411 Music Hall of Fame Class of 2009: The Who
THE WHO’S MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
• 2006 Freddie Mercury Lifetime Acheivement Award
• 1988 Lifetime Acheivement Award of the British Phonographic Industry
• Only Rock Group to Receive Kennedy Center Honors (Townshend/Daltrey)
• 2001 Lifetime Acheivement Grammy
• Invented the Rock Opera
• Invented Destroying Instruments
This induction is for The Who.
No, they were an excellent band in their own right, but this one’s for the Who.
Yes, the Who.
The Who are arguably one of the most creative, influential, and original rock bands not just for their era, but ever. Few bands today can match the creative energy generated by this amazing band, nor keep up with their spirited, just plain apeshit nuts live shows. Taken apart, each member could surely be a worthy contender for the 411 Music Hall of Fame You have Keith Moon, perhaps rock music’s greatest drummer – a drummer so fierce he needed two drum kits to bang away on. His partner in the rhythm section, John Entwistle, deserves his spot just for writing “Boris the Spider”, but he also happened to lay down some seriously thundering bass lines. Then of course you have Pete Townshend, the true creative force behind the band, and one of rock’s greatest guitarists. And finally, the unmistakable voice of The Who, the man who gave rise to the howl of his generation, Roger Daltrey.
Looking back at their humble beginnings though, brings us to 1964 when Townshend and Entwistle started out in a jazz ensemble known as the Confederates, with Townshend on banjo (look for that to pop up again on “Squeeze Box”) and Entwistle on French horn. Obviously this didn’t last as one day Entwistle met Roger Daltrey on the street, and they formed the Detours. The Who were almost complete, except that the Detours featured Doug Dandom on drums. Loosely speaking, he became the Pete Best of The Who.
Keith Moon took over on drums in 1964 and The Who was born. The name came supposedly because the band was hard of hearing, even then, and responded with a WHO?!? during a band name suggestion session.
After a brief error in judgment recording as a band called the High Numbers, the band came strong with their first hit, “I Can’t Explain”. Their first album, My Generation, was immediately popular, especially with the mod crowd – British hipsters in the 60’s. My Generation gave birth to such classics as “The Kids are Alright” and “My Generation”. It would also see the emergence of Townshend’s play on the theme of teen angst and alienation.
Then, at the Railway Tavern, rock history was made: Pete Townsend smashed the shit out of his guitar. It all started accidentally, when he swung his guitar around a bit carelessly and caught the ceiling. The crowd’s laughter only enflamed him more, and he saw fit to really decimate it. This is one of rock’s defining moments, and it quickly became a trademark of Who live shows. Keith Moon in particular enjoyed smashing up his drum set.
More rock precedents would follow with the release of the album A Quick One, and the suite “A Quick One While he’s Away” – the first rock opera/prog epic. 1967 saw the release of the concept album The Who Sell Out, where The Who had their own radio station, complete with humorous jingles for tea and Heinz.
1969 marked the release of one of The Who’s greatest albums, and the true solidification of the band’s arlier vision of an epic rock opera. It was Tommy, the story of a deaf, dumb, and blind pinball wizard with such a supple wrist. It was performed in its entirety at Woodstock with the characteristic greatness of a Who live show. Their various concerts led to the release of Live at Leeds, considered by many to be the finest live album ever released.
The onset of the 70’s would be spent on Lifehouse, a project that faltered and eventually wound up as various B-sides and solo albums, but 1971 saw the release of Who’s Next, an album brimming with rock classics . Particularly notable off this album were “Baba O’Reilly” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, which, aside from being fine rock songs, made innovative use of the synthesizer. They followed this up in ’73 with Quadrophenia, another concept album, this time about a boy growing up in Britain during the 60’s.
It should be noted that during this time period, Townshend became increasing depressed and perhaps resentful that he wasn’t the lead voice for The Who. Townshend was the creative force for a majority of the songs, but with Roger Daltrey in the band, his voice had to take a backseat. His despair was evident in their 1975 release Who By Numbers, which could be seen as a “musical suicide note.”
This wouldn’t last in the music though, as in 1978, the more radio friendly Who Are You? was released. Tragically, it was during this year that Keith Moon passed away from an overdose. Even though this was a devastating loss, the band soldiered on. Unfortunately, they were drifting away from their signature sound little by little. 1979 would see the release of two films: Quadrophenia, based on the album of the same name, and the tour documentary The Kids Are Alright. They would release two more albums with Kenny Jones on drums, Face Dances and It’s Hard before Townshend disbanded the group. They went out on a bright note – their farewell tour was a smashing success.
During the 80’s and the 90’s, they would reunite a few times, but nothing regular was set in stone. Sadly, Entwistle passed away from a heart attack in 2002. In 2006 Townshend and Daltrey released Endless Wire to mixed review. The two still tour as The Who at present.
Why The Who Was Selected:
Because they rock – plain and simple. The Who were quite simply four of the wildest, most intense rock musicians ever assembled, and their influence is still seen today in many, many aspects of popular music. Whether it be the rebellious and youth oriented angst of punk rock, or an elaborate concept album, The Who probably did it first and better. See that guy on stage smashing his guitar? The Who did it first. They made masterful rock music in the studio and then tore shit up on stage. They are true rock titans.