If the word ”e-commerce” makes you yawn, Roger Daltrey understands. ”I’m not into the Internet, I haven’t got a computer,” the Who frontman tells EW, after an April 10 press conference announcing a new album and major summer tour. ”I’m just the f—ing singer in the band.” So why are the Who releasing the new disc, ”The Blues to the Bush,” over the Web? ”It’s as good a place as any,” Daltrey says.
Just a few months ago that wouldn’t have been true, but recently a company called Musicmaker.com — which released the new Who album the day of the conference — has taken a large step toward increasing the mainstream profile of online record companies. It did this with an Internet-only live album from Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes that, to many people’s amazement, has generated a mainstream rock top 10 radio single (”What Is and What Should Never Be”).
”It’s weird, innit?” says the Web-savvy Pete Townshend of the Page track’s radio success. ”I thought [an Internet-only release would mean that] at LAST we were free of radio stations. Advertising agencies are in the background telling them what to play and when to play it, saying, ‘You tell Musicmaker that we ain’t gonna [play] the Who, we’re gonna [play] Mariah Carey, because she’s our market audience. Gotta sell more hairspray and belly cream! Tit jobs!”’
Recorded during 1999 concerts at Chicago’s House of Blues and Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London (hence the album name), ”Bush” features Who classics like ”Won’t Get Fooled Again” and ”Substitute.” Or maybe it doesn’t. Fans can create their own versions of the album, choosing from 20 different tracks that they can arrange in any order they want. (Musicmaker sends a custom CD the next day.)
Still, as the band is about to embark on its first tour in four years (launching June 25 in Chicago), does the world really need another live Who album? ”I don’t think it does, particularly,” says Townshend. ”[1970’s] ‘Live at Leeds’ was seminal, and it’s difficult to beat that. I don’t think this album is important. I don’t think the [upcoming] tour is important. I don’t think it’s important for fans. It’s important for us. This is something that WE want to do, and I think that’s reason enough.”