You could be forgiven of mistaking rock musicians for monarchs these days, with so many golden jubilees getting celebrated.
The Rolling Stones took a jaunt round the world to celebrate their 50th anniversary; Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine put aside their individual revisitings of sun and surf songs to reunite under the Beach Boys banner to mark their own 50th. Even the warring Davies brothers, Ray and Dave, seem willing to kiss and make up and have discussed getting back together as the Kinks, 50 years after their first single.
Now another branch of 60s rock royalty have announced their own set of celebrations. The Who – cue the inevitable jokes about "hope I die before I get old" – have announced both a 50th anniversary tour, described by singer Roger Daltrey as "the beginning of the long goodbye", and plans to record a new album, their first since 2006's Endless Wire.
At a press conference at Ronnie Scott's in London, guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend revealed that he had already given Daltrey three new Who songs – "and he liked them". Townshend said he had been inspired by Daltrey's recent album with Wilko Johnson, "and we might try to make the album in a more basic way than we usually do." However, he warned that given his penchant for long and involved song cycles, it might end up being "more prog rock than pub rock". They intend to enter the studio this summer.
In 2012, Townshend told the Guardian's Alexis Petridis: "If it's possible to make a record that echoes what we've done in the past, even if it's 'Let's do something audacious and mad that won't work', then that's OK, too. I would never have wanted Philip Roth or John Updike or Gore Vidal to suddenly go, 'Oh, I'm too old now to write books about masturbation.'"
The band – now reduced to a core of Daltrey and Townshend following the deaths of drummer Keith Moon (described by Townshend as a "lunatic chimpanzee drummer") in 1978 and bassist John Entwistle in 2002 – will hit the road this winter, playing nine arena shows across the UK in November and December. The tour is being billed as "Hits, Picks, Mixes and Misses", and will see the Who play lesser known songs from their career, as well as anthems such as My Generation, Won't Get Fooled Again, Baba O'Riley, I Can't Explain and Pinball Wizard.
"We can't go on touring for ever," Daltrey said. "[This tour] will have a finality to it. We'll stop touring before we stop playing as a band." The singer said his voice could not hold out forever, and he wanted to make the most of it while he still could. Townshend admitted he has not always enjoyed going out on the road, but said he was looking forward to this tour. "I really wanted to do it," he said. "It's a significant anniversary – it's about playing and celebrating the 50th anniversary.
The pair played a four-song acoustic set in the tiny club where they premiered the rock opera Tommy to journalists in 1969. Remembering the banks of speakers that lined the room, Daltrey said "I can't imagine how they got out with any hearing." This time, though, they were significantly quieter, playing Substitute, Bargain, The Kids Are Alright and Won't Get Fooled Again, Daltrey beating time by slapping his thighs, before pushing away his stool and stamping out the beat during Won't Get Fooled Again.
The Who's first single, in July 1964, wasn't actually credited to the Who. I'm the Face/Zoot Suit (with both songs written by the band's associate Pete Meaden) was released as the High Numbers before the band changed their name in November 1964. Townshend realised the potential of associating the band with the mod movement, and the Who adopted an iconography of Britishness – with Entwistle wearing a Union Jack jacket on the cover of their debut album, My Generation. They became known for wildly exciting stage shows, using the precepts of Gustav Metzger's auto-destructive art, smashing up guitars, amplifiers and drum kits on stage. Townshend has since spoken of how expensive the stage show proved to be: "My Rick 12, for example, cost £385, that’s equivalent to £5,925 today," he said in 2010. "It makes me a little angry when people question my artistic integrity in what I decided to do on stage. I paid the price."
The Who became known for destructive and self-destructive tendencies offstage, too. In 1967, according to Townshend, they were banned from all US branches of the Holiday Inn chain, after celebrations of Moon's 21st birthday resulted in the band causing $24,000 worth of damage to the Flint, Michigan, outpost of the hotel. Both Moon's and Entwistle's deaths were caused by excess: Moon's by an overdose of drugs prescribed to help him stop drinking, Entwistle's by a heart attack following cocaine ingestion.
These days, though, the band are a less rowdy affair, and Daltrey tends to drink tea on stage rather than raise hell. After releasing the album It's Hard in 1982 and touring to support it, they were silent – bar two one-off appearances – until 1989. They have played regularly since then, but have only released one album, Endless Wire in 2006.
However, Daltrey showed he still has a sense of mischief. Asked if he was attending David Cameron's event to celebrate Britain's creative industries, he replied that the last time he met politicians was in the New Labour era. "The thing I said to them was not to talk to Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher, because as soon as they get their tax bill they'll drop you like a stone."
The full tour dates are:
30 November Glasgow SSE Hydro
2 December Leeds First Direct Arena
5 December Nottingham Capital FM Arena
7 December Birmingham NIA
9 December Newcastle Metro
11 December Liverpool Echo Arena
13 December Manchester Phones 4U Arena
15 December Cardiff Motorpoint
17 December London O2 Arena
Tickets go on sale at 9am on 4 July.
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