"The Greatest Rock n Roll Band In The World" so they claimed! A lot to live up to, but not many would argue that The Who well and truely lived up to their boast! For over 40 years they have made classic albums songs, but it is as a live band that they really shine. They have lived the rock star dream.
For twenty years beginning in the mid 60s they were at the cutting edge defining what rock music was and is, pushing the boundaries with new sounds and new concepts. Their roots lie in R & B but In the last 20 years or so they may not have sold as many cd's but they can still show younger bands what it takes on stage!
They had it all. Kieth Moon simply the best rock drummer there has ever been. It has been said that he was to drums what Jimi Hendrix was to guitar. Pete Townsend a great but perhaps underated guitarist and a truely great songwriter. John Entwistle simply a fantastic and powerful bass player. And Roger Daltry bringing raw emotion and power on vocals and a huge presence on stage.
Pete was born in Chiswick, London on 1945. He is the principle songwriter of the band and can be considered as the driving force and innovator of the band.
He features at number 50 in Rolling Stone Magazine list of 100 greatest guitarists ever. His guitar influences include John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley and Hank Marvin of The Shadows.
The Who were always a loud band on stage at this has probably been a contributing factor to the partial deafness and tinutis that he suffers. An incident that probably contributed to his loss of hearing was a practical joke that worked rather too well. This happened during The Who's 1967 appearance on the The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour TV show. The finale of their perfomance was Keith Moons exploding drum set. However legend has it that Kieth had bribed the technician to incule extra explosive. Check out the video below!
Perhaps his greatest achievements as a songwriter was the rock opera Tommy about a deaf, dumb and blind boy, "he played the silver ball". THis was made into a successful film by British director Ken Russell and starred Roger Daltry in the lead role. Also featured in the film were Tina Turner, and Elton John.
Pete has made many appearances in support of charities and agencies such as Amnesty International. And is an active campaigner on behalf of a wide range of charities.
Pete has also produced a large number of solo projects and has featured ina large number of other artists work.
Born in London in 1944. He perhaps does not posess the best voice in rock music but his strong stage presence and charisma has made him one of rocks leading front men over a long period.
A talented actor and as well as starring as Tommy he has taken on roles in many movies including starring as John McVicar in the 1980 film McVicar.
He has also produced several movies including Quadrophenia which starred Sting of The Police.
Roger has been involved in many solo projects and colaborations with other musicians. He wrote several Who songs including Anyway Anyhow Anywhere which was released in 1965.
A quiet character but one of the real innovators in terms of his approach to bass.
Bill Wyman, of the Rolling Stones, once described him as "the quietest man in private but the loudest man on stage." He was innovative in developing stereo amping techniques where his bass signal was split so that high and low ends of the bass signal were sent through separate amps. He also developed a number of playing techniques in which the bass line often took the melodic lead.
Sadly John died in 2002, due to heart failue associated with cocaine use.
Check out the video below. It says it all about Kieth. Incredibly tallented drummer but also one of rock history's real characters.
He became infamous for his wild antics and penchant for destroying hotel rooms and blowing up toilets with explosives!! THis led to him being banned from many hotel chains.
Sadly Kieth died of an overdose of prescription drugs in 1978.
Kenney Jones formally of the Small Faces joined the band as drummer following Kieths death.
Since the departure of Kenney Jones and the death of John Entwistle, The Who have really consisted of just Pete and Roger. The following can be regarded as not being full time members of The Who, but each has been part of the live band for a significant period of time.
John "Rabbit" Bundrick – keyboards (1979–1981, 1985–present)
Zak Starkey – drums (1996–present)
Simon Townshend – guitars, backing vocals (1996–1997, 2002–present)
Pino Palladino– bass guitar (2002–present)
The classic Who lineup came together in 1964 via a band called The Detours. Prior to this Townsend and Entwistle had played in a trad jazz band called the Confederates in which Pete played bajo and John played french horn! Daltry had been with The Detours for a year or so.
The band gigged extensively, particulary around the London R & B club scene and went through a brief name change to The High Numbers befor reverting to being THe Who.
The Who became famous for smashing their instruments on stage. Apparently this first happened by accident when playing a gig at the Railway Tavern when Townsend broke the headstock of his guitar against the low ceiling. He trew his guitar to the floor in disgust. Their audience came to expect this as part of their act.
In May 1976 THe Who played a concert at Charlton Athletic Football Club that was listed as the "Loudest Concert Ever" by the Guinness Book of Records.The volume level was measured at 126 decibels 32 metres from the stage.
Some of their greatest material was released during the 70's including Quadropenia and Whos Next
Sadly Kieth died of an overdose of prescription drugs in 1978.
Two albums were recorded and released in the early 80's but in 1983 the band broke up.
On 13 July 1985, they reformed for a one-off appearance at the Live Aid concert at Wembley.
In 1996 Townshend, Entwistle and Daltrey with Zak Starkey (son of Ringo Star of The Beatles) on drums, perfrmed Quadrophenia at a concert in Hyde Park. The success of this led to a tour covering Europe and America.
In 1999 they again toured gaining great reviews for their shows.
Year 2000 Onwards
The Who have toured much more extensively and regularly since 2000 and in 2006 released their firs album of new material as The Who since 1982.
The Who were very involved and influential in the development of new equipment. In part this was driven by their desire for a better and louder stage sound, but also their tendancy to destroy their equipment onstage meant that their kit was constantly changing. In researching the gear they used it is clear that Townsend and Entwistle were both really into guitar gear.
Kieth had a long association with Premier Drums though he did use Ludwig drum kits for a short time in the mid 60's.
He went through many kits and as time went by they gradually became larger. His final kit which was used in 1978 and consisted of about 16 drums! Apparently his drums had to be bolted down to prevent them moving around and also were miced up with his own PA.
In 2004 as part of one of his kits was sold at auction. It was expected to raise between £10,000 and £15,000. It actually sold for £120,000 to an American collector, setting a world record for a set of drums!
Pete used a huge range and variety of guitars over the years. At some point or another he has probably used (and abused) just about every Fender or Gibson model available.
His fist guitar was given to him at christmas 1956 and cost £3. It wasnt very good! He has always used both acoustic and electric guitars in recording.
Up untill about 1968 he tended to use Harmony acoustic guitars. He used several different models including 6 and 12 string. Since 1968 he appears to have favoured Gibson 6 string acousticssuch as the J-200 but for 12 string he has used mainly Guild guitars. In recent years he has used Takamine, Martin, Collings and Fylde. His acoustic guitars are often fitted with the Fishman Ellipse Matrix Blend pickup/preamp system which is fitted in the soundhole.
Townsend's favoured stage electric in recent years has been the Fender Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster stringed with Ernie Ball nickel strings with the following guages: .011, .015, .018, .032, .042, .052. He has several of these available to him on stage with various tunings and modifications. IN the latter part of the 70's hed tended to use Gibsons, mainly Les Pauls but the Flying V was often used on stage too, one of which was a gift from Joe Walsh of The Eagles. In the 60's his main guitar of choice was a Rickenbacker often with the tremullo removed.
Early amplification consisted ov a VOX AC15 but he quickly moved on to a Fender Bassman head which fed early Marshall 4x12 cabinet, on a stand to raise it to ear level. He said this was
“so I’d literally get the whole force of the thing blowing my head off. It was also blasting right into the guitar pick ups, and I got feedback immediately, which at first I dealt with as a problem, but I quickly began to realise that it could be controlled musically.”
In 1965 the need for greater volume forced a switch to Vox AC100s; the very first 100w amps on the market. The VOX amps proved unreliable and so Townsend and the Who began working with Marshal, Then Sound City and Hiwatt.
Over such a long career there have been many reissues, live albums and compilations. The following list shows their main studio albums.
My Generation (1965)
A Quick One (1966)
The Who Sell Out (1967)
Live at Leeds (1970)
Who's Next (1971)
Odds & Sods (1974)
The Who by Numbers (1975)
Who Are You (1978)
Face Dances (1981)
It's Hard (1982)
Endless Wire (2006)
If you are looking to get a taste for what The Who are about I would recommend that you check out the following:
Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy (1970) A compilation of Early hits.
Live at Leeds (1970) The title says it all. Regarded by many as the best live rock album ever.
Who's Next (1971)Simply magnificent. Check out Barbra o'Reily, great guitar, great vocals and good use of early synth.
Odds & Sods (1974)My favourite, quirky at times but some real gems like Pure & Easy.