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The Who are an English rock band that formed in 1964. The primary lineup consisted of Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Keith Moon. The band reached international success, became known for their award-winning live performances, are regarded as one of the most influential rock bands of the 1960s and 70s, and recognized as one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. The Who rose to fame in the United Kingdom with a pioneering instrument destruction stage show, as well as a series of top ten hit singles (including the celebrated "My Generation") and top five albums, beginning in 1965 with "I Can't Explain". They first hit the top ten in the USA in 1967 with "I Can See for Miles". The 1969 release of Tommy was the first in a series of top five albums for the group in the USA, followed by Live at Leeds (1970), Who's Next (1971), Quadrophenia (1973), and Who Are You (1978) among others. Keith Moon died in 1978, after which the band released two more studio albums, the top five Face Dances (1981) and the top ten It's Hard (1982), with drummer Kenney Jones, before officially disbanding in 1983. They reformed on several occasions to perform at special events such as Live Aid and for reunion tours such as their 25th anniversary tour (1989) and the Quadrophenia revival tours of 1996 and 1997. In 2000, the three surviving original members began to discuss the possibility of recording an album of new material. These plans were delayed following the death of John Entwistle in 2002. Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey continue to perform as The Who. In 2006 they released the studio album Endless Wire, which reached the top ten in the USA and UK.
The first band that could be considered a parent of The Who was a "trad jazz" band started by Pete Townshend and John Entwistle called The Confederates. Townshend played the banjo and Entwistle the French horn (which he would continue to use in The Who and in his solo career). Roger Daltrey, founder of the Detours, met John Entwistle in the street (with his bass slung over his arm) and asked him to join his band. Entwistle agreed and suggested Townshend as an additional (rhythm) guitarist. In their early days the band was known as The Detours. Like many of their British peers, the group was heavily influenced by American blues and country music, initially playing mostly rhythm and blues. The initial lineup of the band consisted of Roger Daltrey on lead guitar, Pete Townshend on rhythm guitar, John Entwistle on bass, Doug Sandom on drums, and Colin Dawson on lead vocals. After Colin Dawson left the band, Daltrey moved to lead vocals and Townshend became sole guitarist. In 1964 drummer Doug Sandom left the band, and Keith Moon became The Who's drummer. The Detours changed their name to "The Who" in 1964 and, with the arrival of Keith Moon that year, their line-up was complete. However, for a short period during 1964, under the management of famed mod Peter Meaden, they changed their name to The High Numbers, during which time they released "Zoot Suit/I'm The Face", a single designed to appeal to their mostly mod fans. When it failed to chart, the band fired Meaden and quickly reverted to The Who. They became one of the most popular bands among the British mods, a 1960s subculture involving cutting-edge fashions, scooters and music genres such as rhythm and blues, soul, and beat music. In September 1964, at the Railway Tavern in Harrow and Wealdstone, England, Pete Townshend smashed his first guitar. Playing on a high stage, Townshend's physical style of performance resulted in him accidentally breaking off the head of his guitar when it broke through the ceiling. Angered by snickers from the audience, he proceeded to smash the instrument to pieces on the stage. He then picked up a Rickenbacker twelve-string guitar and continued the concert. A large crowd attended their next concert, but Townshend declined to smash another guitar. Instead, Keith Moon wrecked his drumkit. Instrument destruction became a staple of The Who's live shows for the next several years. The incident at the Railway Tavern is one of Rolling Stone magazine's "50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock 'n' Roll". The band would soon crystallise around Townshend as the primary songwriter and creative force. Entwistle would also make notable songwriting contributions. Moon and Daltrey contributed a handful of songs in the 60s and 70s.
The Who's first release, and first hit, was January 1965's "I Can't Explain", influenced by the early Kinks hits (with whom they shared American producer Shel Talmy). The song was first played in the USA on WTAC AM 600 in Flint, Michigan by DJ "Peter C" Cavanaugh where Keith Moon allegedly drove a Cadillac into a hotel pool during his 21st birthday. The song was a top 10 hit in the UK and was followed by "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere", which was the only song credited as being composed in a joint effort by Townshend and Daltrey, though Townshend implied Daltrey assisted in songwriting without credit in the liner notes to Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy. Their debut album My Generation (The Who Sings My Generation in the U.S.) was released the same year. The album included such mod anthems as "The Kids Are Alright" and the title track "My Generation". Subsequent hits, such as the 1966 singles "Substitute", about a young man who feels like a fraud, "I'm a Boy" about a young boy dressed as a young girl, "Happy Jack" about a mentally disturbed young man, and 1967's "Pictures of Lily", a tribute to masturbation, all show Townshend's growing use of stories of sexual tension and teenage angst. More hits followed, including "I Can See for Miles" and the 1968 single "Magic Bus".
Although they had success as a singles band, Townshend had more ambitious goals. He wanted to treat The Who's albums as unified works, rather than collections of unconnected songs. Although Townshend later said that the song "I'm A Boy" was from a projected opus, the first sign of this ambition came in their 1966 album A Quick One, which included the storytelling medley "A Quick One While He's Away", which they later referred to as a "mini opera", and which has been called the first prog epic. A Quick One was followed by The Who Sell Out in 1967, a concept album which played like an offshore radio station, complete with humorous jingles and commercials, and which also included a mini rock opera, called "Rael" (whose closing theme ended up on "Tommy"), as well as The Who's biggest USA single, "I Can See for Miles". The Who famously destroyed their equipment onstage at the Monterey Pop Festival that year and subsequently repeated the routine on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour with literally explosive results as Keith Moon detonated his drum kit. In 1968 The Who were the headliner of the first Schaefer Music Festival in New York City's Central Park. Also that year, Pete Townshend became the subject of the first Rolling Stone interview. Townshend revealed in that interview that he was working on a full-length rock opera. This was Tommy, the first work billed as a rock opera and a major landmark in modern music.
Around this time the spiritual teachings of India's Meher Baba began to influence Townshend's songwriting, an influence that continued for many years. Baba is credited as "Avatar" on Tommy. In addition to its commercial success, Tommy also became a critical smash, with Life Magazine saying, "...for sheer power, invention and brilliance of performance, Tommy outstrips anything which has ever come out of a recording studio," and Melody Maker declaring, "Surely The Who are now the band against which all others are to be judged." The Who performed much of Tommy at the Woodstock Music and Art Festival later that year. That performance, and the ensuing film, catapulted The Who to superstar status in the USA. In February 1970 The Who recorded Live at Leeds, which is thought by many to be the best live rock album of all time. The album, originally relatively short and containing mostly the show's hard rock songs, has been re-released in several expanded and remastered versions over the years, remedying technical problems with the original recording and adding portions of the performance of Tommy, as well as versions of numerous earlier singles and interstitial stage banter. The Leeds University gig was part of the Tommy tour, which not only included gigs in European opera houses, but also saw The Who become the first rock act to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.
Also in 1970, The Who began work on a studio album that was never released. At the Isle of Wight Festival in August, Daltrey introduced "I Don't Even Know Myself" as "off the new album, which we're sort of half-way through". But within a few weeks of that concert Townshend wrote "Pure and Easy", a song which he later described as the "central pivot" of what became an ambitious concept album/performance art project called Lifehouse, distracting him and the band from work on the album in progress. Lifehouse was never completed in its intended form. Some Lifehouse songs were released as non-album-track singles, b-sides and on various albums over the years, such as 1974's outtakes compilation Odds & Sods and Townshend's 1972 solo album Who Came First. Townshend would later reconstruct it as a radio play for the BBC in 2000, and most of the material was released on a 6-CD album from Pete Townshend's website shortly after. Meanwhile, in March of 1971, the band began recording the available Lifehouse material with Kit Lambert in New York, and then restarted the sessions with Glyn Johns in April. Selections from the material, along with one unrelated song by Entwistle, were released as a traditional studio album, Who's Next, which became their most successful album among both critics and fans, but which effectively terminated the Lifehouse project. Who's Next reached #4 in the USA pop charts and #1 in the UK. Two tracks from the album, "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again", are often cited as pioneering examples of synthesiser use in rock music; ironically, both tracks' distinctive keyboard sounds were actually generated in real time by a Lowrey organ (though in the case of "Won't Get Fooled Again", the organ's output was processed through the filters of a VCS3 synthesiser). However, synthesisers can be found elsewhere on the album, playing a prominent role in "Bargain", "Going Mobile", and "The Song is Over".
Who's Next was followed by Quadrophenia (1973), a work in the rock opera vein, but which can also be seen as something of an autobiographical or social history piece about early 1960s adolescent life and conflict in London. The story is about a youth named Jimmy, his struggle for self-esteem, his conflicts with his family and others, and his mental illness. His personal story is set against a backdrop of the clashes between Mods and Rockers in the early 1960s in the UK, particularly the riots between the two factions at Brighton. The supporting US tour featured a legendary November 20, 1973 San Francisco, California concert where drummer Keith Moon passed out twice during the show and was replaced by a member of the audience, Scot Halpin. The band's later albums contained songs of more personal content for Townshend, and he eventually transferred this personal style to his solo albums, as seen on the album Empty Glass. 1975's The Who by Numbers had several introspective songs in this vein, lightened by the crowd-pleasing "Squeeze Box", another hit single. Nevertheless, some rock critics considered By Numbers to have been Townshend's "suicide note." A movie version of Tommy was released that year. It was directed by Ken Russell, starred Roger Daltrey in the title role and earned Pete Townshend an academy award nomination for Best Original Score. In 1976 The Who played a concert at Charlton Athletic Football Ground which was listed for over a decade in the Guinness Book of World Records as the loudest concert ever.
In 1978, the band released Who Are You, a move away from epic rock opera and towards a more radio-friendly sound, though it did contain one song from a never-completed rock opera by John Entwistle. The release of the album was overshadowed by the death of Keith Moon in his sleep after an overdose of Heminevrin - a medication prescribed to him to combat alcohol withdrawal symptoms - only a few hours after a party held by Paul McCartney. Two ironies about the last album include the cover, which shows Moon sitting in a chair with the words "not to be taken away", and the song "Music Must Change", which has no drum track. Kenney Jones, of The Small Faces and The Faces, joined the band as Moon's successor. In 1979, The Who returned to the stage with well-received concerts at the Rainbow Theatre in London, at the Cannes Film Festival in France and at Madison Square Garden in New York City. By late autumn, the band had agreed to undertake a small tour of the United States. Sadly, this tour was marred by tragedy: on December 3, 1979 in Cincinnati, Ohio, a crush at Riverfront Coliseum before The Who's concert resulted in the deaths of eleven fans. The band was not told of the deaths until after the show because civic authorities feared more crowd control problems would arise if the concert was cancelled. The band members were reportedly devastated by this event. Also in 1979, The Who released a documentary film called The Kids Are Alright and a film version of Quadrophenia, the latter becoming a huge box office hit in the UK and the former capturing many of the band's most scintillating moments on stage over the years. In December, The Who became only the third band, after the Beatles and The Band, to be featured on the cover of Time Magazine. The accompanying article, written by Jay Cocks, was overwhelmingly positive with respect to The Who, their members, and their place in rock music, saying that The Who had "outpaced, outlasted, outlived and outclassed" all of their rock band contemporaries.
The band released two more studio albums with Jones as their drummer, Face Dances (1981) and It's Hard (1982). While both albums sold fairly well, and even with It's Hard receiving a five-star review in Rolling Stone, many fans were not receptive to the band's new sound. Shortly after the release of It's Hard, The Who embarked on their first of several 'farewell tours' after Pete Townshend declared his alcoholism, cleaned himself up, got sober, and stated that he wanted to do one more substantial tour with The Who before turning it into a studio-only band. It was the highest grossing tour of the year, with sellout crowds in numerous stadiums and arenas throughout North America. After their final show in December, 1982, Townshend spent part of 1983 trying to write material for the next studio Who album which was still owed to Warner Bros. Records from the contract they signed in 1980. By the end of 1983, however, Townshend had declared himself unable to generate material which he felt was appropriate for The Who and he issued a public statement in December, 1983, wherein he announced his decision to leave The Who. With Townshend formally ending The Who as an entity producing new music, Townshend focused on solo projects such as White City: A Novel, The Iron Man (which did feature appearances from Daltrey and Entwistle and two songs on the album credited to "The Who"), and Psychoderelict, a forerunner to the eventual release of the radio work Lifehouse.
On 13 July 1985, the members of The Who, including Kenney Jones, reformed for a one-off performance at Bob Geldof's Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium. The band performed "My Generation", "Pinball Wizard", "Love Reign O'er Me", and an obviously unrehearsed "Won't Get Fooled Again" (it was later revealed that the band had also intended to play a new Townshend composition, "After The Fire", but was unable to learn it well enough to be played, it became a solo hit for Daltrey later that year). Although the BBC's equipment blew a fuse at the beginning of "My Generation", the band kept playing, so most of "My Generation" was missed by the rest of the world. In 1988 the band was honoured with the British Phonographic Industry's Lifetime Achievement Award. The Who played a short set at the award ceremony (which is the last time Kenney Jones has worked with The Who to date). In 1989 they embarked on a 25th anniversary "The Kids Are Alright" reunion tour which emphasised Tommy. Long time Townshend collaborator Simon Phillips played drums during the tour. Demand for tickets was phenomenal, inspiring Newsweek to say, "The Who tour is special because, after the Beatles and the Stones, they're IT." There were massive sellouts in stadiums throughout North America, including a four-night stand at Giants Stadium. In all, over two million tickets were sold.
In 1990, their first year of eligibility, The Who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by U2, with Bono saying, "More than any other band, The Who are our role models." The Who's display at the Rock Hall describes them as prime contenders for the title of "World's Greatest Rock Band". Only The Beatles and The Rolling Stones receive a similar accolade at the Rock Hall. In 1991 The Who recorded a cover version of Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting" for a tribute album. This was the last time that they released any studio work with John Entwistle. Pete Townshend toured in 1993 to promote his Psychoderelict album. On one night of the tour John Entwistle guested for several songs at the end of the show. In 1994 there were rumours of an upcoming 30th anniversary tour. These never happened but Roger Daltrey turned 50 and celebrated with two concerts at Carnegie Hall. These performances included guest spots by both John Entwistle and Pete Townshend. Although all the surviving original members of The Who were in attendance, they did not appear on stage together except for the finale, "Join Together", along with all the other guest stars at the end of each show. Roger Daltrey toured later that year with an orchestra and special guest John Entwistle. The band consisted of John "Rabbit" Bundrick on keyboards, Zak Starkey on drums and Simon Townshend filling in for his absent brother. Pete Townshend had given Daltrey his consent to call this band The Who, but Daltrey declined. Overall, the Daltrey Sings Townshend tour was not a major commercial success.
In 1996 Pete Townshend was asked to join the lineup for a major rock concert at Hyde Park. He intended to perform Quadrophenia as a solo acoustic piece using parts of the film on the screens. After contacting Entwistle and Daltrey it was agreed that a one-off performance of Quadrophenia would happen. The band was augmented by Zak Starkey on drums (although he was initially reluctant), Rabbit on keyboards and Simon Townshend and Geoff Whitehorn on guitars. Also, Jon Carin was added as an additional keyboard player, a horn section was added alongside backing vocalists and several special guests would join to play characters from the album. These included David Gilmour, Ade Edmonson, newsreader Trevor McDonald and Gary Glitter. The whole performance was narrated by Phil Daniels who played Jimmy the Mod in the film. Despite a few technical difficulties the show was a huge success and many considered this to be the best act of the day above headliner Eric Clapton. The success of this show led to a sold out six night residency in New York at Madison Square Garden. These shows were not billed as The Who. The success of the Quadrophenia shows led to a major US and European tour. The show was reworked for the tour and included several Who standards as the encore. The show was originally billed under the band members names but was eventually billed as The Who to aid ticket sales. After the success of Quadrophenia The Who disbanded once again. Pete Townshend went on to perform many acoustic shows, John Entwistle mounted several shows with his own band The John Entwistle Band and Roger Daltrey toured with the British Rock Symphony performing The Who and other classic rock songs with an orchestra. In late 1999 The Who reformed as a five-piece band with Rabbit on keyboards and Zak Starkey on drums and performed several charity shows in small venues. Many of the songs at the shows were taken from Who's Next and included songs not performed for 30 years or more.
The Who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and won the first annual Freddie Mercury Lifetime Achievement in Live Music Award in 2006. They received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the British Phonographic Industry in 1988, and from the Grammy Foundation in 2001, for creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording. Tommy was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998, "My Generation" in 1999 and Who's Next in 2007.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Official Homepage: www.thewho.com
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