Roger released his next solo album February 17, 1984 with the ironic title Parting Should Be Painless. Pete continued with his book publishing, recording demos and also starting an anti-heroin campaign in October 1984. Around the same time, he began writing a new film/album concept based on London’s White City housing complex.
John worked on a double LP live set that The Who were contractually required to deliver to MCA. His mix and track selection were rejected in favor of a hastily assembled selection of weak performances from the 1982 tour. Released November 10, 1984, Who’s Last received the worst notices of The Who’s career.
The break-up of The Who lasted just nineteen months. On July 13, 1985, The Who were reunited through a skilful use of blackmail by Bob Geldof for his worldwide charity broadcast Live Aid. Pete wrote a new song for the event, "After The Fire," but tensions in the former band were so great that they could not be assembled to rehearse it. A sloppy four-song set was mercifully curtailed by a satellite blackout.
Roger used the new song on his last popular solo album, Under A Raging Moon, and went on a solo tour of the United States. Otherwise, over the next few years he tended his trout farm and acted in the occasional movie.
Pete released his White City film and accompanying album November 29, 1985. It was preceded by the publication of a collection of short fiction written by Pete called Horse’s Neck (May 27) with stories that often seemed to be adapted from his own life. He also formed a short-lived solo band, Deep End, which featured horns, backup singers, extra percussion and an electric guitarist while Pete played acoustic guitar, all in an effort to protect his hearing.
John spent his time compiling additional Odds and Sods-type Who albums Who’s Missing (released November 30, 1985) and Two’s Missing (released April 11, 1987), selling off memorabilia to pay his taxes and recording a new solo album, The Rock, that through bad luck and lack of interest was not released at the time. This solo group would feature Zak Starkey, Ringo Starr’s son, on drums.
On February 8, 1988 The Who with Kenney Jones reunited one last time to play two songs after receiving the BPI Lifetime Achievement Award. The performance was cut off by the television network before it finished because the show was running over.
In early 1989, pressure was put on Pete to tour again with The Who, primarily to get John out from under a massive tax bill. After much hesitation, he finally agreed. However, it would not be The Who of old.
photo: Neil Preston
The band would bear a close resemblance to Pete’s 1985 Deep End setup with horns, backup singers and Pete on acoustic guitar. At one point, Pete even toyed with the idea of playing the entire tour in a soundproof booth. Roger agreed to go along with this on one condition: that they replace Kenney Jones. Roger had grown to hate the sound of The Who with Kenney on drums and Pete, although he felt loyal to his decision to bring Kenney into the band, reluctantly agreed. Simon Phillips, again from Pete’s 1985 Deep End band, took the drum chair.
The tour officially began where The Who had left off, in Toronto, June 23. Each show featured a full performance of the rock opera Tommy followed by a selection of Who hits, rarities and Pete solo songs. Critics again howled, both at the big band line up and the return of a beer company’s sponsorship. However, the tour not only paid The Who’s bills, but also raised a great amount of money for children’s charities.
Concurrent with the tour, Pete released a new solo album, a children’s musical of Ted Hughes’ book The Iron Man that featured The Who performing on two tracks. The CD was released July 15 to middling sales despite the publicity of The Who tour.
After the 1989 reunion, The Who again dissolved. In November 1990, Pete made news after a quote from an interview he had given in 1989 was taken out of context by British tabloids as an admittance that he was gay. Pete did not correct the impression until 1999, not wanting to imply that being thought gay was something that should be quickly denied.
In July 1991, Pete, Roger and John reunited for one last studio recording, "Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting," for an Elton John tribute CD. It would be the last released studio recording by The Who with John.
On September 13, 1991, Pete badly broke his right wrist in a bicycle accident. Told he might never play the guitar again, he began work on an autobiography and while questioning his relatives, discovered that he had been the victim of childhood abuse that he had mentally repressed. Years after having made it part of the subject of Tommy, Pete began to take an active interest in combating child abuse. The research into his past influenced his next project, a musical adaptation of Tommy that opened on Broadway April 22, 1993. The play was a smash hit and earned Pete both a Tony and an Olivier Award. He began to speak of leaving rock to write for the theatre.
Soon after Tommy‘s Broadway run started, Pete released his last solo album to date of new music. Psychoderelict (June 4, 1993) was a combination radio play/musical based on one of Pete’s short stories about a 60’s rocker named Ray High whose career is revived by accusations of involvement with an underage girl. The album flopped, pointing Pete even more strongly toward a career outside traditional rock music.
On February 23 and 24, 1994, Roger brought the members of The Who together for a couple of all-star performances of Pete’s music accompanied by full orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Backstage, Pete refused to be a part of a subsequent tour and told Roger he had his permission to tour with John and call it The Who. Pete’s dismissal of The Who in interviews at this time again drove relations between him and Roger to frosty levels.
For the band assembled for what was billed as a Daltrey solo tour, Roger replaced Pete with his brother Simon, Zak Starkey on drums and John, never one to miss a tour, on bass. As they set out that summer, a boxset of remixed and re-mastered Who tracks, 30 Years of Maximum R&B, was released July 4, 1994. It was the beginning of a complete overhaul of The Who’s recordings that would stretch into the next decade. Roger’s tour was a financial failure but did end with a private performance at a Who fan convention in London September 16, 1995. Word spread about the convention via a fanbase talking to one another in Who chatrooms on the Internet.