7 Things Only “The Who” Superfans Know By Heart
How Much Do You Know Compared To Other People?
They’re a bunch of insanely talented dudes who became very influential in rock music. In the span of five decades, they’ve released 11 albums and numerous hits. Even if you’re a superfan, there could still be things you may not know about this legendary band. Care to test your knowledge?
1. They created the first successful rock opera.
The Who released ‘Tommy’ on May 3, 1969. It was a story of the life experiences of a deaf, dumb and blind boy. Pete Townshend came up with the idea after he attempted to translate the teachings of an Indian spiritual master, Mehur Baba, into music. The appeal was certainly there and Townshend wanted something more than just a one-hit single. His goal was to gain a new wave of fans – those who liked to listen to more than 3 minutes of music. When he talked to Jann Wenner, a co-founder of The Rolling Stone magazine, Townshend said: “It’s a story about a kid that’s born deaf, dumb and blind and what happens to him throughout his life. The deaf, dumb and blind boy is played by the Who, the musical entity…But what it’s really all about is the fact that because the boy is ‘D, D & B,’ he’s seeing things basically as vibrations which we translate as music. That’s really what we want to do: create this feeling that when you listen to the music you can actually become aware of the boy, and aware of what he is all about, because we are creating him as we play.” It received plenty of praises and aside from an all-star orchestral recording, it was also adapted into a movie in 1975.
2. They hated playing at Woodstock.
The Who’s set ran for a little over an hour and it consisted of their classic hits and some songs from their rock opera Tommy. It was a great performance and definitely something that solidified their place in rock music history. Of course Pete Townshend wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity for some crazy guitar theatrics – he smashed his axe and threw remnants of it into the audience. Some say though that his roadies scrambled to get the pieces. Anyway, it may have been one for the books but according to Pete Townshend, the band didn’t enjoy Woodstock at all. He even said during an interview with author Ken Sharp, “The footage is brilliant. We were brilliant. It was all those drugged up hippies that ended up looking like twats in ‘The Simpsons.’ Listen, Woodstock should have delivered what it promised. We did. The movie delivered too, I think. The sad part is that all I remember about Woodstock is meeting Richie Havens again and thinking, “This is a truly spiritual man.” Everyone else seemed like rabbits in the headlights. I don’t f— with spirituality. I do it like it’s a personal war. Woodstock could have been a beginning, not an end. There were nearly a million very good souls there, with the best intentions. What went wrong? I don’t know. Maybe nothing. I didn’t have a good time. It was just another gig to me — a particularly tough one.”
3. They once became the ‘Loudest Band in the World.’
The Who is legendary in more ways than one – whether it’s Pete Townshend’s ritual guitar smashing or their iconic music. The thing is, not everyone knows they once held a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. For what, you may ask? It was in 1926 when they became the ‘Loudest Band in the World.’ During their concert on May 31, 1976 at The Valley which is an open-air sports stadium in London, their sound was measured at 126 dB 32 meters away (or roughly more than 100 feet) from the speakers. Man, that IS insanely loud. Prior to them, the record holder was Deep Purple whose sound reached 117 dB (it was an indoor gig and the music even knocked three concert-goers unconscious). There were several bands who also held the spot but this is no longer celebrated by Guinness because they fear it could promote deafness or damage to the ears. The Who may not be as frighteningly loud again but hey at least once upon a time, they managed to rock so hard.
4. They played at Super Bowl XLIV Halftime Show.
Even new musicians just can’t hold a candle to these guys. Last February 2010 during the halftime show at Super Bowl XLIV (the last one to feature a unique logo), The Who gave the audience in the stadium and the viewers from all over the world an absolute eargasm. The boys performed a medley of their classic hits including “Baba O’ Riley”, “Pinball Wizard”, “See Me, Feel Me”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Who Are You.” So how was it? Duh, they killed it obviously. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend still had it but it still makes you feel nostalgic for those times Townshend had so much energy he practically destroyed the stage. LOL. Then again, it’s still energetic and electrifying given that they’re already in their 60s. Some fans terribly missed Keith Moon and John Entwistle and there were also mixed reactions from the crowd. But one thing’s for sure, this made us wish for a new album!
5. Keith Moon’s first auctioned drum kit held another record!
The Who has another place in the Guinness Book of World Records and it’s all because of Keith Moon. He’s known to destroy everything he can lay his hands on including his percussion instruments. It’s safe to say that any of his possessions that remain intact is valuable. That is probably why the ‘most expensive drum kit sold at an auction’ is Moon’s custom-made five-piece Premier drum set (complete with The Who logo printed in orange and black). He used it between 1968 and 1970 and the events included performances in The Who’s U.S. tour, 1969, Woodstock 1969, Isle Of Wight Festival 1969 and The Rolling Stones’ Rock N Roll Circus 1968 to name a few. On September 29, 2004, a private US bidder bought it for £139,650 or around $252,487 with buyer’s commission included. The pre-sale estimate at Christie’s in London was just at £15,000 ($26,740) so basically, the buyer paid nine times that price!
6. The Who’s 1979 concert ended in tragedy.
Concerts should be nothing but pure fun. It’s about you and your friends seeing your favorite band and rocking out to their music and just having a grand time. Sadly, some things don’t end so well for some gig-goers. Like what happened during one of The Who’s shows on December 3, 1979 at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio. 11 fans between the ages of 15 and 27 died and 8 were seriously injured during the stampede. Around 7,000 attendees (with possible drug use) were scrambling for the first-come, first-served spots near the stage and with few doors and ticket-takers, it was a recipe for disaster. Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey had no idea about what happened. They only found out at the end of the main set. Daltrey said, “There’s no words to say what I feel. I’m a parent as well. I’ve got a boy of 15, and two little girls. All I can say is: I’m sorry for what’s happened.”
7. There’s only one hit single that Pete Townshend didn’t write.
Most of The Who’s hit singles like “Who Are You,” “Love, Reign o’er Me,” “I Can See For Miles,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “My Generation,” “Pinball Wizard” and “Baba O’ Riley” were all written by Pete Townshend. The only chart-topping song he didn’t pen was “Summertime Blues.” It was co-written and originally recorded in 1958 by rockabilly musician Eddie Cochran. The other writer is Jerry Capeheart. The Who’s cover version was part of their repertoire during their early days until 1976 and they even performed it at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. However, it hasn’t been played since 2002 after the tragic death of bassist John Entwistle. The song peaked at no. 27 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and no. 38 on the UK Singles Chart. It was also critically acclaimed and Billboard magazine wrote that their rendition was “certain to put them right up there at the top.”