The Who : Classic or Dud

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Cool mod icons? Overblown pomp? Cute formalists?

You know what to do.

Also, how about a Search and Destroy?

Dr. C, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I once tried to lik e them,but I think they just dont write good music. And ROger Dahltry seems like he feel slike its his job to be some sort of messiah of rock of bacchanal preist or something. And Pete Thownsend seems bitchy and unlikeable.

Mike Hanley, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Classic THEN Dud. The early Who had it all - one of the greatest rhythm sections of all time, Townsend's frenzied experiments with feedback/noise, his brilliant, funny, twisted lyrics full of class/sexual/psychological angst ("the simple things you see are all complicated"), art school look/style/theory and speed freak mod aggro (Townsend hated hippies), some surprisingly gorgeous melodies that productively rubbed against Moon's desire to EXPLODE at all times. Daltrey's singing and macho posturing have always been problematic, but he does a surprisingly good James Brown impression on the 'My Generation' alb, his bullish confidence gave the Who a frontman/performer they would have otherwise lacked, and the long-running antagonism with Townsend (brawn v. brains) added an extra frisson to their best music. SEARCH: 'The Who Sell Out' (first alb that addresses the commodification of pop?), 'A Quick One' (esp. 'So Sad About Us'), their appearances on 'Rock'n'Roll Circus', and 'Monterey Pop', 'Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy' ('Substitute'!), the first disc of the Who Box Set, 'The Kids Are Alright' movie, and the CD version of 'Odds and Sods' ('Glowgirl' and 'Little Billy'!). DESTROY: It's a bit too easy to say "all of the rock operas" - but I'm going to, anyway. Townsend's over-earnest need to analyse and (can't) explain fed into Kit Lambert's disdain for the three minute pop song (hence the weedy production on 'Tommy' - the live versions on the recentish 'Isle of White' alb are miles better), and the group's occasional attempts to recover their rock'n'roll 'power' always seemed slightly over-determined to me - 'Live at Leeds' is all blast and no beauty, and Moon's painful descent into rock star caricature can be traced through the disintegration of his angel face. Daltrey just looked a bigger and bigger prick as the years went on. 'Who's Next' , 'Quadrophenia' and even 'Who by Numbers' all have their moments, but often seem paralysed by fear - of no longer being 'relevant', of the limits of boy gangdom, and of all the compromises and untruths that stem from being billed as the loudest, hardest etc. rock band in the world. Pete's inability to call it day, even now, is sad and a bit pitiful, as is his determination to flog dead horses like 'Lighthouse'.

Andrew L, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Dude... I hope I DIE BEFORE I GET OLD. Dude...

Classic. Join the cult of the band, won't you?

Search: all boots from 1969-1976. You only really understand how good this band was by hearing them live. Search specifically the Rock Circus vers. of A Quick One, Dreaming From The Waist from 1976 Swansea, Live At Leeds Complete and Woodstock. Quadrophenia.

Destroy: All post Keith material, the 'complete' BBC sessions, 'cause they're not complete. The Tommy movie.

JM, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I've been getting into the Who recently, so I say the Who are CLASSIC.

The film of "Quadrophenia" is great. The album "Who's Next?" is great, with its total yeow! rock antics. And "Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy" has all your old Who favourites. I don't know anything else.

The Dirty Vicar, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I don't know much of their later work or any of their albums, but the first seven UK Top 10 singles ("I Can't Explain" to "Pictures of Lily") are among the very highest peaks of this country at that time. For those alone, classic.

I find what I've heard of the later stuff ("Who Are You", "You Better You Bet") obviously tedious and banal, like any other plodding rock band.

Robin Carmody, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Pete Townshend being a bitchy bastard is exactly why he's likable.

The Who are classic for their Keith-era work. The best of it is completely untouchable raw power. Their post Keith work is patchy (mostly bad - no, GODAWFUL - patches), and some of their reaches didn't quite make it (Tommy is ridiculous). But as I always say, no great band has ever not made something, or many somethings, of complete toss. Being the greatest makes you more likely to fall because you reach too far, IMO.

Search: Who's Next. Okay, scratch that cos if you haven't already searched that you're just completely behind. So, instead: He's a Boy, for being the funniest song.

Destroy: The belief that the Who were still the Who without Keith Moon.

Ally, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Classic, sure, why not. But isn't it interesting how The Who somehow, somewhere down the line, became the "acceptable" classic-rock band for the indiefolk to like? How did this occur? Is Bob Pollard somehow responsible?

Always thought Who's Next was overrated though -- "Won't Get Fooled Again" is great, "Baba O'Reilly" is very good, but all the other songs on that album underwhelm me. I guess I just don't like classic rock enough.

Search for Live at Leeds and Quadrophenia and all the early singles.

Destroy Tommy in its many incarnations.

Ian White, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Why indiefolk -- and Pollard is a good person to credit/blame (delete where applicable) -- aprrove of them is probably more for that incredible run of singles that Robin mentioned than anything else. But, unfortunately, Pop Who doesn't slot into classic rock radio, and has been chucked from most people's memory in favor of Ponderous Who. (See also: the Kinks.)

search: A Quick One, Sell Out, My Generation: The Very Best of... (which hits the mark more than most 'best of's'), Who's Next

destroy: the other compilations (Sheesh, are they the most overly anthologized group ever?), all films and film-related music (except the r'n'r circus performance), Squeeze Box (NOW!), hell, most anything post-Who's Next, and even Live at Leeds (*checks watch* Still playing that one guys?)

Apropos to nothing, I once worked with a guy who insisted on a dramatic reading of the lines "She comes to me with open arms (preganant pause) / And open legs" every time You Better, You Bet came on the radio. Yes, yes, it's very clever. Now go away. Please.

scott p., Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

'she ripped her glittering gown / couldn't face another show, no / her deodorant had let her down / she should have used odorono'

ethan, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Pre-Tommy (plus Live at Leeds and Who's Next): classic. Post-Tommy: dud. The cliche answer, but it's my answer nonetheless.

IMHO, the Who are the most problematic of the Sixties acts. As indisputably great as they were, there was always someone better at some element of their game. Lennon/McCartney, Jaggers/Richards, and Ray Davies were better songwriters than Townshend. The Velvet Underground, Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, and the Jeff Beck-era Yardbirds did more with feedback and distortion. Townshend basically stole his earliest songs from the Kinks and his early guitar sound from Dave Davies, while Ray Davies wrote funnier lyrics and better rock operas (he even beat Townshend chronologically since Arthur was written, though not recorded, before Tommy). Hendrix, Beck, Jimmy Page, etc., were better guitarists than Townshend. Barrett, early Jefferson Airplane, the Mothers of Invention, and countless others did psychedelica better. Jagger, Lennon and McCartney were better singers than Daltrey. Charlie Watts was at least as good a drummer as Keith Moon. And the Stones (who were the Who's real competitors) were just flat out better.

That said, their early stuff was still pretty damn great.

Tadeusz Suchodolski, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Watts is not as good a drummer as Keith. End of discussion.

JM, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Tadeusz - which songs did The Who rip-ff from The Kinks? There's a similarity between "You Really Got Me" and "I Can't Explain" sure, but come on - both relate back to the "Louie Louie" riff , amd they weren't alone. Any others? I don't think so.

As for the Watts v Moon argument - it's kinda pointless. Both of them contributed perfectly to the kind of material that their band was playing. Sure - few drummers could've played like Moon, but does that make him *better*? Just different, I'd say. Keith could never have complemented Keef n' BJ like Charlie did, but without Keith The Who wouldn't have had their explosive impact.

Dr. C, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

It's all just a matter of perspective: I think Paul McCartney is a godawful songwriter, and I find Jagger/Richards to be okay-to-good at best. Therefore, I'm going to tell you that you're wrong, Townshend is easily the better songwriter. I still think Daltrey had the most impressive voice of the old-skool Britpop bunch too.

As for Watts vs. Moon...well. I'm with da Mod, yo. Moon could've kicked Watts ass from here to Whoville, but the point being made that they were both perfect for their band is true too. Just look at the Beatles versus the Who. Ringo wasn't really the greatest drummer ever, but if Keith was with the Beatles, he would've absolutely destroyed (which some might say is an improvement, but that's a different story) their sound.

Ally, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

It is a matter of perspective, but I would say, too, that the Who were getting it right far more often than their contemporaries until, say, 1966 or 67 when it all got a bit pompous.

scott p., Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

And, on "I Can See For Miles" (their first non-classic single), you can hear the pomposity setting in.

My favourite Kinks single, "See My Friend", seems to get virtually no airplay whatsoever in the UK, so well done to Scott, though I suspect he was referring to a radio format that doesn't exist here.

Of course I would be very interested in what David the Huntsman could say to this thread since as some of us know he was very much the childhood Who obsessive.

Robin Carmody, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

"I Can See For Miles" non-classic ?!?! Pompous ?!?!?! *beating my head on my desk until it bleeds*

Patrick, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

1) 'i can see for miles' is the best who single that there ever was.

2) wasn't 'see my friend' the first psychedelic song or something?

ethan, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

robin, could it only be a coincidence that you deem "i can see for miles" the beginning of their pomposity and the end of their classic singles when it also happens to mark their entry into the world of amp-shredding hard rock? ;)

i think tad hits upon something when he implies that there was always something second-best about the group, moon and the great songs notwithstanding. was it reynolds who said that there's something unloveable about them?

give me "i can't explain"; the rest of those early singles might as well have been performed by the later kinks, which means that they can take a flying leap. and then give me "baba o'riley" and "won't get fooled again" and any of their really hard-rocking moments, their CLASSIC ROCK moments, if you will. at their core, they formed a great rock band and so it's a shame that they didn't indulge that side more.

fred solinger, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

And, on "I Can See For Miles" (their first non-classic single), you can hear the pomposity setting in. (Robin)

I know what you mean Robin. Their early singles were more pithy, r&b- ish. As they went on, the hyped-up guitar powerchords came more and more to the fore, to the point of deliberate self-pastiche by the time of tracks like "In A Hand Or A Face" (1975).

Having said that, I have to disagree with you about their best period, preferring the years 1970-75. My favourite album is "Who's Next" which I think you should check out because, apart from anything else, you may find the background to it interesting. For what it's worth (nothing), it's probably my all-time favourite album (by anybody). "Quadrophenia" is also quite good, although over-repetitive musically. "The Who By Numbers" has some good songs on it, but you can hear Townshend's guitar playing changing as he starts to incorporate slightly funky American styles (rather derivative and dreary to my ears).

The worst thing about the Who, and something that worried me slightly even at the time, is the sense that everything is incredibly male- centred (and verging on the thuggish at times eg glorification of Moon's antics).

David, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Agreed. In The Who's world, women were mothers, gypsy queens, pictures on walls, et cet. However, there is no denying that The Who rocked, partly at least because there was no room for gooey love songs in their world. Their ballads, such as theyt were, were in fact epics of self-discovery.

Sterling Clover, Saturday, 26 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I love 'Baba O'Reilly'. I'm not sure I can spell it, though.

the pinefox, Saturday, 26 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

the who are the reservoir dogs of pop.

ethan, Saturday, 26 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

"I Can See For Miles" was their biggest ever US hit so no wonder Ethan and Fred love it :). Though, seriously, yes it was Reynolds who made that "unlovable" comment, and one I've always been able to sympathise with (though, as I said a while ago, I'd apply it more to the Rolling Stones).

I've always wondered why the run of singles from "I Can't Explain" to "Pictures Of Lily" did very little in the US at a time when the American charts were at their most open ever towards British acts. My glib guess would be that, in the sense of irony and sexual innuendo and various allusions in the lyrics, they were very "English" in a sense that didn't really appeal to mainstream US audiences and radio programmers (as opposed to the stereotypical sense of Herman's Hermits, the Dave Clark Five, or Paul McCartney in "When I'm 64" mode). There's something slightly camp about the high-pitched backing vocals on "I Can't Explain", and it didn't have the undercurrent of de-ironised rockism that I can always detect in Mick Jagger (who is always a terrible disappointment to me when judged by the "campness" criterion).

David, given that I once constructed an entire email to you around the *context* of "Won't Get Fooled Again" (an awesomely brilliant song BTW) rather than the song itself, I can see what you mean about my finding the context of "Who's Next" interesting. And you are right; I feel extremely guilty that I haven't heard it.

Robin Carmody, Saturday, 26 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Some interesting posts! For me the "early" singles (I Can't Explain/..Kids../Happy Jack/...Lily/Substitute/I Can See for Miles/I'm A Boy/My Generation/Anyway,Anyhow../Magic Bus) are the best, with the better album tracks from My Generation/A Quick One/Who Sell Out close behind. Other than the fact that each band had a brilliant songwriter, I feel that Kinks comparisons are fairly redundant beyond early '65. As well as a great singles band, the Who were a great live band (Live at Leeds, Isle of Wight, any number of bootlegs).

Ihave no problems with Townshend's need to break free from conventional song and album structures - in the main it works, but I strongly disagree that Who's Next is their best work. IMHO the middle of this album is as weak (from My Wife to Going Mobile) as the rest (Baba/Bargain/Love ain't.../Behind Blue../Won't Get...) is monumental. If pushed I could let My Wife through for the wierd brass stabs, but I can't accept that The Song is Over/Getting in Tune/Going Mobile are worth anything. Townshend seems to be trying to wrestle the sons away from Daltrey - either by taking over the vocals, or by chucking in key shifts that aren't needed (The Song is Over). It feels like he's still trying to get to whatever "Lifehouse" was supposed to be Also, two songs *about* songs or using songs as metaphors is pretty damn close to bands writing songs about being in bands. Daltry's leather-lunged vocals get pretty close to unpleasant also, again the tension between him and Townshend seems to come to the fore - it's like he's trying too hard to outdo Pete's reedy whine when he really doesn't need to try AT ALL. I much prefer Rog's R+B voice of 1964-7. So "Who's Next" is fatally flawed in my book, but still clearly essential for the 5 good tracks. My Search would include all the singles mentioned above, Live At Leeds, Who Sell-Out, BBC Sessions (Fantastic!), and I'd Destroy everything after Keith. The truth is that the rot set in in 1971 though.

Dr. C, Sunday, 27 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Townshend seems to be trying to wrestle the sons away from Daltrey - either by taking over the vocals... (Dr C)

Well it depends if you like Townshend's vocals or not. I do, so I have no complaint. In fact Townshend's demo of "Pure & Easy" (on his solo album "Who Came First") is much better than the Who's version, sung by Daltrey (to be found on the "Odds & Sods" compilation and the remastered/repackaged CD of "Who's Next"). I have often wondered though what the criteria were for lead vocal parts being assigned to Townshend.

...or by chucking in key shifts that aren't needed (The Song is Over). It feels like he's still trying to get to whatever "Lifehouse" was supposed to be...

Of course "Who's Next" was something of a rescue job after the failed attempt to make a coherent double album/conceptual work of "Lifehouse". So "Song Is Over", which I love btw, is very much a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, and can seem confusing because its intended context is missing.

David, Sunday, 27 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Dr C says:

>>> IMHO the middle of this album is as weak (from My Wife to Going Mobile) as the rest (Baba/Bargain/Love ain't.../Behind Blue../Won't Get...) is monumental.

But... well, that's quite a bit of Monumentality. For me the first two tracks alone justify the enterprise. Monumental indeed.

>>> If pushed I could let My Wife through for the wierd brass stabs,

Hey - those weird brass stabs!! And what about that vast menacing undercurrent of brass as the song heads out?

>>> It feels like he's still trying to get to whatever "Lifehouse" was supposed to be.

Well - it was Daltrey (!) who said that the greatness of the LP maybe came from the unrealized 'conceptualism' behind it - from the failure, but residual presence, of Lifehouse. Interesting, I think - more perceptive than I'd expect from the old trout.

>>> Also, two songs *about* songs or using songs as metaphors is pretty damn close to bands writing songs about being in bands.

This ought to be a thread: songs about songs - search & destroy...

the pinefox, Monday, 28 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Hey - those weird brass stabs!! And what about that vast menacing undercurrent of brass as the song heads out?

And the absurd lyrics.

David, Monday, 28 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Ah yes The Who. There's some stuff on Tommy that is absolutely amazing (I'm Free, We're not gonna take it) and that stutter in My Generation is after these years still the epitome of cool. But somehow in the end I'm sort of indifferent about them. There's something cold about them. Unlike say...Rolling Stones. Should investigate why that is.

Omar, Monday, 28 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

As some might know, I hold the reverse feelings to Omar about the Who and the Stones (with the Stones being, for me, impossible to love and difficult to even like).

Robin Carmody, Monday, 28 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

'i can see for miles' their biggest US hit? dude, all their 70s hard rock stuff was like, hugely popular over here. i think a lot of americans had never even heard of the who until 1972, or whenever the hell 'tommy' came out.

ethan, Monday, 28 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

"I Can See For Miles" peaked at # 9 in Billboard, and is indeed the Who's highest charting single in the US. Their subsequent *albums* were indeed much bigger sellers, but not their singles.

Patrick, Monday, 28 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Pinefox - interesting comments from Daltrey. I hadn't heard them before. The kind of tension indicated he means can often *make* an album. In this case it narrowly fails IMHO.

Dr. C, Monday, 28 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

The Who were my first musical love, so a big classic for me. I loved just about everything through Who By Numbers. None of the other 60s icons could match Townshend for capturing the feeling of being lonely & out of place. His big conk pushed his artistic muse in the right direction, in terms of getting teenagers to understand. See "I'm One." That's the proto-Morrissey shit right there!

Plus, they rock. Live at Leeds is just so fun for the power chords and crazy drumming.

Mark, Monday, 28 May 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

two months pass...
i just picked up 'a quick one' yesterday, and i thought, hmm, perhaps the people on the forum would like to talk about it? and here goes. so far, it certainly supports my long held favorite member of the who being john entwistle (whch was originally influenced by hearing 'boris the spider', which i finally own, yay), but also am now fully appreciating keith moon's work, with fuckin-a loud drum fills and two great songs to his name. daltrey's still wack though. what should i get next? backtrack to 'the who sings my generation' or move ahead to the infamous 'tommy'? all i know is that i don't want anything after 1971.

ethan, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Ethan -- Go with Tommy, esp. if you're interested in Entwhistle & the instrumental side of the band. They're hitting on all cylinders there, lots of instrumental passages where they stretch out and do good things. The "story" on the album is very corny if you look at it one way, but I love it. Looking at this thread now, I realize why the Who means so much more to me than the other band mentioned here. Townshend writes from a *personal* POV so much more than The Beatles, Stones, Kinks, etc. He foreshadowed the "confessional singer/songwriter" thing much more than Dylan. That sounds like a terrible thing (visions of Jackson Browne et. al.) but if you relate to where the writer is coming from that kind of connection can be so deep. He understood awkwardness, sadness, etc. and conveyed same in a very direct way.

The one post-71 thing you should definitely check out is Odds & Sods. There singles/B-sides thing that has some great moments, many dating from the period you like best (also some more classic rock stuff like "Long Live Rock," but hey.)

Mark, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Also consider the expanded CDs of "The Who Sell Out" (ridiculous, camp, overblown, wonderful) and of course "Live at Leeds" (loud n' hard as nails). If you think Entwistle and Moon sound good on "A Quick One" wait until you hear them live.

As for "A Quick One" - it seems fairly fashionable to riducule the Moon songs and Daltrey's "See My Way", all of which are in fact ace and a nice counterpoint to Townshend's 'before your very eyes' transformation from Mod-man (Run, Run, Run, So Sad About Us) to concept-man (A Quick One). That makes "The Who Sell Out" the best next step, IMHO.

Dr. C, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

i already have the who sell out, and love it. i think in the next month or so i'll take the plunge and get tommy as well. and then i'll let my hair grow out and drive a van around town for a while, perhaps picking up a mattress from the side of a dumpster.

ethan, Wednesday, 1 August 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

one month passes...
Anyone who thinks that punk "re-energized" Rock N' Roll needs to sit down and watch their 1970 Isle Of Wight performance. Raging, sloppy, chaotic and very loud, they really out-Stooged the Stooges at that performance.

Jack Redelfs, Sunday, 23 September 2001 00:00 (seventeen years ago) link

four years pass...
what's the dealy with the 'my generation' special-ed elpee? has it been badly remixed or goodly remixed?

25 yr old slacker cokehead (Enrique), Monday, 24 April 2006 10:34 (thirteen years ago) link

Obviously classic, although I like their 60s material better than I like the generally more heralded early 70s material.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Monday, 24 April 2006 11:41 (thirteen years ago) link

The My Gen de-luxe is stereo, which some say dilutes the impact compare with the original in yer mush mono mix. I say they're both fine. It hasn't been remixed as far as I know - they're remastered original stero mixes. I'm going to put it on now.....

Dr. C (Dr. C), Monday, 24 April 2006 12:00 (thirteen years ago) link

one month passes...
I just finally picked up the Special Edition of My Generation last week. I can't believe I waited so long. It's by far my favorite Who album. The one I've listened to most is Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy -- next to The Buzzcocks' Singles Going Steady, the most essential compilation.

But my god, the remaster of My Generation sounds perfect to me. It pops and cracks whereas the crap mono version clanged and fizzed. It sounds so good cranked up, and having all the B-sides together is revalatory (some of them were actually meant to be released on the original album, until they were encouraged to write some more originals). "Heat Wave," "I'm A Man," "Shout And Shimmy," "Anytime You Want Me" are all great. Check out Daltrey's a-capella version of "Anytime You Want Me." He was already a really strong singer, rivalled only by The Small Faces' Steve Marriott. I'd go so far as to say it's the ONLY Who album that's listenable all the way through. Later singles are generally perfect, but otherwise, Townsend over reaches and loses what made The Who so exciting -- the immediacy of their hooks, the surprisingly pretty melodies that were always given an explosive beat-down by Moon before they've overstayed their welcome.

Fastnbulbous (Fastnbulbous), Sunday, 4 June 2006 15:40 (thirteen years ago) link

I completely agree with that assessment. Plus, dude, "Leaving Here"! That shit kicks it!

I am ready to kill myself and eat my dog (teenagequiet), Sunday, 4 June 2006 15:53 (thirteen years ago) link

But it sounds like shit!

Mr. Snrub (Mr. Snrub), Monday, 5 June 2006 00:23 (thirteen years ago) link

Compared to what? Sounds better to my ears than anything from the Stones or Kinks that year. I'm listening to the A Quick One and Sell Out remasters again, and they just sound muted and emaciated in comparison.

Fastnbulbous (Fastnbulbous), Monday, 5 June 2006 01:16 (thirteen years ago) link

I gotta say "I Can See For Miles" truly thunders. Wish they could have given the rest of the songs that kind of production.

Fastnbulbous (Fastnbulbous), Monday, 5 June 2006 02:25 (thirteen years ago) link

I remember Townshend was supposedly very disappointed that song didn't do better in the charts. I think it's almost too subtle for most people.

I didn't know there was a special edition of My Generation. I think I only have the Mono one, and haven't played it in about 10 years.

Has-been Hash Brown (Bimble...), Tuesday, 6 June 2006 03:16 (thirteen years ago) link

They were classic up to and including "The Who By Numbers". Only dud thereafter.

Never bettered "The Who Sellout" though.

Geir Hongro (GeirHong), Tuesday, 6 June 2006 09:30 (thirteen years ago) link

YOU COME TO ME WITH OPEN ARMS....AND OPEN LEGS

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Tuesday, 6 June 2006 11:47 (thirteen years ago) link

I concur, along with "Eminence Front".

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Saturday, 7 April 2018 19:02 (one year ago) link

'Eminence Front' is maybe my favorite Who songs and is definitely among their best.

You look at their discography and the tunes that came out on Odds and Sods and live records, there definitely is a lost Who album in there.

It probably would have been a good release valve for the band to have put out some other records that were just collections of songs that didn't have to be tied to a big theme. Entwistle's tunes recorded by the Who would have been even better. Those tunes mixed with some of the more acoustic music Pete did outside the band could have made a couple of interesting LPs.

earlnash, Saturday, 7 April 2018 19:17 (one year ago) link

the fillmore east bootleg is a super classic. i don't think my copy had "my generation" but "shakin' all over" and "relax" are monsters.

ziggy the ginhead (rushomancy), Sunday, 8 April 2018 00:24 (one year ago) link

two weeks pass...

Been listening to the new Fillmore East set since I got it last Friday, and it is indeed a monster.

First, the bad points: Moon's drums are very poorly miked. Sometimes you can hear one bass drum, sometimes two, sometimes none, and sometimes the bass drum sounds like the snare drum. Apparently, this was recorded to 4-track and not monitored at all during the show/recording. From photos I've seen, and the recording backs it up, there's mics on each bass drum, one under the snare (which means you get a wax-papery snare sound, with none of the crack -- Papas Fritas did this same thing on their first record), and one overhead. The problem is, with the toms unmiked, most of Moon's playing has these awkward holes. His toms were integral to his approach to orchestration, and with them missing, the drum sound is anemic. This is reinforced by a moment about 2:33 into "Shakin' All Over," where Pete and John drop out and you can hear Moon's kit distantly, but clearly -- it's an incredible and frustrating moment where he is completely raging, and his full power is briefly on display, but soon gets swallowed up again by the lack of proper miking.

So why was the Who so poorly served by a live recording while Cream -- with a similarly huge drum kit -- flourished? Cream sold vastly more records than the Who, and crucially, Atlantic knew what they had in Cream and weren't averse to spending a few bucks to get good live recordings. Decca was still run by, as a Who associate put it at the time, "guys with crew-cuts who looked like they were in the CIA." The idea of spending a couple thousand dollars on a live recording for a band with one top 10 single and one top 50 album was likely a non-starter with Decca.

All that said, the 33-minute "My Generation" here is like John Fahey, Charles Mingus, Keiji Haino, and Milford Graves covering "Sister Ray." I am only slightly exaggerating.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Thursday, 26 April 2018 14:16 (one year ago) link

four weeks pass...

spies they're come and gone
the story travels on
the only quiet place is inside your soul

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFPC1leh4LI

reggie (qualmsley), Friday, 25 May 2018 15:44 (one year ago) link

one year passes...

How I'd rank their hits.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 12 August 2019 15:53 (one week ago) link

Great list — “Dogs” and “The Relay” never get enough love. (And while I’d rate “You Better, You Bet” slightly higher, I much prefer Townshend’s demo.)

As for By Numbers, I dunno if I can convince you to give it a concentrated listen, but my take on it is that he/they have given up. They tried to bring the audience to this state of interaction that went beyond the usual audience-performer relationship (Lifehouse), it failed, and they witnessed the devolution of concerts (particularly in the US) into celebrations of firecrackers and quaaludes. By Numbers was originally intended to be their final album, signaling defeat. In doing so, they found their feet as an ensemble in the studio for the final time, sounding as confident and focused — arguably moreso — than on Quadrophenia.

Who Are You, on the other hand, feels like a forced last gasp, overstuffed arrangements trying (and failing) to mask the deficiencies of the writing. “905” is one of Entwistle’s best songs, and I’ll rep for the title track, “Sister Disco,” and even “Love Is Coming Down.” But replace “Guitar and Pen” and one of the other Entwistle songs with “No Road Romance” and “Empty Glass” (both recorded in ‘78 by Pete, Keith, and John, but rejected by the band for inclusion on the album), and it’d be a much-improved near-classic.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Tuesday, 13 August 2019 21:57 (one week ago) link

Good post

TS: “8:05” vs. “905” (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 13 August 2019 22:51 (one week ago) link

I kinda think the Who might have been served by doing some other projects in-between the big rock operas. Never quite understood why Daltrey was not interested in singing some of Entwistle's tunes, which I understand was the case. Tommy kind of overtook everything and then it was trying to one up that record, which was really kinda impossible. Maybe with a more modern sensibility about putting out records, they might have done a bit more low key and just different.

They definitely left a decent LP of tunes behind between Tommy and Who's Next, even beyond some of the other Lifehouse tracks.

Then again, I think the money got so big and it got going so fast, it was probably just hanging on to keep going on.

earlnash, Tuesday, 13 August 2019 23:13 (one week ago) link


As for By Numbers, I dunno if I can convince you to give it a concentrated listen, but my take on it is that he/they have given up. They tried to bring the audience to this state of interaction that went beyond the usual audience-performer relationship (Lifehouse), it failed, and they witnessed the devolution of concerts (particularly in the US) into celebrations of firecrackers and quaaludes. By Numbers was originally intended to be their final album, signaling defeat. In doing so, they found their feet as an ensemble in the studio for the final time, sounding as confident and focused — arguably moreso — than on Quadropheni

You're not the first person in the last few days on social media to urge me to listen to By Numbers. I'm surprised -- I loathe "Squeeze Box."

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 13 August 2019 23:26 (one week ago) link

"Squeeze Box" is an outlier.

frustration and wonky passion (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 13 August 2019 23:30 (one week ago) link

I bet I haven't listened to By Numbers in 25 years and I still think of "How Ever Much I Booze", "Success Story", and "How Many Friends" as some of my favorite 70s 'Oo tunes

What a great and utterly fucked up band

chr1sb3singer, Wednesday, 14 August 2019 16:14 (one week ago) link

Or that wonderful Townsend ukulele gem on Numbers, The Blue, the Red and the Grey

Dr X O'Skeleton, Wednesday, 14 August 2019 19:00 (one week ago) link

i've always kinda looked over by numbers, but slip kid is great and i got new appreciation for imagine a man when i saw em play it in concert a few months back.

jakey mo collier (voodoo chili), Wednesday, 14 August 2019 22:26 (one week ago) link

slip kid is also very obviously what prince was thinking about when he first played the riff for 'let's go crazy'

jakey mo collier (voodoo chili), Wednesday, 14 August 2019 22:28 (one week ago) link

Relay and Dogs are fantastic. But while there are obviously more gems to be found in the Who's first six albums as opposed to those that came after, there's still the odd masterpiece - I especially adore Eminence Front (which didn't make Alfred's list).

Valentijn, Thursday, 15 August 2019 06:57 (one week ago) link

this revive made me think of how all these huge boomer rock acts - the Who, the Kinks, Pink Floyd - were all on the same page in terms of thinking of what is essentially musical theater as being the future of rock. What a weird idea to take hold, kind of backward-looking rather than forward-looking ie let's incorporate rock into this existing format (which imo is actually kind of lame), and also an idea that turned out to be very wrong.

Οὖτις, Thursday, 15 August 2019 17:03 (one week ago) link

Well, I think when it starts with, say, "A Quick One (While He's Away)," it's very much in the vein of just general interest in an expanded songwriting artistry. When it evolves into Tommy, I think of it more in terms of just the realization of "Hey, maybe I can do this." I'm not sure the impulse itself to do a full, theatrical-length project as being backward - there are plenty of times throughout history where someone's taken an old idea and done something modern with it.

timellison, Thursday, 15 August 2019 20:16 (one week ago) link

Though I agree that with something like the Kinks' Soap Opera, it feels like a stale reliance on a very old formula.

timellison, Thursday, 15 August 2019 20:18 (one week ago) link

sure, and "doing something modern" with an old idea (in this case, a story told in song, onstage, with characters) sure looks like what these guys were trying to do. But at the same time it seems to me that musical theater in general was *not* something that held much appeal to rock audiences. Like, most of these projects were not successful for one reason or another ("The Wall" and "Tommy" being the obvious big exceptions). In my head I wanted to link this resistance to what it turns out audiences actually wanted - which in the modern age has morphed into popular musicians as cult-of-personality avatars, audiences like to think they're following the real life of Taylor Swift (or whoever) and that her career is essentially about granting us voyeuristic insights into her shenanigans.

Οὖτις, Thursday, 15 August 2019 20:22 (one week ago) link

like, it turns out we didn't want rock stars to tell us a story, we wanted them to LIVE the story

Οὖτις, Thursday, 15 August 2019 20:22 (one week ago) link

or to put it another way: the story/legend of the weirdos in the Who is more interesting/engaging than the story of Tommy.

Οὖτις, Thursday, 15 August 2019 20:23 (one week ago) link

For me, the story of Tommy is not so much the point. The point is the artistry. Nevertheless, the appeal of it at its best, things like "1921" and "Go to the Mirror!" and "Sally Simpson," totally relate (for me, anyway) to these songs' relationship to the narrative! I don't care so much about the appeal of the narrative in total - these songs move me anyway.

timellison, Thursday, 15 August 2019 20:28 (one week ago) link

well, I'm not discussing their relative quality as works, more of how these acts were charting a course that pop/rock didn't really follow

Οὖτις, Thursday, 15 August 2019 20:29 (one week ago) link

and they *really* tried to make it happen - especially Townsend and Davies, who wrote, what three or four of these kinds of things apiece (at least)?

Οὖτις, Thursday, 15 August 2019 20:30 (one week ago) link

Boy, The Who By Numbers is tough going for me. I think if I were to sit and listen to the whole thing, I'd find quite a few things that are really well done musically, but I mostly leave it at resignation to the perception that the guy who wrote all that wonderful music on The Who Sell Out had taken an aesthetic path that is less appealing to me.

timellison, Thursday, 15 August 2019 20:32 (one week ago) link

Well, I think when it starts with, say, "A Quick One (While He's Away)," it's very much in the vein of just general interest in an expanded songwriting artistry.

Before that, "I'm a Boy"...

The song was originally intended to be a part of a rock opera called 'Quads' which was to be set in the future where parents can choose the sex of their children. The idea was later scrapped, but this song survived and was later released as a single

Kit Lambert was the son of a classical composer after all.

Euripedes' Trousers (Tom D.), Thursday, 15 August 2019 20:36 (one week ago) link

Criss-crossing with Tommy and such was Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar, which at the time was seen as theatre bending towards rock, and was even more popular. Probably a good bit of audience overlap. I think I even recall Evita being called a rock musical.

bendy, Thursday, 15 August 2019 20:58 (one week ago) link

it is true that the Who, Floyd and the Kinks seemed to go all in with rock-as-musical-theater in the 70s, and I think it was a shitty development (I strongly dislike Tommy and the Wall, only like Quadrophenia and have never listened to any of Davies' works as such in one sitting, only know individual tunes…and I guess Berlin fits in with this concept as well)…but apart from the fact that I am only now getting over my strong distaste for musical theater, it would seem to me that the problem is that one cannot simply listen to any of these records or others similarly inclined, pay attention to it like you would a book, a show or movie, not do anything else, and follow a story…none of these records individually have all the info you need to know what's going on… you need other ancillary/ adjacent/supplementary sources for that… I'm sure Townshend, Davies and Waters thought, "well this would be stupid to include all these plot points in the songs…" well fellas, maybe this whole idea is not so hot! You guys were supposed to oppose Broadway shit, not emulate it!

veronica moser, Thursday, 15 August 2019 20:59 (one week ago) link

one cannot simply listen to any of these records or others similarly inclined, pay attention to it like you would a book, a show or movie, not do anything else, and follow a story

I think you just had to be REALLY high

Οὖτις, Thursday, 15 August 2019 21:01 (one week ago) link

I think Townshend, under the influence of Kit Lambert, was definitely thinking in terms of Opera not Musical Theatre as such.

Euripedes' Trousers (Tom D.), Thursday, 15 August 2019 21:12 (one week ago) link

Am I the only one who likes Endless Wire?

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Thursday, 15 August 2019 21:14 (one week ago) link

I like it. I seem to recall it getting some measure of appreciation here when it was released.

the public eating of beans (Sparkle Motion), Thursday, 15 August 2019 21:20 (one week ago) link

I like it a lot.

timellison, Thursday, 15 August 2019 21:34 (one week ago) link

Endless Wire is good-to-great. Easily better than the two ‘80s Who records (granted, not exactly a high bar).

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Thursday, 15 August 2019 21:56 (one week ago) link

I think Townshend, under the influence of Kit Lambert, was definitely thinking in terms of Opera not Musical Theatre as such.


Tom D. otm. None of Townshend’s longer/narrative work (Psychoderelict excepted) had any relationship to Broadway musicals — musical theatre has spoken dialogue, for one thing. And musicals have overenunciated singing and generally hacky playing that even the worst of the Kinks’ theatrical records fortunately lacked.

I suspect there was very little overlap between the Who’s audience in 1969-70 and the audience for Hair — I remember Dave Marsh calling Hair “what the squares thought the sixties were about.” It was only after Broadway hacks had internalized the impact of Tommy, decades later, that it was staged as the musical it previously stood in opposition to. Up until that point, the only performances of Tommy (give or take a Royal Canadian Ballet here, or a 1979 West End production there) were those the Who had done. The success of Tommy in 1969-70 was due, to a significant degree, to how it was performed, and these were by far the least theatrical performances of anything similarly approached by the Kinks or Pink Floyd or Genesis or whoever.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Thursday, 15 August 2019 22:17 (one week ago) link

Hair is bad or doesn’t make sense only if you think it it as a strictly “rock” musical. If you think of it more as, say, a funk musical, then you can begin to recognize its greatness, as did all the Galt MacDermot samplers.

TS: “8:05” vs. “905” (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 15 August 2019 22:40 (one week ago) link

I dunno, I can only think of two or three songs on the cast recording that have a toe dipped in “funk” (the title track, “Walking In Space,” “Colored Spade,” “The Flesh Failures/Let The Sunshine In”). And for me, those don’t approach the level of ‘68 Motown, Stax, Sly, the Impressions, or James Brown (among others).

The issue for me is less the rhythm section (which is great when the arrangements let them be great) and more the frantic and clumsy/cluttered orchestrations. Then there’s the horrible vocals and decidedly on-the-nose (to put it mildly) lyrics. A handful of decent instrumental moments in an otherwise execrable musical isn’t enough to redeem it.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 16 August 2019 01:00 (one week ago) link

revisiting endless wire - this album really is about ‘Mike Post Theme’ isn’t it

the public eating of beans (Sparkle Motion), Friday, 16 August 2019 01:20 (one week ago) link

Delightful song

timellison, Friday, 16 August 2019 01:53 (one week ago) link

xps there's definitely something with many of these bands (most notably the Who and the Kinks but also the Beatles, Floyd etc.) harking back to pre-pop/rock traditions (music hall, vaudeville etc.) that were mainstays of British culture, and would have been part of most of these musicians' youths. Sergeant Pepper's is steeped in nostalgia for what was already becoming a lost world. I think of those big acts it was only the Stones who didn't do something in that line? Also worth noting that in Hollywood and for film audiences musicals were very popular right up until the end of the 60s. So this wasn't happening in a vacuum. But it's interesting that it now appears a cultural dead-end.

Captain ACAB (Neil S), Friday, 16 August 2019 08:28 (one week ago) link

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3r4byx
It's all here: The classical pastiche with a music hall delivery, a dirty joke that has become an epic. It's complex, thrilling and so much fun - everything the 60s were supposed to be, before people overreached and took themselves way too seriously.

Dr X O'Skeleton, Friday, 16 August 2019 11:29 (one week ago) link

it's a very long time since i listened to it on record (lol like 50 years or something) but iirc the LP version of e.g. my fair lady (1964) doesn't include much of the talking stuff, it's mostly just the songs --renedering it impossible to follow the story (and if not true of MFL this was p standard for musicals on record)

also every song on the my fair lady is better than any song on tommy or quadrophenia obviously and even sexy rexy in mfl >>> sexy rodge as a singer after c.1970

constant lambert didn't actually write any operas and was not -- if memory serves -- particularly enamoured of that kind of composed music (tho kit may have been, i don't think they saw eye-to-eye on the direction music should be taking)

mark s, Friday, 16 August 2019 11:42 (one week ago) link

I think of those big acts it was only the Stones who didn't do something in that line?


There was this:

https://youtu.be/9yxJiuWJmE4

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 16 August 2019 15:09 (one week ago) link

hah yes! probably best the Stones didn't continue down that particular path!

Captain ACAB (Neil S), Friday, 16 August 2019 15:12 (one week ago) link

and another one from Between the Buttons:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLAeFyltAdU

by the light of the burning Citroën, Friday, 16 August 2019 15:33 (one week ago) link

good god that is a hideous still

Οὖτις, Friday, 16 August 2019 15:34 (one week ago) link

Like, most of these projects were not successful for one reason or another ("The Wall" and "Tommy" being the obvious big exceptions). In my head I wanted to link this resistance to what it turns out audiences actually wanted - which in the modern age has morphed into popular musicians as cult-of-personality

This is a really good thesis. The Sex Pistols ]were an opera, playing out in three acts and ending in murder/suicide and all that. Nirvana, Tupac and Biggie, etc.

bendy, Friday, 16 August 2019 16:06 (one week ago) link

ties into audiences valuing perceived authenticity too. they didn't want to witness a performance, they wanted it to *really happen* because they had fully subscribed to notions that privileged authenticity over artifice.

Οὖτις, Friday, 16 August 2019 16:18 (one week ago) link


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