Tag Archives: The Who

Who Are They?

When is a band not a band? That is, generally it would be thought that a group of people get together and decide that their individuality will contribute to a collective undertaking that will be known under a given label, or name. They don’t lose their individuality. But their performances with others are subsumed by the work of the band. It can become the case that except for fans the name of the collective is known while those of the individual members aren’t. So if a member or two happens to leave the band only to be replaced by others, it very well may be that the “band” continues to exist much as it did before, although for those who are fans the absence of the performer(s) may be enough for them to consider the band disbanded.

In some cases it is thought that there are individuals within a band—considering the band as a collective—who are more instrumental to the existence of the band as a whole than others may be and so as long as they are part of the performance, the band continues to exist.

An abiding example of this is “The Who.” The band began in 1964. The members were Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon.

Albums the band released include:

  • My Generation (1965)
  • A Quick One (1966)
  • The Who Sell Out (1967)
  • Tommy (1969)
  • Who’s Next (1971)
  • Quadrophenia (1973)
  • The Who by Numbers (1975)
  • Who Are You (1978)*

But in September 1978 Keith Moon died. Kenney Jones replaced him. Oddly, or appropriately, Jones was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—as a member of the Faces/Small Faces.

The band kept performing and recording. Then in June 2002, John Entwistle died. Entwistle was replaced by Pino Palladino.

Consider: The Who became what is considered to be The Who not merely as a result of Townshend’s playing and writing and because of Daltrey’s pipes and performance. The drums and the bass played a fundamental part of the sound that people became familiar with.

Yet there seems to be an idea that because Townshend and Daltrey were up front, their continued existence and participation are the things that would make a post-Moon and Entwistle organization essentially what it had been before, that the performances are of The Who, not “The Who.”

Isn’t it conceivable that starting in October 1978 and certainly July 2002 that the remnants of The Who, when performing or recording, should have been more appropriately titled Who2 or something of the like? Whatever it was it was not the band that formed in 1964.

But is a band more than a brand? If you have a box of Tide you probably think of it as, well, Tide. And it is Tide. But it isn’t the Tide that was invented in 1946. The formulation is different but the brand name remains the same.

To treat members of a band as being fully replaceable is to really not have a band so much as a brand.

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Listening Live and Counterfactually Hearing

Good but not great. That is what numbers from Morning Consult show about the U.S. public’s interest in going to a concert. Its latest figures (October 21) have it that 54% say they’d be comfortable doing so. Which is certainly an improvement over the 39% who gave it a nod a year ago. And massively better than those who reported on October 25, 2020 that they’d feel comfortable: only 18%.

So while more than half are good going to concerts, in the wider sphere of entertainment options, the number is the lowest among the options:

  • Going to a sporting event: 56%
  • Going to a theater performance: 58%
  • Going to an amusement park: 60%
  • Going to the movies: 63%

Still, it is a reason to give pause when considering that little over half of those surveyed said that they’d be comfortable going to a concert (and one can only assume that “concert” includes things like orchestral performances and nights of easy listening and smooth jazz). The high amusement park number is understandable because it is an outdoor venue. But given that there are only some 300 drive-in movies left in the entire U.S., movies are things that people see indoors. And for every one of the 250 Shakespeare in the Park festivals there is certainly a multiple of indoor theatrical performances: there are 41 Broadway theaters, so if each of them had one show during one week that would be a greater number (287).

Seven baseball stadiums have roofs that may or may not be open. Which means that 23 are open air. Of the 30 NFL stadiums, four have closed roofs, five have retractable roofs and the remaining are open air. The 20 biggest college football stadiums are all open. However, given the closeness of the numbers of those who feel comfort in going to a concert (54%) and to a sporting event (56%), the argument could be made that it is a matter of the yelling, screaming and overall participant engagement that might have the lower numbers compared to the other forms of entertainment.

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Detroit, Detroit

“It’s carbon and monoxide
The ole Detroit perfume”
—Paul Simon

It so happens that on May 21, 1955, 67 years before this is being written, Chuck Berry recorded “Maybellene” at Chess Studios. Willie Dixon played bass. Among the songs that Dixon wrote that you probably know from covers are:

• “I Ain’t Superstitious”
• “You Shook Me”
• “Back Door Man”
• “I Can’t Quit You Baby”
• “Hoochie Coochie Man”
• “Little Red Rooster”
• “I Just Want to Make Love to You”

Just think of the importance of those songs for many bands. Odds are Dixon, no matter how much he may have thought of them, couldn’t have imagined that impact.

“Maybellene” was based on “Ida Red,” a song released by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys in 1939, a song that is considered to be of “unknown origin,” just as the character Ida Red is unknown.

Fiddlin’ Powers & Family released a recording of the song in 1924 and Dykes Magic City Trio did in 1927, which I point out only because they don’t name groups like they used to.

Back to “Maybellene.”

During the early ‘50s Berry, who was living in St. Louis at the time, worked at two car assembly plants. Back then there were St. Louis Truck Assembly, which was operated by General Motors, and St. Louis Assembly, run by Ford.

Although the song is ostensibly about the protagonist chasing a girl who had cheated on him (“Oh Maybellene, why can’t you be true?”), it is primarily about a race between vehicles: “I saw Maybellene in a Coupe DeVille/A Cadillac a-rollin’ on the open road/Nothin’ will outrun my V8 Ford.”

Detroit Iron vs. Detroit Iron.

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“Would You Like Fries With That?”

“I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth”–‘Substitute,’ The Who

There are the trope and the truism that are often used by parents who are concerned that their kids might go in a direction that potentially describes a future that is without hope or at the very least a recipe for continued residency.

The first is the “starving artist.” This is generally associated with some suffering individual who is in a garret, working at their art and not making a sufficient amount of money in order to buy something to eat. Of course, the starving artist could be out in the world, busking, hoping that there will be a sufficient number of tips tossed into the open instrument case to buy a set of strings and possibly a cellophane-wrapped sandwich of some undifferentiated substance for sustenance.

The starving artist is cautionary, although not as potentially off-putting as “artists only make money after they are dead.” This is somewhat more difficult to understand given that the individual is dead and consequently incapable of (a) taking it with them to say nothing of (b) making more of it.

However, the message seems to be that the artist will create works that will, the starvation occurring while that creation is going on notwithstanding, make bank for someone else after the artist is pushing daisies. Although it is known that artists ranging from da Vinci to Warhol, to name two who are dead, made money while they were alive from their undertaking, it is also true that post-mortal coil those works made a heck of a lot of more money than either could have possibly imagined.

The point is, while the odds are better making something as a musician than they are for someone who thinks they’re going to get rich playing the lottery, the odds are even better that a job as an actuarial or forklift driver is more likely to provide income consistency.

It is a good thing for the rest of us that there are those who ignore those warnings and go out and create, whether they are visual or musical artists.

But it doesn’t necessarily make their lots in life any better if there are only a few of us who are supportive of the undertakings of any of these individuals and groupings of like-minded.

Continue reading “Would You Like Fries With That?”

The Question of Spending During a Pandemic

This week I received another offer. This time, it wasn’t for a tote bag. Rather, it was a picture, an 11 x 14-inch print. It was clearly one hell of a deal in that there on the page was $433 and directly beneath it “Only $39.”

A couple of points about that. First of all, who comes up with a price like $433 for something, in this case a photographic print. Obviously the print as object doesn’t cost $433, as there is a piece of paper, 5.5 inches wider than a piece of what has historically been known as “typewriter paper,” and some glossy ink on it. Now the photo as subject and as execution certainly might have some value, but again, given that this is a proposal that was widely emailed out to who knows how many people, it is not as though there is some sort of exclusivity to it, unless you think that ordering a McDonald’s without pickles makes it somehow different than the billions sold. Then there is the question of going from $433 to $39. That is a $394 difference. Or approximately a 90% discount. What can you buy that has a 90% discount? It all seems rather bizarre, and all the more so when you know that if you buy the photo for $39 you get (actually this should be in the past tense because by the time you see this the “deal” will have expired) something that the purveyor says is worth $39, so your effective cost is $0, which is a whole lot less than $433 or even $39.

The picture is that of The Who, taken in 1971 at the Oval Cricket Ground, Kensington, London. There’s Roger with his hands above his head in the foreground, with the Ox slightly behind him to the left, presumably moving nothing but his fingers. Between them in the background is Keith, holding a pair of drumsticks crossed above his head. And to Roger’s right and several feet behind him is Pete in flight. It is an oddly static black-and-white photo, and as it is shot from stage left across the stage rather than from the front of the stage, there isn’t a particularly good sense of the musicians at that particular moment.

Which leads me to wonder about who is going to be interested in that picture of The Who, whether it is for $433, $39 or $0. I suspect that it might be people in my generation (no allusion there) who might want it, but then I wonder. I had the opportunity to see The Who—yes, the real The Who, in that it had that lineup, which is the only authentic one in my estimation, though I will accept the post-Moon Kenney Jones band as somewhat legit—and have an interest in music (or so it seems) yet that photo would hold no value for me. Perhaps had I been at that show on September 18 , which was in support of the people of Bangladesh, I would have been interested in the picture, but having learned that the lineup also included The Faces, I might be a bit more interested in a photo of that, though that is unlikely, too. Presumably some fans would be interested.

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“They Got the Steely Dan T-shirts. . . .”

A friend who moved out of state keeps tabs on what’s going on in Michigan as those moving from one place to another are wont to do. Whenever I’m in a hotel and get a copy of USA Today outside the door I always look at the weather for Illinois, even though it has been a long time since I lived there and I’m not likely to go back, so the climate is irrelevant. But still. . .

She sent me an email letting me know that Steely Dan is scheduled to play at the Meadowbrook Amphitheater this summer, which is north of Detroit.

My response to her, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has been reading what I’ve been writing here for quite some time, was simply: “Steely Dan no longer exists.”

When Walter Becker died on September 3, 2017, the proverbial last nail in the coffin of the band was hammered in place: requiescat in pace.

Of course, as seems to be de rigueur for musicians who were once on top of the world and are now trying to desperately stay at least near the bottom, Donald Fagen is having none of that, so he sued Walter Becker’s estate, and the band, such as it is, continues on. If “Steely Dan” was Becker and Fagen, and there is no Becker, then how is that still the band? Certainly it can be labeled as the band—unless that lawsuit comes out against Fagen’s wishes—and let’s face it: nowadays truth and falsehood seem to be exchangeable.

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Boo Who

Many years ago, when I was perhaps 5 years old, my dad was driving my brother and me somewhere in downtown Detroit, which, in retrospect, I realize was somewhere near Woodward Avenue and Campus Martius, where there is planned slowing due to a circular pattern to streets in that area (an interesting fun fact about the street layout in downtown Detroit, it was designed by Augustus B. Woodward, who used Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s model for Washington DC, meaning that this is not a grid pattern, as is the case in cities like New York and Chicago).

I looked out the window of the Pontiac Catalina and saw something that I will not forget: There was a black horse pulling a black wagon being driven by a man dressed all in black, including a black stovepipe hat. The wagon was carrying a black. . .casket.

This, I was to learn, was a stunt for a movie that was being shown at the Fox Theatre, The Premature Burial, which was based on a story by Edgar Allen Poe.

Appropriate. Memorable. And the sort of thing that isn’t executed much or as well today.

Which brings us back to The Who. Or, as previously indicated, the brand known as “The Who.”

In support of the Moving On! Tour there are three buses—the sorts of things that are the jump-on, jump-off tourist variety—that are painted with a scheme that resembles the bus on the cover of the 1968 album Magic Bus—The Who On Tour that are rolling in Chicago, New York and LA for the next couple weeks.

Continue reading Boo Who

Who Do They Think They Are?

Although I have been MIA from this page for some time now, something that needs to be addressed has come to my attention, something far worse than I had originally thought as I looked into things a bit more.

As you are probably aware, “The Who” are going back on tour. It is called “Moving On!” Odds are that they’re moving on to still another tour.

As you are probably also aware, I put “The Who” in quotes because while half a band may be better than none, as I’ve argued many times, when you have half a loaf you have, well, half a loaf, not the whole thing. Daltrey and Townshend are certainly much of the substance of the mix, but let’s not kid ourselves: that label is about marketing. That is, while there are probably people who have picked up The Who T-shirts at their local Target and who are wearing them proudly, were you to ask them who Daltrey and Townshend are, they might answer, “Uh, law firm . . .?”

No, I am not going to go down that well-rutted road again.

But I am going to express my dismay at what it has come to for those veteran performers.

Upon receiving an email from Ticketmaster announcing the opportunity to getting tickets for “The Who” sooner rather than later, I looked into the “VIP Packages.” Go big or don’t go, right?

There are three packages.

And at this point, I must warn you: If you are a fan of The Who you might want to stop reading right now because otherwise you may be so disturbed that you will bin, erase or otherwise dispose of your collection.

The packages are, from top to bottom: “Baba O’ Riley Ultimate Soundcheck,” “My Generation Soundcheck” and “Who Are You Premium Seat.”

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Who’s Left?

When I saw that the Who had recently performed a couple of classics on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon I immediately forwarded the link to Stephen Macaulay. Mac has a long history with the Who, dating back to seeing them at Cobo Hall in Detroit when he and the band were all scruffy young guys. He’s been quite vocal over the years on his disappointment over what they have become. -ed.

Video: The Who: “I Can See for Miles” (live on the Tonight Show)


Imagine listening to “I Can See for Miles” with your eyes closed. Wouldn’t you imagine that this was a good cover band, but something sounds slightly off on the lead vocals, as though the singer was trying too hard or having too difficult a time?

And then you open your eyes and watch.

It’s him.

But what the hell is Daltrey doing with that acoustic guitar? Does he really think that Pete and Simon can’t handle it? Or is it that he doesn’t quite have the confident moves anymore and so the guitar becomes a prop that keeps him from having to make those moves. Plus, with Pete teasing and doing the windmills is physically distracting.

(There is no crutch for the vocal cords, however, at least not, apparently, in this venue.)

Continue reading Who’s Left?

“Black Hills that I ain’t never seen”

As long-time readers of this site may recall, there was once a tagline used to describe the ethos of Glorious Noise: “Rock and roll can change your life.”

And now I must report with some sadness that it can change lives in a way that I’d prefer not to imagine.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Ray Davies becoming knighted by the Queen.

And a couple weeks before that I wrote about how Roger Daltrey was working with Rolls-Royce to create a bespoke version of the Wraith motorcar.

Now the two subjects have come together.

The Who version of the Rolls Wraith has come out. It features the artwork of Mike McInnery: the album cover of Tommy is painted on the hood and the birds that are also part of the cover art flit about on the fenders and C-pillars.

But that is but one of nine “Inspired by British Music” cars that has been developed.

Continue reading “Black Hills that I ain’t never seen”