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The Who

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Background Information

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The Who
Who - 1975.jpg
The Who in 1975.
Left to right: Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle,
Keith Moon, Pete Townshend
Background information
Origin London, England
Genres Rock, hard rock, art rock, power pop, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, protopunk
Years active 1964–82, 1988–89, 1996–present (reunions: 1985, 1990, 1991, 1994)
Labels UK: Brunswick, Reaction, Track, Polydor
US: Decca, MCA, Warner Bros.,
Universal Republic
Members 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, guitar, harmonica), Pete Townshend (guitar, vocals, keyboards) and John Entwistle (bass, brass, vocals), and joined shortly after by Keith Moon (drums, vocals). They became known for energetic live performances which often included instrument destruction. The Who have sold about 100 million records, 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.

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, Woodstock 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).

Keith Moon died at the age of 32 on 7th, September 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 from The Small Faces/ The Faces, before disbanding in 1983. They re-formed at events such as Live Aid and for reunion tours such as their 25th anniversary tour at The Royal Hall with guest stars Billy Idol, Elton John and Shirley Bassey in 1989 and the Quadrophenia tours of 1996, 1997, and 2012. In 2000, the three surviving original members discussed recording an album of new material, but their plans were temporarily stalled by 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; the display describes them as "Prime contenders, in the minds of many, for the title of World's Greatest Rock Band." TIME magazine wrote in 1979 that "No other group has ever pushed rock so far, or asked so much from it." Rolling Stone magazine wrote: "Along with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, The Who complete the holy trinity of British rock." 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. In 2008 surviving members Townshend and Daltrey were honoured at the 31st Annual Kennedy Center Honours. That same year VH1 Rock Honours paid tribute to The Who where Jack Black of Tenacious D called them "the greatest band of all time."



In 1962, influenced by American R&B and skiffle music, Pete Townshend and John Entwistle, school friends from Acton County Grammar School, London, 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 a street in London 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 Roger Daltrey about their open position for a drummer and said "I hear you're looking for a drummer. Well, I'm better than the one you've got." 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.

In February 1964, Entwistle heard that another band was also named The Detours. They changed their name to The Who on Valentine's Day, taking the suggestion of Townshend's roommate Richard Barnes (Townshend had suggested renaming the band, The Hair) 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. To highlight their innovative music style, the band created the slogan "Maximum R&B".

Townshend smashing his guitar with The Who in the Ernst-Merck-Halle, Hamburg, 12 August 1972

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 June 1964, during a performance at the Railway Hotel in Wealdstone, northwest London, Townshend accidentally broke the head of his guitar through the low ceiling. Angered by sniggers from the audience, he smashed the instrument on the stage. He picked up another guitar and continued the show. A week or so later at the same venue, Townshend ran out of guitars, and toppled the stack of Marshall amplifiers. Not to be upstaged, Moon wrecked his drumkit. 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. The incident at the Railway Hotel is one of Rolling Stone magazine's "50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock 'n' Roll". 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

Record producer Shel Talmy produced several up-and-coming new acts as well as The Who, including their first release and first hit single in 1965, was the Townshend-penned " I Can't Explain", a record influenced by The Kinks, whose songs were also utilized with whom they shared American producer Shel Talmy. The song was only played in a few markets in the US, notably by DJ Peter Cavanaugh on WTAC AM 600 in Flint, Michigan. "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; US Decca's erstwhile British parent had earlier rejected the band outright but still pressed and distributed American Decca product in England. 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 rock songs with a bass guitar solo. 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

Roger Daltrey and Keith Moon, 1967

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 No. 10 on their list of the 100 Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Moments on Television.


Live at Leeds

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, on 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. 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 already-groundbreaking 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

Roger Daltrey, left, and Pete Townshend performing with The Who in Hamburg, 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 No. 4 in the US pop charts and No. 1 in the UK. Two tracks from the album, " Baba O'Riley" and " Won't Get Fooled Again", are early examples of synthesiser use in rock music; both tracks' keyboard sounds were generated in real time by a Lowrey organ (though in "Won't Get Fooled Again", the organ was processed through a VCS3 synthesiser). Synthesisers 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 to establish his own identity, with his family and others. 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 No. 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".

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." 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. 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.

Who Are You and Moon's death

Daltrey and Townshend, 21 October 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 No. 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. 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 Theatre 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.

Cincinnati tragedy

In 1979, 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. 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."


Change and break-up

John Entwistle performing with The Who at the Manchester Apollo, 1981

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 the constant touring with The Who. He began drinking heavily and became a heroin addict, which shocked even his closest friends after his previous anti-drug stance, when he swore off drugs, witnessing and enduring bad LSD trips in the late 1960s. He cleaned up in 1982, and The Who embarked on their 'farewell' tour of the US and Canada. 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. 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.

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 Stadium, London. 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".

At 1988 Brit Awards held at the Royal Albert Hall in London, 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. 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. 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 No. 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 and Roll Hall of Fame describes them as prime contenders for the title of "World's Greatest Rock Band". The Beatles and The Rolling Stones also received a similar accolade there.

In 1991, The Who recorded a cover of Elton John's " Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" for the tribute album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin. 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 as guitarist.

The Who Films Ltd

Quadrophenia (1979)

The Who's second film based on the album Quadrophenia. The story is about a Mod called Jimmy ( Phil Daniels) who has trouble with his parents, and later also with his friends. The movie ends with him leaving the Mod scene.

McVicar (1980)

Based on a true story The Who's third film McVicar starring Daltrey as the bank robber who goes to jail and Adam Faith as his friend in the movie. The soundtrack is played by the Who members but was said to have only been sung by Daltrey.

Revival of Quadrophenia

In 1996, Townshend, Entwistle and Daltrey performed Quadrophenia with guest stars at a concert in Hyde Park, with Zak Starkey as 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 Arena. 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 Centre 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. Also that year, VH1 placed The Who eighth in the 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. The band, with Zak Starkey on drums, performed The Concert for New York City at Madison Square Garden on 20 October 2001, during which they played "Who Are You", "Baba O'Riley", "Behind Blue Eyes", and "Won't Get Fooled Again". The concert was dedicated to families of fallen New York City firemen and policemen who lost their lives at the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001. The Who were also honoured with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award that year.

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. 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. Also that year, Rolling Stone ranked The Who No. 29 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Endless Wire

The Who on Tour in 2007. L to R: Zak Starkey, Daltrey, Townshend, and John "Rabbit" Bundrick

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.

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 No. 7 on Billboard and No. 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

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 Honours in Los Angeles. Taping of the show took place 12 July, 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 Theatre 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 Honours. 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.

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 ageing rocker known as "Walter", some songs of which may appear on a future Who album.


Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend performing in Miami, Florida on 5 February 2010

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

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.

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. The in-ear monitoring system was scheduled to be tested out at the Quadrophenia concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 30 March. Roger Daltrey stated that they had 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.

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.

Roger Daltrey had announced he was producing a biopic about Keith Moon called See Me Feel Me: Keith Moon Naked for Your Pleasure, which was to be released in 2012. Comedian Mike Myers was going to play the main role and would have taken drumming lessons to suit the character. However, according to Daltrey, as of 2011 this project may currently be stalled. The Who performed in London on 13 January 2011, along with Jeff Beck and Debbie Harry for a 'killing cancer' benefit concert.

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".

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 Centre in Los Angeles, to be funded by The Who's charity Who Cares. The launch, followed on 5 November by a fund-raising event, was also attended by Robert Plant and Dave Grohl.

On 18 July 2012, the band announced a 35-date tour where they will play their album Quadrophenia in its entirety. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will be joined by Zak Starkey on drums, Pino Palladino on bass, Simon Townshend on guitar/backing vocals, Chris Stainton on keyboards, Loren Gold on keyboards/backing vocals, and Frank Simes as Musical Director, and on keyboards/backing vocals.

On 12 August 2012, the band performed at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games as the final act, playing "Baba O'Riley", "See Me, Feel Me" and "My Generation". The Kaiser Chiefs covered The Who's song " Pinball Wizard". Controversially, American television network NBC played The Who's performance in a late-night segment of the closing ceremony after an advance broadcast of the new sitcom Animal Practice.

On 24 October 2012, as the result of an exclusive deal between FOX Sports' 2012 and Spirit Music, The Who's music publisher, the television network will feature a variety of the band's greatest hits from various albums spanning their five-decade music career throughout the World Series telecast on FOX as well as on the network's various social media sites.

On 1 November 2012, The Who commenced their Quadrophenia and More tour in North America. On 19 November 2012, The Who released the highly demanded remastered live album Live at Hull, the band's performance in Hull the night after the Leeds gig was recorded; previously only available as part of the long deleted Live at Leeds deluxe boxset. The live album features new mixes like the inclusion of Entwistle's bass (from Live at Leeds) on a few tracks which were originally missing due to a recording mix-up that night. Moreover, a limited edition vinyl box set of all eleven Who studio albums and the Who's songs played at the 2012 Olympics Closing Ceremony, along with the remastered mono single "My Generation" were also released.

On 12 December 2012, The Who performed at The Concert for Sandy Relief at Madison Square Garden, broadcasted live via television, radio, movie theaters and the Internet across six continents.

Legacy and influence

Pete Townshend does the windmill in 1976

The Who are one of the most influential rock groups of the 1960s and 1970s, influencing artists from Led Zeppelin to The Clash. Bono of U2 said, "More than any other band, The Who are our role models." Brian May of Queen said, "They were my inspiration." 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." Geddy Lee of Rush said, "They were really influential on our band in a big way." 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."

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

The Who logo incorporates the roundel symbol used by mods

The group has been credited with originating the " rock opera" and it made one of the first notable concept albums.

In 1967, Townshend coined the term " power pop" to describe The Who's sixties singles. Andy Summers of The Police lauded Townshend by saying "He more or less invented the power chord, and you can hear a sort of pre-Zeppelin thing in the Who's Sixties work. So much of this stuff came from him." Alice Cooper claimed that Moon was "the best drummer [he] has ever heard in [his] life". Noel Gallagher called Moon "the Jimi Hendrix of the drum kit". Rolling Stone magazine said in its "100 Greatest Singers" list that Daltrey "had an uncanny ability to adapt to whatever character songwriter Pete Townshend came up with". Similarly, Wayne Coyne of Flaming Lips said "You don't realize how great a singer Roger Daltrey is until you try to do it yourself". The guiding lights of the seventies power pop movement, from the Raspberries to Cheap Trick, take inspiration from The Who. The Who's influence can also be seen in early incorporation of synthesisers, with Who's Next featuring the instrument prominently.

The Who's surviving members, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, were given Kennedy Center Honours for their enduring influence on popular culture. 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. Their contributions to rock iconography include the power chord, windmill strum, the Marshall Stack and the guitar smash.

Townshend and Daltrey unveil a blue plaque at Leeds University on 17 June 2006 to commemorate their 1970 album Live at Leeds

Renowned for their prowess as a live band due to their energetic, tight, loud performances, their 1970 album, Live at Leeds, is thought by many critics to be the best live rock album of all time. A Rolling Stone readers' poll ranked it the best live album ever.

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. Throughout the years, many of their hit singles were also featured in other popular TV series such as The Simpsons, House M.D., Two And A Half Men, Glee, Top Gear and My Name Is Earl. Beginning in season five of That '70s Show, each season's episodes were named after songs from a famous 1970s era rock band; Led Zeppelin for the fifth season, The Who for the sixth, The Rolling Stones for the seventh, and Queen for the eighth and final season. Rock-orientated movies such as Almost Famous, The School Of Rock and Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny had many references to the band and featured songs from them, along with other notable ones such as Apollo 13, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle which only featured songs. A few video games have featured songs from The Who, such as "Eminence Front" in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, "The Seeker" in Grand Theft Auto IV and Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, "Won't Get Fooled Again" in Rock Band, "Pinball Wizard" in Rock Band 2 and "I Can See For Miles" in Rock Band 3. With a DLC for Rock Band 3, twelve additional The Who tracks have been added to the game.

A number of songs by The Who, especially "I Can't Explain", "Substitute", "My Generation", "Pinball Wizard", "The Seeker", "Baba O'Riley", "Behind Blue Eyes", "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Love, Reign O'er Me", have been covered by various artists such as Richard Thompson, The Litter, Tina Turner, Ocean Colour Scene, David Bowie, The Flaming Lips, Pearl Jam, Blur, Sheryl Crow, Limp Bizkit, Les Fleur de Lys, The Jam, Tenacious D, Styx, Scorpions, Smashing Pumpkins, Heart, Paul Weller, Green Day, Oasis, Iron Maiden, Elton John, Rush, Sex Pistols, Alice Cooper, The Ramones, Count Five, Generation X, Great White, Marillion, The Breeders, The Grateful Dead, Nirvana, Graham Parker, Rockfour, Stereophonics, The Brown Derbies, Tommy Keene, Van Halen, Kaiser Chiefs, Rod Stewart, McFly, The New Seekers, Transsylvania Phoenix, the Glee cast, Bettye LaVette, Labelle and many others. More notably, Tenacious D are known for covering songs from Tommy in a medley style during every live show since their 2006 tour. The most commercially successful covers are by Elton John and Van Halen, with "Pinball Wizard" peaking at No.7 in the UK and "Won't Get Fooled Again" reaching No.1 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart respectively. Limp Bizkit also had success with a cover of "Behind Blue Eyes".

The Who made a cameo appearance in The Simpsons episode A Tale of Two Springfields. The episode also featured cultural references to the band and their works including songs such as "Magic Bus", "Pinball Wizard", "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "The Seeker" and the compilation album Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy.

Due to their major influence in rock music, The Who spawned a number of tribute bands such as The Wholigans, Who's Who, The Whoo, The Who Show and many others over the years; tribute bands which still play at various festivals and concerts nowadays. Daltrey has endorsed ' The Whodlums', which regularly raises money for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Awards and accolades


Daltrey and Townshend at the Wells Fargo Centre in Philadelphia, 26 October 2008

The Who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005, and won the first annual Freddie Mercury Lifetime Achievement in Live Music Award in 2006. 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. Tommy was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998, " My Generation" in 1999 and Who's Next in 2007. My Generation was selected for preservation in the United States National Recording Registry in 2009. " Baba O'Riley", " Go to the Mirror!", " I Can See For Miles" and "My Generation", were inducted in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. The Broadway version of Tommy, The Who's Tommy, won five Tony Awards and three Drama Desk Awards in 1993, while the London version won three Laurence Olivier Awards in 1997. Similarly, the movie adaptation of Tommy won the award for "Rock Movie of the Year" in the first annual Rock Music Awards in 1975. In 1974, NME awarded " 5:15" the "Best British Single" award. Similarly, NME awarded Keith Moon the award for "Best Drummer" in 1978. The following year, NME awarded the film Quadrophenia the "Film Of The Year" award. At the 31st annual awards ceremony on 7 December 2008, Townshend and Daltrey received Kennedy Center Honours; the first rock band to be so honoured. VH1 Rock Honours 2008 paid homage to The Who with tribute performances from Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Flaming Lips, Incubus and Tenacious D. On 12 March 2011, Roger Daltrey received the Steiger Award for excellence in music. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend received the Classic Album Award for Quadrophenia from the Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards at The Roundhouse, 9 November 2011, in London, England.

On 6 September 2012, it was announced that Pete Townshend will be presented with the prestigious Les Paul Award at the 28th Annual TEC Awards on 25 January 2013. According to Michael Braunstein, Executive Director of the Les Paul Foundation, he said "Pete Townshend personifies both guitar wizardry and technical prowess in both studio and live music performance. He is a true original and a natural choice for the Les Paul Award honour".


The Who have seven albums on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, more than any other act with the exceptions of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen. "My Generation", "Won't Get Fooled Again", "I Can See For Miles", "Baba O'Riley" and "I Can't Explain" were ranked at No. 11, No. 134, No. 262, No. 349, and No. 380 respectively on Rolling Stone's list of "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" in 2011. Furthermore, "My Generation" and "I Can See For Miles" ranked at No.3 and No.10 respectively on "Your Favorite British Invasion Songs" readers' poll and the documentary The Kids Are Alright ranked at No.5. on Rolling Stone's readers' poll. "Baba O'Riley" was ranked No. 11 on Ultimate Classic Rock's list of "Top 100 Classic Rock Songs" and "My Generation" at No.6 on its "Top 10 Drum Songs" list. VH1 ranked " Won't Get Fooled Again" and "My Generation" at No.6 and No.37 respectively on its list of "100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs" in 2009. The Guardian placed My Generation at No.36 on its list of "The 50 Albums That Changed Music" in 2006. awarded Who's Next as the "Album Of The Year - 1971" by saying "Perhaps THE most complete rock album in history, Who's Next has just about everything". Guitar World magazine ranked Who's Next at No.23 on its "Top 50 Greatest Guitar Albums" list. Q magazine ranked " I Can't Explain" at No.24 on "The 50 Most Exciting Tunes Ever" list in 2002. Similarly, in a readers' poll, Q ranked Who's Next at No.63 in 2003 and then at No.56 in 2006 on its list of "100 Greatest Albums Ever". In 2007, Q ranked Live At Leeds at No.6 on "The 20 Loudest Albums Of All Time" list while NME magazine put it at No.3 on its list of "Best Live Albums" in 2011. NME placed Tommy and My Generation at No.16 and No.22 respectively on its list of "NME Writers All Time Top 100" in 1974. Likewise, "My Generation" was also named the best debut album in 1965 and its self-titled song was placed on the list of "75 Tunes That Defined Rock 'N' Roll" by NME. In 2007, IGN placed Quadrophenia at No.1 in their list of the "Greatest Classic Rock Albums of All Time". According to, known for compiling databases and "Best Of" lists for albums, Who's Next ranks at No.2 in the best albums of 1971, at No.7 in the best albums of the 1970s and at No.25 in the "Overall Greatest Album" list, making it The Who's most successful album in their career.


The Who are ranked No. 3 on's "Top 50 Classic Rock Bands". Rolling Stone also ranked them No. 29 on its "100 Greatest Artists of All Time" list and No.3 on its "Top Ten Live Acts of All Time" readers' poll list in 2011. The Who are ranked No. 2 on Classic Rock's "50 Best Live Acts of All Time". Yahoo Voices ranked them at No.3 on "Top 10 Best Live Rock Bands of All Time" list. The Who were ranked No. 9 on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of all time" in 1998, then No. 13 in 2010, and No. 8 on VH1's "100 Greatest Hard Rock Artists" in 2000. Q magazine ranked The Who at No.7 on its list of "50 Bands You Must See Before You Die". Likewise, they placed The Who's gig at University of Leeds in 1970 on the list of "The Best Gigs Ever". ranks them at No.13 on "Best Bands Of All Time" list (based on album rankings and points only). For a number of years, The Guinness Book of World Records listed The Who as the record holder for "The Loudest Band In The World" at 126 dB, measured at a distance of 32 meters from the speakers at a concert at The Valley on 31 May 1976. The Acclaimed Music website ranks The Who the ninth most acclaimed artist of all time.


Individually, each of the original members of the band received accolades throughout their music careers. Roger Daltrey was ranked No. 61 on Rolling Stone's list of "100 Greatest Singers" in 2011. Pete Townshend was ranked No. 3 in Dave Marsh's list of "Best Guitarists" in The New Book of Rock Lists, No. 10 in's list of the "Top 50 Guitarists", and No. 10 again in Rolling Stone's updated 2011 list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists". In 2000, Guitar magazine named John Entwistle "Bassist of the Millennium" in a readers' poll. J. D. Considine ranked Entwistle No. 9 on his list of "Top 50 Bass Players" and was also named the second best bassist on Creem magazine's 1974 Reader Poll Results. In 2011, a Rolling Stone reader poll selected Entwistle as the No. 1 bassist of all time. ranked Entwistle at No.7 on its list of "Top 10 Metal and Hard Rock Bass Players" in September 2012. Keith Moon was ranked at No. 1 on Dave Marsh's The New Book of Rock Lists of "The 50 Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Drummers". Similarly, he was ranked at No.2 on Rolling Stone's "The Best Drummers of All Time" readers' poll and No.10 on "Top 10 Greatest Dead Rock Stars" readers' poll in 2011.

Band members

Current members
  • Roger Daltrey – lead vocals, guitar, harmonica, percussion (1964–present)
  • Pete Townshend – guitar, keyboards, synthesisers, vocals (1964–present)
Touring musicians
  • Zak Starkey – drums, percussion (1996–present)
  • Simon Townshend – guitar, backing vocals (1996–1997, 2002–present)
  • Pino Palladino – bass guitar (2002–present)
  • John Corey – keyboards (2012–present)
  • Loren Gold – keyboards, backing vocals (2012–present)
  • J. Greg Miller - horns (2012–present)
  • Reggie Grisham - horns (2012–present)
  • Frank Simes – keyboards, backing vocals, musical director (2012–present)


Studio albums
  • My Generation (1965)
  • A Quick One (1966)
  • The Who Sell Out (1967)
  • Tommy (1969)
  • Who's Next (1971)
  • Quadrophenia (1973)
  • The Who by Numbers (1975)
  • Who Are You (1978)
  • Face Dances (1981)
  • It's Hard (1982)
  • Endless Wire (2006)

Tours and performances

Headlining 1960s

  • 1962–1963 performances
  • 1964 performances
  • 1965 Tour
  • 1966 Tour
  • 1967 Tour
  • 1968 Tour
  • 1969 Tour

Headlining 1970s

  • 1970 Tour
  • 1971 Tour
  • 1972 Tour
  • 1973 Tour
  • 1974 Tour
  • 1975 Tour
  • 1977–1978 performances
  • 1979 Tour

Headlining 1980s

  • 1980 Tour
  • 1981 Tour
  • 1982 Tour
  • 1985 and 1988 reunions
  • 1989 Tour

Headlining 1990s

  • 1996–1997 Tour
  • 1999 performances

Headlining 2000s

  • 2000 Tour
  • 2001 The Concert for New York City appearance
  • 2002 Tour
  • 2004 Tour
  • 2005 Live 8 appearance
  • 2006–2007 Tour
  • 2008–2009 Tour

Headlining 2010s

  • 2010 performances
  • 2011 performances
  • 2012–13 Tour
  • 2012 12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief appearance
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