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Who are you? The Who, that's Who!

Who are The Who?


by

FORMED: 1964, London, England
DISBANDED: 1983

Few bands in the history of rock & roll were riddled with as many contradictions as the Who. All four members had wildly different personalities, as their notoriously intense live performances demonstrated.

The group was a whirlwind of activity, as the wild Keith Moon fell over his drum kit and Pete Townshend leaped into the air with his guitar, spinning his right hand in exaggerated windmills. Vocalist Roger Daltrey strutted across the stage with a thuggish menace, as bassist John Entwistle stood silent, functioning as the eye of the hurricane. These divergent personalities frequently clashed, but these frictions also resulted in a decade's worth of remarkable music.

As one of the key figures of the British Invasion and the mod movement of the mid-'60s, the Who were a dynamic and undeniably powerful sonic force. They often sounded like they were exploding conventional rock and R&B structures with Townshend's furious guitar chords, Entwistle's hyperactive bass lines and Moon's vigorous, chaotic drumming.

Unlike most rock bands, the Who based their rhythm on Townshend's guitar, letting Moon and Entwistle improvise wildly over his foundation, while Daltrey belted out his vocals. This was the sound the Who thrived on in concert, but on record they were a different proposition, as Townshend pushed the group toward new sonic territory.

He soon became regarded as one of the finest British songwriters of his era, as songs like "The Kids Are Alright" and "My Generation" became teenage anthems, and his rock opera Tommy earned him respect from mainstream music critics.

Townshend continually pushed the band toward more ambitious territory, incorporating white noise, pop art and conceptual extended musical pieces into the group's style. The remainder of the Who, especially Entwistle and Daltrey, weren't always eager to follow him in his musical explorations, especially after the success of his first rock opera, Tommy. Instead, they wanted to stick to their hard-rock roots, playing brutally loud, macho music instead of Townshend's textured song suites and vulnerable pop songs.

Eventually, this resulted in the group abandoning their adventurous spirit in the mid-'70s, as they settled into their role as arena-rockers. The Who continued on this path even after the death of Keith Moon in 1978, and even after they disbanded in the early '80s, as they reunited numerous times in the late '80s and '90s to tour America.

The group's relentless pursuit of the dollar was largely due to Entwistle and Daltrey, who never found successful solo careers, but it had the unfortunate side effect of tarnishing their reputation for many longtime fans. However, there's little argument that at their peak, the Who were one of the most innovative and powerful bands in rock history.

Pete Townshend and John Entwistle met while attending high school in the Shepherd's Bush area of London. In their early teens, they played in a Dixieland band together, with Entwhistle playing trumpet and Townshend playing banjo. By the early '60s, the pair had formed a rock & roll band, but Entwistle departed in 1962 to play in the Detours, a hard-edged rock band featuring a sheet-metal worker named Roger Daltrey.

By the end of the year, Townshend had joined as a rhythm guitarist, and in 1963, Daltrey became the group's lead vocalist once Colin Dawson left the band. Within a few months, drummer Doug Sandom had parted ways with the Detours, and the group added Keith Moon, who had previously drummed with a surf-rock band called the Beachcombers. The Detours changed their name to the Who in early 1964.

 

 

Check out these posters of The Who:

 


 

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