Classic Rock Bands - The Who Members
It was also during this period that, completely by accident, at a gig at the Railway Hotel, Townshend smashed his first guitar. It happened by accident, because of a temporary stage extension that the band had built, which was higher than the stage itself, and caused him to accidentally hit the ceiling with his instrument -- frustrated by his damaging of the instrument, and the crowd's reaction, he struck it again, and again, and soon it was in pieces, and it was only by using a 12-string Rickenbacker that he'd recently gotten that Townshend was able to finish the show. The following week, he discovered that people had heard about this, and had come to the Railway Hotel to see him smash his guitar. He eventually 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 with Lambert's encouragement, as part of his publicity campaign (and it worked, despite the fact that the journalist for whose benefit he committed the destruction never actually saw it). In reality, he didn't smash guitars at every show in those days, and what he was doing, in terms of generating feedback, sufficed in most audience's minds -- smashing the guitar, when it did take place, only punctuated the feedback. It did enhance their status with the mods, however, and by late 1964, they had developed an enthusiastic following -- they loved destruction as part of an act (at one point the Move were smashing television picture tubes on-stage; the Small Faces, by contrast, never needed anything so obvious, their one "gimmick" being little Steve Marriott screaming like a dervish).
It was during this period that Lambert had an especially strong influence on Townshend as a songwriter. Lambert, the son of a renowned composer and arranger, introduced Townshend to a huge range of classical music, including the work of Sir William Walton (with whom Lambert's father had worked extensively), Darius Milhaud, and various Baroque figures. Townshend didn't change his style of writing, which was still developing and influenced by a multitude of figures and styles, including Jimmy Reed and Sonny Boy Williamson II, Eddie Cochran and Mose Allison, but he did end up broadening his way of thinking about composition and what one could do with songs and subject matter. Over the years that followed, Lambert would encourage Townshend to go beyond the mod-themed romantic subjects that would have seemed like a natural direction for his songs.
Classic Rock bands -Zap Pete
It was time to record a second album, and this time Lambert and Stamp as well as the rock bands had a more ambitious agenda. They didn't totally abandon their covers of R&B -- the group liked doing them and the mod audience expected them -- but Townshend's success at writing their singles had inspired their managers. Lambert and Stamp decided that every member of the Who should contribute songs this time, in order to generate more revenue. Although the ploy meant A Quick One -- as the album was finally called -- was uneven, Lambert's presence allowed Townshend to write the title track as a ten-minute mini-opera, an idea he would expand over the next few years. As it was, "A Quick One While He's Away" showed Townshend writing (and the Who singing and playing) in various idioms far beyond rock & roll, including faux western and faux operetta -- these were important moments for the players, getting dedicated rock & rollers Daltrey and Entwistle (who would just as soon have been crunching out covers of Eddie Cochran or something from the Vee-Jay Records song catalog, or something closer to "I Can't Explain") to go along and throw their full talents into the music, if even in a jocular fashion; and the track's successful extension of a narrative line across what amounted to several songs showed Townshend and company that this idea could be expanded upon. And one of the few moments of serious compromise in the song's production even seems to have anticipated one aspect of future interpretation of their music by an admirer -- for the final section, there should have been a group of cellos playing accompaniment behind the group, but the group couldn't afford to hire the necessary musicians, so instead the members did a peculiar kind of modified vocalise, singing a chorus of "cello cello cello cello," which worked beautifully on a musical level as well as adding a surreal edge to the finale; but heard 40 years later, that moment also uncannily prefigures Petra Haden's approach to recording her version of The Who Sell Out.
As it was, though they got relatively little recognition for it in the press, the Who were expanding the boundaries of pop music at least as far as anything the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, or anyone else was doing at the time. And that was only part of the story -- A Quick One also provided a canvas for the blossoming songwriting of Entwistle, whose macabre humor shone through in comically engaging musical terms on the catchy "Boris the Spider" and "Whisky Man," the latter showing off his skills on the French horn. Moon's "Cobwebs and Strange" was also a suitable moment of light humor, and even Daltrey -- whose songwriting aspirations never rated too much of his attention -- contributed "See My Way." It might not have been a Beatles album in quality, but A Quick One had a diversity of sounds and creative voices, and a range to match anything the Beatles were doing.
Classic Rock Bands -The Who
In the Who's case, they had a brace of sides cut between 1965 and 1968 that were either singles and EPs that were only released in England, or were singles (or their B-sides) that were only hits on the British side of the Atlantic: "Daddy Rolling Stone," "Shout and Shimmy," "Anytime You Want Me," "The Good's Gone," "In the City," "Call Me Lightning," "The Last Time," "Under My Thumb," and "Dogs," plus the Ready Steady Who EP (which included "Bucket T" and "Disguises"). These constituted virtually a "shadow" history of the group, and one that wasn't fully exposed in America until the 1980s and the release of the compilation Who's Missing (which still managed to miss a few of those odd tracks). One curiosity about the group from this period was the sense of humor that they showed at the drop of a hat. "Bucket T" was a cover of a Jan & Dean car song, which reflected Moon's enthusiasm for surf music, while "In the City" -- an Entwistle/Moon composition -- was a light-hearted piece of rock & roll fluff about adventure and girls; and "Shout and Shimmy" and "Anytime You Want Me" were serious R&B-based covers, showing Daltrey and the band at their 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 of their success -- that these four guys didn't have all that much in common musically or personally (and perhaps wouldn't even have especially liked each other if they'd met in any other context), yet they could pull it all together under one label as "the Who" and make it seem coherent, on two sides of a single, four or five EP sides, or a dozen LPs tracks, and much more subtly but equally successfully within the same song. In that sense, they were as complex and diverse as the Beatles, but hadn't fallen into the trap of aiming at pop/rock (or writing songs and making records that were impossible to do on-stage), and traded in wattage levels that were higher than those utilized by the Rolling Stones -- even their softest-sounding records, such as "Happy Jack" with all of its harmonies (the recording of which led to the studio antics by Moon that resulted in Townshend's jocular, chiding "I saw ya" tacked onto the fadeout), had a punchy, hard edge that allowed them to be done full-out on-stage. What surprised listeners who later heard the Live at Leeds album was how much their live performances sounded like their records, except that they'd have had it backward -- 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. For that occasion, however, they had a problem that was the reverse of the Murray the K performances -- the latter had been too attenuated at 15 to 20 minutes, but to play the Fillmore their usual 40-minute sets were too short. In the Richard Barnes book Maximum R&B, it was recalled that they had to learn the entire mini-opera and the rest of A Quick One, which they had not been performing live, in order to lengthen their set. The Fillmore gig preceded the single most important show they'd ever played in America, at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June of 1967. That put them on a collision course with their Track Records labelmate Jimi Hendrix, in a duel before the audience and the cameras, to see who could end their set more outrageously. Hendrix won the day with his incendiary performance, but the Who acquitted themselves admirably with a destruction of their instruments that was still startling to see 40 years later, when the film was shown 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 for both groups. The other British outfit, pop/rock favorites for three years, was still drawing an audience consisting mostly of younger teenagers -- and mostly girls -- enamored of Peter Noone, the cheerfully charming lead singer. Here were the four members of the Who, Daltrey all macho swagger and hardly "safe," backed by Townshend with his beak of a hooter, the stoic, ominously stone-faced Entwistle, and Moon the madman at the drums, doing hard R&B and a set of mostly edgy hard rock with their amps turned up to 11, trying to deal with crowds chanting "We want Herman"; the tour wasn't helped by the fact that, thanks to the publicity they'd gotten belatedly about their old British act, they'd been forced to go back to smashing instruments, so that Noone often came onto a stage littered with the pieces of one of Townshend's guitars. It was all so surreal that it's a shame no one filmed any of the shows along the tour, which did nothing for the band. Additionally, they felt awkward reverting to their old stage act, as they'd finished work on a new album, and an accompanying single, that represented a new phase musically.
The Who Sell Out was a concept album constructed as a mock-pirate radio broadcast, a loving tribute to the England's pirate radio stations, which had been closed in a government crackdown. (Those seeking a look at what pirate radio was like in England should check out the 1966 Secret Agent episode "Not So Jolly Roger," which is set at a pirate radio operation, at sea.) The group had thrown everything they had into the album in an effort to solidify their position in England and crack the U.S. market once and for all, including the song "I Can See for Miles" -- it seemed like a certain chart-topper, an explosion of excitement and controlled tension, all carried on a soaring, catchy melody line; Daltrey's performance was the best of his career to date, but he was matched by Townshend's slashing guitar and Moon's frenetic drumming, and Entwistle's anchor-like bass in the middle of it all. It took a lot of work at three different studios on two continents and two coasts -- including Gold Star in Los Angeles -- to get that sound; and the record so well in that department, and was, as a consequence, so difficult to play live that it became the only hit in the group's history that they abandoned attempting to do on-stage. It was aimed at going all the way, in the wake of the massive exposure they'd received in 1967, and did become the group's first Top Ten hit in America, and reached number two in England -- but that wasn'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 growing out of Townshend's interest at the time in dog racing -- fail to sell in anything like their expected numbers, with "Dogs" not charting at all in its British-only release. Even Townshend hit a crisis of confidence in himself. Meanwhile, Track Records, squeezed for cash even with Jimi Hendrix's burgeoning sales, put together the delightfully bizarre Direct Hits, compiling the band's more recent singles (none of the Shel Talmy-produced sides on Brunswick were represented), which gave a good profile of their U.K. output up to that point. In the United States, Decca Records -- with only two actual "hits" by the group to work with, plus "Magic Bus" (which actually did unexpectedly well on that side of the Atlantic) -- declined to put out a similar package and, instead, assembled Magic Bus, an unacknowledged compilation album built around the hit and drawn from U.K. singles, EP tracks, and recent album tracks. It was misleadingly subtitled "The Who on Tour," and that's a lot of what they did in 1968, especially in the United States, but not the same way they had the previous year. Instead of playing to younger teenagers at shows headlined by Herman's Hermits, they were playing places like the Fillmore East, where they recorded one show for a possible live album, a plan that went awry when the show turned out to be not quite good enough to represent the group, and was abandoned entirely with the vast changes in their repertory that ensued in 1969. When they weren't making their first serious long-term headway in the U.S.A., the rock bands -- mostly Townshend, in collaboration with Lambert on the early libretto -- was spending a lot of time devising and recording a large-scale work.
Tommy, as it was finally called, was released in May of 1969, more than a year and a half after their previous album. It was an improbable venture, as well -- even with all of the time spent on it, the recording wasn't nearly finished, at least as Townshend and company saw it, in terms of instruments they'd have wanted to include on certain songs, and Entwistle was particularly upset at the bass sound on the released recording. But there was no more time left, for overdubs or retakes or any more work on it -- the band, and Lambert and Stamp, were out of money and out of options, and Tommy was released as it was, work-in-progress though it was. And for the first time, the stars (and everything else) lined up in the Who's favor, especially in the United States. There was an established and growing serious rock press by then, with a dedicated audience on college campuses and high schools, and its writers seized on the album as a masterpiece. By then, the mainstream press had also started to take rock music seriously, and the Who were new enough and fresh enough, and Tommy ambitious enough so that it became one of the most widely reviewed and written about albums in history, and the Who along with it as artists.
Rock Bands -The Who
Tommy climbed into the American Top Ten as the group supported the album with an extensive tour, where they played the opera in its entirety, including dates at the London Coliseum and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. In some respects, Tommy became too successful -- audiences expected it to be done in its entirety at every show, and suddenly the Who, who had once had difficulty extending their set for their first gig at the Fillmore, were routinely playing for two hours at a clip. The work soon overshadowed the Who themselves; it was performed as a play across the world, redone as an orchestrated all-star extravaganza (starring Daltrey and featuring Townshend's guitar), and would eventually be filmed by Ken Russell in 1975 (the movie starred Daltrey) -- plus, in 1993, Townshend turned it into a Broadway 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 it up. As he worked on new material, the group released Live at Leeds in 1970, which gave them some breathing room (and yielded a hit single in the form of "Summertime Blues") as well as the single "The Seeker." Eventually, he settled on a sci-fi rock opera called Lifehouse, which he intended to be strongly influenced by the teachings of his guru, Meher Baba. Townshend also intended to incorporate electronics and synthesizers on the album, pushing the group into new sonic territory. The remainder of the Who wasn't particularly enthralled with Lifehouse, claiming not to understand its plot, and their reluctance contributed to Townshend suffering a nervous breakdown. Once he recovered, the group picked up the pieces of the now-abandoned project and recorded Who's Next with producer Glyn Johns. Boasting a harder, heavier sound, Who's Next became a major hit, and many of its tracks -- including "Baba O'Riley," "Bargain," "Behind Blue Eyes," and "Won't Get Fooled Again" (which were both issued as singles), and Entwistle's "My Wife" -- became cornerstones of album-oriented FM radio in the '70s. The tour behind Who's Next solidified the Who as one of the two top live rock attractions in the world, with record fast sell-outs on some of the top arenas in the country -- along with the Rolling Stones, they ruled the arena rock landscape of the 1970s. And suddenly their history was of interest to millions of fans as never before, and as a follow-up to Who's Next, they issued Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy, a 14-song retrospective 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 to sketch a portrait of a '60s mod with Quadrophenia. He was also no longer working with Kit Lambert, who had lost influence with the group in the wake of the first rock opera -- during this period, the band would also leave Lambert and Stamp's management. As he wrote the album in 1972, he released Who Came First, a collection of private recordings and demos he made for Meher Baba. Entwistle had already begun his own solo career with the album Smash Your Head Against the Wall, and he followed this up with Whistle Rhymes, released the same day as Townshend's album. Quadrophenia was released as a double album in 1973, and it sold extremely well, but it proved to be a problem as a concert piece -- hardly anyone outside of England was familiar with its mod subject matter, and as the band embarked on an ambitious tour, it soon became clear that audiences hadn't had the time to familiarize themselves with the work, leading to a lukewarm response to much of the new material. And to make matters worse, Quadrophenia was very difficult to play live. Eventually, the group retooled its set, removing a handful of the more difficult 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 a rock spokesman; in private, he began sinking into alcohol abuse. Entwistle concentrated heavily on his solo career, including recordings with his side projects Ox and Rigor Mortis. Meanwhile, Daltrey was approaching the peak of his musical powers -- in the wake of performing Tommy on-stage for two years (as well the orchestral version, and the movie), plus the repertory on the Who's Next tour, he had become a truly great singer, and had found himself unexpectedly comfortable as an actor -- perhaps a by-product of singing all of those Townshend-authored "roles" from 1965 onward. He alternately pursued an acting career and solo recordings. Moon, meanwhile, continued to party, celebrating his substance abuse and eventually releasing the solo album Two Sides of the Moon, which was studded with star cameos. During this hiatus, the group was represented by the rarities collection Odds & Sods (1974), the contents of which overlapped and transcended any number of underground (i.e., "bootleg") collections that were trading freely among serious fans -- it was seized upon by eager fans and charted like a new release. Meanwhile, Townshend continued to work on songs for the Who, resulting in the disarmingly personal The Who by Numbers in 1975. The record and its accompanying tour became a hit, though its number eight placement in the U.S. reflected some modest diminishing of enthusiasm on the part of listeners -- Quadrophenia, despite being a rather expensive double LP (with full, illustrated libretto) and built around a somewhat outré subject, had reached number two on both sides of the Atlantic. Following the tour's completion, 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 at their level. It was revealed that Townshend, after years of playing on-stage with the band, had permanently damaged his hearing. And on the 1976 tour, Moon collapsed on-stage just a few minutes into a show at the Boston Garden -- he recovered and seemed to laugh off the incident, while an audience member sat in behind the drum kit to allow the band to finish the performance. He continued to party like there was no tomorrow, and even brought up the notion of a possible successor, should one ever be needed, in the guise of ex-Small Faces/Faces drummer Kenney Jones. The Who reconvened in early 1978 to record Who Are You, which was released in August of that year, accompanied by a stunning promotional/performance video of the title song. Instead of responding to the insurgent punk movement, which labeled the Who as has-beens, the album represented the group's heaviest flirtation with prog rock since Quadrophenia. The album became a huge hit, peaking at number two in the American charts and earning a platinum record award. Instead of being a triumphant comeback, however, Who Are You 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's sound and image, the band had to debate whether continuing on was a wise move. Eventually, they decided to continue performing, but all three surviving members would later claim that they felt the Who ended with Moon's death, and most fans would have agreed, at least until the release of Endless Wire in 2006.
The Who - Rock Bands
The farewell tour didn't turn out to be the final goodbye from the Who. While Entwistle and Daltrey slowly faded away, their solo careers losing momentum across the remainder of the decade, Townshend continued recording to relative success. However, the Who still haunted him. The group reunited to play Live Aid in 1985, and three years later, they played a British music awards program. In 1989, Townshend agreed to reunite the band, minus Kenney Jones, who was replaced by session drummer Simon Phillips for something billed as a 25th anniversary tour of America. Whatever goodwill the Who had with many fans and critics was squandered on that tour, which was perceived as simply a way to make a lot of money -- which, in all honesty, Daltrey and, especially, Entwistle needed. They ended up with the worst reviews in their history, and followed it up with a live album, Join Together, that was the nadir of their recording history, shapeless, flat, and, worst of all -- and most astonishingly for this band -- dull. The Who reunited again in 1994 for two concerts to celebrate Daltrey's 50th birthday.
The commercial success of the tour did have one positive effect on Townshend, helping to jump-start the effort to bring Tommy to the Broadway stage. It became a huge hit in this new venue and revived interest in the original recording, which reappeared in several different CD incarnations, the best of which -- the Mobile Fidelity ultradisc and the Universal "deluxe edition" -- finally presented it with the crispness and presence it deserved. Following his success with Tommy, Townshend decided to revive Quadrophenia in 1996, reuniting the Who to perform the piece at the Prince's Trust concert in Hyde Park that summer. The Who followed it with an American tour in the fall, which proved to be a failure. The following summer, the Who launched an oldies tour of America that was ignored by the press. In October 2001, they played the Concert for N.Y.C. benefit for families of the victims of 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 at the age of 57 in Las Vegas' Hard Rock Hotel. In 2006, Townshend and Daltrey released the mini-opera Wire & Glass, their first collaboration as the Who in nearly a quarter century. The full-length Endless Wire, which included the EP, was released later that year to the best reviews that any Who album had gotten since Who Are You, 28 year earlier. The accompanying tour was similarly well-received, and for the first time since the 1980s there seemed to be a point to the group's continued existence, as something other than a money-making machine.
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