As The Who announces their 2015 North American tour commemorating their 50-year history and called by lead singer and founder Roger Daltrey “the beginning of the long goodbye” in a recent interview, Rolling Stone has revealed an early bootleg recording of the band performing at a hotel venue. This recording allows fans an audio glimpse back to a time “before The Who were anyone.”
Today, with the band’s influence firmly evident in so much of the pop and rock music that followed, it’s hard to remember that there was a time:
before they were branded as a mod band –
before the growling rebel rail of “My Generation” –
before they would set the world on fire with their performance of Pete Townshend’s awe-inspiring rock opera Tommy as the sun rose at 1969’s Woodstock festival –
before Townshend topped his own composing genius with the magnificent work Quadrophenia, which he called his “masterpiece” –
before he made famous the widely copied pinwheeling guitar-god arm and his onstage “auto-destructive art” antics (which even Jimi Hendrix imitated at 1967’s Monterey Pop Festival) –
before creating three of the best albums of all time (Tommy, Quadrophenia and Who’s Next) –
before Townshend’s signature innovative combination of synthesizer and rock were introduced as TV show themes to further generations –
before all that, they were just four young kids who got together to play cover music and get a feel for how to fit themselves into this world of music, for which they were so clearly destined.
As The Who prepare for their upcoming tour, they still court controversy. Some comments smirk, “Too old – give it up!” But no fan of The Who wants to give up The Who. They are, quite simply, still one of the best live bands ever.
Roger’s mic-swirling antics still thrill audiences and fill the stage, but nowadays instead of glowering with the anger of their punk-like anthems, he grins in fun and nods at the audience, clearly having the time of his life. Pete may no longer jump five feet in the air, but he still caresses the chords of his cherry red Strat with finesse and precision that elevates rock to true art. The heritage of supreme drummer Keith Moon lives on in the inclusion of Zak Starkey – son of Ringo Starr, with whom Keith was great friends. And in recent tours the band has cleverly and seamlessly included performance footage by deceased members Moon and the incomparable, influential bassist known as “The Ox” and “Thunderfingers” – John Entwistle.
But before all that – they were just four kids, playing in a hotel, that would go on to change the world, and get fans like Torchin and I to support them for our entire lives.