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The Who

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the who by dubside on Grooveshark

The Who are an English rock band formed in 1964 by Roger Daltrey (lead vocals, harmonica and guitar), Pete Townshend (guitar, keyboards and vocals), John Entwistle (bass guitar, brass and vocals) and Keith Moon (drums and percussion). They became known for energetic live performances which often included instrument destruction.The Who have sold about 100 million records,[4] and have charted 27 top forty singles in the United Kingdom and United States, as well as 17 top ten albums, with 18 Gold, 12 Platinum and 5 Multi-Platinum album awards in the United States alone.

The Who rose to fame in the UK with a series of top ten hit singles, boosted in part by pirate radio stations such as Radio Caroline, beginning in January 1965 with "I Can't Explain". The albums My Generation (1965), A Quick One (1966) and The Who Sell Out (1967) followed, with the first two reaching the UK top five. They first hit the US Top 40 in 1967 with "Happy Jack" and hit the top ten later that year with "I Can See for Miles". Their fame grew with memorable performances at the Monterey Pop, Woodstock and Isle of Wight music festivals. The 1969 release of Tommy was the first in a series of top ten albums in the US, followed by Live at Leeds (1970), Who's Next (1971), Quadrophenia (1973), The Who by Numbers (1975), Who Are You (1978) and The Kids Are Alright (1979).

Moon died at the age of 32 in 1978, after which the band released two studio albums, the UK and US top five Face Dances (1981) and the US top ten It's Hard (1982), with drummer Kenney Jones, before disbanding in 1983. They re-formed at events such as Live Aid and for reunion tours such as their 25th anniversary tour (1989) and the Quadrophenia tours of 1996 and 1997. In 2000, the three surviving original members discussed recording an album of new material, but their plans temporarily stalled upon Entwistle's death at the age of 57 in 2002. Townshend and Daltrey continue to perform as The Who, and in 2006 they released the studio album Endless Wire, which reached the top ten in the UK and US.

The Who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, their first year of eligibility; the display describes them as "Prime contenders, in the minds of many, for the title of World's Greatest Rock Band." Time magazine wrote in 1979 that "No other group has ever pushed rock so far, or asked so much from it." Rolling Stone magazine wrote: "Along with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, The Who complete the holy trinity of British rock."[11] 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. In 2008 surviving members Townshend and Daltrey were honoured at the 31st Annual Kennedy Center Honors. That same year VH1 Rock Honors paid tribute to The Who where Jack Black of Tenacious D called them "the greatest band of all time."

1960s

In 1962, influenced by American R&B and skiffle music, Townshend and Entwistle started a Dixieland jazz band called The Confederates. Townshend played banjo and Entwistle played the French horn, which he had learned to play in his school band. Roger Daltrey met Entwistle walking down the street with a bass guitar slung over his shoulder and asked him to join his band called The Detours, which he had formed the year before. After a few weeks, Entwistle suggested Townshend as an additional guitarist. In those early days The Detours played a variety of music, while becoming influenced by American blues and country music, playing mostly rhythm and blues. The line-up consisted of Daltrey as lead guitarist, Townshend on rhythm guitar, Entwistle as the band's bass guitarist, Doug Sandom on drums, and Colin Dawson as vocalist. With the departure of Dawson, Daltrey moved to performing as lead vocalist, and Townshend, with Entwistle's encouragement, became sole guitarist. The band sought a recording contract, but were told they needed a better drummer, and it was suggested that they write their own material, with The Beatles and the Rolling Stones as examples. In 1964, Sandom left the group. To fill contractual obligations, the bandmates hired a session drummer for the remainder of their scheduled gigs, while seeking a new permanent drummer. One of those evenings, Keith Moon approached the band about their open position for a drummer and said "I'm in a band but I would much rather be in yours" and was given the opportunity to perform after their interval. After accidentally smashing up the drum kit when he sat in, he was invited to join the band.

The Detours changed their name to The Who in February 1964, taking the suggestion of Townshend's roommate Richard Barnes, and, with the arrival of Moon that year, the line-up was complete. However, for a short period in summer 1964, under the management of mod Peter Meaden, they changed their name to The High Numbers, releasing "Zoot Suit/I'm the Face", a single aimed at appealing to mod fans. The single failed to chart, and the band reverted to The Who. Meaden was replaced as manager by the team of Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, who had seen the band playing at the Railway Tavern. Lambert and Stamp paid off Meaden and offered to manage the band. They became popular among the British mods, a 1960s subculture involving cutting-edge fashions, scooters and music genres such as rhythm and blues, soul, and beat music. To highlight their innovative music style, the band created the slogan "Maximum R&B".

The band had a strong local following, but needed an edge to separate them from many other ambitious small bands in the London music scene. In September 1964, during a performance at the Railway Tavern in Harrow and Wealdstone, London, Townshend accidentally broke the head of his guitar through the ceiling. Angered by sniggers from the audience, he smashed the instrument on the stage. He picked up another guitar and continued the show. A large crowd attended the next concert, but Townshend declined to smash another guitar. Instead, Moon wrecked his drumkit. However, with that first act, the band found a "gimmick" to make a name for themselves. Instrument destruction became a staple of The Who's shows for 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 crystallised around Townshend as primary songwriter and creative force. Entwistle also made songwriting contributions, and Moon and Daltrey contributed occasional songs in the 1960s and 1970s.

Early singles and My Generation

The Who's first release, and first hit, was January 1965's "I Can't Explain", a record influenced by The Kinks, with whom they shared American producer Shel Talmy. The song was only played in a few markets in the US, notably by DJ Peter C Cavanaugh on WTAC AM 600 in Flint, Michigan. "I Can't Explain" was a top 10 hit in the UK and was followed by "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere", a song credited to Townshend and Daltrey.

The early UK singles were released on Brunswick Records, then an arm of American Decca, whose UK operation had earlier rejected the band. Lambert and Stamp, who were dissatisfied with the contract Shel Talmy had made with Decca for The Who, took advice to "break the contract", which resulted in acrimony between the band and their producer which rumbled on for decades. Meanwhile The Who were signed to Robert Stigwood's Reaction Label for the release of their next single, "Substitute". In 1967 Lambert and Stamp formed their own record label Track Records, and claimed the coup of signing Jimi Hendrix for its first release. Distributed by Polydor, Track became home for The Who's output until the mid-1970s.

The debut album My Generation (The Who Sings My Generation in the US) was released in late 1965. It included "The Kids Are Alright" and the title track "My Generation", which was one of the first songs with a bass guitar solo. Subsequent hits included the 1966 singles "Substitute", about a young man who feels like a fraud, "I'm a Boy", about a boy dressed as a girl, "Happy Jack", about a mentally disturbed young man, and 1967's "Pictures of Lily" about a young man fixated on a pin-up poster of a woman given to him by his father. The early singles, all written by Townshend, addressed the themes of sexual tension and teenage angst.

A Quick One and The Who Sell Out

Although successful as a singles band, Townshend wanted The Who's albums unified rather than collections of songs. Townshend removed "I'm a Boy" from an initially projected rock opera, the first sign of which came in the 1966 album A Quick One (titled Happy Jack in the US), which included the storytelling medley "A Quick One While He's Away", which they referred to as a mini-opera. The song's most famous live performance was onstage at The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, where others' "poor" renditions were rewarded with rotten tomatoes. However, they sailed through with flying colours, as evidenced by the applause.

A Quick One was followed in 1967 by the single "Pictures of Lily" and The Who Sell Out – a concept album like an offshore radio station, complete with humorous jingles and commercials. It included a mini rock opera called "Rael" (whose closing theme ended up on Tommy) and The Who's biggest US single, "I Can See for Miles". The Who destroyed equipment at the Monterey Pop Festival that year and repeated the routine on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour with explosive results as Moon detonated his drum kit. Years later, during filming of The Kids Are Alright, Townshend claimed that the event was the start of his tinnitus. The drum kit had been loaded with an excessive amount of explosives after Moon bribed a stage hand. The resulting explosion was much more powerful than had been anticipated by anyone, including Moon himself. Music channel VH1 listed the event at #10 on their list of the 100 Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Moments on Television.

Tommy

In 1968, The Who headlined the first Schaefer Music Festival in New York City's Central Park and released the single "Magic Bus". In December, they took part in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, performing their mini-opera, "A Quick One While He's Away". Also that year, Townshend became the subject of the first Rolling Stone interview. Townshend said he was working on a full-length rock opera. This was Tommy, the first work billed as a rock opera and a landmark in modern music.

During this time the teachings of India's Meher Baba influenced Townshend's songwriting, continuing for many years. Baba is credited as "Avatar" on Tommy. In addition to commercial success, Tommy became a critical smash, Life 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 at the Woodstock Festival that year, insisting on being paid before going on stage early on Sunday morning when they played much of Tommy. During their performance Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman sat on the stage with concert organiser Michael Lang. Hoffman had been working the medical tent since the festival's opening act and was under the influence of LSD. Hoffman had become increasingly determined to publicise the case of John Sinclair, who had been given a 10-year jail sentence for passing two marijuana cigarettes to an undercover narcotics officer. Hoffman jumped up and grabbed a microphone during a brief lull in The Who's performance of Tommy saying, "I think this is a pile of shit, while John Sinclair rots in prison!" Townshend replied, "Fuck off! Fuck off my fucking stage!" and struck Hoffman with his guitar. Hoffman leaped off the stage and disappeared into the crowd.

1970s
Live at Leeds

The group began 1970 by appearing on the BBC's highly rated review of the sixties music scene Pop Go The Sixties, performing "I Can See For Miles" live on the show broadcast on BBC1, 1 January 1970. In February 1970 The Who recorded Live at Leeds, thought by many critics to be the best live rock album of all time.

The album, originally containing mostly the show's set closing hard rock songs, has been re-released in expanded and remastered versions. These versions remedy technical problems with the original and are expanded with portions of the performance of Tommy, as well as versions of earlier singles and stage banter. A double-disc version contains the entire performance of Tommy. The Leeds University gig was part of the Tommy tour, which not only included gigs in European opera houses but saw The Who become the first rock act at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. In March The Who released the UK top twenty hit "The Seeker".

Lifehouse and Who's Next
Roger Daltrey, seated, and Pete Townshend performing with The Who in Hamburg, 1972

In March 1971, the band began recording the available Lifehouse material, a new Townshend-penned rock opera, with Kit Lambert in New York, and then restarted the sessions with Glyn Johns in April. Selections from the material, with one unrelated song by Entwistle, were released as a traditional studio album, Who's Next. The album became their most successful album among critics and fans, but terminated the Lifehouse project. Who's Next reached #4 in the US pop charts and #1 in the UK. Two tracks from the album, "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again", are early examples of synthesiser use in rock music; both tracks' keyboard sounds were generated in real time by a Lowrey organ (though in "Won't Get Fooled Again", the organ was processed through a VCS3 synthesiser). Synthesisers can be heard elsewhere on the album, in "Bargain", "Going Mobile", and "The Song Is Over". In October The Who released the UK top twenty hit "Let's See Action". On 4 November 1971 The Who opened the Rainbow Theatre in London and played for three nights. They also played at the Young Vic in London, performing the Lifehouse set. This has been released on disc 2 of the Who's Next Deluxe Edition. In 1972 they released the UK top ten and US top twenty single "Join Together" and the UK and US Top Forty "The Relay".

Quadrophenia and By Numbers

Who's Next was followed by Quadrophenia (1973), The Who's second completed double album rock opera. The story is about a boy named Jimmy, who struggles to establish his own identity, with his family and others. His story is set against clashes between Mods and Rockers in the early 1960s in the UK, particularly at Brighton. The album became their highest charting cross-Atlantic success, peaking at #2 in the UK and US. The US tour started on 20 November 1973 at the San Francisco, California Cow Palace in Daly City where Moon passed out during "Won't Get Fooled Again" and, after a break backstage, again in "Magic Bus". Townshend asked the audience, "Can anyone play the drums? – I mean somebody good." An audience member, Scot Halpin, filled in for the rest of the show, a jam featuring "Smokestack Lightning", "Spoonful" and "Naked Eye".

In 1974 The Who released the outtakes album Odds & Sods, which featured several songs from the aborted Lifehouse project. Their 1975 album, The Who by Numbers, had introspective songs, lightened by "Squeeze Box", another hit single. Some critics considered By Numbers Townshend's "suicide note." A movie version of Tommy released that year was directed by Ken Russell, starred Daltrey and earned Townshend an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score. On 6 December 1975 The Who set the record for largest indoor concert at the Pontiac Silverdome, attended by 75,962 people. On 31 May 1976 The Who played at The Valley, the home of Charlton Athletic, in what was listed for more than ten years in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's loudest concert, at over 120 dBs

Who Are You and Moon's death

On 18 August 1978, the band released Who Are You. It became their biggest and fastest seller to that date, peaking at #2 in the US, and was certified platinum in the US on 20 September. This success was overshadowed by Keith Moon's death in his sleep on 7 September after an overdose of Heminevrin – prescribed to combat alcohol withdrawal – a few hours after a party held by Paul McCartney.[45] Kenney Jones, of Small Faces and Faces, joined as Moon's successor.

On 2 May 1979, The Who returned to the stage with a well-received concert at the Rainbow Theatre in London, followed up over the spring and summer by performances at the Cannes Film Festival in France, in Scotland, at Wembley Stadium in London, in West Germany, at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey and in five dates at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Also in 1979, The Who released a documentary film called The Kids Are Alright and a film version of Quadrophenia, the latter a box office hit in the UK and the former capturing many of the band's most scintillating moments on stage, including their last performance with Keith Moon. In December, The Who became the third band, after The Beatles and The Band, featured on the cover of Time. The article, written by Jay Cocks, said The Who had "outpaced, outlasted, outlived and outclassed" all of their rock band contemporaries.

Cincinnati tragedy

A small tour of the United States was marred by tragedy: on 3 December 1979 in Cincinnati, Ohio, a crowd crush at Riverfront Coliseum killed 11 fans and injured 26 others. This was due in part to festival seating – a seating arrangement in which seating is unassigned), so the first to enter the venue get the best of those spots. Additionally, many fans waiting outside mistook the band's sound check for the actual concert, and attempted to force their way inside. When only a fraction of the arena's entrance doors were opened, a bottleneck situation ensued, and with so many thousands trying to gain entry, the crush became deadly.

The band were not told until after the show because civic authorities feared crowd problems if the concert was cancelled.[46] The band were deeply shaken upon learning of the incident and requested assistance in subsequent venues for appropriate safety precautions for their following concerts. From the stage the following evening in Buffalo, New York, Daltrey told the crowd that the band had "lost a lot of family last night and this show's for them."

1980s
Change and break-up

The band released two studio albums with Jones as drummer, Face Dances (1981) and It's Hard (1982). Face Dances produced a US top twenty and UK top ten hit with the single "You Better You Bet" and a string of MTV and AOR hits like "Another Tricky Day". Three videos from the album played on MTV the day it took to the air in August 1981. While both albums sold fairly well and It's Hard received a five-star review in Rolling Stone, some fans were not receptive to the new sound. "Athena" was a US top thirty hit and "Eminence Front" charted as well and became a favourite. However Townshend's life was a mess – his marriage had fallen apart due to his drinking and he had become a heroin user, something which shocked his friends due to his previous anti-drug stance. He cleaned up in early 1982, but Daltrey told him he would stop touring if it meant keeping Townshend alive. Shortly after It's Hard, The Who embarked on their 'farewell' tour of the US. It included two shows at Shea Stadium in New York on 12 & 13 October and ended in Toronto on 17 December and which was featured on HBO. Townshend had said he wanted one more tour with The Who before turning it into a studio band. It was the highest grossing tour of the year, with sellout crowds in stadiums and arenas throughout North America.

Townshend spent part of 1983 trying to write material for the studio album still owed to Warner Bros. Records from a contract in 1980. By the end of 1983, however, Townshend declared himself unable to generate material appropriate for The Who and announced his departure from the band in December, wishing Daltrey, Entwistle and Jones all the best if they went on without him. He then focused on solo projects such as: White City: A Novel, The Iron Man (which featured Daltrey and Entwistle and two songs on the album credited to "The Who"), and Psychoderelict, a forerunner to the radio work Lifehouse.

Reunions

In July 1985, The Who—including Kenney Jones—reformed for a one-off at Bob Geldof's Live Aid concert at Wembley. The BBC transmission truck blew a fuse at the beginning of "My Generation", meaning the picture was lost completely, but the band kept playing. This caused most of the video of "My Generation" and all of "Pinball Wizard" to be missed by the rest of the world, but the audio for "Pinball Wizard" and the remaining songs were transmitted via radio. Transmission resumed with "Love, Reign O'er Me" and "Won't Get Fooled Again".

At 1988 Brit Awards held at the Royal Albert Hall in London, the band was honoured with the British Phonographic Industry's Lifetime Achievement Award. The Who played a short set at the ceremony (the last time Jones worked with The Who). In 1989, they embarked on a 25th anniversary The Kids Are Alright reunion tour which emphasised songs from Tommy. Simon Phillips played drums with Steve "Boltz" Bolton playing lead guitar, as Townshend relegated himself to acoustic guitar and some electric rhythm guitar in order to minimise damage to his hearing. A horn section and backing singers were also included in order to provide sonic richness while keeping stage volumes far lower than previous tours. Newsweek said, "The Who tour is special because, after the Beatles and the Stones, they're IT." There were sellouts throughout North America, including a four-night stand at Giants Stadium.[50] Their two shows at Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro Massachusetts sold 100,000 tickets in less than 8 hours, beating previous records set there by U2 and David Bowie. In all, over two million tickets were sold. The tour included Tommy at Radio City Music Hall in New York and at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, with several guest stars at the latter performance. A 2-CD live album Join Together was released in 1990, stalling at #188 in the US. A video of the Universal Amphitheatre show was also released and went platinum in the US.

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