Daltrey (b. 3 January 1944), Townshend (b. 19 May 1945), and Entwistle (b. 10 September 1944) were original members of band. when they were known as The Detours; Moon (b. 23 August 1946) was acquired along the way.
Band’s recording debut took place when they met publicist Peter Meaden, who transformed their image, gave them name the High Numbers, put them in mod clothes, and rewrote Slim Harpo’s Got Live If You Want It as I’m The Face, which was their first single. Was clever stab at breaking into London mod market, which was heavily into R & B sounds.
Although Meaden’s plan was well timed and executed, however, record wasn’t a hit, and he disappeared from scene. However, band’s following grew in pubs where they played in Shepherd’s Bush; Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp took note of their popularity and took over their management.
They decided mod image was just right, and merely altered name of band to The Who, and encouraged open aggression in their act to match physical aggressiveness of the mods in their contemporary battles with rockers. The Who thus burst on to the scene in 1965 as the musical representatives of the ‘mod’ subculture, claiming affiliations with the contemporary ‘pop art’ movement and incorporating ‘auto-destructive’ elements in their stage-act.
The violent energy of their music easily overcame the transient opportunism of these tags and for two years the group had an unbroken chain of hit singles (I Can’t Explain, Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere, My Generation, Substitute, I’m A Boy, Happy Jack and Pictures Of Lily).
(1) was a rushed job reputedly the result of two projected albums, one straight R & B and one of ‘auto-destruction’, but remains their most exciting and spontaneous work. (2) initiated both the band’s penchant for bizarrely ironic lyrics and Townshend’s aspirations towards major form; title-track, a ‘mini- opera’, runs for 10 minutes. Rael from (3) continued this experiment, parts of it later being incorporated into (4).
The rest of (3) was an only partially successful spoof of commercial radio and advertising. With (4) Townshend finally realized his master plan, creating a ninety-minute ‘rock-opera’ that has become one of the landmarks of the genre. Although concept albums had been attempted before (and Townshend admits to having been influenced by Pretty Things S. F. Sorrow), few had been as ambitious as this, few carried off so successfully.
Though hindsight and over-exposure has made everyone more aware of its faults, Tommy remains musically superb. One criticism of it is that it did encourage band to forsake their classic three-minute singles, but that would probably have happened anyway, as it did with the Kinks; anyway, Townshend made desultory attempt to return to singles market in 1971 with Let’s See Action, and then Join Together.
(4) was not immediate success, either critically or commercially, but over matter of months it generated interest, and was to sell consistently well for next two or three years; group meanwhile found themselves seemingly burdened with it for ever. Some of it was included on (5), album that was accurate representation of their current stage act, and its release served to conceal fact that Townshend was having difficulty coming up with fresh material that could compare in impact with (4).
In 1971 band released (6), first album of new, individual songs for four years. It was bits that Townshend had salvaged from abortive Lifehouse project; nevertheless, album hardly wasted a moment, and showed band still at their impeccable best.
As seventies unfolded, however, members began to indulge more frequently in solo activities; Townshend issued solo (13), recorded in his home studio, but those who had suggested it presaged break-up of band were wrong, as Townshend again put his energies into complex work. (7) returned to inarticulate, directionless mod, with each band member representing one of four sides of his personality; it spawned first-class single, 5.15, but hardly touched public imagination in the way Tommy had done.
After lengthy tour to promote (7), Entwistle spent time sorting through band’s material that had been deposited in the out-tray during the previous decade, and emerged with (8), album of considerable interest. Penchant of the band for tidying up loose ends had been noted earlier when Townshend had personally supervised compilation of greatest hits album, (11), for which band re-recorded some material.
In 1975 band went on road again, and released (9), that articulated Townshend’s disillusionment with trappings of success. Ten years on from their days of heady popularity, The Who were still one of institutions of contempory culture, and did survive, despite frequent personality clashes, because they managed to retain a direction and sense of purpose.
(I) My Generation (Brunswick 1965)
(2) A Quick One (Reaction 1966)
(3) The Who Sell Out (Track 1967)
(4) Magic Bus – The Who On Tour (MCA 1969)
(5) Tommy (Track 1969)
(6) Live At Leeds (Track 1970)
(7) Who’s Next (Track 1971)
(8) Quadrophenia (Track 1973)
(9) Odds & Sods (Track 1974)
(10) The Who By Numbers (Polydor 1975).
(11) Direct Hits (Track 1969)
(12) Meaty, Beaty, Big And Bouncy (Track 1971)
(13) The Story Of The Who (Polydor 1976).
Pete Townshend solo:
(14) Who Came First (Track 1972).
(15) Rough Mix (Atlanta 1977)
Keith Moon solo:
(16) Two Sides Of The Moon (MCA 1974)
Roger Daltry Solo:
(17) One of the Boys (Polydor 1977)