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The Who - the Studio Albums

Started by Slim, April 15, 2024, 09:49:00 PM

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1. My Generation [December 1965]

Well well, what a very good record!

Because they were at this point part of the same British R&B movement, comparisons with the earliest Rolling Stones material are irresistible. Or I couldn't resist them anyway, but I found this first Who album much more convincing.

To be fair Mick, Keef and friends had already put out three albums in eighteen months by the time the debut Who long player arrived and the times they were a changin' pretty quickly. But this record is so much more powerful, so much more dynamic, so better endowed with catchy hooks and most of all so much more original. The earliest Stones albums consist mainly of covers whereas most - and mostly the best - of the songs here were written by Townshend.

The throbbing, driving bass, the rattling, insistent drums, Daltrey's big, throaty vocals, the crashing, stabbing, ringing rhythm guitar - it all adds up to what must have been a pretty devastating statement of intent for 1965. But it's not only powerful, it's tuneful as well - there are some lovely vocal harmonies and memorable melodies. It hints at power pop as well as R&B.

It's not a sophisticated production job by any means but it's well recorded. The copy I listened to was remastered for the Japanese market straight from the master tapes supposedly; it sounds big and full.

To the best of my knowledge I'd only ever heard My Generation and The Kids are Alright, famously banging tunes of course. But I also especially liked The Good's Gone, which reminds me of The Byrds and the sprightly, uptempo A Legal Matter which Pete sings, and which to be fair borrows from the Stones' The Last Time.

I must say Daltrey's impersonation of a black soul singer on Please, Please, Please is uncanny. You'd honestly think it was James Brown or Little Richard.

Nicky Hopkins tinkles the ivories on one or two tunes, to great effect - including the remarkable The Ox, named for Entwistle of course, an instrumental piece. Hard to know how to categorise this one but whatever it is it's rock music of a sort. Not R&B. Prototype heavy rock over a hyperactive tribal drum part. Townshend's manic, feedback-laden, growling, distorted anarchic guitar predates the first Hendrix and Cream recordings by over a year. Remarkable.

H5N1 kIlled a wild swan


From the first moment the Who blasted onto the scene they were different. Instead of the frontman being the center of attention, I saw a guitar player & drummer battling for the position. I really like Pete Townshend as a song writer all those open chords, I feel he has strong signature.
I think the musicianship on this one has set a standard for lot of other bands to follow. I think apart from maybe the Kinks - but I hesitate to mention them because they were much more of a Stones band as in: guitar player & singer act - I find it difficult to think of an act with 4 such different individuals. Sure there's the Beatles, a phenomenon in itself, but a real band-band, I don't believe I can think of.   

My main take away from the Who will always be Keith Moon, he singlehandedly invented a new style of playing. It is amazing how he does it. His style sounds like he falls of the stairs, but somehow manages to get it back together before he hits the floor. The liveband Who (very different from the studio Who!) was at their peak the best live and in the world. The tension on that stage was electrifying - it felt like it could fall apart at any time, and then it didn't. Like an athlete performing at the top of their game, like a balancing act without a net.

Anyway: about the album, it's good. It's a good introduction but a bit too 60s for me. There are too many 'nice songs' on this one, even though they are loud and have an intent to wreck every place you place them. I do like the Kids are Alright a lot. And some of the lyrics are so in contrast with the music, it's just funny.

Anyway, looking forward to this thread because there is a lot to appreciate!

The Picnic Wasp

I always loved The Who. Only managed to see them once, at Celtic Park in the mid-seventies, although many would say that The Sensational Alex Harvey Band stole the show that day. I was on my way to see them at the Hydro a while back but took ill before I got there and had to go home. I've never understood why they didn't receive the same accolades as the Stones. I believe they were (are) the better band.


I'll be interested in this. Always liked their well known stuff Substitute, My Gen, Pinball, Baba, Won't Get Fooled even You better.

Shout out to The Seeker too, which I only got to know when Rush covered it.

But whenever I delved below the fine icing I was distinctly unimpressed with the cake. Perhaps this will cause me to try again


I think you nominated most of the well-known Who tunes there - I'd also say I Can See For Miles, Squeezebox, Pictures of Lily maybe, Magic Bus definitely. Who Are You and The Real Me as well.

Similar to my Rolling Stones experience before I embarked upon a Stonesathon, I know some of the albums well (only Quadrophenia and Tommy actually now I think about it), I know some songs from the other albums from rock radio, TV etc but there's a lot of stuff I've never heard.
H5N1 kIlled a wild swan


Never liked The Magic Bus but Who are you and I Can See For Miles are fine tunes that i forgot to mention.

I recognise the titles but can't say I'm overly familiar with the others


I'll be interested in reading this.. quite like the who..quadrophenia .. who's next ..who are you all great.. also the later stuff endless wire and the last album are top notch...
From The Land of Honest Men

David L

My Generation: The Very Best Of The Who is a superb collection with all the essentials on there.

The Picnic Wasp

Thinking about it now, my proper introduction to The Who was Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy. Released 1971. Quite early for a compilation.


2. A Quick One [December 1966]

A bit of a mixed bag, this one. A slightly indigestible mix of '60s pop / R&B and English whimsy, with a prototype rock opera in several parts tacked on the end.

Relations in the band were fractious in 1966 apparently, and perhaps to address this, or perhaps merely to cope with it, the band's manager Kit Lambert pushed for each member to contribute as equally as possible to the album - meaning that less of the album is written by Townshend than would otherwise have been the case. I think it does suffer as a result.

In the end Daltrey only wrote one song for the album called See My Way and actually it's not bad at all.

Entwistle sings really nicely on his two pieces. If he was adept at singing and playing bass at the same time, they could have been a three piece band. But Whiskey Man is unexceptional and Boris the Spider is of course really a novelty piece. It's certainly enjoyable though, with the big man's bass being used as a clanging, growling lead instrument. Sounds like a Rickenbacker to my untutored ear but as far as I can make out from reading around it was a rare slab-body Precision. I wonder if Chris Squire was influenced by this tune. I remember hearing it for the first time myself while visiting a school pal in the early '70s. Like myself, he had an older brother with an ear for rock music. Handy.

Moon's Cobwebs and Strange is an oompah-brass band number. His I Need You is terrible: messy in the composition, the execution and the recording. There's a spoken section that's supposedly a Lennon pastiche.

Townshend's Run Run Run and So Sad About Us are really very good, albeit both redolent of that British '60s 'beat' sound that aged very quickly - echoes of The Searchers, The Dave Clark Five - you know the sort of thing. This album came out a few months after Revolver so it's evident that Pete's band was well behind the curve in some respects.

And yet - famously this record contains what is considered in some quarters to be the first rock opera - the forebear of Tommy, a nine minute oddity in six movements entitled A Quick One, While He's Away. A heartwarming tale of adultery and forgiveness. I liked it. Daltrey, Entwistle and Townshend all sing lead. But it's more old-time Music Hall than prog rock, somehow. Very theatrical.

As a Who fan giving this a spin for the first time in the winter of 1966, I think I'd be disappointed. Very interesting, for sure. But mostly not playing to their strengths.
H5N1 kIlled a wild swan


3. The Who Sell Out [December 1967]

This is a wonderful record. Actually I have a certain sentimental attachment to this album, because its cover art was one of the more memorable images printed in the NME Encyclopaedia of Rock, a book I spent many happy hours immersed in as a teenager. But I'd never actually listened to it before today. What a shame I waited 45 years.

This is an early concept album. Some of the songs are spoof commercials. Some start or end with a mock radio jingle. The whole thing has a wonderful sense of motion. To me this is everything that A Quick One wasn't - very cohesive and focused, a proper whole album statement. It's a big step forward in songwriting, performance and production. It leans in to accessible, melodic rock music and away from their R&B beginnings.

I have to suppose that Sergeant Pepper was an influence on this record. It's certainly not out-and-out Beatles-style cinematic psychedelia though there are hints of that but the way it flows, the recurring themes and the sense of a journey are similar.

Entwistle writes and sings three songs here, all really good. Silas Stingy especially is remarkably harmonically sophisticated. Townshend writes most of the album of course and I suppose I'd have to say that I Can See for Miles, the only tune on the record I was familiar with, is the highlight. Pete plays some beautiful acoustic guitar on Sunrise, he sings very nicely on it too.

Curiously, the album opens (after a brief radio jingle) with a song written by Speedy Keen called Armenia, City in the Sky. Speedy also wrote Thunderclap Newman's Something in the Air (actually Thunderclap Newman was a band put together by Townshend, who plays bass on that song). I first became aware of Speedy Keen as producer of the first Motorhead album, personally. He did a terrible job. But I digress.

Anyway - everyone should have a copy of this.
H5N1 kIlled a wild swan


I have always liked A Quick one.. (the song) not cared much for the rest of the album to be honest, Boris the Spider is a good bit of fun, but the real fun started with Sell Out. A brilliant album, conceptually almost perfect. There are a lot of fun lyrics on here, Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand of course and I have always been a big fan of Tattoo.
The Who does a trick on this album, and they do it several times. They go from 60s tunes to the deeper early 70s vibe in one song. The verse/chorus part of Tattoo is like that (in the opposite direction) but the best song on here is of course I Can See for Miles that sounds like the exact turning point from the 60s to the 70s. As if the whole album can be summed up in one song - and it can. It is utterly brilliant.
Having said that Armenia is a majestic opener and Rael the perfect closer, being the precursor to Tommy.

Luckily nowadays the streaming services have most versions of this album up, which is great since the stereo mix for this one is not very good. I much prefer the mono version for the album.


Quote from: Slim on April 27, 2024, 03:04:46 PMThis is a wonderful record. Actually I have a certain sentimental attachment to this album, because its cover art was one of the more memorable images printed in the NME Encyclopaedia of Rock, a book I spent many happy hours immersed in as a teenager.
Same here, the Who page from that book is burned into my brain.


4. Tommy [May 1969]

I have long held this album to be a masterpiece, but I do have ambivalent feelings about it. First of all - to call it a classic would be an understatement; it's a landmark in the history of popular music. I don't think Townshend's achievement here can be overstated. He came up with a idea of huge scope and ambition, conceptually and musically, and it works. It's worth noting here that Entwistle contributes a couple of songs as well. One of the tunes is a Sonny Boy Williamson cover (The Hawker) that conveniently fits the theme perfectly. But this is Pete's brainchild.

The quasi-orchestral format, with recurring musical motifs and themes, the way it's paced, the light and shade, the tension and release - it all works really well. It's all played, arranged and produced really nicely. Townshend makes a lot of use of his own voice, which I like. He plays some fantastic acoustic guitar on this record as well.

But - I think it's overlong, and that's probably why I've only ever played it four or five times. I really appreciate it for what it is, and its place in 20th century popular culture. But it sags a bit here and there, especially during Underture and I think that's why I've only rarely had the necessary attention span for it. Also - I have to say, taken as a rock album, it doesn't have that many really powerful, memorable songs. Yes, Pinball Wizard is brilliant and timeless, so is I'm Free . The "See Me, Feel Me / Listening to You" part of We're Not Gonna Take It is positively anthemic as well but really, while the rest of it works in context, we're a bit low on powerful rock bangers.

Even so, if this album had never existed, I'm pretty sure 2112 wouldn't have either. I can hear future echoes of Rush in a lot of the material here. Before and After from the first album definitely borrows from Go to the Mirror! and I can hear Red Barchetta in one of the tunes as well.
H5N1 kIlled a wild swan


This was my favourite part of the Tommy film, because I was a big Clapton fan as a teenager. Only the 1970s could have given birth to a film like this, and only Ken Russell could have directed it.

H5N1 kIlled a wild swan