The Who, unequivocally one of rock 'n' roll's greatest bands, formed in 1964 in Shepherd's Bush, a district of West London in the Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. The quartet consisted of Pete Townshend, the group's leader, guitarist, songwriter, and backing vocalist, Roger Daltrey on lead vocals, John Entwistle on bass and background vocals, and Keith Moon "the Loon," the notoriously destructive but sensational drummer. Townshend, Daltrey, and Entwistle were in an R&B group called the Detours, until the other two members quit, and the band enlisted the services of local drummer Keith Moon. Daltrey took over lead vocal duties, and the group changed their name to the Who, though it was briefly changed to the High Numbers.
The group, who was building a reputation for excessive partying, released two popular singles, "I Can't Explain" and "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" before releasing their debut LP, the iconic The Who Sings My Generation (Virgin, 1965). Though the album was a bit rushed, it is widely viewed as one of the greatest debuts in rock history. It contains the classic songs, "My Generation" and "The Kids Are Alright." From there, the group would release ten more full-length studio LPs and a staggering nine live albums. Following the fantastic A Quick One (Happy Jack) in 1966, their next classic was 1967's The Who Sell Out, an influential record that interspersed terrific songs with jingles and commercials for imaginary products.
1969's Tommy is widely recognized as the first "rock opera," setting a precedent for both the group themselves (who would go on to top it with 1973's double-album Quadrophenia and 1971's Who's Next, originally intended to be part of the Lifehouse project). The group's live shows were legendary. The quartet would whip the crowd up to an unabashed frenzy of energy, highlighted by Townshend's bombastic windmill picking style and Moon's frantic, manic drumming. They were also known for inflicting extreme violence on their instruments, culminating with Moon literally blowing up his drum kit on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Their on-stage antics were matched by their penchant for off-stage hijinks. Among other things, drummer Keith Moon, allegedly, drove a Cadillac into a swimming pool at a Holliday Inn in Flint, Michigan. On the 7th of September, 1978, the eccentric drummer passed away due to an overdose of prescription sedative, Clomethiazole. Moon remains an integral part of the Who's legacy and music history.
The Who would record two more albums without Moon, including 1981's Face Dances and 1982's It's Hard (which had a hit in "Eminence Front"), breaking up after a tour in support of the latter. The group has continued to perform on and off since then, in recent years recording and performing with Ringo Starr's son, Zak Starkey, commandeering the skins. However, tragedy struck the group again on the 27th of June, 2002, when founding bassist, John Entwistle, was found dead in his Las Vegas hotel room after a cocaine-induced heart attack. With Starkey and bassist Pino Palladino, the Who recorded and released a new album in 2006 called Endless Wire. Through all the staggering highs and crushing lows, Townshend and Daltrey stand together and continue to tour the world, in the name of the Who and all of rock 'n' roll.
Read more about the Who in Crawdaddy!:
"Between the Lines: An Interview with Keith Moon"
"Part II: Dawson and the Legendary Gig Wagon Races"
"Live Interview: Pete Townshend: Classy and Articulate"