Welcome to what I hope turns out to be a series of articles featuring musicians and bands that, without them, there would be no stoner rock, hard rock, doom, etc. I call the article REAL Music by REAL Musicians. Each band featured will have been detrimental to rock and roll in some way whether it’s a huge influence, a band covered more than the next, or they’re just that damn good. The inaugural edition features my personal all time favorite band from London, England, The Who.
The Who are Roger Daltry on vocals, Pete Townshend on guitar, John Entwistle on bass and the fiery and energetic, Keith Moon on drums. Pete Townshend grew up in a musical family with both his mother and father being professional musicians themselves, it was only natural that Pete had music in his blood. Townshend wrote most of the songs for the group although Entwistle did write quite a few songs himself including “Heaven and Hell” and “My Wife” which were both included on the highly successful Who’s Next album.
The Who’s music changed dramatically from their first album My Generation until their last real album, It’s Hard (we’ll just forget about Empty Glass). The sound in the early to mid 60′s was very mellow almost kind of do whoop. The band transitioned with the times hitting their peak in the 70′s with the powerful rock and roll of the era to the more electronic style that was the early to mid 80′s before calling it a day. No matter what, The Who were never afraid to try new things. Their willingness to keep evolving as a band and musicians kept them relevant. The band released 10 studio albums between 1965 and 1982 (again, ignoring Endless Wire).
One look at any of the various greatest hits and anthology collections available and you’ll notice a bulk of hit and well known songs released throughout their entire career. The bulk of those songs were from 3 albums that were released back to back to back. Those albums being Tommy (1969), Who’s Next (1971), and Quadrophenia (1973). Pete Townshend has said in a recent interview that those 3 albums are the only real Who albums. What he meant was that those 3 albums are the ones that people think of when they think The Who. If you were to ask any Who fan what their favorite album is by the band, Tommy, Who’s Next, or Quadrophenia are likely answers.
Who’s Next turned out some of the most memorable songs including “Baba O’Riley,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and “My Wife.” As Tommy was a concept album and story about a deaf, dumb, blind boy, it was Townshend’s intention to make another album like that. The album began as what was known as The Lifehouse Project. The album was to be about a story of a society driven by music. It was meant to be turned into a movie and all sorts of offshoots. The project was ultimately scrapped although some songs made it to Who’s Next and even Who Are You. Pete Townshend eventually revisited the project and completed it many years later as a solo project. A few songs also made it to Townshend’s Scoop series of albums.
Besides making great sounding albums that rock fans all over bought, The Who were quite the live band. They’ve been known to play all over the world headlining many shows and festivals and playing some of the biggest venues around. Two of the band’s biggest shows were recorded, Live at Leeds and Live at the Isle of Wight. Both shows the band played abridged versions of Tommy. Their best (in this authors opinion) performance was never released. That show would be from the legendary Woodstock Festival. It remains to be seen if the band will ever release recording but if you look hard enough, you’ll find some good quality bootlegs of the show floating around the internet.
The Who Live At The Isle of Wight
September 7th, 1978 will forever remain the day that changed The Who. That was the unfortunate day that drummer Keith Moon had passed away from a prescription drug overdose. Moon had been battling alcohol addiction and was trying to turn his life around and sober up when he overdosed on his medication prescribed to him to help him battle his demons. Moon was replaced by former Faces drummer Kenny Jones for their final 2 albums (Face Dances, It’s Hard). Jones was replaced on all post break up tours by Zak Starkey, son of famed Beatles drummer, Ringo Starr.
The Who have reformed many times over the years since It’s Hard to tour on and off. Bassist John Entwistle died in 2002 right before The Who were to kick off another world tour. They continued to tour after his death. In 2004 Daltry and Townshend recorded 2 new songs for yet another greatest hits collection which lead them to record and release Endless Wire in 2006. Endless Wire is the first Who album to not feature Entwistle. It’s intention was to be another rock opera and was turned into a play titled The Boy Who Heard Music. While the album debuted fairly high on the charts, it dropped fairly quickly and is often forgotten about by fans.
To this day both Daltry and Townshend continue to tour under The Who banner. They continually tour worldwide playing their hits to the fans. Their most recent tour was a worldwide one with the main focus on the Quadrophenia album. They even played a short benefit set for the “Benefit for Sandy” concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden outshining all other acts on the bill including legends such as Bruce Springsteen and Roger Waters.
If you’ve never got into The Who’s music, there’s no better time to do so. You would do yourself a disservice by not doing so. The 3 key albums to listen to are Tommy, Who’s Next, and Quadrophenia. The recent reissues of Who’s Next contain many songs not included on the original release. The 2 disc deluxe edition contains a ton of demos as well as live tracks from the era. The Live at Leeds deluxe reissue is worth it although the band decided to change the song order in order to fit the Tommy performance on one disc and not split it up. If visuals are your thing, watch the Isle of Wight Performance on the Youtube player above (also available on DVD) or the band’s performance of “A Quick One While He’s Away” from the Rolling Stones Rock n Roll Circus. It’s a song that comprises of many different styles while the subject deals with infidelity. Who fans, what are your favorite albums, songs, videos, etc? Let me know in the comments below.