May, playing with an orchestra on stage too. Then in July they’ll be over in London for two dates to play Wembley arena.

Be aware Who fans!" Roger Daltrey said about the tour. "That just because it's The Who with an Orchestra, in no way will it compromise the way Pete and I deliver our music. This will be full throttle Who with horns and bells on."

You can preorder The Age of Anxiety here. And find out more about The Who’s tour and their new album at their website.

Pete Townshend in London in 1968. Photographer Barrie Wentzell recalls, "Earlier in May, 1968, we did an interview with Pete Townshend where he said he was planning a ‘rock opera’ about a deaf, dumb, and blind boy. I thought he’d gone ‘cuckoo’ but a few months later I went over to IBC Studios and found him and the rest of The Who deep into recording Tommy. It was sounding amazing and I had to quickly reassess my doubts and became a believer! I spent a few hours just hanging in and got a lot of pics of the group hard at work, even Mr. Moon was sober."

Rockarchive is delighted to be able to offer these iconic Pete Townshend and The Who images along with many more as limited edition photographic prints which you can buy here and here.

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