The Who began as many rock bands of the twentieth century as a jazz group. Called The Confederates, the band was formed by John Entwistle and Peter Townshend. Eventually the two met Roger Daltrey and joined his group, The Detours. Keith Moon eventually came into the band as their drummer.
With the arrival of Moon the band became The Who in 1964, a quick assemblance of the major members. They changed to The High Numbers with manager Peter Meaden, but their album failed to chart, so they fired him and re-became The Who. They started gathering a following among British Modernists (Mods), creating a subculture with new age fashions, pastimes, and musical genres.
Their first hit, “I Can’t Explain” in 1965, reached the top ten on the charts, and their debut album “My Generation” was also a complete hit. Singles in that year and the next included title track “My Generation,” Magic Bus,” and “Substitute.”
Although their singles made top of the lists on countless occasions, Townshend wanted The Who’s albums to be unified instead of a bunch of great, but stand-alone singles. The first of these conceptual works was “A Quick One,” the title song of which has been called a mini opera and the first progressive epic.
The Who also made a smash appearance at Woodstock, playing much of their newest album, “Tommy,” but only after being paid for the appearance. Their next album, “Live at Leeds,” is regarded as one of the greatest rock albums ever made.
Next, The Who tried for another conceptual album, but were distracted by another project, “Lifehouse,” and ended up finishing neither and releasing most of the songs as singles, songs like “I Don’t Even Know Myself.”
In 1971, some of the “Lifehouse” tunes as well as others, were released in a studio album coined “Who’s Next,” which went to become their most successful album. They implemented many new synthesiser techniques in tracks like “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Baba O’Riley.”
In 1978, the band brought out “Who Are You,” a radio friendly compilation, which did very well. Sadly, Moon died around the same time due to an overdose on a medication designed to combat alcohol withdrawal, something he had been going through while trying to cut down on drinking. The track, “Music Must Change,” is a great piece with no drum track to represent his passing. Kenney Jones of The Faces joined as his successor.
The Who sold 100 million albums. They set the stage for hard rockers to punk rockers like Led Zepplin and Blur. They began the rock opera, and pushed synth popularity farther than any other group would have. Their ideas, stage presence, and musical style holds an influence that rocks our stages today.