In the early 1960s, a traditional Jazz band was formed. They were known as The Confederates and featured Pete Townshend on banjo and John Entwistle on the French horn. After meeting Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle agreed to join his band The Detours, he brought along Pete Townshend as an additional guitar player. The Detours were an American influenced R&B group, they also played a bit of country. Roger Daltrey was on lead guitar, Pete on rhythm, John on bass, Colin Dawson on vocals, and Doug Sandom on drums. Dawson would leave the group resulting in Daltrey taking over the vocal duties, Pete moved to lead guitar. For a short period of time the band went by the name, The High Numbers and even recorded a single titled "Zoot Suit/I'm the Face", it did not chart. The music reflected the ongoing mod scene in Britain.
The band changed their name to The Who in 1964, after getting a new drummer. Keith Moon was an energetic, chaotic drummer. He had a unique style, as did other members of The Who. On stage Pete Townshend would jump around, often smashing his guitars, doing windmills on his guitar (an idea he got from Keith Richards), as Keith Moon would explode on the drums behind the band, Roger Daltrey would twirl around his microphone, and John Entwistle would stand still barely moving at all, holding down the foundation of the band. The Who's style would combine elements of R&B, Soul music, Jazz, and would also combine elements of Pop Art. The bands first single was "I Can't Explain". It was released in 1965 and produced by American producer Shel Talmy, known for his work with The Kinks. Being a big fan of The Kinks himself, Townshend has said that "I Can't Explain" was influenced largely by the early Kinks sound. The song went to number ten on the UK singles chart, and got its first play on a US radio station in Flint, Michigan on WTAC AM 600. The song has since then been a staple of the bands live set, usually being the opener to their set. The bands next single was "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" a song that features guitar distortion and is the only song written by both Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. In 1965 The Who also released their first album titled My Generation; it was called The Who Sings My Generation in the US.
The Who's first album featured a lot of cover songs, but it also featured some original compositions such as "My Generation" which was a song that is said to have many different origins such as being written on a train after an encounter with the Queen Mother in England. She was apparently offended by Townshend’s Packard Hearse which was parked on the street (used to transport equipment) and had it towed. It is also said to have been inspired by the Mose Allison song "Young Man Blues". The best description of the song can be best described by a quote from Townshend in Rolling Stone magazine which stated that, "'My Generation' was very much about trying to find a place in society." "Out in the Street", "The Good's Gone", "The Kid's Are Alright" and "Legal Matter" are other good tracks on the album. The US version of the album had a different track listing, it included the song "Circles". The first album went to number five on the UK album charts. The song "Substitute" was released as a single in March of 1966, it was a song about being labelled a fraud. "I'm A Boy" came next, the song can be seen as one of the first conceptual songs that Townshend wrote. Lyrically the song was about a boy born in the distant future that was supposed to be a girl, so he is dressed as a girl because that is what the mother wants. "Happy Jack" was next, it was a different style compared to early Who songs, it was more campy and lyrically was about a mentally confused young man.
The album A Quick One was released in 1966. The album was a departure from The Who's early Mod/R&B sound. It featured songs written by each band member. Daltrey wrote the song "See My Way", Keith Moon composed "I Need You" and the instrumental fireball track titled "Cobwebs and Strange", John Entwistle wrote "Whiskey Man" and "Boris the Spider", the rest of the albums tracks were written by Townshend. His songs included "Run, Run, Run", "Don't Look Away", "So Sad About Us", and "A Quick One While He's Away". This track was a mini-rock opera song. It was nine minutes long and was basically four or five short songs weaved into one, telling a story of infidelity. In the USA the album was named Happy Jack and featured the song as well, because it was a top forty hit; In the UK the song was a single only. Like the bands previous album, A Quick One charted in the UK (#4) and not in the US. The album was produced by Kit Lambert. He would encourage Pete Townshend to write more mature songs, he also had a background in classical music. Lambert would be the bands manager and producer until 1971. Chris Stamp was also a co-manager and producer for the group.
In 1967, The Who Sell Out was released. This album had a concept, all of the songs were interspliced with fake old fashioned radio jingles, also some of the songs were about products that you buy such as deodorant, or baked beans. The albums cover featured Pete Townshend with an over sized deodorant bottle and Roger Datlrey in a tub with an over sized can of Heinz baked beans. The back cover featured Keith Moon with an over sized zit and ointment cream, and John Entwistle in a Tarzan outfit. The album contained songs such as "Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand", "Odorono" (a song about deodorant), and "I Can See For Miles". "I Can See For Miles" was a song that Townshend was saving and when the band recorded it, he hoped it would go to number one everywhere. It went to #10 in the UK, and #9 in the US. The song itself was a unique composition. It featured the energetic drumming of Keith Moon, twisty guitar lines played by Townshend, and layered vocal melodies. When the single failed to reach number one, Townshend was disappointed about the record buying public and focused on writing a different type of album. The result would be Tommy.
In 1969, Tommy was released. It would be known as a rock opera. The album told the story of a deaf, dumb, and blind boy. The album was unlike any other upon its initial release. It also featured some of the best songs The Who has ever recorded. "Pinball Wizard" was the first single from the album. The song featured flamenco style guitar techniques and a bassline that sounds like a pinball machine. Other interesting tracks from Tommy include, "Sparks", "Go To the Mirror!", "Tommy Can You Hear Me?", "The Acid Queen", "I'm Free", and "See Me Feel Me". When performing live the who played the album almost in its entirety, omitting a few tracks. The story of Tommy was inspired and written by Townshend after the teachings of Meher Baba. The album would go on to be a giant commercial success for the band going to number four on the US Billboard album charts and number two in the UK. In the same year as Tommy's release, The Who also played at Woodstock. In 1970, The Who released the live album, Live at Leeds. The album has been named by many as one of the best live rock albums of all time. It is a loud energetic and frantically paced album capturing not only the true spirit of rock and roll music, but of The Who as well. Initially the album featured only seven songs, but since then has been re-issued with several bonus tracks.
For the bands next album, Pete Townshend intended to record another rock opera, a science fiction story known as The Lifehouse Project. The Who began working on material for a new album based on this concept, but stopped before completing it in favour of a more traditional rock album. The result was Who's Next in 1971. While the album had numerous elements based on The Lifehouse Project, the ideas were worked on further and used on other Who albums/songs, (Odds & Sods, Who Are You, Who By Numbers, and solo Townshend material) it wasn't released in any complete form until Townshend adapted it for BBC radio in 2000. Who's Next was produced by Glyn Johns was an even bigger success for the band. It went to number four in the US and number one in the UK. The album would feature songs that the band is consistently known for such as "Baba O'Riley", "Bargain", "Behind Blue Eyes" and "Won't Get Fooled Again". The album expanded the bands sound utilizing synthesizers (on "Baba" and "Won't Get Fooled"), it also featured more unique song writing. "Behind Blue Eyes" was a song that builds staring off with an acoustic intro, before becoming a full out rock song; a brilliant ballad. The album also featured interesting songs such as "My Wife" written and sung by bassist John Entwistle, "Going Mobile", and "Love Ain't For Keeping".
Tommy (1969) & Quadrophenia (1973)
In 1973, The Who released another rock opera titled Quadrophenia. This time the albums story focused on the Mod movement in the sixties in England. It was a semi-autobiographical story that revealed the battle between two group’s rockers and mods. The album would feature what some call The Who at their best. The album featured some of the best bass playing by Entwistle, drumming by Moon, guitar and song structures by Townshend, and we can't forget the singing of Roger Daltrey. The album features songs such as "The Real Me", "The Punk and The Godfather", "5:15", and "Love Reign O'er Me". The album went to number two in the US and in the UK. If you liked Tommy, you will love Quadrophenia.
1975 saw the release of Who By Numbers. This album was different than other Who albums. Lyrically it was darker in subject matter and musically it was a back to rock basics type album. There are exceptions to the dark subject matter in songs such as the acoustic-pop "Squeeze Box". Other interesting tracks include "Slip Kids", "However Much I Booze", "Success Story"(written by Entwistle), and "Blue, Red and Grey". Another interesting fact about the album is that its cover, which features a cartoon version of The Who was drawn by John Entwistle.
In 1978, Who Are You was released. The album showed the band going back to a more conventional sound. It did very well in the album charts and featured songs such as "Who Are You" and "Sister Disco". The musical style of the album was written in an attempt to bring together Progressive Rock and Punk Rock fans. The album was the last to feature drummer Keith Moon. He would pass away in his sleep due to an overdose of Heminevrin on September 7, 1978. Kenny Jones of The Faces would step in to fill Moon's shoes. In 1979, the Who documentary The Kids Are Alright was released along with the movie version of Quadtrophenia (Tommy was made into a movie starring Roger Daltrey in 1975). The Who continued on touring and recorded two albums with Kenny Jones on drums, Face Dances in 1981 and It's Hard in 1982. The albums produced the hit songs "You Better You Bet", and "Eminence Front". In 1982, the band did a farewell tour.
The Who reformed for several occasions, but in 1999 and early 2000's they began touring more regularly. They were well received and they discussed recording a new album (they would get drummer and Ringo Starr's son Zach Starky to play drums). On June 27th, 2002 John Entwistle died in his Las Vegas hotel room of heart failure. The band was in the middle of a tour, but continued on in tribute having bassist Pino Palladino fill in as replacement. In 2004, Endless Wire was released, The Who's first album since 1982's It's Hard. Townshend once again tackled the rock opera successfully. In 2007, Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who got released. The DVD was an extensive documentary on the band. Numerous Live Who DVDs have since been released. The band continues to tour intermittently.
The Who were a band that came out at the time of the British Invasion in the mid sixties. They stood out from all the rest, due to a number of factors. The song writing of Pete Townshend and the chemistry of each member in the band created a unique and vicious combination. They had the power to put all the frustrations and anger of youth into the form of song. There is just something about The Who when you see them or hear them, it makes you want to jump around and play guitar. They truly are one of the loudest and most energetic bands ever.
The Play List:
1. Generation X - Your Generation
2. Sex Pistols - Substitue
3. John Entwisle - Cinnamon Girl
4. The Cryptics - You're Evil
5. Teenage Head - Little Boxes
6. Modernettes - Won't Have to Worry
7. Ride Theory - On Fire
8. (International) Noise Conspiracy - Arm Yourself
9. Greenhornes - Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand
10. The Jam - So Sad About Us
11. The Waking Eyes - Get Me To The Doctor
12. Gruesomes - You Gotta Believe Me
13. The Surfdusters - The Reef
14. The Who - Barbara Ann
15. The Who - Doctor, Doctor
16. The Who - The Punk and The Godfather (Live Maryland 1973)
17. The Clash - I'm So Bored With USA (Live in New York 1979)
18. Flaming Lips - Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
19. Ramones - Substitute
20. Pearl Jam - The Real Me (Live VH1 Rock Honors)
21. The Hives - Outsmarted
22. The Kinks - Rats
23. The Kingsmen - Mashed Potatoes
24. The D4 - Mysterex
To download this week's show visit the CJAM archives and select the files 10:00 AM and 11:00 AM on November 11th, 2008.
My Generation (Intro to The Kids Are Alright Documentary)
Daddy Rolling Stone (Shindig! 1965)
I Can't Explain (Promo Video)
Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere (Live 1965)
Happy Jack (Promo Video)
Pictures of Lilly
A Quick One While He's Away (Live Rock n' Roll Circus)
So Sad About Us (Live 1967)
Heat Wave (1967)
Pinball Wizard (Live Isle of Wight 1970)
Tommy Can You Hear Me?/Smash The Mirror (Promo)
Baba O'Riley (Live 1977)
Won't Get Fooled Again (TOTP 1971)
Call Me Lightning (Promo)
Join Together (Live OGWT)