The Who
The Who by Numbers


4.0
excellent

Review

by DownPaymentBlues78 USER (2 Reviews)
February 11th, 2006 | 24 replies | 9,032 views


Release Date: 1975 | Tracklist


4 of 4 thought this review was well written

This is going to be my first review on the site, and seeing as most other Who albums have been done several times or in such a way that any attempts by me to review them would prove futile, I decided to post a review on one of my favorite and, in my opinion, most underrated Who albums.

After the massive consecutive successes of Tommy, Who's Next, and Quadrophenia, the fame was beginning to take a toll on Pete Townshend. These feelings came to a head at a show for the Quadrophenia tour at which fans called for Pete to "jump, jump!", but Pete no longer felt inclined to. The Who By Numbers, released 1975, is Pete's most personal Who album, one on which he glances inward at himself and produces some of the most beautiful works of the Who's career.

The album kicks off with Slip Kid, an enjoyable rock song that gives you promise of a fantastic album. Pete Townshend has described the song as "a warning to young kids getting into music that it would hurt them". One thing you will notice immediately at the start of the album is the rawness of it all. While the last album, Quadrophenia, was extremely well produced and features horns and keyboards and all sorts of fun stuff, The Who By Numbers is mostly guitar, bass, drums, and piano.

Following up is However Much I Booze, which I feel is the weakest song on the album. This song is one where Pete gets very personal, and Roger refused to sing this song because of this. The lyrics describe that no matter how much Pete might try to drown his problems in alcohol, he always seems to find himself in the same problems at the end of the day. Rather depressing, really.

Luckily, the album's biggest hit and most fun song comes up next. Squeeze Box is the only song (besides Dreaming from the Waist) to make it into The Who's live set frequently. Pete wrote the song as a dirty joke, and didn't expect it to be put on the album at all, and was even more surprised when it became a single. Little doubt is left to the meaning when Roger sings "she goes in and out and in and out". The music itself is a lot of fun, driven by Keith, who gives us his last great performance on The Who by Numbers.

What comes next is possibly my favorite song on the album, Dreaming from the Waist. This track is most famous for showcasing John's extraordinary bass playing. As pointed out in the liner notes, this is one song on the album that is on par with Quadrophenia material. The live version of this song included on the remaster is a great treat to listen to.

Imagine a Man is an example of the beautiful songwriting that Pete demonstrates on this album.The lyrical quality of this song is excellent. Gone is the "wall of sound" created by John and Keith, which gives way to a much softer Who sound. Roger Daltrey really shines throughout this song.

John Entwistle's only composition on this album, Success Story, isn't what you'd expect. Instead of providing a quirky tale which would be welcome in lightening the mood, Entwistle's tune provides a history of sorts of The Who. Roger actually sings in much of this song. Although a lot of Who fans like this song a lot, it really doesn't stand out all that much to me. It seems that John shares Pete's despair in fame.

Up next is They Are All in Love. Roger nearly refused to sing this one, too, but it's a good thing he chose to sing it, because he does another outstanding job. It really shows Pete's lyrical skills how, even stripped of a rock opera as a vehicle to convey his ideas, he can come through with some extremely skillfull songwriting.

The first time I heard Blue, Red, and Grey, I didn't care for it all that much. The entire song is Pete Townshend on vocals accompanied by Pete Townshend on ukelele. Pete himself didn't even want the song on the album, but producer Glyn Johns demanded that it be included. It is actually popular with quite a few Who fans i've talked with, but for me it is only good for the occasional listen.

The second best song on the album in my opinion, How Many Friends comes in the wake of Blue, Red, and Grey. The song, as you may guess from the title, deals with the doubt of how true a star's "friends" really are. Pete doubts the motives of the people who claim to be his friends. Roger does another outstanding job on vocals, switching between soft, heartfelt singing, and a more bombastic chorus, and you won't be finding loud power chords in this song.

Unfortunately, the album closes on a weak note. Finishing off The Who By Numbers is In a Hand or a Face. The song actually pulls you in with the beginning, powerful guitarring from Pete and typical power from Roger through the verse. But then comes the dullest part of the song. Repetition at its worst, of the lines "I am going round and round". Overall, the song doesn't live up to the quality of much of the rest of the album, and leaves the album without an epic closing song that the last three Who albums had had (We're Not Gonna Take It/See Mee Feel Me, Won't Get Fooled Again, and Love Reign O'er Me).

Recommended tracks:
Slip Kid
Dreaming from the Waist
Squeeze Box
How Many Friends

The Who By Numbers contains by far Pete's most personal work, and although it was dismissed by critics as a "suicide note" from Townshend, it is great for what it is. Some of The Who's most beautiful pieces are included in this album, and although not all the songs are instantly recognizable, and not all of them are on par with The Who's previous efforts, most of them are fantastic. If you are a fan of The Who's epic rock operas or synthesizer-soaked, power-chord dominated noisefests, this album will really be something different for you, but if you give it a chance and ignore what people say about it, you might find that The Who is still alive and kicking on this album, and I would wager a fair bit that you'll find at least a few songs that you can really enjoy on here.

Thanks for reading, and I'd be happy to hear some feedback.


user ratings (261)
Chart.
3.7
great
other reviews of this album
ARushOfBlood87 (4)
A depressing, autobiographical Pete Townshend record, essential for die hard Who fans....

AnyColour74 (4)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Zebra
Moderator
February 11th 2006



2647 Comments


Nice review for a first, although I'm not much of a fan of the style that you use.
'Squeeze Box' is amazingly good, and all that I have heard from the album.

DownPaymentBlues78
February 11th 2006



278 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I didn't know I had a style. If you are at all a Who fan, you should give this a try. A lot of it is way better than Squeeze Box.

JohnXDoesn't
February 12th 2006



1267 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good first review. In the last few days I was considering doing this great underrated album myself. You are right, coming after three masterworks too much was expected of this album at the time. It's simply a good solid rock n roll album. Nothing more, nothing less. And that is plenty. Dreaming From The Waist has incredible work by Pete on it, also. I was struck by that while listening to it today. And I am one of the "Blue, Red, and Gray fans you speak of. Hope to see more good reviews from you.

lunch998
February 12th 2006



32 Comments


I agree, great review for a very good album. John, I was surprised you hadn't done this yet, you Pete Townshend whore.

This album has some great tunes on it, and the newest CD release is even better because of the three added live cuts at the end, where Entwistle stands out the most.

JohnXDoesn't
February 12th 2006



1267 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

^^ahahahaha........HA!

Funny, funny. I was actually going to tackle it after my next couple (an REM and Social Distortion review, respectively) but looks as though I was beaten. That's fine. I've been really into this album lately. And Dreaming From The Waist really struck me today. Listen to the guitar very closely on that track. It's fantastic. It was like hearing the song for the first time.

So far as Townshend? Lunch my good man, do not bite the hand that feeds THE WHO! (All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes is coming. If not soon :p)This Message Edited On 02.12.06

robo2448
February 12th 2006



132 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I was actually about to review this as well because I listened to it quite a bit last week. But whatever, your review is pretty good, especially considering that it's your first. I love this album. This is Pete's best songwriting IMO because it's so personal. And although Keith's drumming isn't quite what is was on Quadrophenia, the whole band is still really fantastic. This was their last classic album.

DownPaymentBlues78
February 12th 2006



278 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks a lot. Even though I'm sure you guys could have done a better job than me, this album is one of my favorites and I was so pleased with it when I bought it, because at the time I only knew of Squeeze Box and Dreaming from the Waist.

Hatshepsut
February 20th 2006



1997 Comments


You finally wrote a review! :thumb: Nice job man, even though I'm not a big fan of the Who.

Patrick
June 14th 2006



1891 Comments


i love squeeze box


DownPaymentBlues78
June 14th 2006



278 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I enjoy Slip Kid, Dreaming From The Waist, and How Many Friends considerably more than Squeeze Box.

sunflower2020
May 2nd 2007



35 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Blue, Red and Grey" is great song. Listen to your friends.

DownPaymentBlues78
May 2nd 2007



278 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, I think I'd agree with you now. That song has been growing on me a lot the past few months.

MyNameIsJed
September 7th 2009



8 Comments


This would be my favorite album from my favorite band, but In a Hand or a Face just kills it. The album itself is excellent (excluding the last track) I am use to The Who ending there albums with pretty epic songs. I think they should have ended with Dreaming From the Waist and completely cut Hand or Face. Then it would be my favorite album. Maybe even put Dreaming From the Waist to the second to the last and use Blue, Red, and Grey to end the album so it will end on a lighter note. I really don't think Dreaming From the Waist should be in the middle though, it would have been a great closer. Anyway, the album is great. If you haven't listened to it you defininitely should. Just a warning though, this album is very depressing at times.

KILL
January 22nd 2012



71454 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

rules

Digging: Invisible - El jardin de los presentes

KILL
January 22nd 2012



71454 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

its great shit

Ire
October 29th 2012



41754 Comments


kinda rules

KILL
August 9th 2013



71454 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

fuck u

cos shes playing aaaaaaall night

peaks40
August 9th 2013



2756 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

it's only teenage wasteland. oh wait.....

KILL
August 9th 2013



71454 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

dude!

KILL
December 27th 2013



71454 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

im rockin



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