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Who?

I just flipped on the TV to check out what goodies the DVR has waiting for me, and The Who is on INHD, playing the Isle of Wight, to which I’ll add, offhand: that no one will ever surpass Jethro Tull‘s performance there in 1970 (also seen recently on INHD).

At any rate, can someone please ‘splain to me what’s so special about this band? Beck? I’ve always thought their music, even at its best, pedestrian, and I just don’t get the allure. For that matter, that applies to Mick & Co., though at their best, I’d probably have to go with The Stones. And, I like The Who’s Magic Bus and My Generation, just so’s you know.

Do you want to know what I like best about The Who? Well, when I was an undergrad at Oregon State, my dorm was next door to a grad student working on his PhD in chemistry. First honest-to-God atheist I’d even met, and a great all-around guy. Anyway, Alex’s favorite band was The Who, and he delighted in people asking him "who have you seen in concert?" His silly reply was always the same: "Yes." Made me laugh every time, and that’s the first thing I think about every time I think of that band.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

6 Comments

  1. Billy Beck on October 30, 2006 at 08:37

    I don't know, Rich. I never got The Who. I thought "Won't Get Fooled Again" was a great song, but that's about it. I never bought one of their albums.

    Same for the Stones. There are a couple of their songs that I like to fool around with (and I thought Johnny Winter's take on "Jumpin' Jack Flash" was the one), but the world would not be essentially more bleak to me without them.

  2. Richard Nikoley on October 30, 2006 at 09:56

    I wonder if any of these guys — The Who, The Stones, and others — had any idea the lifelong ATM Machine they were creating for themselves 40 years ago.

  3. Justin Michael on October 31, 2006 at 08:15

    I'm not a who fanatic, but I do appreciate two aspects of their music:

    1) Entwistle was a phenomenal bass player. His parts, riffs and playing were incredibly rich and difficult. He's not on par with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, but still a virtuoso.

    2) Moon was an incredible drummer. His style was unique and as intricate as Entwistle on the bass.

  4. Billy Beck on October 31, 2006 at 16:44

    Did you ever notice that The Who never really had a lead guitarist?

    They had a lead bassist, though.

    Entwistle was sensational. He was very different from Jones, and the sound coming out of his rig was just about completely unique. I can't think of anyone else in rock music like him.

  5. Richard Nikoley on October 31, 2006 at 16:57

    I think Magic Bus does a great job in showing off what he's about.

    Billy, you hit on something I've wondered about. Another of my old favorites, Rush, seems to be really heavy in "lead bass" by Geddy Lee quite often. Am I wrong?

    It has often amazed my what those three guys can pump out, sometimes. Especially live.

  6. Billy Beck on October 31, 2006 at 17:55

    To begin with and strictly speaking, bands like Zeppelin, The Who, and Rush must be considered what are usually called "power trios". The fact of a fourth member of the group in the cases of singers in Zeppelin and The Who doesn't change the instrumentation of the group, which is as basic as it gets in rock music: bass, drums, and one guitar. This is an extremely challenging thing for all involved: they each have a hell of a lot of ground to cover, and if one of them stops, the whole project is dead right then and there.

    This fact conditions what you hear out of players like Lee and Entwistle. They're just naturally going to be rather busy boys.

    What you just about never hear out of The Who, however, is lead guitar statements as solos. This is not true of Rush, where you find all kinds of parts in songs for Lifeson's lead work, even while Lee is tearing things up on his side of the stage. He's still working his basic responsibility, however, to the "rhythm section": the collaboration of bass and drums at keeping time (drums) and bridging the time to everything else melodic in the band, which is the very definition of the bass player's job. That's what he's there to do. (Lots of bass players don't know this.) Because of the nature of a power-trio, that work can be very busy for a bass player. However, in Rush's case, song compositions inform you that the band still considers lead guitar breaks as important.

    Well, The Who never really did. I'd have to go over the whole discography and I'm sure there are exceptions to something that I'm generalizing here. However, hard as I might think about it, I cannot at the moment come up with a single song by The Who in which you'll find a "lead guitar solo" as we know it from just about everybody else in rock music. You'll hear all kinds of parts in which power-chords from Townshend kind of go in places where guitar solos might appear from other bands, but their whole approach was a lot more symphonic than one that supported solo virtuosity.

    In the case of Lee's busy-ness, it's a lot more about the style of those individual players (especially Lee, of course) and what their compositions added up to in the context of a power-trio.

    It's not like Townshend could not have found space in his band's music for guitar solos (like Lifeson, for instance). The spaces are there. He just very rarely or never did it.

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