Years: 1961 - present
Styles: Beat, Classic Rock, Hard Rock, Mod Rock, Pop Rock, Psychedelic Rock
Doug Sandom - Drums (in band: 1964)
John Entwistle - Backing vocals, Bass Guitar, Brass, French Horn , Horns, Lead vocals, Piano, Synthesizer, Trumpet, Vocals (in band: 1964 - 2002)
Roger Daltrey - Harmonica, Lead vocals, Percussion, Rhythm guitar, Tambourine (in band: 1964 - present)
Pete Townshend - ARP 2600, Backing vocals, Banjo, Bass Guitar, Cello, Drum Machine, Drums, Keyboards, Lead guitar, Lead vocals, Mandolin, Organ, Piano, Sound Effects, Synthesizer, Tin whistle, VCS3 Synthesizer, Violin, Vocals (in band: 1964 - present)
Keith Moon - Backing vocals, Drums, Percussion, Vocals (in band: 1964 - 1979)
Kenney Jones - Drums (in band: 1978 - 1988)
The Who are an English rock band formed in 1964. Their classic line-up consisted of lead singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist and singer Pete Townshend, bass guitarist John Entwistle, and drummer Keith Moon. They are considered one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century, selling over 100 million records worldwide and holding a reputation for their live shows and studio work.
The Who developed from an earlier group, the Detours, and established themselves as part of the pop art and mod movements, featuring auto-destructive art by destroying guitars and drums on stage. Their first single as the Who, "I Can't Explain", reached the UK top ten, followed by a string of singles including "My Generation", "Substitute" and "Happy Jack".
By late 1964, the Who were becoming popular in London's Marquee club, and a rave review of their live act appeared in Melody Maker. Lambert and Stamp attracted the attention of the American producer Shel Talmy, who had produced the Kinks. Townshend had written a song, "I Can't Explain", that deliberately sounded like the Kinks to attract Talmy's attention. "I Can't Explain" was recorded in early November 1964 at Pye Studios in Marble Arch with the Ivy League on backing vocals, and Jimmy Page played fuzz guitar on the B-side, "Bald Headed Woman".
The follow-up single, "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere", by Townshend and Daltrey, features guitar noises such as pick sliding, toggle switching and feedback, which was so unconventional that it was initially rejected by the US arm of Decca. The single reached the top 10 in the UK and was used as the theme song to Ready Steady Go!
The next single, "My Generation", followed in October. Townshend had written it as a slow blues, but after several abortive attempts, it was turned into a more powerful song with a bass solo from Entwistle. The song used gimmicks such as a vocal stutter to simulate the speech of a mod on amphetamines, and two key changes. Townshend insisted in interviews that the lyrics "Hope I die before I get old" were not meant to be taken literally. Peaking at No. 2, "My Generation" is the group's highest-charting single in the UK. The début album My Generation was released in late 1965.
An explosive debut, and the hardest mod pop recorded by anyone. At the time of its release, it also had the most ferociously powerful guitars and drums yet captured on a rock record. Pete Townshend's exhilarating chord crunches and guitar distortions threaten to leap off the grooves on "My Generation" and "Out in the Street"; Keith Moon attacks the drums with a lightning, ruthless finesse throughout. Some "Maximum R&B" influence lingered in the two James Brown covers, but much of Townshend's original material fused Beatlesque hooks and power chords with anthemic mod lyrics, with "The Good's Gone," "Much Too Much," "La La La Lies," and especially "The Kids Are Alright" being highlights.
The Who's second album is a less impressive outing than their debut, primarily because, at the urging of their managers, all four members penned original material (though Pete Townshend wrote more than anyone else). The pure adrenaline of My Generation also subsided somewhat as the band began to grapple with more complex melodic and lyrical themes, especially on the erratic mini-opera "A Quick One While He's Away." Still, there's some great madness on Keith Moon's instrumental "Cobwebs and Strange," and Townshend delivered some solid mod pop with "Run Run Run" and "So Sad About Us." John Entwistle was also revealed to be a writer of considerable talent (and a morbid bent) on "Whiskey Man" and "Boris the Spider."
Pete Townshend originally planned The Who Sell Out as a concept album of sorts that would simultaneously mock and pay tribute to pirate radio stations, complete with fake jingles and commercials linking the tracks. For reasons that remain somewhat ill defined, the concept wasn't quite driven to completion, breaking down around the middle of side two (on the original vinyl configuration). Nonetheless, on strictly musical merits, it's a terrific set of songs that ultimately stands as one of the group's greatest achievements.
"I Can See for Miles" (a Top Ten hit) is the Who at their most thunderous; tinges of psychedelia add a rush to "Armenia City in the Sky" and "Relax"; "I Can't Reach You" finds Townshend beginning to stretch himself into quasi-spiritual territory; and "Tattoo" and the acoustic "Sunrise" show introspective, vulnerable sides to the singer/songwriter that had previously been hidden. "Rael" was another mini-opera, with musical motifs that reappeared in Tommy. The album is as perfect a balance between melodic mod pop and powerful instrumentation as the Who (or any other group) would achieve; psychedelic pop was never as jubilant, not to say funny (the fake commercials and jingles interspersed between the songs are a hoot). [Subsequent reissues added over half a dozen interesting outtakes from the time of the sessions, as well as unused commercials, the B-side "Someone's Coming," and an alternate version of "Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand."
The group toured the US again with Eric Burdon and the Animals, including an appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, miming to "I Can See For Miles" and "My Generation". Moon bribed a stage hand to put explosives in his drum kit, who loaded it with ten times the expected quantity. The resulting detonation threw Moon off his drum riser and his arm was cut by flying cymbal shrapnel. Townshend's hair was singed and his left ear left ringing, and a camera and studio monitor were destroyed.
The group started 1968 by touring Australia and New Zealand with the Small Faces. The groups had trouble with the local authorities and the New Zealand Truth called them "unwashed, foul-smelling, booze-swilling no-hopers". They continued to tour across the US and Canada during the first half of the year.
By 1968 the Who had started to attract attention in the underground press. Townshend had stopped using drugs and became interested in the teachings of Meher Baba. In August, he gave an interview to Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner describing in detail the plot of a new album project and its relationship to Baba's teachings. The album went through several names during recording, including Deaf Dumb and Blind Boy and Amazing Journey; Townshend settled on Tommy for the album about the life of a deaf, dumb and blind boy, and his attempt to communicate with others.
The full-blown rock opera about a deaf, dumb, and blind boy that launched the band to international superstardom, written almost entirely by Pete Townshend. Hailed as a breakthrough upon its release, its critical standing has diminished somewhat in the ensuing decades because of the occasional pretensions of the concept and because of the insubstantial nature of some of the songs that functioned as little more than devices to advance the rather sketchy plot.
Nonetheless, the double album has many excellent songs, including "I'm Free," "Pinball Wizard," "Sensation," "Christmas," "We're Not Gonna Take It," and the dramatic ten-minute instrumental "Underture." Though the album was slightly flawed, Townshend's ability to construct a lengthy conceptual narrative brought new possibilities to rock music. Despite the complexity of the project, he and the Who never lost sight of solid pop melodies, harmonies, and forceful instrumentation, imbuing the material with a suitably powerful grace.
By the end of the year, 18 months of touring had led to a well-rehearsed and tight live band, which was evident when they performed "A Quick One While He's Away" at The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus television special. The Stones considered their own performance lacklustre, and the project was never broadcast. The Who had not released an album in over a year, and had not completed the recording of Tommy, which continued well into 1969, interspersed with gigs at weekends.
The Tommy was released in May with the accompanying single, "Pinball Wizard", a début performance at Ronnie Scott's, and a tour, playing most of the new album live. Tommy sold 200,000 copies in the US in its first two weeks.
In August, the Who performed at the Woodstock Festival, despite being reluctant and demanding $13,000 up front. The group were scheduled to appear on Saturday night, 16 August, but the festival ran late and they did not take to the stage until 5 am on Sunday; they played most of Tommy. During their performance, Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman interrupted the set to give a political speech about the arrest of John Sinclair; Townshend kicked him off stage, shouting: "Fuck off my fucking stage!"
During "See Me, Feel Me", the sun rose almost as if on cue; Entwistle later said, "God was our lighting man". At the end, Townshend threw his guitar into the audience. The set was professionally recorded and filmed, and portions appear on the Woodstock film, The Old Grey Whistle Test and The Kids Are Alright.
The Tommy tour included shows in European opera houses and saw the Who become the first rock act to play at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. In March the Who released the UK top 20 hit "The Seeker", continuing a theme of issuing singles separate to albums. Townshend wrote the song to commemorate the common man, as a contrast to the themes on Tommy.
Much of Who's Next derives from Lifehouse, an ambitious sci-fi rock opera Pete Townshend abandoned after suffering a nervous breakdown, caused in part from working on the sequel to Tommy. There's no discernable theme behind these songs, yet this album is stronger than Tommy, falling just behind Who Sell Out as the finest record the Who ever cut. Townshend developed an infatuation with synthesizers during the recording of the album, and they're all over this album, adding texture where needed and amplifying the force, which is already at a fever pitch. Apart from Live at Leeds, the Whohave never sounded as LOUD and unhinged as they do here, yet that's balanced by ballads, both lovely ("The Song Is Over") and scathing ("Behind Blue Eyes").
That's the key to Who's Next -- there's anger and sorrow, humor and regret, passion and tumult, all wrapped up in a blistering package where the rage is as affecting as the heartbreak. This is a retreat from the '60s, as Townshend declares the "Song Is Over," scorns the teenage wasteland, and bitterly declares that we "Won't Get Fooled Again." For all the sorrow and heartbreak that runs beneath the surface, this is an invigorating record, not just because Keith Moon runs rampant or because Roger Daltrey has never sung better or because John Entwistles pins out manic basslines that are as captivating as his "My Wife" is funny. This is invigorating because it has all of that, plus Townshend laying his soul bare in ways that are funny, painful, and utterly life-affirming. That is what the Who was about, not the rock operas, and that's why Who's Next is truer than Tommy or the abandoned Lifehouse.
Pete Townshend revisited the rock opera concept with another double-album opus, this time built around the story of a young mod's struggle to come of age in the mid-'60s. If anything, this was a more ambitious project than Tommy, given added weight by the fact that the Who weren't devising some fantasy but were re-examining the roots of their own birth in mod culture. In the end, there may have been too much weight, as Townshend tried to combine the story of a mixed-up mod named Jimmy with the examination of a four-way split personality (hence the title Quadrophenia), in turn meant to reflect the four conflicting personas at work within the Who itself.
The concept might have ultimately been too obscure and confusing for a mass audience. But there's plenty of great music anyway, especially on "The Real Me," "The Punk Meets the Godfather," "I'm One," "Bell Boy," and "Love, Reign o'er Me." Some of Townshend's most direct, heartfelt writing is contained here, and production-wise it's a tour de force, with some of the most imaginative use of synthesizers on a rock record. Various members of the band griped endlessly about flaws in the mix, but really these will bug very few listeners, who in general will find this to be one of the Who's most powerful statements.
By 1974, work had begun in earnest on a Tommy film. Stigwood suggested Ken Russell as director, whose previous work Townshend had admired. The film featured a star-studded cast, including the band members. David Essex auditioned for the title role, but the band persuaded Daltrey to take it. The cast included Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Elton John and Jack Nicholson. Townshend and Entwistle worked on the soundtrack for most of the year, handling the bulk of the instrumentation. Moon had moved to Los Angeles, so they used session drummers, including Kenney Jones. Elton John used his own band for "Pinball Wizard". Filming was from April until August. 1500 extras appeared in the "Pinball Wizard" sequence.
Work on Tommy took up most of 1974, and live performances by the Who were restricted to a show in May at the Valley, the home of Charlton Athletic, in front of 80,000 fans, and a few dates at Madison Square Garden in June.
The Who by Numbers functions as Pete Townshend's confessional singer/songwriter album, as he chronicles his problems with alcohol ("However Much I Booze"), women ("Dreaming From the Waist" and "They Are All in Love"), and life in general. However, his introspective musings are rendered ineffective by Roger Daltrey's bluster and the cloying, lightweight filler of "Squeeze Box." In addition, Townshend's songs tend to be underdeveloped, relying on verbosity instead of melodicism, with only the simple power of "Slip Kid," the grace of "Blue Red and Grey," and John Entwistle's heavy rocker "Success Story" making much of an impact.
On the Who's final album with Keith Moon, their trademark honest power started to get diluted by fatigue and a sense that the group's collective vision was beginning to fade. As instrumentalists, their skills were intact. More problematic was the erratic quality of the material, which seemed torn between blustery attempts at contemporary relevance ("Sister Disco," "New Song," "Music Must Change") and bittersweet insecurity ("Love Is Coming Down").
Most problematic of all were the arrangements, heavy on the symphonic synthesizers and strings, which make the record sound cluttered and overanxious. Roger Daltrey's operatic tough-guy braggadocio in particular was beginning to sound annoying on several cuts. Yet Pete Townshend's better tunes -- "Music Must Change," "Love Is Coming Down," and the anthemic title track -- continued to explore the contradictions of aging rockers in interesting, effective ways. Whether due to Moon's death or not, it was the last reasonably interesting Who record.
The album was released on 18 August, and became their biggest and fastest seller to date, peaking at No. 6 in the UK and No. 2 in the US. Instead of touring, Daltrey, Townshend and Moon did a series of promotional television interviews, and Entwistle worked on the soundtrack for The Kids Are Alright.
On 6 September, Moon attended a party held by Paul McCartney to celebrate Buddy Holly's birthday. Returning to his flat, Moon took 32 tablets of clomethiazole which had been prescribed to combat his alcohol withdrawal. He passed out the following morning and was discovered dead later that day.
The day after Moon's death, Townshend issued the statement: "We are more determined than ever to carry on, and we want the spirit of the group to which Keith contributed so much to go on, although no human being can ever take his place." Drummer Phil Collins, having a temporary break from Genesis after his first marriage had failed, was at a loose end and asked to replace Moon, but Townshend had already asked Jones, who had previously played with the Small Faces and the Faces. Jones officially joined the band in November 1978. John "Rabbit" Bundrick joined the live band as an unofficial keyboardist. On 2 May 1979, the Who returned to the stage with a concert at the Rainbow Theatre, followed by the Cannes Film Festival in France and dates at Madison Square Garden in New York.
On 3 December 1979, a crowd crush at a Who gig at the Riverfront Coliseum, Cincinnati killed 11 fans. This was partly due to the festival seating, where the first to enter get the best positions. Some fans waiting outside mistook the band's soundcheck for the concert, and attempted to force their way inside. As only a few entrance doors were opened, a bottleneck situation ensued with thousands trying to gain entry, and the crush became deadly.
The Who were not told until after the show because civic authorities feared crowd problems if the concert were cancelled. The band were deeply shaken upon learning of it and requested that appropriate safety precautions be taken in the future. The following evening, in Buffalo, New York, Daltrey told the crowd that the band had "lost a lot of family last night and this show's for them".
The Who released two studio albums with Jones as drummer, Face Dances (1981) and It's Hard (1982). Face Dances produced a US top 20 and UK top ten hit with the single "You Better You Bet", whose video was one of the first shown on MTV. Both Face Dances and It's Hard sold well and the latter received a five-star review in Rolling Stone. The single "Eminence Front" from It's Hard was a hit, and became a regular at live shows.
Without Keith Moon, the Who may have lacked the restless firepower that distinguished their earlier albums, but Face Dances had some of Pete Townshend's best, most incisive compositions since Quadrophenia. "Don't Let Go the Coat" was one of his better odes to Meher Baba, "You Better You Bet" was a driving rocker, as was the rueful "Cache Cache," while "How Can You Do It Alone" was a solid ballad. While Townshend's songs were graceful and introspective, Roger Daltrey delivered them without any subtlety, rendering their power impotent.
Driven by Pete Townshend's arching musical ambitions, It's Hard was an undistinguished final effort from the Who. Featuring layers of synthesizers and long-winded, twisting song structures, the album featured few memorable melodies and little energy, with only the anthemic "Athena" and the terse "Eminence Front" making a lasting impression.
In July 1985, the Who performed at Live Aid at Wembley Stadium, London. The BBC transmission truck blew a fuse during the set, temporarily interrupting the broadcast. At the 1988 Brit Awards, at the Royal Albert Hall, the band was given the British Phonographic Industry's Lifetime Achievement Award. The short set they played there was the last time Jones played with the Who.
In 1990, the Who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The group have a featured collection in the hall's museum, including one of Moon's velvet suits, a Warwick bass of Entwistle's, and a drumhead from 1968.
In 1996, Townshend, Entwistle and Daltrey performed Quadrophenia with guests and Starkey on drums at Hyde Park. The performance was narrated by Daniels, who had played Jimmy in the 1979 film. Despite technical difficulties the show led to a six-night residency at Madison Square Garden and a US and European tour through 1996 and 1997. Townshend played mostly acoustic guitar, but eventually was persuaded to play some electric. In 1998, VH1 ranked the Who ninth in their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of Rock 'n' Roll"
The band toured the US and UK from June to October 2000, to generally favourable reviews, culminating in a charity show at the Royal Albert Hall for the Teenage Cancer trust with guest performances from Paul Weller, Eddie Vedder, Noel Gallagher, Bryan Adams and Nigel Kennedy. Stephen Tomas Erlewine described the gig as "an exceptional reunion concert". In 2001 the band performed the Concert for New York City at Madison Square Garden for families of firefighters and police who had lost their lives following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, and were honoured with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Who played concerts in the UK in early 2002 in preparation for a full US tour. On 27 June, the day before the first date, Entwistle was found dead of a heart attack at 57 at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. Cocaine was a contributing factor.
The Who announced in 2005 that they were working on a new album. Townshend posted a novella called The Boy Who Heard Music on his blog, which developed into a mini-opera called Wire & Glass, forming the basis for the album. Endless Wire, released in 2006, was the first full studio album of new material since 1982's It's Hard and contained the band's first mini-opera since "Rael" in 1967. The album reached No. 7 in the US and No. 9 in the UK. Starkey was invited to join Oasis in April 2006 and the Who in November 2006, but he declined and split his time between the two.
The Who toured in support of Endless Wire, including the BBC Electric Proms at the Roundhouse in London in 2006, headlining the 2007 Glastonbury Festival, a half-time appearance at the Super Bowl XLIV in 2010 and being the final act at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. In November 2012, the Who released Live at Hull, an album of the band's performance night after the Live at Leeds gig.
In June 2014, Jones reunited with the Who at a charity gig for Prostate Cancer UK his Hurtwood Polo Club, alongside Jeff Beck, Procol Harum, and Mike Rutherford. Later that month, the Who announced plans for a world tour with a possible accompanying album. In September, the Who released the song "Be Lucky", which was included on the compilation The Who Hits 50! in October.
1. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Who
2. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 1220 - Richie Unterberger
3. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 1221 - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
4. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 1222 - Stephen Thomas Erlewine and Cub Koda
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