They were 4 volatile and vibrant personalities, that sometimes didn’t even like each other, but as a band they stand with The Beatles and The Stones in the holy trinity of rock. They were instrumental in the development of the Marshall stack, pioneers in the use of feedback and synthesizers, they created the rock opera and have been called the “Grand” fathers of punk. This is the story of The Who.
Part 1: Cradle to Stage
From the war ravaged neighbourhood of Acton to the early 60’s London club scene this episode explores the young lives of Roger, John and Pete. How their environments impacted their musical interests and shaped who they would become and how their initial musical influences of Big Band, Dixieland, Al Jolson, Skiffle and early rock n roll set the creative foundation of this live musical wrecking crew. (photo credit: News UK Archive)
Part 2: Making the Scene
The 1960’s were a transformative decade and the young people growing up in that environment created new approaches to art, fashion and music. London was the centre of the swinging 60’s and the Who was born in that climate of “anything is possible”. On this episode of The Who: Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts Roger, John and Pete start carving out their musical niche in a scene that was transforming rapidly. (photo credit: Doug Sandom)
Part 3: 1964
1964 was the year of metamorphosis for The Detours. There were name changes, new management, record company auditions and recordings but the single biggest change was the arrival of Keith Moon. Suddenly they were an anchored unit and the energy on stage attracted an audience that wanted more from their music. It was the year the band shed their cover band cocoon to emerge as a powerful R&B flavoured live wrecking crew.
Part 4: Snakes & Ladders
By August 1964 The Detours had become The Who and then The High Numbers. Their first single had fizzled upon release in July while at the same time their peers hit success. Beatlemania was in full swing, The Kinks and The Stones had number one hits and the Animals, Manfred Mann and Hermans Hermits were also finding chart success. But fortunes were about to change with the arrival of Lambert and Stamp, 2 film guys who instinctively knew how to work with the band. Within 6 months The Who would have their first hit.
Part 5: Penniless Popstars
The story of The Who is a roller coaster ride of highs and lows. In 1965 they finally had chart success. Their ability to be different and make outrageous statements to the press got them plenty of media coverage and prompted two European tours. But crazy twists of fate prevented the band from being “who” they were on both tours and fans were vocal about their disappointment. The pressures of life on the road was medicated by pills and this lead to other challenges within the band. The experiences almost shattered The Who and it was a broken band that would end the year by recording “just about the grandest statement pop had ever made.”