Tag Archives: The Who

Who Are They Kidding?

“Roger Daltrey has been a world-famous star since the early 1960s when he began his career as the lead singer of The Who, and has since become one of the most popular vocalists in rock music history.” So claims a press release from CBS Entertainment, which draws attention to the fact that Daltrey is going to have a role on a forthcoming episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. “World-famous star.” “Most popular vocalists in rock music history.” Well, it would be hard to disprove that, although the pneumatic praise is a little humid and musty.

“Daltrey is currently on a major worldwide tour with The Who, promoting their current album, Endless Wire,” the release notes. Here is something that can be completely disproved. When Daltrey became a “world-famous star” it was with a band consisting of four people. Two of the four are dead. Now Daltrey and one of them, the guy who wrote the song that’s used as the theme song for CSI, are out touring. That’s 50%. Which effectively makes it a duo. “The Who” does not exist, marketing notwithstanding. “The Who” is effectively a part of “rock music history.”

[To put Daltrey’s appearance on CSI in perspective, consider this: Mr. Britney Spears, Kevin Federline will be guest starring in tonight’s episode – ed.]

The Who – Tommy and Quadrophenia Live DVD

The WhoTommy and Quadrophenia Live (Rhino)

Rhino Records has just issued a triple-DVD set chronicling not only live performances of Tommy and Quadrophenia, but two very different configurations of the reunited Who touring band. Though the purpose of the set is to archive the live versions of the two famous rock operas, the DVDs inevitably show the right way for the Who to have reunited and toured, and the wrong way to have done it.

In 1989, the Who staged a full tour after a seven-year layoff. I was fortunate enough to catch them that year, and at the time, I was awestruck upon hearing them open the concert with a fully fleshed out overture from Tommy. Through the sheer joy of seeing the Who play during my lifetime, I was willing to overlook the excesses of that tour. And God were there excesses! Three background vocalists, a percussionist, a second guitarist, and a full horn section which strayed too often into Phil Collins territory, it was a lot to swallow for fans of a band who used to encapsulate the lean, mean, less-is-more theory of noisemaking.

The DVD has the Los Angeles “all-star” performance of Tommy, a Vegas-revue version of the Who that hasn?t aged well. The drummer at the time, Simon Phillips, was much more Neil Peart than Keith Moon; his over-drumming doesn?t serve the arrangements well. The guest stars for the most part turned in okay performances; they can?t be faulted for the bombast.

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Of Polyester and Camel Toe: Remembering John Entwistle, Badly

John Entwistle - So Who's the Bass Player: The Ox AnthologyJohn EntwistleSo Who’s the Bass Player: The Ox Anthology (Sanctuary)

The Who is my favorite band, and has been since I saw The Kids Are Alright documentary as a kid. In high school I got into the habit of listening to my own version of Quadrophenia in its entirety every other day (alternating it with The Wall for the ultimate teenage angst experience). I had painstakingly created an amalgam of the studio album and the far-superior-fidelity movie soundtrack album on cassette tape.

By 1990, I owned every Who album that had been released on CD, including the unlistenable Who’s Last and the awful box set that was released after their 1989 reunion tour. I had even bought up every bootleg and out-of-print record I could find to feed my obsession.

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Blame Pete!

Guilty!Brothers and sisters, I gotta testify; my name is Tom, and I’m a rockaholic.

I place the blame squarely on Pete Townshend’s shoulders. Roger, John, and Keith are just as guilty, complicit as they are in catalyzing my conversion. But the songs were Pete’s, so he gets the lion’s share of the blame. I was only seven—my resistance was already low—when an album pushed me completely over the edge of rock fandom from which I will never emerge.

My very own rock opera

In 1979, my father received an 8-track recorder from my uncle, who had just made the upgrade to cassettes. At the time, Saturday Night Fever was still huge, so my parents borrowed the soundtrack record from my uncle and taped a bunch of Bee Gees, Tavares, and Yvonne Elliman onto the first two sections of the blank 8-track tape that came with the recorder. [FYI for the kids: 8-track tapes were divided into four sections (“programs”) with room for several songs on each program—Ed.] But on the remaining two sections were the greatest songs I’d ever heard in my seven years of life: a deaf, dumb and blind kid who had an evil cousin, the Christmas he couldn’t appreciate, a quack doctor who couldn’t cure the kid, and of course, the kid was a pinball wizard.

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Colorfully Filthy Lucre

Quick: What do Madonna, Ozzy, Alice Cooper, Pantera, The Who (original lineup), Rob Zombie, AC/DC, Kiss, and Britney Spears have in common?

Chances are, the answer that you’ll reach, undoubtedly fanciful, will not be right. If it is right, then it may seem odd that you’re reading this website.

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Gen-gen-gen-generation

One might argue that we are now experiencing the loss of those who have built the framework of much of rock as we know it today. It wasn’t all that long ago, relatively speaking, that we were writing about the death of George Harrison, the generally underrated guitar player who was fundamental to the Beatles. And now it’s John Entwistle, who was even more elementary to the Who. The report is that he went because of a heart attack in a hotel room in Las Vegas, where he was because the Who had a now-canceled gig at the Hard Rock Hotel in that town. Age, 57. Hell of a place to go. Just a few days ago, a professional baseball player, Darryl Kile, died; he was more than a couple of decades younger than Entwistle. Heart disease, apparently. A point I make simply because no one who is reading this should imagine that health problems—fatal ones—are the concern only of those who haven’t died before they got old.

Enough of the public service announcement on the health front.

John Entwistle, back in the dayBass players seem to be those in a band who don’t get a whole lot of attention for their bass playing: It is often for something else. Think, for example, of Entwistle’s contemporary, Sir Paul. No one (unless he or she happens to be a bass player, I suspect) has a mental representation of Paul = Bass player. Or there is the case of Sting, who has undoubtedly had a much bigger run with a public persona in which the bass is merely an ornament (yes, he can play the instrument, but it really isn’t what is the focus of his performance post-Police). I remember seeing the Faces with Ron Wood playing bass. Not surprising that he picked up a six string to join the Stones. (And in announcing their current tour, the Stones stood on stage sans bass player. Wyman is otherwise disposed.)

Some people will cite Entwistle’s “Boris the Spider.” Others, “My Wife.” But I’d suggest that they’re not it. Not close. Sure, he tended to stand stock still in concert. Some of that was undoubtedly to avoid being hit by a windmill from Townshend or a swinging mike from Daltrey. Self-defense through stillness. But really, Entwistle’s contribution was the ability to put the bottom on the music, especially after Moon passed.

Put on Quadrophenia. Crank up the bass. For those of you with a quadraphonic system: You know where to sit.

Musing on Who’s Next

“Then a scream that sounded like Satan on the rack, followed by menacing guitar chords and an epigram — ‘Meet the new boss/ Same as the old boss’ — that I would hear repeated in some manner every day the rest of my life.” Musing on Who’s Next, from Salon.