By Marissa G. Muller
Pete Townshend is getting increasingly political as he ages. To celebrate his 70th birthday, the Who guitarist and songwriter took on the American military prison in Cuba with the track “Guantanamo” from his upcoming solo compilation Truancy: The Very Best of Pete Townshend.
Townshend wrote the song awhile ago, while questioning the U.S. government’s handling of the Guantanamo Bay which can be felt in lyrics like, “Down in Guantanamo, we still got the ball and chain/ There’s a long road to travel for justice to make its claim.”
Surprisingly, though, Townshend didn’t think the song would ever be released.
“I thought this song might never see the light of day,” Townshend said in a press statement. “But now [that] President Obama has relaxed sanctions in Cuba, it is a happy sign he might go further. Technically this was created in rather a laborious way. I recorded a long organ drone using my vintage Yamaha E70 organ (used many times by me on Who and solo recordings in the past), and then cut it into something that sounded like a song using a feature unique to Digital Performer called ‘chunks.’ This creates blocks of groups of tracks that can be assembled and disassembled easily, like cutting multitrack analogue tape with a razor blade, but with less blood. The lyric grew out of the implicit angry frustration in the organ tracks.”
Looking at the world through a critical lens is something Townshend is open to doing more of in his songwriting. Speaking to Rolling Stone, he talked about the possibility of penning another album.
“If I did [make a new album], I think I would want it to be something that really addressed everything that’s going on in the world at the moment,” he said. “I’m old enough and wise enough and stupid enough and have done enough dangerous shit to say pretty much whatever I like. It won’t be popular, but nobody can hurt me now, really. When it comes to doing that work, I have to live with it for a while. I’ve written a couple in the last five or six years. I don’t know whether I want to put an album out right now.”
Truancy: The Very Best of Pete Townshend is out June 30.