The Who, 1966 © Colin Jones
Fifty Years of The Who by Colin Jones
Proud Camden 5th February – 23rd March 2014
By Jono Coote
Fifty years may not be a long period of time in the grand scheme of things, but it is plenty long enough for a mythology to build up within the world of popular music. The Who certainly fall into the category of band whose stature, stories and tall tales have grown at least as famous as their catalogue of music; a catalogue which switched between the straight up Kinks-esque Mod RnB of ‘Can’t Explain’ to the bluesy rock of ‘My Generation’ via the psychedelia of ‘Magic Bus’ with an enviable effortlessness. The band’s growth was intertwined with the growth of popular music in 1960s and 70s; storming US record sales as part of the second wave of the British Invasion, playing Woodstock (famously described by singer Roger Daltrey as ‘the worst gig we ever played’), and popularising the ‘rock opera’ with double album Tommy. Along the way they wrote what is widely lauded as the greatest live album of all time, The Who Live at Leeds. It was their live shows which drove them to the heights they would reach, with a power and dynamism fuelled by the personality clashes that seem to underlie so many great bands. The anger generated was controlled and funnelled as much as possible into shows, including into the auto-destructive art form of smashing instruments which was instigated by Pete Townshend during an early live mishap.
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