On this day in music history: October 13, 1965 – “My Generation”, the third single by The Who is recorded. Written by Pete Townshend, it second UK hit single for the legendary rock band. Townshend take inspiration from singer Mose Allison’s song “Young Man Blues”. The songs crowning touch is provided by singer Roger Daltrey stuttering like a one of the bands mod fans on speed. Produced by Shel Talmy, the band records the song at IBC Studios in London. Recorded on three track tape, the final mono master features a second guitar part overdubbed by Townshend (direct to tape while being mixed) that features the songs trademark feedback. Recording the song’s now iconic bass solo proves to be problematic for John Entwistle. He originally records his bass part using a Danelectro longhorn bass, which come strung with very light gauge strings. Unfortunately for Entwistle, he ends up breaking the strings on the bass, when he attempts to play the solo. Having bought the budget priced instrument at a shop in London, it is impossible for the musician to find replacement strings for the American made bass. Instead, he goes back the shop and purchases another Danelectro bass to try it again. He breaks the strings a second time, and purchases a third bass, only to have the same thing happen yet again. The final bass part on “My Generation” is recorded by Entwistle, using a Fender Jazz Bass with tapewound strings. Released in the UK on November 5, 1965 (US release date is November 20, 1965), the song is an instant smash in their home country peaking at #2. Though it only peaks at #74 in the US, it goes on to be one of the most influential rock singles of all time. “My Generation” it is now part of the “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll”, and is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999. In 2002, “My Generation” is remixed into true stereo for the first time from the original three track multi-track tape, which has been the possession of Shel Talmy, and appears on the Deluxe Edition of The Who’s “My Generation” album.
Born on this day: October 9, 1944 – John Entwistle (aka “The Ox”, aka “Thunderfingers”), bassist for The Who (born John Alec Entwistle in Chiswick, London, UK). Happy Birthday to this legendary rock musician on what would have been his 75th Birthday.
On this day in music history: October 3, 1975 – “The Who By Numbers”, the seventh studio album by The Who is released (US release date is on October 25, 1975). Produced by Glyn Johns, it is recorded at Shepperton Studios Sound Stage (with the Ronnie Lane Mobile Studio) in Shepperton, Surrey, UK from April – June 12, 1975. Coming off of the hugely successful rock opera “Quadrophenia” album and tour, and the filmed adaptation of “Tommy”, The Who take their first extended hiatus before starting their next project. By early 1975, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are at odds with each other over the future of the band, with Townshend expressing interesting in recording as a solo artist, but being torn about it due to his commitment to The Who. At the time, Pete is also dealing with his mounting drug and alcohol addictions as well as struggling with writer’s block. Pulling himself together in spite of being in a fragile physical and emotional state, the guitarist channels his emotions into the songs written for the album. For the sessions, the band hire Glyn Johns who had previously worked with The Who as a recording engineer. The band also choose a different venue for recording the album, using former Faces bassists Ronnie Lane’s sixteen-track mobile recording studio on a sound stage at Shepperton Studios outside of London. The sessions are far from problem free, with drummer Keith Moon also struggling with his sobriety and the other band members growing quickly bored and frustrated at the much longer than usual time it takes to finish the album. The albums now iconic cover is illustrated by bassist John Entwistle, featuring caricatures of The Who, parodying a children’s color by numbers book drawing. It spins off the single “Squeeze Box” (#16 Pop), which becomes one the bands popular songs and a staple of their live performances. The album is another success for The Who, but their lack of confidence in the material has them performing few of the songs from it on the tour that follows, and there after. Originally released on CD in the mid 80’s, the album is remastered and reissued in 1996 with three additional bonus tracks, recorded live at a concert in Swansea, Wales in June of 1976. It is also remastered and reissued by Classic Records as a 200 gram vinyl LP in 2008, and as a standard weight pressing by Polydor Records. The album is reissued again by UMe/Geffen in 2015. “The Who By Numbers” peaks at number eight on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: September 4, 1982 – “It’s Hard”, the tenth album by The Who is released. Produced by Glyn Johns, it is recorded at Turn Up-Down Studio in Surrey, UK in June 1982. Recorded at producer/engineer Johns home studio, “It’s Hard” is The Who’s last album of new studio material for twenty four years. Though their previous album “Face Dances” is commercially successful, the band members are divided on the material composed by Townshend. During the period that follows, Pete is still struggling with alcohol and substance abuse which has reached a crisis point. Taking a much needed hiatus, Townshend receives treatment from Dr. Meg Patterson to overcome his drinking and drug problems. Newly sober, Townshend comes to band rehearsals with only two new songs ready. Taking inspiration from The Clash, Pete writes a number of songs taking on political issues and his struggles with addiction, most notably in “"I’ve Known No War”, “One Life’s Enough”, and “Eminence Front” (#5 Mainstream Rock). The album receives a glowing review from Rolling Stone magazine upon its release, though some critics and fans are not as receptive to the shift away from their classic “arena rock” sound, that saw them at the peak of their success in the 70’s. Lead singer Roger Daltrey is also later critical of the album, stating “it should never have been released. I had huge rows with Pete…”, and “the record company wanted a record out and they wanted us to do a tour”. It spins off two singles including “Athena” (#28 Pop, #3 Mainstream Rock). The band support the album with a “farewell tour” in the Fall of 1982/Winter 1983. When it is reissued on CD in 1997, it is dramatically remixed from its original release, which is most noticeable on the albums two singles which featured an odd off centered placement of the vocals in the original mixes. The reissue also includes four live bonus tracks. Out of print on vinyl since the late 80’s, it is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP, by Polydor/Geffen/UMe in 2015. The same year, “Eminence Front” is featured prominently in a television ad campaign for Chevrolet pick up trucks. The song is also featured in the film version of the hit HBO series “Entourage” also in 2015. “It’s Hard” peaks at number eight on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 24, 1967 – Following a performance by The Who at Atwood Stadium on August 23rd, the band and numerous guests attend a birthday party held for drummer Keith Moon at the Holiday Inn in Flint, MI. The party is put on by the bands record label Decca Records and Premier Drums to celebrate the drummers 21st birthday. The celebration goes on into the early morning hours and degenerates into drunken debauchery and mayhem, with Moon leading the way. Party goers allege that a highly inebriated Moon blows up the toilet in his hotel room with a stick of dynamite, followed by setting off fire extinguishers, then taking the huge birthday cake and starting a massive food fight. The hotel manager call Sheriff’s deputies to have the party shut down. When Moon sees the police, he turns to run away and slips on a piece of cake, breaking one of his two front teeth. Still running from the police, the drummer jumps into the nearest car (allegedly either a Cadillac or Lincoln Continental) and ends up driving the car into the hotel swimming pool. The incident goes down in infamy, becoming a part of Moon’s legend, as well as earning The Who a lifetime ban from the Holiday Inn and a $50,000 bill for damages.
Born on this day: August 23, 1946 – Legendary drummer Keith Moon of The Who (born Keith John Moon in Wembley, Middlesex, UK). Happy Birthday to this rock icon on what would have been his 73rd Birthday.
On this day in music history: August 18, 1978 – “Who Are You”, the eighth studio album by The Who is released. Produced by The Who, Jon Astley and Glyn Johns, it is recorded at Rampart Studios in Battersea, London, Olympic Studios, RAK Studios in St. John’s Wood, London, and Pete Townshend’s Home Studio in Going-on-Thames, London from October 1977 – April 1978. Issued three years after their last studio album “The Who By Numbers”, it is the final album to feature original drummer Keith Moon. Hampered by his decade long abuse of drugs and alcohol, Moon’s once rock solid playing suffers as he continues to struggle with his addictions. As a result, Keith’s confidence in his ability to deliver consistently in the studio is shaken, feeling that he is letting his band mates down. Sadly, he dies of an accidental drug overdose just three weeks after its release. Moon’s death is made even more tragic and ironic, when he overdoses on the medication he is prescribed to combat his alcoholism. It spins off two singles including “Trick Of The Light” and the title track (#14 Pop). In 1996, the album is remixed and remastered (by Jon Astley), with the reissue containing five bonus tracks. The title song becomes the theme of long running crime drama television series “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” in 2000. Out of print on vinyl since the late 80’s, it is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP in 2015. “Who Are You” peaks at number two on the Billboard Top 200, number six on the UK album chart, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: August 15, 1969 – The “Woodstock Music & Art Fair” begins. Organized and promoted by Michael Lang, John Roberts, Joel Rosenman and Artie Kornfeld, the festival is originally scheduled to be held in Wallkill, NY, but town residents object to the event, and deny the promoters the necessary permit. Instead, the concert is moved to dairy farmer Max Yasgur’s property in Bethel, NY. The three day concert features thirty two acts over three days, including Richie Havens, Santana, Sly & The Family Stone, Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, The Who, Canned Heat, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby Stills & Nash, and Jimi Hendrix. The concerts draw a crowd of over 500,000 people to the site. The event is documented in the Oscar winning film “Woodstock” (directed by filmmaker Michael Wadleigh), and the accompanying soundtrack album(s) that are released the following year. The event is regarded as a watershed moment not only in the history of rock & roll, but in pop culture.
On this day in music history: August 14, 1971 – “Who’s Next”, the fifth album by The Who is released. Produced by The Who and Glyn Johns, it is recorded at Olympic Studios in London from March – May 1971. The project is initially planned by Pete Townshend as the follow up to the band’s landmark “Tommy” as an even more ambitious rock opera and film titled “Lifehouse”. The overall concept of the piece loses direction during the initial recording, causing friction among the band members and major falling out between Townshend and producer Kit Lambert. Scrapping the initial recordings, The Who start over again with producer Glyn Johns. Townshend takes several of the songs from the abandoned “Lifehouse” project (along with one song written by John Entwistle), shaping them into the final version of the album. The LP’s now iconic cover photo is taken by photographer Ethan Russell (“Get Back/Let It Be”), features a shot of the band on top of a coal slag heap (staged to look as if they had just urinated on a concrete piling) in the mining town of Easington Colliery in Country Durham, UK. The album yields some of The Who’s best known and loved songs including “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Baba O’Riley”, and “Behind Blue Eyes”. In 2003, Universal Music Group releases a 2 CD Deluxe Edition of the album featuring a remastered version of the original album, with the second disc including previously unreleased outtakes recorded during the initial sessions for the the album in March of 1971 at The Record Plant in New York City. As well as becoming rock radio staples and anthems, many songs from “Who’s Next” have been used in other media over the years. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” has appeared in films and television programs, including as the theme for the series “CSI Miami”. “Baba O’Riley” has also been featured in numerous films and TV programs as well, and has served as the intro music for Los Angeles Lakers during home games. “Going Mobile” and “Behind Blue Eyes” have also appeared in commercials for various products. The album is spotlighted in an episode of the series “Classic Albums” in 2006, and is also inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2007. “Who’s Next” hits number one on the UK album chart, peaking at number four on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: May 23, 1969 – “Tommy”, the fourth studio album by The Who is released. Produced by Kit Lambert, it is recorded at IBC Studios in London from September 19, 1968 – March 7, 1969. The twenty four track double album is a rock opera composed by Pete Townshend (with contributions from John Entwistle and Keith Moon) about a deaf, blind and mute boy who becomes the leader of a messianic movement, whose followers eventually turn on him in the end. Townshend takes inspiration from the teachings of Indian mystic Meher Baba, and the spiritual enlightenment he has found as he begins composing the songs. Musically, it is more sophisticated and complex than anything that The Who has previously attempted. Recording sessions begin in the Fall of 1968, though they are constantly interrupted as the bands then perilous financial state forces them to go on the road. The original LP release is packaged in a tri-fold jacket with cover artwork by pop artist Mike McInnerney, also being packaged with a booklet containing the song lyrics. In the US, “Tommy” performs decently during its initial release. The band mounts a tour in support of the album, performing the work in its entirety, including a now legendary performance at the New York Metropolitan Opera House. It is during and after that tour that the album really takes off stateside. Following the concert at The Met, the buzz created by the performance, renews interest in the album, and drives it back up the charts to a new peak in the Summer and Fall of 1970. As a result, “Tommy” sells more than triple its initial US sales. It is regarded as a watershed moment in the bands history, and is widely considered to be one of the greatest rock albums of all time. It spins off three singles including “Pinball Wizard” (#4 UK, #19 US Pop), “I’m Free” (#37 US Pop) and “See Me, Feel Me” (#12 US Pop). First released on CD in 1989, it is remastered and reissued in 1996 and again in 2003 as a two disc Deluxe Edition Hybrid SACD. The first disc contains the full album with the original stereo mix and a new 5.1 surround mix. The second disc contains outtakes and demos. In 2013, it is reissued as a three CD + Blu-ray disc Super Deluxe Edition. The CD’s are newly remastered with more outtakes, an entire disc featuring the album performed live in its entirety. The Blu-ray features stereo and 5.1 surround mixes. The US release featuring two discs, containing the stereo album and the live bootleg album. Long out of print on vinyl, it is reissued in Europe in 2013 and in the US in 2014. It is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998. “Tommy” peaks at number two on the UK album chart, number four on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
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