All About The Who

Forming in the mid-sixties, The Who quickly became a huge success because of their combative live presence and song lyrics that accurately described the feelings of their rebellious generation.

Last Updated: 2008-07-22
The Who
Although they occasionally struggled to find their footing in the studio during their early years, the band immediately figured out how to put on a tremendous live show. From the trademark microphone swings of Roger Daltrey, to Pete Townshend's patented "windmills", the band always put on a convincing, angry rock performance that suited their audience very well. Combine that with the fret board acrobatics of John Entwistle and Keith Moon's aggressive arm flailing, and it's hard to imagine a band with more live energy. Shows would often end with the band literally destroying their equipment in a fit of rage.

Still, The Who didn't reach their songwriting prime until the seventies, when Townshend's lyrical prowess fully developed. The band's 1971 classic, Won't Get Fooled Again, is possibly the most enduring rock anthem of it's time, with rebellious lyrics that are widely recognized, even by people unfamiliar with The Who's music. Daltrey's anguished scream during the climax remains one of the most remarkable moments in modern popular music.

During their seventies prime, the band continued to advance with massive conceptual albums and superb musicianship that raised the bar for rock instrumentalists. Every member redefined the expectations of their respective roles in a rock band. It's hard to imagine the world of rock drumming without Keith Moon's influence, or bass playing without Entwistle, surely the greatest rock bass player of all time.

The band's success, however, came screeching to a halt in 1978 when Keith Moon died of a prescription drug overdose. The band initially tried to carry on, with new drummer Kenny Jones, but after two albums, it was clear that they had lost their artistic ambition. In 1982, they officially broke up, allowing the members to pursue other projects.

Starting with a 1985 performance at Live Aid, The Who continued to occasionally reunite during the following decades. In 2002, John Entwistle died in his sleep on the eve of the band's North American tour. Choosing to carry on with session bassist Pino Palladino, the band continues to perform today with a powerful five man lineup. Rumors persist that Townshend and Daltrey are hard at work on the first Who album since 1982. The rumors were fueled by the release of the band's first original material recorded in over 20 years when two new songs were released on their 2004 hits compilation, Then & Now. Even if the band never played another show after the early seventies, however, the anathematic rock of The Who remains the voice of a generation, cementing their status as one of rock's all-time champions.
The Who group photo

The Who live on stage

Roger Daltrey
Original Lineup:
Lineup (2008):
Roger Daltrey - vocals
Pete Townshend - guitar, vocals
John Entwistle - bass
Keith Moon - drums
Roger Daltrey - vocals
Pete Townshend- lead guitar, vocals
Pino Palladino - bass
John "Rabbit" Bundrick - keyboards
Simon Townshend - guitar
ak Starkey - drums
Keith Moon

1. The Who Sings My Generation (1965)
Their debut album catches the band at their most aggressive. Containing several of Pete Townshend's signature anthems (The Kids Are Alright, My Generation), this album is also a great display of the band's powerhouse rhythm section, especially on The Ox.
The Who Sings My Generation album cover
2. A Quick One (Happy Jack) (1966)
The Who's sophomore release contains songs contributed by every member of the band. John Entwistle's chilling bass line and lyrics made Boris The Spider a classic. Cobwebs And Strange is a showcase for Keith Moon's maniacal drum technique. Pete Townshend first displays his ambitions for rock opera with the epic title track.
A Quick One Happy Jack album cover
3. The Who Sell Out (1967)
The band's first attempt at a full concept album is inconsistent, but still manages to give us many great songs. The concept wearsthin, with short mock advertisements in between songs, but the music displays some of the band's most sophisticated songwriting to date, including one of their all time classics, I Can See For Miles.
The Who Sell Out album cover
4. Tommy (1969)
This epic rock opera finally displayed Townshend's artistic ambitions coming to full fruition. The classic story is about Tommy, the deaf, dumb, and blind boy who finds salvation as a pinball star. The story was adapted to numerous film and live stage productions, and today, the concept seems to be more recognized than the music itself. But this revolutionary album provided many songs that remained live staples for the band, including See Me Feel Me, and the epic instrumental, Sparks.
Tommy album cover
5. Live at Leeds (1970)
Probably the greatest live album ever recorded, this displays the band at their peak of energy, aggression, and creativity. The thundering intro of Heaven And Hell, the excellent cover of Young Man Blues, and the epic closing jam of Magic Bus make this one of the band's finest albums.
Live at Leeds album cover
6. Who's Next (1971)
Surely one of the most important rock albums of the seventies, this release showcased some of Townshend's finest songwriting, as well as the excellent musicianship of his bandmates. The album originated as another concept album like Tommy. Originally called Lifehouse, the concept was to be a massive exploration of music's effects on society. The concept fell through, and Townshend may have viewed it as a failure. This album still remains arguably their finest effort, with too many classic songs to list here. Won't Get Fooled Again and Baba O'Riley remain two of the quintessential rock anthems of all time.
Who's Next album cover
7. Quadrophenia (1973)
This classic concept album finds each musician at their peak of instrumental ability. Moon's drumming is superb throughout, and he even gets to sing on the song Bell Boy. Daltrey is at his absolute best, especially on Love Reign O'er Me, which is one of the greatest vocal performances of all time. Townshend's writing is as great as always, and the album contains his most technical guitar work. Of course Entwistle shines throughout, including his monstrous bass performance during The Real Me. Overall, this is probably the band's most sophisticated musical effort.
Quadrophenia album cover
8. Odds & Sods (1974)
This outtakes collection shows just how great The Who were in their prime. Songs like Pure & Easy and Naked Eye were cut from the original albums, and they are better than what most other bands were releasing as singles at the time. The studio version of Young Man Blues is also essential for any Who fan.
Odds & Sods album cover
9. The Who By Numbers (1975)
Perhaps the most overlooked album from the classic lineup, this album still contains many great songs. Squeeze Box catches the band at their most playful. Entwistle contributes one of the album's finest tracks, Success Story. It may not include any of the band's wild rock anthems, but it is still a consistent album.
The Who By Numbers album cover
10. Who Are You (1978)
This album ended up being their last with Keith Moon. Overall, a few great songs can't save it from being a somewhat anti-climatic swan song for the classic lineup. Moon was in poor health during the recording, as evidenced by the sub-par drumming (by his standards) during much of the album. Still, Who Are You and Sister Disco are two essential Who songs, and there are other fine tracks here as well.
Who Are You album cover
11. Face Dances (1981)
Not only did the loss of Keith Moon hurt the instrumental strength of the band, but it also seems to have killed Townshend's lyrical ambition. A few good songs make it on to the album, but it still stands as the weakest studio effort from the band.
Face Dances album cover
12. It's Hard (1982)
The band's second (and final) release with drummer Kenny Jones is somewhat more successful than its predecessor. The band proves to be at their best during this period of their career when they go in new directions, rather than attempting emulate their classic style. The best example of this is Eminence Front, a superb, atmospheric composition that is absolutely nothing like anything they did with Keith Moon in the band.
It's Hard album cover
13. Then & Now (2004)
Perhaps the best hits compilation for The Who, this is a great place to start for anyone new to the band. It is impossible to include all of the band's essential output on a single disc, but this is a decent try. It also includes two new songs, both of which sound like the band's classic music of the seventies.
Then & Now album cover
1. Won't Get Fooled Again
2. My Generation
3. Baba O'Riley
4. I Can See For Miles
5. Who Are You
6. Pinball Wizard
7. Behind Blue Eyes
8. See Me, Feel Me
9. I Can't Explain
10. Love Reign O'er Me

1. Love Reign O'er Me
2. Won't Get Fooled Again
3. My Generation
4. See Me Feel Me
5. I Can See For Miles
6. Baba O'Riley
7. The Real Me
8. Behind Blue Eyes
9. Doctor Jimmy
10. 5:15
1. The Rock
2. Heaven and Hell
3. Young Man Blues
4. Won't Get Fooled Again
5. Eminence Front
6. Sparks
7. Summertime Blues
8. A Quick One
9. Magic Bus
10. Love Reign O'er Me
1. The Real Me
2. My Generation
3. Won't Get Fooled Again
4. Boris The Spider
5. Sparks
6. 5:15 (Live at the Royal Albert Hall)
7. Young Man Blues
8. The Punk and the Godfather
9. Dreaming From The Waist
10. Summertime Blues
1. Won't Get Fooled Again
2. A Quick One
3. My Generation
4. Cobwebs and Strange
5. The Ox
6. Baby Don't You Do It
7. Bargain
8. Heaven and Hell
9. Who Are You
10. Happy Jack
1. Won't Get Fooled Again
2. My Generation
3. Young Man Blues
4. Sparks
5. Heaven and Hell
6. Summertime Blues
7. The Real Me
8. Love Reign O'er Me
9. A Quick One
10. 5:15
1. Won't Get Fooled Again
2. 5:15
3. My Generation
4. Behind Blue Eyes
5. Baba O'Riley
6. Pinball Wizard
7. Substitute
8. Bargain
9. We're Not Gonna Take It
10. Pure and Easy
PLACEMENT ON DDD LISTS (as of 09/2019):
Greatest Rock Artists - #8
Greatest 'Live' Rock Artists - #6
Greatest British Invasion Artists - #4
Greatest Rock Artists 1970s - #10
Greatest Rock Artists 1960s - #18
Greatest Rock Frontmen - Roger Daltrey #20
Greatest Rock Vocalists - Roger Daltrey #24
Greatest Rock Vocal Performances - "Love Reign O'er Me" #2, "Won't Get Fooled Again" #53, "My Generation" #92, "See Me Feel Me" #143
Greatest Rock Guitarists - Pete Townshend #16
Greatest Rock Bassists - John Entwistle #2
Greatest Rock Bass Performances - "The Real Me" #2, "My Generation" #13, "Won't Get Fooled Again" #34, "Boris The Spider" #130, "Sparks" #169
Greatest Rock Basslines - "Boris The Spider" #22, "Sparks" #88, "Substitute" #118, "Baba O'Riley" #122
Greatest Rock Drummers - Keith Moon #4
Greatest Rock Drum Performances - "Won't Get Fooled Again" #10, "A Quick One" #36, "My Generation" #46, "Cobwebs And Strange" #55, "The Ox" #83, "Baby Don't You Do It" #164, "Bargain" #189, "Heaven And Hell" #225
Greatest 'Live' Rock Drum Performances - "A Quick One" (The Kids Are Alright) #9, "Heaven And Hell" (Live At Leeds) #19
Greatest Rock Lyricists - Pete Townshend #7
Greatest Rock Songwriters - Pete Townshend #16
Greatest Rock Guitar Riffs - "Pinball Wizard" #54, "I Can't Explain" #113, "Substitute" #150, "My Generation" #178
Greatest Rock Guitar Solos - "Won't Get Fooled Again" #137, "The Rock" #182
Greatest 'Live' Rock Guitar Solos - "Heaven And Hell" (Live At Leeds)
Greatest Rock Songs - "My Generation" #43, "Won't Get Fooled Again" #63, "Baba O'Riley" #171, "I Can See For Miles" #276, "Pinball Wizard" #489
Greatest Rock Ballads - "Love Reign O'er Me" #58, "Behind Blue Eyes" #61
Greatest Rock Anthems - "My Generation" #3, "Won't Get Fooled Again" #18, "Baba O'Riley" #32, "Long Live Rock" #56
Greatest Epic Rock Songs - "Love Reign O'er Me" #12, "Won't Get Fooled Again" #24, "Baba O'Riley" #78, "Who Are You" #120, "A Quick One, While He's Away" #150, "Doctor Jimmy" #178
Greatest Power Pop Songs - "The Kids Are Alright" #5, " I Can't Explain" #65
Greatest Psychedelic Songs - "Armenia City in The Sky" #89
Greatest Rock Instrumentals - "Sparks" #72, "Overture" (Tommy) #158, "Quadrophenia" #199, "Underture" (Tommy) #222
Greatest Rock Albums - "Who's Next" #21, "Tommy" #32, "Live At Leeds" #96
Greatest 'Live' Rock Albums - "Live At Leeds" #2
Greatest Rock Double Albums - "Tommy" #5, "Quadrophenia" #10
Greatest Rock Debut Albums - "My Generation" #49
Greatest Rock Guitar Albums - "Quadrophenia" #40
Greatest 'Live' Rock Guitar Albums - "Live At Leeds" #15
Greatest Rock Albums 1970s - "Who's Next" #7, "Live at Leeds" #39, "Quadrophenia" #63
Greatest Rock Albums 1960s - "Tommy" #10, "The Who Sell Out" #43, "The Who Sings My Generation" #56, "A Quick One (Happy Jack)" #92

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