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The Who

Few bands in the history of rock & roll were riddled with as many contradictions as the Who. All four members had wildlydifferentpersonalities, as their notoriously intense live performances demonstrated. The group was a whirlwind of activity, as thewild KeithMoon fellover his drum kit and Pete Townshend leaped into the air with his guitar, spinning his right hand in exaggeratedwindmills.Vocalist RogerDaltrey strutted across the stage with a thuggish menace, as bassist John Entwistle stood silent, functioningas theeye of the hurricane.These divergent personalities frequently clashed, b ...read more

Few bands in the history of rock & roll were riddled with as many contradictions as the Who. All four members had wildlydifferentpersonalities, as their notoriously intense live performances demonstrated. The group was a whirlwind of activity, as thewild KeithMoon fellover his drum kit and Pete Townshend leaped into the air with his guitar, spinning his right hand in exaggeratedwindmills.Vocalist RogerDaltrey strutted across the stage with a thuggish menace, as bassist John Entwistle stood silent, functioningas theeye of the hurricane.These divergent personalities frequently clashed, but these frictions also resulted in a decade's worthofremarkable music -- it took somefive years to find their audience, but at the tail end of the 1960s they suddenly achieved a levelofpopularity rivaling the Rolling Stones, bothas a live act and in album sales. As one of the key figures of the British Invasion and the mod movement of the mid-'60s, the Who were a dynamic andundeniablypowerfulsonic force. They often sounded like they were exploding conventional rock and R&B structures with Townshend'sfuriousguitar chords,Entwistle's hyperactive bass lines, and Moon's vigorous, seemingly chaotic drumming. Unlike most rock bands,the Whobased their rhythmon Townshend's guitar, letting Moon and Entwistle improvise wildly over his foundation, while Daltreybelted outhis vocals. This was thesound the Who thrived on in concert, but on record they were a different proposition, asTownshend pushedthe group toward new sonicterritory. He soon became regarded as one of the finest British songwriters of hisera, rivaling JohnLennon and Paul McCartney of the Beatlesand Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, as songs like"The Kids AreAlright" and "My Generation" became teenage anthems,and his rock opera, Tommy, earned him respect frommainstream musiccritics. Townshend continually pushed the band toward more ambitious territory, incorporating white noise, pop art, andconceptualextended musicalpieces into the group's style. The remainder of the Who, especially Entwistle and Daltrey, weren't alwayseager tofollow him in his musicalexplorations, especially after the success of his first rock opera, Tommy. Instead, they wantedto stick totheir hard rock roots, playingbrutally loud, macho music instead of Townshend's textured song suites and vulnerable popsongs.Eventually, this resulted in the groupabandoning their adventurous spirit in the mid-'70s, as they settled into their role asarenarockers. The Who continued on this path evenafter the death of Moon in 1978, and even after they disbanded in the early'80s, asthey reunited numerous times in the late '80s and '90s totour America. The group's relentless pursuit of the dollar waslargely due toEntwistle and Daltrey, who never found successful solo careers,but it had the unfortunate side effect of tarnishing theirreputationfor many longtime fans. However, there's little argument that at their peakthe Who were one of the most innovative andpowerfulbands in rock history. Townshend and Entwistle met while attending high school in the Shepherd's Bush area of London. In their early teens, they playedinaDixieland band together, with Entwistle playing trumpet and Townshend playing banjo. By the early '60s, the pair had formed arock& rollband, but Entwistle departed in 1962 to play in the Detours, a hard-edged rock & roll band featuring a sheet- metalworkernamed RogerDaltrey on lead guitar (and trombone!). By the end of the year, Townshend had joined as a rhythm guitarist, andin1963 Daltrey gave up hisguitar chores -- a consequence of his day job as a metal worker -- and became the group's leadvocalistafter Colin Dawson (followed brieflyby another singer named Gabby, who didn't last) left the band. The group's soundevolvedrapidly during this period, and was especiallyinfluenced not only by American acts such as James Brown, Booker T. & theMG's, andEddie Cochran -- each of whom had songs representedin the group's repertory -- but also one classic British act, JohnnyKidd & thePirates, with whom they shared a bill. Johnny Kidd (real name Frederick Heath) and his band had been together since the late '50s, and rocked the British charts withanoriginalcalled "Shakin' All Over" (which Townshend and company also added to their set list); they'd built their reputation ontheirfierce renditions ofAmerican style R&B, which relied heavily on a lean single guitar/bass/drums approach, with the singleguitarist --very unusual in Englandduring this period in any recording act -- playing both the rhythm and lead parts. Hearing andseeing theirpresentation up close while playingsupport to them, Townshend was impressed and realized that he took naturally tothatapproach, and the Detours were down to a singleguitar in short order. A name change also followed, as the group sought tokeepits image and profile out in front of the curve of popularculture -- with the Beatles burning up the charts, something better andmorestriking that the Detours was called for, and between Daltreyand Townshend thrashing it out, they settled on the Who,whichconfused people in conversation at first but worked great (and memorably) onposters. Within a few more months, amid all ofthesechanges, original drummer Doug Sandom -- who was considerably older than theothers, and married -- had parted ways withtheDetours, just as they were about to try and make the jump to cutting a record. In his place,the group added Keith Moon, whohadpreviously drummed with a surf rock band called the Beachcombers. As the group struggled to get a break, Townshend attended art school, while the remaining three worked odd jobs. Soon, thebandbecameregulars at the Marquee Club in London and attracted a small following, which led to the interest of manager PeteMeaden.Under thedirection of Meaden, the Who changed their name to the High Numbers and began dressing in sharp suits, all inorder toappeal to the stylishand R&B-obsessed mods -- in the social order of early-'60s English youth, the mods were fiercelyindependentteenagers, originally ofmiddle-class (by British standards) origins, who began gathering together in working-class clubs,initiallyaround London, in the early '60s;they dressed somewhat like Edwardian dandies, and were mostly interested in dancing,which theycould do for hours under the influence ofthe pills that they seemed to pop incessantly; they also lived their lives afterwork aroundlikes and dislikes that could provoke verbalaltercations and even physical violence under the right circumstances. ManyR&B-orientedgroups tried to cultivate relationships with theranks of the mods, who were fiercely loyal and could fill clubs and helppropel a recordonto the charts -- among those who succeeded best,along with the Who, were the Small Faces ("face" being a partof mod slang)and the Move. The High Numbers released one single, "I'm the Face" -- between their new name and the record, the band was pushingimportantbuttonsamong their target audience, "high number" and "face" both being important parts of the vernacular. The recordwas, intypical fashion for thetime, comprised of two songs written by their manager, Meaden -- though "I'm the Face," as acomposition,wasn't much more than "GotLove If You Want It" retooled with mod lyrics. After the single bombed, the group ditchedhim and beganworking with Kit Lambert and ChrisStamp, two fledgling music business entrepreneurs who had previously failed asfilm directors --Lambert was the son of composer ConstantLambert, while Stamp was the brother of actor Terence Stamp (bestremembered todayfor his role as Julie Christie's roguish husband in the1967 movie Far from the Madding Crowd), and bothwere anxious to maketheir mark in the now suddenly percolating and fermentingpopular culture scene in England. It was Lambertwho first spotted thegroup playing one night at the Railway Hotel, in the wake of the "I'mthe Face" single, and brought Stamp in,and between the twothey rescued the Who (or the High Numbers, as they were calling themselves atthat moment). Instead ofmoving the band awayfrom mod, Lambert and Stamp encouraged them to embrace the movement, offering themadvice on both whatto play and what towear, including pushing the target T-shirt that became a key visual signature. The group reclaimedthe Who nameand began playinga set that consisted entirely of soul, R&B, and Motown -- or, "Maximum R&B" as their posters said. It was also during this period that, spontaneously, at a gig at the Railway Hotel, Townshend smashed his first guitar. It happenedbyaccident,because of a temporary stage extension that the band had built, which was higher than the stage itself, and caused himtoaccidentally hit theceiling with his instrument -- frustrated by his damaging of the instrument, and the crowd's reaction, he struckitagain, and again, and soonit was in pieces, and it was only by using a 12-string Rickenbacker that he'd recently gottenthatTownshend was able to finish the show. Thefollowing week, he discovered that people had heard about this, and had come totheRailway Hotel to see him smash his guitar. Heeventually obliged with encouragement from Keith Moon, who attacked his drum kit--and while Lambert and Stamp were at first appalled,Townshend smashed another guitar to pieces a little bit later withLambert'sencouragement, as part of his publicity campaign (and it worked,despite the fact that the journalist for whose benefit hecommittedthe destruction never actually saw it). In reality, he didn't smash guitars atevery show in those days, and what he wasdoing, interms of generating feedback, sufficed in most audience's minds -- smashing the guitar,when it did take place, onlypunctuated thefeedback. It did enhance their status with the mods, however, and by late 1964, they haddeveloped an enthusiasticfollowing -- theyloved destruction as part of an act (at one point the Move were smashing television picture tubeson- stage; theSmall Faces, bycontrast, never needed anything so obvious, their one "gimmick" being little Steve Marriott screaming like adervish). At the end of the year, Townshend was able to present the group with an original song called "I Can't Explain," which owed a littlebitto theKinks hit "You Really Got Me," but had lots of fresh angles. Townshend's lyrics, in particular, gave a vivid, visceral impressionofteenageangst and uncertainty that Daltrey could sing in his powerful, ballsy manner, while the band attacked the music full-bore,andthe result was asong that was punchy, sensitive, and macho all in one, with a lean, mean lead guitar opening and break andevensome harmonies in there aswere expected in British rock & roll; even better, the words managed to be crude and bold andsensitive(in their peculiar way) -- it seemedlike a great potential debut single for the newly rechristened Who. Not only did the bandand theirmanagers think so, but so did producerShel Talmy, an American based in England who was already making lots of noiseproducing theKinks' records (including "You Really Got Me").Talmy got the band a contract with the American Decca Records label onthe strength of"I Can't Explain" and followed this with a contractwith English Decca (the two companies had been closely related atone time -- andwere again as of 2000 -- but had divided into separateentities in the 1950s). The single, produced by Talmy, was released to little attention in January 1965, but once the Who appeared on thetelevisionprogramReady, Steady, Go, the record shot up the charts, since the group's incendiary performance, featuringTownshend andMoon destroyingtheir instruments, became a sensation. "I Can't Explain" reached the British Top Ten, followed thatsummer by"Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere,"which was virtually a mod anthem in all but name and declared the mod ethos to the world;"I can goanywhere (where I choose)" -- itactually wasn't that far removed from the mentality behind the Sparkletones' "BlackSlacks," amongother youth anthems of the early rock &roll era in its sensibilities, except that the Who made it sound resolutelyEnglish, and it was ahuge hit in England. That fall, "My Generation"climbed all the way to number two on the charts, confirming theband's status as aBritish pop phenomenon. An album of the same namefollowed at the end of the year, comprised of the title songplus various R&Bcovers (especially of James Brown material) and someinteresting originals, mostly by Townshend, on the U.K.Brunswick label. Andearly in 1966, "Substitute" became their fourth British Top Tenhit. It was during this period that Lambert had an especially strong influence on Townshend as a songwriter. Lambert, the son ofarenownedcomposer and arranger, introduced Townshend to a huge range of classical music, including the work of Sir WilliamWalton(with whomLambert's father had worked extensively), Darius Milhaud, and various Baroque figures. Townshend didn't changehisstyle of writing, whichwas still developing and influenced by a multitude of figures and styles, including Jimmy Reed and SonnyBoyWilliamson II, Eddie Cochranand Mose Allison, but he did end up broadening his way of thinking about composition and whatonecould do with songs and subject matter.Over the years that followed, Lambert would encourage Townshend to go beyond themod-themed romantic subjects that would have seemedlike a natural direction for his songs. "Substitute," produced by Kit Lambert, marked the band's acrimonious split with Talmy, with whom the band and theirmanagerswere nolonger happy working, and the end of the group's British Decca/Brunswick recording contract -- Lambert andStamp alsotried to scrap theAmerican Decca deal, but that proved impossible. Starting with "Substitute," the band was now signedto Polydor inEngland, and issued onReaction. There were, for a time, rival releases on Brunswick and Reaction as Talmy andBrunswick, andLambert and Stamp with Reactiondueled with the group's fortunes, but the competition was eventually sorted out inLambert andStamp's (and the band's) favor. "I'm a Boy,"issued in the summer of 1966, was the first Who single produced withoutsome rivalrelease on Brunswick entering the marketplace, and it(along with some of those Brunswick sides) showed just how far theband andTownshend had come in 18 months -- "Substitute" was a catchysong that carried with it a fascinating character study, andone withsociological overtones, no less, none of which got in the way of itsappeal; "A Legal Matter" was a phenomenal romantic (or,really,non-romantic) "story" song with a narrative and a powerful quasi dramaticsinging role for Daltrey, and could almost have beenpartof a larger body of work, like a rock musical or something more ambitious; "TheKids Are Alright" was similar, a vest-pocket dramawithgreat harmonies, a memorable guitar break (and opening), and a strong dramaticperformance by Daltrey; and "I'm a Boy" wasaneerie (for a pop song) example of sexuality and child abuse as subject matter, about ateenage boy who is feminized byhisdominating mother, forced to dress in girl's clothing and act the part of a girl; it carried an amazingamount of exposition, and yethadplenty of room for the band's by now trademarked attack on their instruments, and Daltrey giving a strongvocal performance inwhatwas very much a dramatic role in miniature. The band was essentially leading a dual existence artistically,generatingimmenselypopular singles in England, which were gradually redefining the acceptable content and boundaries of pop/rocksongs;what's more,their hard, manic approach to playing dressed those songs up as some of the hardest -- yet most melodic andcomplex --rocking popsingles of the period. Though no one recognized it, the Who were having as profound effect on the rock & rolllandscape astheBeatles or the Rolling Stones. That was in England. The story in the United States was very different. "I Can't Explain" had barely created a ripple, and"Anyway,Anyhow,Anywhere" did little better despite some publicity on the ABC television rock & roll showcase Shindig. Evenwith Deccagetting behind"My Generation" for a major marketing push, the single only got to number 74, which was barely a shadowof what itdid in England. And theBritish success was all well and good, but it wasn't enough -- with a string of hit singles in thatmarket andone album under their belt, andall of the most creative methods that Lambert and Stamp could devise to keep the bandin the pressand maximize their audience and theirbookings, they were not losing money as fast as they might have. But theinstrumentsmashing routine and the attendant effects (ofteninvolving flash-powder and damage to Moon's drums as well asTownshend'sguitars) had been frightfully expensive, even if it had generatedthe press they needed to get people to check out theirmusic; andeven done more selectively, as it was after 1966, with as much skilledrepair work as possible to salvage what could bereclaimed, itmeant that the band was carrying an ongoing (and ever growing) debt that noother act had to concern themselves with,and drovethe group's expenses through the roof. For all of their publicity, huge record sales, andwell-attended concerts booked fortop fees,the spectre of financial ruin was never far from the thoughts of their management, this despitethe fact that Lambert andStamp werenow luxuriating in a new label imprint of their own under the Polydor umbrella, called Track Records --and that Track hada newsigning in late 1966, a transplanted American guitarist/singer named Jimi Hendrix. A breakthrough for the Who inAmerica, or inthealbum market in a major way (or, preferably, both), was essential. It was time to record a second album, and this time Lambert and Stamp as well as the band had a more ambitious agenda.Theydidn't totallyabandon their covers of R&B -- the group liked doing them and the mod audience expected them -- butTownshend'ssuccess at writing theirsingles had inspired their managers. Lambert and Stamp decided that every member of the Whoshouldcontribute songs this time, in order togenerate more revenue. Although the ploy meant A Quick One -- as the album wasfinallycalled -- was uneven, Lambert's presenceallowed Townshend to write the title track as a ten-minute mini-opera, an idea hewouldexpand over the next few years. As it was, "A QuickOne While He's Away" showed Townshend writing (and the Who singingandplaying) in various idioms far beyond rock & roll, including fauxwestern and faux operetta -- these were important moments fortheplayers, getting dedicated rock & rollers Daltrey and Entwistle (whowould just as soon have been crunching out covers ofEddieCochran or something from the Vee-Jay Records song catalog, or somethingcloser to "I Can't Explain") to go along and throwtheirfull talents into the music, if even in a jocular fashion; and the track's successfulextension of a narrative line across whatamountedto several songs showed Townshend and company that this idea could be expanded upon.And one of the few moments ofseriouscompromise in the song's production even seems to have anticipated one aspect of futureinterpretation of their music by anadmirer-- for the final section, there should have been a group of cellos playing accompaniment behindthe group, but the groupcouldn'tafford to hire the necessary musicians, so instead the members did a peculiar kind of modified vocalise,singing a chorus of"cello cellocello cello," which worked beautifully on a musical level as well as adding a surreal edge to the finale; butheard 40 yearslater, thatmoment also uncannily prefigures the version of The Who Sell Out recorded by Petra Haden. As it was, though they got relatively little recognition for it in the press, the Who were expanding the boundaries of pop musicatleast as faras anything the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, or anyone else was doing at the time. And that was only partofthe story -- A QuickOne also provided a canvas for the blossoming songwriting of Entwistle, whose macabre humorshonethrough in comically engagingmusical terms on the catchy "Boris the Spider" and "Whisky Man," the latter showing off his skillsonthe French horn. Moon's "Cobwebs andStrange" was also a suitable moment of light humor, and even Daltrey -- whosesongwritingaspirations never rated too much of his attention-- contributed "See My Way." It might not have been a Beatles album inquality, butA Quick One had a diversity of sounds and creativevoices, and a range to match anything the Beatles were doing. Upon its 1966 release, A Quick One became another British hit, and the record also provided a minor breakthrough inAmerica,wherethe album was retitled Happy Jack and its title track reached the Top 40 in early 1967. But to do that, they wereforced totour the U.S.as part of a package tour organized under the auspices of DJ-turned-impresario Murray the K. Bookedalongside Cream(also a new act inAmerica), folkies Jim & Jean, and Wilson Pickett, doing 15- or 20-minute sets five shows a day, thegroup got theexposure they needed topush the song onto AM radio, and finally become known to a wider public, even though"Happy Jack" was atotally atypical Who song, with itsemphasis on harmony singing and its relatively restrained guitar part -- theband found itself in asituation amazingly similar to that of theirmod audience rivals the Small Faces, who broke through in Americaaround the same timewith "Itchycoo Park," a song that was completelyunrepresentative of their usual sound. In the Who's case, they had a brace of sides cut between 1965 and 1968 that were either singles and EPs that were onlyreleasedin England,or were singles (or their B-sides) that were only hits on the British side of the Atlantic: "Daddy Rolling Stone,""Shout andShimmy," "AnytimeYou Want Me," "The Good's Gone," "In the City," "Call Me Lightning," "The Last Time," "Under MyThumb," and"Dogs," plus the ReadySteady Who EP (which included "Bucket T" and "Disguises"). These constituted virtually a"shadow"history of the group, and one thatwasn't fully exposed in America until the 1980s and the release of the compilationWho'sMissing (which still managed to miss a few ofthose odd tracks). One curiosity about the group from this period was thesense ofhumor that they showed at the drop of a hat. "Bucket T"was a cover of a Jan & Dean car song, which reflected Moon'senthusiasmfor surf music, while "In the City" -- an Entwistle/Moon composition-- was a light-hearted piece of rock & roll fluff aboutadventureand girls; and "Shout and Shimmy" and "Anytime You Want Me" were seriousR&B-based covers, showing Daltrey and theband attheir most soulful. All of these variations, minor and major, on the group's sound pointed to their sheer range, and also to part of the secret oftheirsuccess:that these four guys didn't have all that much in common musically or personally (and perhaps wouldn't evenhaveespecially liked each otherif they'd met in any other context), yet they could pull it all together under one label as "the Who"andmake it seem coherent, on two sidesof a single, four or five EP sides, or a dozen LP tracks, and much more subtly butequallysuccessfully within the same song. In that sense,they were as complex and diverse as the Beatles, but hadn't fallen into thetrap ofaiming at pop/rock (or writing songs and making recordsthat were impossible to do on-stage), and traded in wattage levelsthatwere higher than those utilized by the Rolling Stones -- even theirsoftest-sounding records, such as "Happy Jack" with all ofitsharmonies (the recording of which led to the studio antics by Moon that resultedin Townshend's jocular, chiding "I saw ya"tackedonto the fadeout), had a punchy, hard edge that allowed them to be done full-outon-stage. What surprised listeners wholaterheard the Live at Leeds album was how much their live performances sounded like theirrecords, except that they'd havehad itbackward -- the Who's records captured their actual live sound. The group quickly left Murray the K behind, and their next major milestone in the U.S.A. was playing the Fillmore in San Francisco.Forthatoccasion, however, they had a problem that was the reverse of the Murray the K performances -- the latter had beentooattenuated at 15 to20 minutes, but to play the Fillmore their usual 40-minute sets were too short. In the Richard BarnesbookMaximum R&B, it wasrecalled that they had to learn the entire mini-opera and the rest of A Quick One, which they hadnotbeen performing live, in order tolengthen their set. The Fillmore gig preceded the single most important show they'd ever playedinAmerica, at the Monterey InternationalPop Festival in June of 1967. That put them on a collision course with their Track Recordslabelmate Jimi Hendrix, in a duel before theaudience and the cameras, to see who could end their set more outrageously. Hendrixwonthe day with his incendiary performance, but theWho acquitted themselves admirably with a destruction of their instrumentsthatwas still startling to see 40 years later, when the film wasshown theatrically on the anniversary of the event. They went right from Monterey to another U.S. tour, this time opening for Herman's Hermits, which was an impossible fit forbothgroups.The other British outfit, pop/rock favorites for three years, was still drawing an audience consisting mostly ofyoungerteenagers -- andmostly girls -- enamored of Peter Noone, the cheerfully charming lead singer. Here were the four membersof theWho, Daltrey all machoswagger and hardly "safe," backed by Townshend with his beak of a hooter, the stoic, ominously stone-facedEntwistle, and Moon the madmanat the drums, doing hard R&B and a set of mostly edgy hard rock with their amps turned up to11,trying to deal with crowds chanting "Wewant Herman"; the tour wasn't helped by the fact that, thanks to the publicity they'dgottenbelatedly about their old British act, they'd beenforced to go back to smashing instruments, so that Noone often came onto astagelittered with the pieces of one of Townshend's guitars. Itwas all so surreal that it's a shame no one filmed any of the showsalongthe tour, which did nothing for the band. Additionally, they feltawkward reverting to their old stage act, as they'd finished workon anew album, and an accompanying single, that represented a new phasemusically. The Who Sell Out was a concept album constructed as a mock-pirate radio broadcast, a loving tribute to the England'spirateradiostations, which had been closed in a government crackdown. (Those seeking a look at what pirate radio was like inEnglandshould check outthe 1966 Secret Agent episode "Not So Jolly Roger," which is set at a pirate radio operation, at sea.)The grouphad thrown everythingthey had into the album in an effort to solidify their position in England and crack the U.S. marketonce and forall, including the song "I CanSee for Miles" -- it seemed like a certain chart-topper, an explosion of excitement andcontrolled tension,all carried on a soaring, catchymelody line; Daltrey's performance was the best of his career to date, but he wasmatched byTownshend's slashing guitar and Moon'sfrenetic drumming, and Entwistle's anchor-like bass in the middle of it all. It tooka lot ofwork at three different studios on two continentsand two coasts -- including Gold Star in Los Angeles -- to get that sound;and therecord did so well in that department, and was, as aconsequence, so difficult to play live that it became the only hit in thegroup'shistory that they abandoned attempting to do on-stage. It wasaimed at going all the way, in the wake of the massiveexposurethey'd received in 1967, and did become the group's first Top Ten hit inAmerica, and reached number two in England -- butthatwasn't sufficient for what the band or their management needed. The group spent much of the year 1968 seeing their singles "Call Me Lightning," "Magic Bus," and "Dogs" -- the latter growingoutofTownshend's interest at the time in dog racing -- fail to sell in anything like their expected numbers, with "Dogs" not charting atallin itsBritish-only release. Even Townshend hit a crisis of confidence in himself. Meanwhile, Track Records, squeezed for cash evenwithJimiHendrix's burgeoning sales, put together the delightfully bizarre Direct Hits, compiling the band's more recent singles(noneof the ShelTalmy-produced sides on Brunswick were represented), which gave a good profile of their U.K. output up to thatpoint. Inthe United States,Decca Records -- with only two actual "hits" by the group to work with, plus "Magic Bus" (which actuallydidunexpectedly well on that side ofthe Atlantic) -- declined to put out a similar package and, instead, assembled Magic Bus,anunacknowledged compilation album builtaround the hit and drawn from U.K. singles, EP tracks, and recent album tracks. Itwasmisleadingly subtitled "The Who on Tour," and that's alot of what they did in 1968, especially in the United States, but not thesameway they had the previous year. Instead of playing to youngerteenagers at shows headlined by Herman's Hermits, theywereplaying places like the Fillmore East, where they recorded one show for apossible live album, a plan that went awry when theshowturned out to be not quite good enough to represent the group, and was abandonedentirely with the vast changes intheirrepertory that ensued in 1969. When they weren't making their first serious long-term headway in theU.S.A., the band -- mostlyTownshend, in collaboration with Lambert on the early libretto -- was spending a lot of time devising and recordinga large- scalework. Tommy, as it was finally called, was released in May of 1969, more than a year and a half after their previous album. Itwasanimprobable venture, as well -- even with all of the time spent on it, the recording wasn't nearly finished, at least asTownshendand companysaw it, in terms of instruments they'd have wanted to include on certain songs, and Entwistle wasparticularly upset atthe bass sound on thereleased recording. But there was no more time left, for overdubs or retakes or any morework on it -- theband, and Lambert and Stamp,were out of money and out of options, and Tommy was released as it was, work-in-progressthough it was. And for the first time, thestars (and everything else) lined up in the Who's favor, especially in the UnitedStates. Therewas an established and growing serious rockpress by then, with a dedicated audience on college campuses and highschools, andits writers seized on the album as a masterpiece. Bythen, the mainstream press had also started to take rock musicseriously, andthe Who were new enough and fresh enough, and Tommyambitious enough so that it became one of the mostwidely reviewedand written about albums in history, and the Who along with it asartists. Tommy climbed into the American Top Ten as the group supported the album with an extensive tour, where they playedtheopera in itsentirety, including dates at the London Coliseum and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. In some respects,Tommybecame toosuccessful -- audiences expected it to be done in its entirety at every show, and suddenly the Who, who hadonce haddifficulty extendingtheir set for their first gig at the Fillmore, were routinely playing for two hours at a clip. The worksoonovershadowed the Who themselves;it was performed as a play across the world, redone as an orchestrated all-starextravaganza(starring Daltrey and featuring Townshend'sguitar), and would eventually be filmed by Ken Russell in 1975 (the moviestarredDaltrey) -- plus, in 1993, Townshend turned it into aBroadway musical with director Des McAnuff. While the legacy of Tommy kept the band busy touring for almost two years, Townshend was stumped about how to follow itup.As heworked on new material, the group released Live at Leeds in 1970, which gave them some breathing room (andyielded ahit single inthe form of "Summertime Blues") as well as the single "The Seeker." Eventually, he settled on a sci-fi rock operacalledLifehouse,which he intended to be strongly influenced by the teachings of his guru, Meher Baba. Townshend alsointended toincorporate electronics andsynthesizers on the album, pushing the group into new sonic territory. The remainder of theWho wasn'tparticularly enthralled withLifehouse, claiming not to understand its plot, and their reluctance contributed toTownshendsuffering a nervous breakdown. Once herecovered, the group picked up the pieces of the now-abandoned project andrecordedWho's Next with producer Glyn Johns. Boasting aharder, heavier sound, Who's Next became a major hit, andmany of itstracks -- including "Baba O'Riley," "Bargain," "Behind BlueEyes," and "Won't Get Fooled Again" (which were both issuedas singles),and Entwistle's "My Wife" -- became cornerstones of album orientedFM radio in the '70s. The tour behind Who'sNext solidifiedthe Who as one of the two top live rock attractions in the world, with recordfast sell-outs on some of the toparenas in the country --along with the Rolling Stones, they ruled the arena rock landscape of the 1970s. Andsuddenly their historywas of interest to millionsof fans as never before, and as a follow-up to Who's Next, they issued Meaty BeatyBig and Bouncy, a 14-songretrospective of their singles -- many of which had never been on album -- that also sold in massive numbers. The success of Who's Next prompted Townshend to attempt another opera. This time, he abandoned fantasy in order tosketcha portraitof a '60s mod with Quadrophenia. He was also no longer working with Kit Lambert, who had lost influence withthegroup in the wake ofthe first rock opera -- during this period, the band would also leave Lambert and Stamp's management. Ashewrote the album in 1972, hereleased Who Came First, a collection of private recordings and demos he made for MeherBaba.Entwistle had already begun his ownsolo career with the album Smash Your Head Against the Wall, and he followed thisupwith Whistle Rhymes, released the sameday as Townshend's album. Quadrophenia was released as a double albumin1973, and it sold extremely well, but it proved to be aproblem as a concert piece -- hardly anyone outside of England wasfamiliarwith its mod subject matter, and as the band embarked on anambitious tour, it soon became clear that audiences hadn't hadthetime to familiarize themselves with the work, leading to a lukewarmresponse to much of the new material. And to makemattersworse, Quadrophenia was very difficult to play live. Eventually, the groupretooled its set, removing a handful of themoredifficult parts of the opera, and performed an abbreviated version of Quadrophenia with some success. The Who began to fragment after the release of Quadrophenia, as Townshend began to publicly fret over his role as arockspokesman;in private, he began sinking into alcohol abuse. Entwistle concentrated heavily on his solo career, includingrecordingswith his side projectsOx and Rigor Mortis. Meanwhile, Daltrey was approaching the peak of his musical powers -- in thewake ofperforming Tommy on-stagefor two years (as well the orchestral version, and the movie), plus the repertory on theWho'sNext tour, he had become a truly greatsinger, and had found himself unexpectedly comfortable as an actor -- perhaps aby-product of singing all of those Townshend-authored"roles" from 1965 onward. He alternately pursued an acting career andsolorecordings. Moon, meanwhile, continued to party, celebrating hissubstance abuse and eventually releasing the solo albumTwoSides of the Moon, which was studded with star cameos. During thishiatus, the group was represented by the raritiescollectionOdds & Sods (1974), the contents of which overlapped and transcended anynumber of underground (i.e., "bootleg")collectionsthat were trading freely among serious fans -- it was seized upon by eager fans andcharted like a new release.Meanwhile,Townshend continued to work on songs for the Who, resulting in the disarmingly personal The Whoby Numbers in1975. Therecord and its accompanying tour became a hit, though its number eight placement in the U.S. reflected somemodestdiminishing ofenthusiasm on the part of listeners -- Quadrophenia, despite being a rather expensive double LP (withfull,illustrated libretto)and built around a somewhat outrĂ© subject, had reached number two on both sides of the Atlantic. Followingthe tour'scompletion,the band officially took an extended hiatus. The late '70s saw the band start to succumb to the ravages of age, as well as the lifestyle inherent in professional rock & roll attheirlevel. Itwas revealed that Townshend, after years of playing on-stage with the band, had permanently damaged his hearing.And onthe 1976 tour,Moon collapsed on-stage just a few minutes into a show at the Boston Garden -- he recovered and seemed tolaughoff the incident, while anaudience member sat in behind the drum kit to allow the band to finish the performance. He continuedtoparty like there was no tomorrow,and even brought up the notion of a possible successor, should one ever be needed, in theguiseof ex-Small Faces/Faces drummer KenneyJones. The Who reconvened in early 1978 to record Who Are You, which wasreleasedin August of that year, accompanied by a stunningpromotional/performance video of the title song. Instead of responding totheinsurgent punk movement, which labeled the Who as hasbeens, the album represented the group's heaviest flirtation with progrocksince Quadrophenia. The album became a huge hit, peakingat number two in the American charts and earning a platinumrecordaward. Instead of being a triumphant comeback, however, Who AreYou became a symbol of tragedy -- on September 7,1978,not three weeks after the album's release, Moon died of a drug overdose.Since Moon was such an integral part of the Who'ssoundand image, the band had to debate whether continuing on was a wise move.Eventually, they decided to continue performing,but allthree surviving members would later claim that they felt the Who ended with Moon'sdeath, and most fans would have agreed,atleast until the release of Endless Wire in 2006. They took Moon's own suggestion and hired Kenney Jones as his replacement, as well as keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundricktoround out thelineup, and began working on new material in 1979. Before they released a new record, they released thelivedocumentary The Kids AreAlright and contributed music to Franc Roddam's cinematic adaptation of Quadrophenia,whichstarred Phil Daniels. The Who begantouring later in 1979, but the tour's momentum was crushed when 11 attendees at thegroup'sDecember 3, 1979, concert at Cincinnati'sRiverfront Coliseum were trampled to death in a rush for choice festival seating. Thebandwasn't informed of the incident until after theconcert was finished, and the tragedy deflated whatever goodwill they had. Following the Cincinnati concert, the Who slowly fell apart. Townshend became addicted to cocaine, heroin, tranquilizers,andalcohol,suffering a near-fatal overdose in 1981. Meanwhile, Entwistle and Daltrey soldiered on in their solo careers. Thebandreconvened in 1981 torecord and release Face Dances, their first album since Moon's death. The album was a hit butreceivedmixed reviews. The followingyear, they released It's Hard and embarked on a supporting tour billed as their farewell tofans.The live Who's Last was releasedin 1984 as a commemoration of the tour. The farewell tour didn't turn out to be the final goodbye from the Who. While Entwistle and Daltrey slowly faded away, theirsolocareerslosing momentum across the remainder of the decade, Townshend continued recording to relative success. However,theWho still hauntedhim. The group reunited to play Live Aid in 1985, and three years later, they played a British music awardsprogram.In 1989, Townshendagreed to reunite the band, minus Kenney Jones, who was replaced by session drummer Simon Phillips,forsomething billed as a 25thanniversary tour of America. Whatever goodwill the Who had with many fans and critics wassquanderedon that tour, which was perceived assimply a way to make a lot of money -- which, in all honesty, Daltrey and, especially,Entwistleneeded. They ended up with the worstreviews in their history, and followed it up with a live album, Join Together, thatwas thenadir of their recording history, shapeless, flat,and, worst of all -- and most astonishingly for this band -- dull. The Whoreunitedagain in 1994 for two concerts to celebrate Daltrey's 50thbirthday. The commercial success of the tour did have one positive effect on Townshend, helping to jump-start the effort to bringTommyto theBroadway stage. It became a huge hit in this new venue and revived interest in the original recording, whichreappeared inseveral differentCD incarnations, the best of which -- the Mobile Fidelity ultradisc and the Universal "deluxe edition" -- finallypresented it with the crispnessand presence it deserved. Following his success with Tommy, Townshend decided toreviveQuadrophenia in 1996, reuniting the Who toperform the piece at the Prince's Trust concert in Hyde Park that summer. TheWhofollowed it with an American tour in the fall, which provedto be a failure. The following summer, the Who launched an oldies tourofAmerica that was ignored by the press. In October 2001, theyplayed the Concert for New York City benefit for families of thevictimsof the September 11 attacks. In late June 2002, the Who had once again regrouped and were about to kick off a North American tour when Entwistle died attheage of 57in Las Vegas' Hard Rock Hotel. In 2006, Townshend and Daltrey released the mini-opera Wire & Glass, theirfirstcollaboration as theWho in nearly a quarter century. The full-length Endless Wire, which included the EP, was released laterthatyear to the best reviewsthat any Who album had gotten since Who Are You, 28 years earlier. The accompanying tourwassimilarly well-received, and for thefirst time since the 1980s there seemed to be a point to the group's continued existence,assomething other than a money-making machine.On December 7, 2008, at a gala ceremony in Washington, D.C., TownshendandDaltrey, as the surviving members of the Who, receivedKennedy Center Honors for their lifetime contributions to American culture--and if the late Keith Moon were watching from wherever he is,he would probably have been too flabbergasted to crack a joke. R.I.P. Keith Moon: 1946-1978; R.I.P. John Entwistle: 1944-2002 « hide

Similar Bands: The Rolling Stones, John Entwistle, The Beatles, Pete Townshend, Jethro Tull

LPs
Endless Wire
2006

2.9
233 Votes
It's Hard
1982

2.6
256 Votes
Face Dances
1981

2.7
240 Votes
Who Are You
1978

3.5
437 Votes
The Who by Numbers
1975

3.6
357 Votes
Quadrophenia
1973

4.5
1,091 Votes
Who's Next
1971

4.4
1,625 Votes
Tommy
1969

4.1
1,156 Votes
The Who Sell Out
1967

4
608 Votes
A Quick One
1966

3.5
381 Votes
My Generation
1965

3.8
582 Votes
EPs
Wire And Glass
2006

3.5
40 Votes
Ready Steady Who
1966

4.5
1 Votes
Live Albums
Quadrophenia: Live in London
2014

4
2 Votes
Live at Hull 1970
11/06/2012

4.1
11 Votes
Greatest Hits Live
2010

4.5
12 Votes
The Who at Kilburn: 1977
2008

4.4
19 Votes
Quadrophenia Live
2006

3.7
24 Votes
Live from Toronto
2006

4.4
9 Votes
Live at the Royal Albert Hall
2003

3.9
32 Votes
Live at Leeds (Deluxe Edition)
2001

4.6
157 Votes
BBC Sessions
2000

4.4
24 Votes
Blues to the Bush
2000

4.1
10 Votes
Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970
1996

4.4
39 Votes
Join Together
1990

3.6
16 Votes
Who's Last
1984

3.4
14 Votes
The Kids Are Alright
1979

4.1
90 Votes
Live at Leeds
1970

4.5
335 Votes
Live At The Filmore East
1968

4.8
14 Votes
The High Numbers Live
1964

4.6
7 Votes
Compilations
Greatest Hits
2009

4.4
30 Votes
Then and Now
2004

3.9
67 Votes
The Ultimate Collection
2002

4.4
87 Votes
20th Century Masters
1999

3.2
36 Votes
My Generation: The Very Best of the Who
1996

3.9
64 Votes
Thirty Years of Maximum R&B
1994

4.6
20 Votes
Who's Better, Who's Best
1988

4.4
12 Votes
Two's Missing
1987

4.1
10 Votes
The Who Collection
1985

4.8
10 Votes
Who's Missing
1985

4.2
11 Votes
Who's Greatest Hits
1983

4
16 Votes
Rarities: Volume II
1983

4.5
9 Votes
Rarities: Volume I
1983

4.5
10 Votes
Hooligans
1981

4.4
11 Votes
Tommy: Original Film Soundtrack
1975

3.6
5 Votes
Odds & Sods
1974

4
37 Votes
Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy
1971

4.1
105 Votes
Magic Bus: The Who on Tour
1968

4
16 Votes
The Who Sing My Generation
1966

3.9
58 Votes

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