The Who was one of the most popular rock bands to come out of England in 1964. The band’s most well-known lineup included John Entwistle on bass, Keith Moon on Drums, Pete Townshend on guitar, and Roger Daltrey performing lead vocals. At the beginning of their career, they released a number of hit singles that suited the pop music of the time, such as “My Generation” on their 1965 debut album of the same name. The following year saw the release of the single “Happy Jack.”
In 1967, the Who began to experiment. Their album The Who Sell Out was a concept album meant to sound as if it were a broadcast by Radio London, a popular pirate radio station at the time. The album contained fake PSAs and commercials, a riff on the fact that the Who had actually begun to go commercial at the time.
The band’s next studio album was not just a concept album, but an actual rock opera entitled Tommy. Released in 1969, Tommy would help to set the scene for the band’s growing success throughout the 1970s. Songs such as “Amazing Journey,” “The Acid Queen” and “Pinball Wizard” achieved a level of popularity outside of the context of the rock opera, especially after the release of the 1975 film adaptation in which the latter two songs were performed by Tina Turner and Elton John. The film also contained appearances by big names such as Ann-Margaret, Eric Clapton and Jack Nicholson.
The Who released “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” on their album Who’s Next before releasing another rock opera, Quadrophenia. The band’s next four studio albums, released from 1975 to 1982, did not contain the same type of chart-topping hits as their earlier records, but the albums themselves sold well enough to make the charts. For the most part, their later albums managed to maintain the band’s energetic yet precise instrumentation and occasionally experimental lyrical themes that had made them successful to begin with.
Pete Townshend had originally set out to influence lives and emotions with the songs that he wrote, and he was not about to quit any time soon. The band’s most recent album, Endless Wire, was released in 2006. A number of its songs were used in a musical the following year, entitled The Boy Who Heard Music. The musical contains another fairly classic song by the Who, “Real Good Looking Boy.”
When the band first rose to fame, they weren’t just known for the quality of their lyrics but also for the sheer volume of their music. They were responsible for Jim Marshall’s invention of the 100-watt amp, which they not only purchased but stacked in order to gain more sound. They became known as one of the better live bands in existence due to the power of their performance.
Every single member of the band became a legend in their own right, known for performing in a style not exceedingly common amongst other rock bands. Even songs that didn’t make it to the top of the charts such as “Lubie (Come Back Home),” which was a take on a sequel to Richard Berry’s “Louie Louie,” and the ten-minute “A Quick One While He’s Away” were fairly unique and memorable to most who had the fortune of hearing them.
The Who’s approach to music has established them as one of the most long-lasting legacies in the history of rock and roll. They were not afraid to experiment, nor were they afraid to churn out pop hits when they felt the desire to do so. Daltry, Townshend, Moon and Entwistle are all monumental names in the history of music, and likely will be for some time to come.
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