Friday, March 26, 2010

#32.......... The Who

The Who have always been prime contenders for the title of 'Greatest rock band in history', up there with the Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Rebellious to the point of totally destroying their instruments on stage, the Who rocked out in a way that captured the spirit of every angry young man in the sixties. Their influence has definitely stretched forward through the years, continually inspiring people and now, as we look back, they also capture the essence of sixties rebellion and counter culture in a way the Beatles or the Stones never quite did. Since the Who were technically Mods, they did exist on the outer fringe of rock. While exploring the outer regions, their experimentation led them in bold new directions that were years ahead of their peers. They were one of the first to begin pioneering the lands that would become punk rock and they pretty much invented the rock opera (see "Tommy). They were also the first group to really start using synthesizers musically and not just for effect.

The original line up of the Who consisted of Pete Townshend (lead guitar), John Entwisle (bass guitar), Roger Daltry (vocals) and Keith Moon (drums, percussion). All four of them grew up in the greater London area. Townshend and Entwistle knew each other at school in the late-1950s and played in a Dixieland band together in their early teens but Entwistle left in 1962 to join the Detours. That band included Roger Daltrey, who was then working as a sheet-metal worker. When the Detours needed to replace a rhythm guitarist, Entwistle suggested Townshend, and Daltrey switched from lead guitar to vocals when the original singer, Colin Dawson, left in1963. Not long after that, drummer Doug Sandom was replaced by Moon, who was then playing in a surf band called the Beachcombers. By early 1964 the group had changed its name to the Who and the legend began to take place.

Soon after, during a concert at a London tavern, Pete Townshend
accidentally broke the head of his guitar through the ceiling. Angered by laughter from the audience, he smashed the guitar to splinters on the stage. He picked up another guitar and continued the show. A large crowd attended the next concert, but Townshend declined to smash another guitar. Instead, Moon wrecked his drumkit after Townshend received catcalls from the crowd. The instrument destruction soon became a staple of The Who's shows for years. The incident at the tavern became one of "Rolling Stone magazines 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock 'n' Roll" It reminds me of one of my fave Who stories in which Keith Moon decided to really make a bang during the band's d├ębut on U.S. television on the Smothers Brothers show in 1967. Moon overloaded his bass drum with explosive charges which he detonated during the finale of the song, 'My Generation' The explosion caused one of the shows guest stars to faint, set Pete Townshend's hair on fire and, according to legend, contributed to his later partial deafness. Moon was also injured in the explosion when shrapnel from the cymbals cut his arm and the shows first aid team found moon laying in the wreckage laughing uncontrollably.

What else can I tell you about this fantastic band. It is late at night as I try and finish this article and I think about how much there would be to tell. I first heard the Who as a very small child when my dad would put on the LP of Tommy for me and my sister. The Who have so many amazing albums that it is hard to think about someone not knowing about them. If you like the good stuff and have never dug on the who, then get out of your seat and go check them out. They are dirty, rebellious, destructive and loud. Everything we want in a classic rock band and more. They could even switch gears and show you the beauty of rock (see awesome tracks like behind blue eyes). I know that Townshend and Daltry have sold out big time in the last few years but one thing I always admired about Pete Townshend was that he admitted it. He once said "There is only one way to sell and it's out! If I wasn't in this for the money I never would have sold my music to record companies in the first place". Whatever the Who have become now, that has no bearing on how freaking amazing they were when it all began. The spirit of the Who is still the spirit of youth in rebellion and maybe that is why in old age the Who just seem like they are not meant to be.

My Fave Album:
-Quadrophenia is the greatest concept album I have ever heard. It is so rich and well written with subtlety and quiet grace that it almost gets left behind in the wake of their loud and in your face recordings. It is solid gold and an album that always seems to have more to offer. If you want to know more about this wonderful album check out Quadrophenia

Check out this awesome video of The Who live at the rock and roll circus

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