Popular Culture (Music) 20120113: A Brief History of The Who

Last time we looked at 1972, sort of a quiet year for my favorite band.  1973 would be anything but quiet.  Townshend’s opus, Quadrophenia, was released late in the year, and there was a lot of internal conflict with the band members for the way it was done.

In addition, Kit Lambert was shown to be little more than an embezzler, and that caused a lot of more problems.  Townshend counted on Lambert as a musical wizard, and Lambert, because of his affliction to drugs and alcohol, was anything but that.

There was still a struggle for control of the band, with a surprise hit by Daltrey that gave him some credibility.  By that time, The Who belonged to Townshend, but Daltrey would not go down without a fight.

Then there were the other problems.  1973 would prove to be a very bad year for them, but also one of their best years.  Let’s go!

First of all, the entire concept about the name Quadrophenia is badly misunderstood.  Actually, the character of Jimmy was a composite of SIX people, and none of them were members of The Who.  Jimmy was actually a fictional combination of these people that Townshend recalled from many years previously:  Chris Colville, Lee Gaish, T.K. Gaish, Paddy Keene, Jack Lyons, and Mike Quinn.  I have been able to find little history on any of them.

Townshend melded those six personalities into four, and then assigned each of the four to one of the band members.  That way, we have come to know the tough guy, Daltrey; the romantic, Entwistle; the loon, Moon; and the hypocrite, Townshend.  But it gets even more interesting.

Quadrophonic sound was just being brought out of the research laboratories in 1973.  Remember, there was no digital sound then.  It is easy now, but then was a challenge.  The two main media for music at the time were the vinyl record and the 8-track tape, and both of them had serious challenges to producing actual quadraphonic sound.  Add to that the fact that there were almost NO quadraphonic amplifiers available to decode the sounds.

A vinyl record used, for stereo sound, a vertical and a horizontal groove, and to convert to quadraphonic would mean to have four grooves instead of two.  That actually was accomplished later, but it never caught on very well because of the difficulty of making the master and pressing the vinyl.  Likewise, 8-track tapes would have to become 16-track ones, and the tracks were already so compressed on an 8-track that the sound quality was very poor.  Remember also that two more loudspeakers are required for quadraphonic sound.  It sort of puts you in the center of the room, with music coming from four directions.

For those technical and market reasons, it never caught on very well, but a number of quadraphonic vinyls were released hither and thither.  However, the analogue format was just not up to fulfill the demands asked of it.  Modern digital technology handles it easily, but quadraphonic never caught on.  We now use a variation of it, and with small, cheap, and with fairly high quality loudspeakers it is possible.  We call it sound surround 5.1 now.

I think that Townshend sorts of smiles at modern home sound systems now, because he was an early advocate of its predecessor.  But with the technology available in 1973, it was doomed.  But I like visionaries.  Both Townshend and Gene Roddenberry are quite dear to me, and Gene never lived to see how his visions changed our world.

Daltrey was sort of pissed about the lack of activity from 1972, so he started to record original material.  Never much of a songwriter, he accepted Leo Sayer and his cohorts to write most of the material.  I have never been much of a Sayer fan, and I found the results be be unspectacular.

Probably the greatest accomplishment of early 1973 was the fact the Townshend was able to get Eric Clapton off of narcotics and back into the spotlight.   I truly think that Clapton would have died without Townshend’s efforts in late 1972 and early 1973.  The final effort was released in October, called Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert, and was recorded by now the chief engineer for The Who, Glyn Johns, and mixed by the up and coming Bob Pridden.

Daltrey released a solo album, Daltrey, on Track in the UK on 19730420 where it failed to chart.  The US release on MCA was on 19730519, where it charted to #45.  A single from it, “Giving it All Away” with the “B” side “The Way of the World” was released by Track in the UK on 19730316 and charted at #5.  The US release on MCA on 19730331 charted at #83.  I personally find his solo material lacking, mostly because he did not write his own material.

Here is “Giving it All Away”, written by Dave Courtney and Leo Sayer:

Entwistle also released a solo album that spring, the very good Rigor Mortis Sets In (the US title was John Entwistle’s Rigor Mortis Sets In) in the UK by Track on 19730511 where it failed to chart.  Released by MCA in the US on 19730609 where it charted at #174.  One single, “Made in Japan” with the “B” side of “Hound Dog” was released from the album by Track in the UK on 19730126, and MCA did not get around to releasing it in the US until June, an the “B” side there was “Roller Stake Kate”.  It failed to chart either place.  Here is “Made in Japan”, written by Entwistle:

Do you agree that this is more like it than the Daltrey solo effort?

There were no other solo records released in 1973, and only one other album.  We shall get that in a bit.

They did very little touring that spring as a group, but Daltrey and Entwistle toured with their solo acts.  Then on 19730521 they began recording sessions for Quadrophenia, a very difficult process since it was being recorded in analogue quadrophonic sound, as we discussed previously.  For a discussion of the music on the album, see my previous places here and here.

Quadrophenia was recorded in the manner that became standard for The Who.  It was all done individually, each artist adding his own material in the absence of the others.  In the beginning, Kit Lambert was producing, but he just was not up to the task.  The choice for piano, Nicky HopkinsNicky Hopkins, was not available so Townshend enlisted another keyboard player, Chris Stainton.

The recordings and dubbings were done up until around July, and Townshend finished up the mixing in August.  He then personally took the tapes to California for mastering at The Mastering Labs in Los Angeles.  The project was finally done, almost.

It was announced that Ken Russell would direct a motion picture version of Tommy for release in 1974 or 1975 on 19730825 and that each band member would have a major part.  This made Kit Lambert very happy, but that was to be short lived.  On 19730906 the first of a series of meetings was held to discuss group finances, the official beginning of the end for Lambert.

More bad news was to come.  On 19731002 it was announced that Kim and taken their daughter and left Moon.  She finally had come to the end of her patience putting up with his antics, and understandably so.  While I am a really big fan of Moon, he was hell with whom to live.  For what is probably the definitive biography of him, I strongly recommend the excellent Moon: the Live and Death of a Rock Legend by Tony Fletcher.  Their divorce was finalized in 1975.

On 19731005 the first single from Quadrophenia was released by Track in the UK, “5:15” with the “B” side being “Water”.  “Water” cut from the final version of Quadrophenia, so we will present it here in a minute.  The links that I gave above cover all of the songs on the final release, so I will not repeat them here.  The UK single charted at #20.  In the US, MCA released “Love, Reign O’er Me” as the “A” side on 19731027, where it only charted at #76.  I could not find the studio version of “Water”, so here is a live version from Tanglewood:

Note that this song was originally designed for Lifehouse, and Townshend liked the way it fit with the aquatic theme of Quadrophenia.  It turns out that the repeated references to water in Quadrophenia are directly taken from Meyer Baba’s teachings.

October was just a bad month in many respects.  Alfred Moon, Keith’s dad, dropped dead on 19731009 of a myocardial infarct.

Because of both artistic differences (Daltrey did not like the way Townshend mixed his vocals) and the growing rift betwixt Daltrey and Townshend over Kit Lambert (Townshend still was faithful to Lambert, and Daltrey knew that Lambert was stealing from them), they actually came to blows on 19731022 during rehearsals for the Quadrophenia tour.  Daltrey said something to Townshend that cause him to hit him with his guitar, and Daltrey cold cocked Townshend badly enough for Townshend to spend time in hospital with amnesia for a bit.  No doubt he had given Townshend a concussion.

On 19731027 MCA released Quadrophenia in the US.  Since it had been getting airplay since the 24th, it sold half a million copies the first day, and exceeded a million the second day of release.  It charted at #2.

Track released it on 19721102 in the UK, where it also charted to #2.  The delay was blamed on “pressing problems”, but in reality the pressing problems had more to do with a shortage of vinyl to make the records than a real technical problem.  The Arab oil embargo began on 19731016, and the cost of vinyl increased tremendously because what oil was available was being diverted to fuel rather than less pressing (pun intentional) materials.  This was a greater problem in the UK than in the US, since the UK had to import almost all of its petroleum at that time.  The North Sea oilfields were in their very early days then, and production was not that great.  The US, with developed oil production, suffered less than the UK.

Incidentally, Quadrophenia was also issued on eight track tape, and is one of the very few double albums where the songs are in the same order as on vinyl.  I do not know if Townshend planned it that way or if it just worked out, but I strongly suspect that Townshend, who was the real producer after the collapse of Lambert, planned it that way.  He was meticulous in his editing, dubbing, and mixing, and since Quadrophenia was so dear to him, I think that the perfectionist in him wanted the proper song order for continuity reasons.

Now, aren’t you glad that you read this series?  I can just about promise you that you will not see the facts in the previous two paragraphs presented in the same article, regardless of where you look.

On 19731028, Quadrophenia was performed live at Stoke-on-Trent.  It had some problems, mostly because of the difficulty in reproducing some of the studio sounds live.  Eventually they would cut several songs from the live performances because they just did not work.

On 19731105 they performed it again at Newcastle, and the technology failed.  All of the synthesizer bits were played from four track tapes because Townshend could not play guitar and synthesizer at the same time.  The technology of the time was not up to the vision that Townshend had.  When the tapes went out of sync, Townshend became enraged, smashed a guitar out of frustration during the performance, and kicked in the backing tape player, then stormed off stage.  They did return eventually, but played old standards rather than the new material.

The first performance of the North American tour occurred on 19741120, at the Cow Palace, and Moon collapsed from what likely was a PCP spiked drink.  He was brought back later, but was unable to perform.  Townshend did not want the North American tour (he knew where the money was) kickoff concert to be terminated, so he took the unprecedented step of asking the audience if there was a drummer attending that was familiar enough with their material and competent enough to fill in for Moon.  Scott Halpin, only 19, volunteered to fill in, and played three songs.  Talk about your 15 minutes of fame!  What a thrill that must have been for him.

On part of the tour, this time in Montreal, the after concert party got way out of hand, and eventually all of the band members except Daltrey (who went to bed early) wrecked a hotel, and the three of them plus 13 others ended up in the gaolhouse.  After the local concert promoter finally came up with $6000 to cover the damages, the hotel manager relented and declined to press charges, so everyone was released on 19731203.  The final installment on the North American tour was in Maryland 0n 19731206, after which they made the trip back to the UK.

I mentioned this last time, but it is so way cool that I just have to repeat it.  The Reizner stage production of Tommy was performed on 19731213 and 14.  Only Daltrey from the band was involved in the performance, but the way cool thing is that the part of The Doctor was played by The Doctor.  Yes, Jon Pertwee, who was still playing his role of the third Doctor on Doctor Who performed.  I would have loved to have seen that!

As I said last time, this is the only direct connexion that I have been able to find betwixt the band and the TeeVee show.  Now, a woman named Verity Lambert was the first producer for Doctor Who, but that was long before Kit Lambert became the manager for The Who, and there does not seem to be any familial relationship betwixt those two, unless it is very distant.  Doctor Who first aired on 19631123, and The Who took their name sometime in February of 1964.  It may be possible that The Who took their name from the TeeVee show, but I have never, after a very thorough search, found even a shred of evidence to support that.  Perhaps some reader with more information than I have can clarify this subject.

The band ended the year by playing a few Christmastime concerts, called “Who’s Christmas Party” sort of anticlimactically on 19731218, 19, 22, and 23.  That is in contrast to 1974, when all hell broke loose.

Next time we shall look at 1974 and their ups and downs for that year.  The 1973 Quadrophenia tour made them some money, but not nearly as much as 1972 had shown them.  Record sales for Quadrophenia made them a lot of money, and made Townshend a millionaire since he got all of the writing royalties, since no one else contributed any material.  This did not help to patch up the rift betwixt Daltrey and Townshend.  Remember, it was originally Daltrey’s band.  The year 1973 was particularly stressful for Moon, with the loss of his wife and daughter and his father, and those traumas would be exacerbated in 1974 during the filming of the motion picture Tommy, when he and Oliver Reed became drinking buddies.

Thank you very much for reading this piece, and you know that I always appreciate comments and further information.  I hope you enjoyed getting information that is sort of obscure here, and strive to write pieces that are attractive to hardcore fans of The Who as well as people who are just beginning to discover them.  Any corrections are sincerely appreciated, but I do try to get my facts right.  I know that I did not embed many videos here, but if you go to the links that I provided for my comprehensive treatment of Quadrophenia you will not be disappointed.

Warmest regards,

Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith

Crossposted at

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  1. enduring a really bad year?

    Warmest regards,


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