The Who

The Who
The Who

The Who at a 1975 curtain call. Left to right: Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, Keith Moon, Pete Townshend
Background information
Origin Shepherd's Bush, London, England
Genres Rock, art rock, hard rock, power pop[1]
Years active 1964–82, 1985, 1988–89, 1996–present
Labels UK: Brunswick, Reaction, Track, Polydor
US: Decca, MCA, Warner Bros., Universal Republic
Associated acts Plastic Ono Band, Thunderclap Newman, The Small Faces, The Faces, Deep End, Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band, The RD Crusaders, No Plan B
Roger Daltrey
Pete Townshend
Past members
John Entwistle
Doug Sandom
Keith Moon
Kenney Jones

The Who are an English rock band formed in 1964 by Roger Daltrey (lead vocals, harmonica and guitar), Pete Townshend (guitar, keyboards and vocals), John Entwistle (bass guitar, brass and vocals) and Keith Moon (drums and percussion). They became known for energetic live performances which often included instrument destruction.[2][3] The Who have sold about 100 million records,[4] and have charted 27 top forty singles in the United Kingdom and United States, as well as 17 top ten albums, with 18 Gold, 12 Platinum and 5 Multi-Platinum album awards in the United States alone.[5]

The Who rose to fame in the UK with a series of top ten hit singles, boosted in part by pirate radio stations such as Radio Caroline, beginning in January 1965 with "I Can't Explain". The albums My Generation (1965), A Quick One (1966) and The Who Sell Out (1967) followed, with the first two reaching the UK top five. They first hit the US Top 40 in 1967 with "Happy Jack" and hit the top ten later that year with "I Can See for Miles". Their fame grew with memorable performances at the Monterey Pop,[6] Woodstock[7] and Isle of Wight music festivals. The 1969 release of Tommy was the first in a series of top ten albums in the US, followed by Live at Leeds (1970), Who's Next (1971), Quadrophenia (1973), The Who by Numbers (1975), Who Are You (1978) and The Kids Are Alright (1979).

Moon died at the age of 32 in 1978, after which the band released two studio albums, the UK and US top five Face Dances (1981) and the US top ten It's Hard (1982), with drummer Kenney Jones, before disbanding in 1983. They re-formed at events such as Live Aid and for reunion tours such as their 25th anniversary tour (1989) and the Quadrophenia tours of 1996 and 1997. In 2000, the three surviving original members discussed recording an album of new material, but their plans temporarily stalled upon Entwistle's death at the age of 57 in 2002. Townshend and Daltrey continue to perform as The Who, and in 2006 they released the studio album Endless Wire, which reached the top ten in the UK and US.

The Who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, their first year of eligibility;[7][8] the display describes them as "Prime contenders, in the minds of many, for the title of World's Greatest Rock Band."[9] Time magazine wrote in 1979 that "No other group has ever pushed rock so far, or asked so much from it."[10] Rolling Stone magazine wrote: "Along with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, The Who complete the holy trinity of British rock."[11] They received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the British Phonographic Industry in 1988, and from the Grammy Foundation in 2001, for creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.[12][13] In 2008 surviving members Townshend and Daltrey were honoured at the 31st Annual Kennedy Center Honors.[14] That same year VH1 Rock Honors paid tribute to The Who[15] where Jack Black of Tenacious D called them "the greatest band of all time."[16]




In 1962, influenced by American R&B and skiffle music, Townshend and Entwistle started a Dixieland jazz band called The Confederates. Townshend played banjo and Entwistle played the French horn, which he had learned to play in his school band. Roger Daltrey met Entwistle walking down the street with a bass guitar slung over his shoulder and asked him to join his band called The Detours, which he had formed the year before. After a few weeks, Entwistle suggested Townshend as an additional guitarist. In those early days The Detours played a variety of music, while becoming influenced by American blues and country music, playing mostly rhythm and blues. The line-up consisted of Daltrey as lead guitarist, Townshend on rhythm guitar, Entwistle as the band's bass guitarist, Doug Sandom on drums, and Colin Dawson as vocalist. With the departure of Dawson, Daltrey moved to performing as lead vocalist, and Townshend, with Entwistle's encouragement, became sole guitarist. The band sought a recording contract, but were told they needed a better drummer, and it was suggested that they write their own material, with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as examples. In 1964, Sandom left the group. To fill contractual obligations, the bandmates hired a session drummer for the remainder of their scheduled gigs, while seeking a new permanent drummer. One of those evenings, Keith Moon approached the band about their open position for a drummer, and was given the opportunity to perform after their interval. After accidentally smashing up the drum kit when he sat in, he was invited to join the band.[17]

The Detours changed their name to The Who in February 1964, taking the suggestion of Townshend's roommate Richard Barnes, and, with the arrival of Moon that year, the line-up was complete. However, for a short period in summer 1964, under the management of mod Peter Meaden, they changed their name to The High Numbers, releasing "Zoot Suit/I'm the Face", a single aimed at appealing to mod fans. The single failed to chart, and the band reverted to The Who. Meaden was replaced as manager by the team of Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, who had seen the band playing at the Railway Tavern. Lambert and Stamp paid off Meaden and offered to manage the band. They became popular among the British mods, a 1960s subculture involving cutting-edge fashions, scooters and music genres such as rhythm and blues, soul, and beat music.[18] To highlight their innovative music style, the band created the slogan "Maximum R&B".[19][20]

The band had a strong local following, but needed an edge to separate them from many other ambitious small bands in the London music scene. In September 1964, during a performance at the Railway Tavern in Harrow and Wealdstone, London, Townshend accidentally broke the head of his guitar through the ceiling. Angered by sniggers from the audience, he smashed the instrument on the stage. He picked up another guitar and continued the show. A large crowd attended the next concert, but Townshend declined to smash another guitar. Instead, Moon wrecked his drumkit.[21][22] However, with that first act, the band found a "gimmick" to make a name for themselves. Instrument destruction became a staple of The Who's shows for several years.[2] The incident at the Railway Tavern is one of Rolling Stone magazine's "50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock 'n' Roll".[23]

The band crystallised around Townshend as primary songwriter and creative force. Entwistle also made songwriting contributions, and Moon and Daltrey contributed occasional songs in the 1960s and 1970s.

Early singles and My Generation

The Who's first release, and first hit, was January 1965's "I Can't Explain", a record influenced by The Kinks, with whom they shared American producer Shel Talmy. The song was only played in a few markets in the US, notably by DJ Peter C Cavanaugh on WTAC AM 600 in Flint, Michigan.[24] "I Can't Explain" was a top 10 hit in the UK and was followed by "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere", a song credited to Townshend and Daltrey.

The early UK singles were released on Brunswick Records, then an arm of American Decca, whose UK operation had earlier rejected the band. Lambert and Stamp, who were dissatisfied with the contract Shel Talmy had made with Decca for The Who, took advice to "break the contract", which resulted in acrimony between the band and their producer which rumbled on for decades. Meanwhile The Who were signed to Robert Stigwood's Reaction Label for the release of their next single, "Substitute". In 1967 Lambert and Stamp formed their own record label Track Records, and claimed the coup of signing Jimi Hendrix for its first release. Distributed by Polydor, Track became home for The Who's output until the mid-1970s.

The debut album My Generation (The Who Sings My Generation in the US) was released in late 1965. It included "The Kids Are Alright" and the title track "My Generation", which was one of the first songs with a bass guitar solo.[25] Subsequent hits included the 1966 singles "Substitute", about a young man who feels like a fraud, "I'm a Boy", about a boy dressed as a girl, "Happy Jack", about a mentally disturbed young man, and 1967's "Pictures of Lily" about a young man fixated on a pin-up poster of a woman given to him by his father. The early singles, all written by Townshend, addressed the themes of sexual tension and teenage angst.

A Quick One and The Who Sell Out

Although successful as a singles band, Townshend wanted The Who's albums unified rather than collections of songs. Townshend removed "I'm a Boy" from an initially projected rock opera, the first sign of which came in the 1966 album A Quick One (titled Happy Jack in the US), which included the storytelling medley "A Quick One While He's Away", which they referred to as a mini-opera. The song's most famous live performance was onstage at The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, where others' "poor" renditions were rewarded with rotten tomatoes. However, they sailed through with flying colours, as evidenced by the applause.

A Quick One was followed in 1967 by the single "Pictures of Lily" and The Who Sell Out – a concept album like an offshore radio station, complete with humorous jingles and commercials. It included a mini rock opera called "Rael" (whose closing theme ended up on Tommy) and The Who's biggest US single, "I Can See for Miles". The Who destroyed equipment at the Monterey Pop Festival that year and repeated the routine on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour with explosive results as Moon detonated his drum kit. Years later, during filming of The Kids Are Alright, Townshend claimed that the event was the start of his tinnitus. The drum kit had been loaded with an excessive amount of explosives after Moon bribed a stage hand. The resulting explosion was much more powerful than had been anticipated by anyone, including Moon himself. Music channel VH1 listed the event at #10 on their list of the 100 Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Moments on Television.[citation needed]


In 1968, The Who headlined the first Schaefer Music Festival in New York City's Central Park and released the single "Magic Bus". In December, they took part in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, performing their mini-opera, "A Quick One While He's Away". Also that year, Townshend became the subject of the first Rolling Stone interview. Townshend said he was working on a full-length rock opera.[26] This was Tommy, the first work billed as a rock opera and a landmark in modern music.

During this time the teachings of India's Meher Baba influenced Townshend's songwriting, continuing for many years. Baba is credited as "Avatar" on Tommy. In addition to commercial success, Tommy became a critical smash, Life saying, "...for sheer power, invention and brilliance of performance, Tommy outstrips anything which has ever come out of a recording studio,"[27] and Melody Maker declaring, "Surely The Who are now the band against which all others are to be judged."[14]

The Who performed at the Woodstock Festival that year, insisting on being paid before going on stage early on Sunday morning when they played much of Tommy.[28][29] During their performance Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman sat on the stage with concert organiser Michael Lang. Hoffman had been working the medical tent since the festival's opening act and was under the influence of LSD. Hoffman had become increasingly determined to publicise the case of John Sinclair, who had been given a 10-year jail sentence for passing two marijuana cigarettes to an undercover narcotics officer. Hoffman jumped up and grabbed a microphone during a brief lull in The Who's performance of Tommy saying, "I think this is a pile of shit, while John Sinclair rots in prison!" Townshend replied, "Fuck off! Fuck off my fucking stage!"[30] and struck Hoffman with his guitar. Hoffman leaped off the stage and disappeared into the crowd.[31]


Live at Leeds

Pete Townshend smashing his guitar during a performance with The Who; Ernst-Merck-Halle, Hamburg, 12 August 1972

The group began 1970 by appearing on the BBC's highly rated review of the sixties music scene Pop Go The Sixties, performing "I Can See For Miles" live on the show broadcast on BBC1, 1 January 1970. In February 1970 The Who recorded Live at Leeds, thought by many critics to be the best live rock album of all time.[32][33][34][35][36][37][38] The album, originally containing mostly the show's set closing hard rock songs, has been re-released in expanded and remastered versions. These versions remedy technical problems with the original and are expanded with portions of the performance of Tommy, as well as versions of earlier singles and stage banter. A double-disc version contains the entire performance of Tommy. The Leeds University gig was part of the Tommy tour, which not only included gigs in European opera houses but saw The Who become the first rock act at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. In March The Who released the UK top twenty hit "The Seeker".

Lifehouse and Who's Next

The Who performing in Hamburg in 1972

In March 1971, the band began recording the available Lifehouse material, a new Townshend-penned rock opera, with Kit Lambert in New York, and then restarted the sessions with Glyn Johns in April. Selections from the material, with one unrelated song by Entwistle, were released as a traditional studio album, Who's Next. The album became their most successful album among critics and fans, but terminated the Lifehouse project. Who's Next reached #4 in the US pop charts and #1 in the UK. Two tracks from the album, "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again", are cited[by whom?] as pioneering examples of synthesiser use in rock music; both tracks' keyboard sounds were generated in real time by a Lowrey organ[39] (though in "Won't Get Fooled Again", the organ was processed through a VCS3 synthesiser). Synthesizers can be heard elsewhere on the album, in "Bargain", "Going Mobile", and "The Song Is Over". In October The Who released the UK top twenty hit "Let's See Action". On 4 November 1971 The Who opened the Rainbow Theatre in London and played for three nights. They also played at the Young Vic in London, performing the Lifehouse set. This has been released on disc 2 of the Who's Next Deluxe Edition. In 1972 they released the UK top ten and US top twenty single "Join Together" and the UK and US Top Forty "The Relay".

Quadrophenia and By Numbers

Who's Next was followed by Quadrophenia (1973), The Who's second completed double album rock opera. The story is about a boy named Jimmy, who struggles for self-esteem, with his family and others, and is mentally ill.[40] His story is set against clashes between Mods and Rockers in the early 1960s in the UK, particularly at Brighton. The album became their highest charting cross-Atlantic success, peaking at #2 in the UK and US. The US tour started on 20 November 1973 at the San Francisco, California Cow Palace in Daly City where Moon passed out during "Won't Get Fooled Again" and, after a break backstage, again in "Magic Bus". Townshend asked the audience, "Can anyone play the drums? – I mean somebody good." An audience member, Scot Halpin, filled in for the rest of the show, a jam featuring "Smokestack Lightning", "Spoonful" and "Naked Eye".[41]

Moon in 1975

In 1974 The Who released the outtakes album Odds & Sods, which featured several songs from the aborted Lifehouse project. Their 1975 album, The Who by Numbers, had introspective songs, lightened by "Squeeze Box", another hit single. Some critics considered By Numbers Townshend's "suicide note."[42] A movie version of Tommy released that year was directed by Ken Russell, starred Daltrey and earned Townshend an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Score. On 6 December 1975 The Who set the record for largest indoor concert at the Pontiac Silverdome, attended by 75,962 people.[43] On 31 May 1976 The Who played at The Valley, the home of Charlton Athletic, in what was listed for more than ten years in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's loudest concert, at over 120 dBs.[27]

Who Are You and Moon's death

Daltrey and Townshend, 21 Oct. 1976, Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

On 18 August 1978, the band released Who Are You. It became their biggest and fastest seller to that date, peaking at #2 in the US, and was certified platinum in the US on 20 September. This success was overshadowed by Keith Moon's death in his sleep on 7 September after an overdose of Heminevrin – prescribed to combat alcohol withdrawal – a few hours after a party held by Paul McCartney.[44] Kenney Jones, of Small Faces and Faces, joined as Moon's successor.

On 2 May 1979, The Who returned to the stage with a well-received concert at the Rainbow Theatre in London, followed up over the spring and summer by performances at the Cannes Film Festival in France, in Scotland, at Wembley Stadium in London, in West Germany, at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey and in five dates at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Also in 1979, The Who released a documentary film called The Kids Are Alright and a film version of Quadrophenia, the latter a box office hit in the UK and the former capturing many of the band's most scintillating moments on stage, including their last performance with Keith Moon. In December, The Who became the third band, after the Beatles and The Band, featured on the cover of Time. The article, written by Jay Cocks, said The Who had "outpaced, outlasted, outlived and outclassed" all of their rock band contemporaries.[10]

Cincinnati tragedy

A small tour of the United States was marred by tragedy: on 3 December 1979 in Cincinnati, Ohio, a crowd crush at Riverfront Coliseum killed 11 fans and injured 26 others. This was due in part to festival seating – a seating arrangement in which seating is unassigned (non-reserved), so the first to enter the venue get the best of those spots. Additionally, many fans waiting outside mistook the band's sound check for the actual concert, and attempted to force their way inside. When only a fraction of the arena's entrance doors were opened, a bottleneck situation ensued, and with so many thousands trying to gain entry, the crush became deadly.

The band were not told until after the show because civic authorities feared crowd problems if the concert was cancelled.[45] The band were deeply shaken upon learning of the incident and requested assistance in subsequent venues for appropriate safety precautions for their following concerts. From the stage the following evening in Buffalo, New York, Daltrey told the crowd that the band had "lost a lot of family last night and this show's for them."

Daltrey and Townshend in 1980


Change and break-up

The band released two studio albums with Jones as drummer, Face Dances (1981) and It's Hard (1982). Face Dances produced a US top twenty and UK top ten hit with the single "You Better You Bet" and a string of MTV and AOR hits like "Another Tricky Day". Three videos from the album played on MTV the day it took to the air in August 1981. While both albums sold fairly well and It's Hard received a five-star review in Rolling Stone, some fans were not receptive to the new sound. "Athena" was a US top thirty hit and "Eminence Front" charted as well and became a favourite. However Townshend's life was a mess – his marriage had fallen apart due to his drinking and he had become a heroin user, something which shocked his friends due to his previous anti-drug stance. He cleaned up in early 1982, but Daltrey told him he would stop touring if it meant keeping Townshend alive. Shortly after It's Hard, The Who embarked on their 'farewell' tour of the US. It included two shows at Shea Stadium in New York on 12 & 13 October and ended in Toronto on 17 December and which was featured on HBO.[46] Townshend had said he wanted one more tour with The Who before turning it into a studio band. It was the highest grossing tour of the year, with sellout crowds in stadiums and arenas throughout North America.[47]

Townshend spent part of 1983 trying to write material for the studio album still owed to Warner Bros. Records from a contract in 1980. By the end of 1983, however, Townshend declared himself unable to generate material appropriate for The Who and announced his departure from the band in December, wishing Daltrey, Entwistle and Jones all the best if they went on without him. He then focused on solo projects such as: White City: A Novel, The Iron Man (which featured Daltrey and Entwistle and two songs on the album credited to "The Who"), and Psychoderelict, a forerunner to the radio work Lifehouse.


In July 1985, The Who—including Kenney Jones—reformed for a one-off at Bob Geldof's Live Aid concert at Wembley. The BBC transmission truck blew a fuse at the beginning of "My Generation", meaning the picture was lost completely, but the band kept playing. This caused most of the video of "My Generation" and all of "Pinball Wizard" to be missed by the rest of the world, but the audio for "Pinball Wizard" and the remaining songs were transmitted via radio. Transmission resumed with "Love, Reign O'er Me" and "Won't Get Fooled Again".

In February 1988, the band was honoured with the British Phonographic Industry's Lifetime Achievement Award. The Who played a short set at the ceremony (the last time Jones worked with The Who). In 1989, they embarked on a 25th anniversary The Kids Are Alright reunion tour which emphasised songs from Tommy. Simon Phillips played drums with Steve "Boltz" Bolton playing lead guitar, as Townshend relegated himself to acoustic guitar and some electric rhythm guitar in order to minimise damage to his hearing. A horn section and backing singers were also included in order to provide sonic richness while keeping stage volumes far lower than previous tours. Newsweek said, "The Who tour is special because, after the Beatles and the Stones, they're IT." There were sellouts throughout North America, including a four-night stand at Giants Stadium.[48] Their two shows at Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro Massachusetts sold 100,000 tickets in less than 8 hours, beating previous records set there by U2 and David Bowie.[49] In all, over two million tickets were sold. The tour included Tommy at Radio City Music Hall in New York and at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, with several guest stars at the latter performance. A 2-CD live album Join Together was released in 1990, stalling at #188 in the US. A video of the Universal Amphitheatre show was also released and went platinum in the US.


Partial reunions

In 1990, their first year of eligibility, The Who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by U2, Bono saying, "More than any other band, The Who are our role models." The Who's display at the Rock Hall describes them as prime contenders for the title of "World's Greatest Rock Band". Only The Beatles and The Rolling Stones received a similar accolade at the Rock Hall.

In 1991, The Who recorded a cover of Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" for a salutation album. This was the last time they released any studio work with Entwistle. In 1994 Daltrey turned 50 and celebrated with two concerts at Carnegie Hall. These included guest spots by Entwistle and Townshend. Although all three surviving original members of The Who attended, they did not appear on stage together except for the finale, "Join Together", with the other guests. Daltrey toured that year with Entwistle and with John "Rabbit" Bundrick on keyboards, Zak Starkey on drums and Simon Townshend filling in for his brother. Pete Townshend allowed Daltrey to call this band The Who, but Daltrey declined. The live album recorded during these concerts, Daltrey Sings Townshend, was not a commercial success. Also in 1994, The Who released the box set Thirty Years of Maximum R&B.

Quadrophenia revival

In 1996 Townshend, Entwistle and Daltrey performed Quadrophenia with guest stars at a concert in Hyde Park. Starkey was the drummer. The performance was narrated by Phil Daniels who played Jimmy the Mod in the film. Despite technical difficulties the show was a success and led to a six-night residency at Madison Square Garden. Townshend played acoustic guitar exclusively. These shows were not billed as The Who. The success of the Quadrophenia shows led to a US and European tour through 1996 and 1997. Townshend played mostly acoustic guitar, but also electric guitar on select songs. In 1998 VH1 ranked The Who ninth in their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of Rock 'n' Roll.

In late 1999, The Who performed as a five-piece for the first time in concert since 1985, with Bundrick on keyboards and Starkey on drums. The first show took place 29 October 1999 in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Garden. From there, they performed acoustic shows at Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California on 30 and 31 October. Next, they played on 12 and 13 November at the House of Blues in Chicago, as a benefit for the Maryville Academy. Finally, two Christmas charity shows on 22 and 23 December at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London. These were the first full-length concerts with Townshend playing electric guitar for the duration of the show since 1982. The 29 October show in Las Vegas was partially on TV as well as the internet and would later see release as the DVD The Vegas Job. Reviews for the shows were good.


Charity shows and Entwistle's death

The success of 1999 led to a US tour in 2000 and a UK tour in November. The tour started on 6 June at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York to benefit the Robin Hood Foundation and ended with a charity show on 27 November at the Royal Albert Hall for the Teenage Cancer trust. With good reviews, all three members of The Who discussed a new album.[50] Also that year, VH1 placed The Who eighth in the 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. The band, with Zak Starkey on drums, performed at The Concert for New York City on 20 October 2001, during which they played "Who Are You", "Baba O'Riley", "Behind Blue Eyes", and "Won't Get Fooled Again" for the fire and police departments of New York City. The Who were also honoured with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award that year.[51]

The Who played five shows in England in 2002; in Portsmouth on 27 and 28 January and Watford on 31 January, in preparation for two shows for the Teenage Cancer Trust Benefit at the Albert Hall on 7 and 8 February. These were Entwistle's last shows with The Who. On 27 June, just before their US tour was due to commence, Entwistle was found dead at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. The cause was a heart attack in which cocaine was a contributing factor.[52] After a brief delay and two cancelled gigs, the tour commenced at the Hollywood Bowl with bassist Pino Palladino as Entwistle's (now-permanent) replacement. Most shows from the tour were released officially on CD as Encore Series 2002. In September, Q magazine named The Who as one of the "50 Bands to See Before You Die". In November 2003, The Who landed seven albums in Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, more than any other artist with the exceptions of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

In 2004 The Who released "Old Red Wine" and "Real Good Looking Boy" (with Pino Palladino and Greg Lake, respectively, on bass guitar), as part of a singles anthology (The Who: Then and Now), and went on an 18-date tour playing Japan, Australia, the UK and the US. All shows were released on CD as part of Encore Series 2004. The band also headlined the Isle of Wight Festival.[53] Also that year, Rolling Stone ranked The Who #29 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.[54]

Endless Wire

The Who on Tour in 2007. On left: Roger Daltrey, on right: Pete Townshend, with Zak Starkey (drums) and John "Rabbit" Bundrick (keyboards)

The Who announced that spring 2005 would see their first studio album in 23 years (tentatively titled WHO2). Townshend continued working on the album, however, and posted a novella called The Boy Who Heard Music on his blog. This developed into a mini-opera called Wire & Glass which formed the kernel for the new Who album, and later a full opera which Townshend presented at Vassar College.

The Who performed on the London stage of the Live 8 concert in July 2005. The Who were also inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame that year. In 2006, The Who were first recipients of the Freddie Mercury Lifetime Achievement Award in Live Music at the Vodafone music awards.[3]

Endless Wire was released on 30 October 2006 (31 October in the US). It was the first full studio album of new material since 1982's It's Hard and contained the band's first mini-opera since "Rael" on 1967's The Who Sell Out. Endless Wire debuted at #7 on Billboard and #9 in the UK Albums Chart. On the eve of its release (29 October), The Who performed part of the mini-opera and several songs from the new album live as the closing act of the BBC Electric Proms at the Roundhouse in London.

In advance of the album, and to support it, The Who embarked upon their 2006–2007 tour. Shows were released on CD and DVD as part of Encore Series 2006 and 2007. Starkey was invited to join Oasis in April 2006, and The Who in November 2006, but he declined, preferring to split his time between the two. On 24 June 2007, The Who topped the bill at the Glastonbury Festival.

Amazing Journey

Daltrey and Townshend at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, 26 October 2008

In November 2007, the documentary Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who was released. The documentary includes footage not in earlier documentaries, including film from the 1970 Leeds University appearance and a 1964 performance at the Railway Hotel when they were The High Numbers. Amazing Journey was nominated for a 2009 Grammy Award.

The Who were honoured at the 2008 VH1 Rock Honors in Los Angeles. Taping of the show took place 12 July,[55] followed by a network broadcast on 17 July. That same week, a 12-song best-of collection was released for the music video game Rock Band. The Who performed at the Rock Band party at the Orpheum Theater during the 2008 E3 Media and Business Summit. In October 2008, The Who embarked on a tour of four Japanese cities and nine North American cities. In December, The Who were recognised at the Kennedy Center Honors. After other musical celebrities performed their music, the finale was a surprise chorus of police and rescue first responders who had been touched by The Who's performance at The Concert for New York City after the shock of 9–11.[56]

An Australia and New Zealand tour was completed in early 2009. In August, Townshend announced on The Who's website that he is working on a new musical titled Floss which follows the story of an aging rocker known as "Walter", some songs of which will debut on a new Who album proposed for 2011 or 2012.[57]


The Who performed at the halftime show of Super Bowl XLIV at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on 7 February 2010.[58] They played a medley of "Pinball Wizard", "Baba O'Riley", "Who Are You", "See Me, Feel Me", and "Won't Get Fooled Again".[59]

The Who performed Quadrophenia at the Royal Albert Hall on 30 March 2010 as part of the Teenage Cancer Trust series of 10 gigs. This one-off performance of the rock opera featured guest appearances from Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam, Tom Meighan the lead singer of Kasabian, and Tom Norris of the London Symphony Orchestra.[60]

Townshend told Rolling Stone magazine that the band had planned a tour for early 2010; Townshend later stated this was jeopardised due to the return of his tinnitus. He is experimenting with a new in-ear monitoring system that was recommended to him by fellow rocker Neil Young and his audiologist.[61] The in-ear monitoring system was scheduled to be tested out at the Quadrophenia concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 30 March.[62] Most recently[when?], Roger Daltrey has stated that they have acquired new equipment—earpieces and the like—that he and the band are learning to use to enable Townshend to perform. The Who hoped to hit the road again in 2011, with "a new show," according to singer Roger Daltrey, or possibly a retooled stage presentation of the group's 1973 rock opera Quadrophenia.[63]

On 11 October 2010, The Who's official website announced the release on 15 November 2010 of the Fortieth Anniversary Super-Deluxe Collectors’ Edition of their Live at Leeds album, including the complete 14 February 1970 performance, and a 2-CD set containing the complete performance of 15 February 1970 at the City Hall in Hull, England.[64]

The Who performed in London on 13 January 2011, along with Jeff Beck and Debbie Harry for a 'killing cancer' benefit concert.[65]

In July 2011, Townshend revealed on his blog that he will be touring their 1973 rock opera album Quadrophenia with bandmate Roger Daltrey in 2012. Townshend wrote "The reason I am not on the road with Roger is that this is entirely Roger's adventure, one that is bringing him great joy. I don't belong on this 'Tommy' tour. I wish him well, sincerely, and I look forward to playing with Roger again doing 'Quadrophenia' next year".[66]

On 4 November 2011, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend launched the Daltrey/Townshend Teen and Young Adult Cancer Program at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, to be funded by The Who's charity Who Cares.[67] The launch, followed on 5 November by a fund-raising event, was also attended by Robert Plant and Dave Grohl.[68]

Legacy and influence

The Who are one of the most influential rock groups of the 1960s and '70s,[7] influencing artists from Led Zeppelin to The Clash.[14] Bono of U2 said, "More than any other band, The Who are our role models."[14] Brian May of Queen said, "They were my inspiration."[69] Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips said, "I already believed in rock & roll, but seeing The Who really made me feel it. I knew I had to become a musician after that."[70] Geddy Lee of Rush said, "They were really influential on our band in a big way."[71] Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder said, "The one thing that disgusts me about The Who is the way they smashed through every door in the uncharted hallway of rock 'n' roll without leaving much more than some debris for the rest of us to lay claim to."[72]

Pete Townshend does the windmill in 1976

The Who's Mod genesis inspired Mod revival bands such as The Jam,[73] as well as later bands of the Britpop wave in the mid-1990s, such as Blur[74] and Oasis.[75] The band has also been called "The Godfathers of Punk"[76] due to their loud, aggressive approach to rock and the attitude evinced in songs like "My Generation". Many protopunk and punk rock bands from the MC5[77][78] to The Stooges[79] to the Ramones[80] to Green Day,[81] point to The Who as influence.

The group has been credited with originating the "rock opera"[7] and it made one of the first notable concept albums. Following Tommy were David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway by Genesis, and Pink Floyd's The Wall in the 1970s. Later efforts in the rock opera vein include My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade and Green Day's American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown releases.

In 1967 Townshend coined the term "power pop" to describe The Who's sixties singles.[82] The guiding lights of the seventies power pop movement, from the Raspberries to Cheap Trick, take inspiration from The Who.[83] The Who's influence can also be seen in early incorporation of synthesisers,[84] with Who's Next featuring the instrument prominently.

The Who's surviving members, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, were given Kennedy Center Honors for their enduring influence on popular culture.[14] The band had an impact on fashion from their earliest days with their embrace of pop art and their groundbreaking use of the now common Union Jack for clothing.[85] Their contributions to rock iconography include the windmill strum, the Marshall Stack and the guitar smash.

All three versions of the American forensic drama CSI (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, and CSI: NY) feature songs written and performed by The Who as theme songs, "Who Are You", "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Baba O'Riley" respectively.

Awards and accolades

Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend in 1976

The Who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990,[86] the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005,[87] and won the first annual Freddie Mercury Lifetime Achievement in Live Music Award in 2006.[3] They received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the British Phonographic Industry in 1988,[12] and from the Grammy Foundation in 2001,[13] for creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.

Tommy was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998, "My Generation" in 1999 and Who's Next in 2007.[88] At the 31st annual awards ceremony on 7 December 2008, Townshend and Daltrey received Kennedy Center Honors; the first rock band to be so honoured.[56] VH1 Rock Honors 2008 paid homage to The Who with tribute performances from Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Flaming Lips, Incubus and Tenacious D. My Generation was selected for preservation in the United States National Recording Registry in 2009.[89]

The Who are ranked #3 on's "Top 50 Classic Rock Bands".[90] The Who have seven albums on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, more than any other artist with the exceptions of the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen. The Who are ranked #2 on Classic Rock's "50 Best Live Acts of All Time".[91] The Who were ranked #9 on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of all time" in 1998[92] and are ranked #13 in 2010.[93]

Band members

Current members

  • Roger Daltrey – lead vocals, occasional guitar and harmonica (1964–1982, 1985, 1988-1989, 1996-present)
  • Pete Townshend – guitar, keyboards, synthesisers, vocals (1964–1982, 1985, 1988-1989, 1996-present)

Former members

Current touring members


Studio albums

See also


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Further reading

External links

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