The centerpiece of The Who's first original studio album since 1982, this is a rock mini-opera written almost entirely by Pete Townshend. The mini-opera is based upon The Boy Who Heard Music, a novella written by Townshend in 2005-2006 and published on his website. Both are about (and the opera sung from the perspective of) fictional aging former rock star Ray High, as he looks back on his music career with a band called The Glass Household, and the drug-induced mental breakdown that led to his present confinement in a mental institution.
Two versions of this song were released. The "single" version, released on iTunes in July of 2006, consisted of 6 segments: "Sound Round," "Pick Up The Peace," "Endless Wire," "We Got A Hit," "They Made My Dream Come True" and "Mirror Door." The full-length version that appears on the album (released 3 months later) is expanded to 10 segments: "Sound Round," "Pick Up The Peace," "Unholy Trinity," "Trilby's Piano," "Endless Wire," "Fragments Of Fragments," "We Got A Hit," "They Made My Dream Come True," "Mirror Door" and "Tea & Theatre."
The album features extended stand-alone versions of 2 of the mini-opera's segments, "Endless Wire" and "We Got A Hit." They are placed at the end of the CD, immediately following "Wire & Glass" itself. At least 2 other tracks on the CD, "Fragments" and "In The Ether," also closely parallel various elements and themes from the mini-opera.
The mini-opera's title has a double meaning. The "wire" may be taken as a reference to Ray High's delusions (described, in part, as "gathered wire and angels" in the "Endless Wire" segment) and the "glass" as his former band The Glass Household. Alternately, "Wire & Glass" as a whole could simply refer to High's surroundings in the mental institution.
The Who's regular touring drummer Zak Starkey - the son of one Richard Starkey, who is better known to the world as Ringo Starr - was unavailable due to commitments with his other band Oasis, so session drummer Peter Huntington filled in. Pino Palladino played bass in place of the late John Entwistle.
Townshend has said that the Ray High character represents Townshend himself, but his story bears an even stronger resemblance to the drug-induced downfall of Pink Floyd founding member Syd Barrett, who died ten days before the iTunes release of "Wire & Glass."
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