The Who Sell Out
Pete Townshend - Guitar, Vocals
Roger Daltrey - Vocals
John Entwistle - Bass, Vocals
Keith Moon - Drums
In 1964, The Who started strong originally with solid singles like Zoot Suit and I'm the Face, and then had some decent success with their first LP, The Who Sings My Generation. This was somewhat typical British Invasion music, with more of an edge and a representation of The Who's general attitude. The album's greatest accomplishment besides being the debut record of what would become a legend was that it gave the world My Generation, one of the most important and influential songs of all time. The album was very raw, as debuts usually are, and showcased the pure beginnings of the band.
Their next record, released later in 1966, was titled A Quick One, or Happy Jack in Britian. This is seen by many as a step backwards in quality from their first record. The Who, however, were determined to evolve and develop as a band instead of sticking with the basic formula of their first album. A Quick One shows the band at arguably their experimental peak, dabbing in everything from circus music to surf music, and even into a mini-opera. The studio is used to an extreme on this record.
The Who Sell Out is similar to A Quick One in a few ways. It is certainly more experimental than most other records. The music has a similar sound to it, except that The Sell Out album is much more refined and lasting. There is evening some dabbing in psychedelia for The Who, which would not be seen again. The album is in some ways a concept album; it is set up like a radio show, with a fair number of radio jingles and advertisements (performed as songs by The Who) between songs. It is important not to approach this album too seriously and enjoy it for what it is.
Armenia, City In the Sky:
This song starts with some weird noises/voice that say all the days of the week, and it gives the sound of a radio section. When the actual song kicks in, it is a great opener. There are studio effects which give it somewhat of a psychedelic feel, and Daltrey's voice is very odd for him. Anyway, its a great song and one of the better ones on the album. 4.8/5
Heinz Baked Beans:
After a short radio jingle to end the previous track, this obvious advertisement starts. It's not really a song, just some weird horn music with some spoken words. Sort of a reminder of Cobwebs and Strange, only without the great Drum parts.2/5
Mary Anne With the Shaky Hands:
It immediately flows into a softer sounding, harmony driven song, typical of some earlier Who pop songs. Musically it may not be anything amazing, but the vocals are great and it is a nice softer song. It's also about a girl who gives hand jobs. Towards the end, it turns into a ad for Premier Drums which actually has some very cool drumming behind it. 4.3/5
After another radio jingle thing (it should be routine by now), the album flows into this song, an ad for a brand of deodorant. It's actually a song worth listening to, and its taken at a slower pace. It sounds like Townshend singing on this one. The climax of the song states that this woman should have used a different deodorant, which is somewhat comical. 3.5/5
Tattoo is not an ad for anything, and it starts out as a soft song with a nice melody and vocals. It's about a boy and his brother becoming men by getting tattoos. In a way it's an acoustic song, but not by normal standards. It's really nice though and somewhat of a standout track. 4.4/5
Our Love Was:
By the way, theres a "Radio London" jingle before this song. This is basically a love song thats well done, but nothing all too impressive. For some reason it tends to get on my nerves, but it's not bad. Another staple of the early Who, though. 3.5/5
I Can See For Miles:
After ashort ad for Rotosound Strings, this song starts up. This is probably The Sell Out's best stand alone track and it got decent radio play (and still does). It's easy to see why, as it is really a good song. The lyrics are simple yet effective, and Keith Moon does some of his trademark work on this one. A classic, for sure. 4.8/5
I Can't Reach You:
This is another love type song, comparable to Our Love Was in a way. I enjoy this one more though, something about it flows better. Musically it's fairly simple and straight forward. The words are the focal point of the track. The songs on this album tend to be softer (only I Can See For Miles is really a pure rock song), but are great in the early Who way. 4.2/5
Another advertisement song, for a product to treat acne. It goes back to earlier commical less-serious songs, similar to Odorono. It's got a typical Who strangeness to it. Short and nothing too special. 3/5.
This is a very solid unnoticed song. The vocals are especially strong here. As the title would suggest, it's not a hard rocker or anything, but definitely a good softer song. It still builds into a strong rock song though, and Townshend even has a part of a solo. 4.4/5
Another strange song, it's about a rich, well, douchebag in a way. It's not a long track, like the rest of the songs on the album. Silas Stingy fits well onto the album in terms of having a similar sound, but it's nothing too great. Listenable, but also skip able. 3/5
This is a nice change of pace, even on an album like this. One of the only pure Who acoustic songs. If you enjoy having nice vocal melodies and range, you'll like this song. Basic, but nice and soothing. 4/5
It's very difficult to describe this song musically, as it is completely unrelated to the rest of the album. Here there is no trace of radio jingles or advertisements. There is a nice snare driven rhythm which keeps the song moving. Rael is a great track for a number of reasons. The first is that it was The Who's next step in terms of their conceptual/plot/epic songs, following A Quick One. Second, Rael shows major themes of Tommy for the first time. Musically, the end of the track is an early blueprint of the founding riffs for Sparks and The Underture, etc. on Tommy. Thematically, Rael is focused mainly on religious themes and ideals, which would also hold a place on Tommy. Basically, this song is great, and using the theme from Tommy only means that it's outstanding musically. 5/5
A short follow-up to the previous track, Rael 2 is only for a vocal conclusion the the album. It's actually quite epic and a good sequal to the clearly superior Rael 1. Worth listening too just to close out the last song and the album. Suddenly, The Who decided they were being serious for too long, and it randomly turns into another great drumming ad for Top Gear. Good ol' Who. 4/5
That is the extent of the original album, so I'll stop here. On the remastered CD, there are actually 9 more tracks. Most of these have a similar sound to the songs on the album, and some are really quite worth it. Actually, most of these tracks easily could have made it onto the album, it just wasn't to be. Glittering Girl, Jaguar, and Hall of the Mountain King are al interesting to say the least, and very well done.
Anyway, The Who Sell Out is a nostalgic favorite of mine. The album represents the peak of the early Who (the pre-Tommy Who). The combined solid music and song writing with a good amount of studio experimentation and developement to produce a lasting record. Arena-Rock Who fans may have a hard time adjusting to this, but if anyone here likes A Quick One you would definitely enjoy this album.
Overall I'd give it a 4.5/5, because it is not easy to get into, but I personally find it great. Very underrated by the legions of Who fans who only tend to focus on their later years.