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. 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.

The Who members grow up on war 
torn London
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. It looks at how their environments impacted their musical interests and shaped who they would become. It was the musical influences of Big Band, Dixieland, Al Jolson, Skiffle and early rock n roll during their young years that set the creative foundation of this live musical wrecking crew. (photo credit: News UK Archive)

The early days of The Who
Part 2: Making the Scene

The 1960’s were a transformative decade. 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)

The Who as the High Numbers
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. Finally they were an anchored unit. The explosive energy on stage attracted an audience that wanted more from their music. It was the year The Who shed their cover band cocoon to emerge as a powerful R&B flavoured live wrecking crew. 

The Who at the Marquee Club
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. The Animals, Manfred Mann and Hermans Hermits were also finding chart success. But fortunes were soon to change. It was the arrival of Lambert and Stamp, who despite their backgrounds in film and not music, instinctively knew how to work with the band and within 6 months The Who would have their first hit.

The Who on TV early 60's
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 while their ability to be different and make outrageous statements to the press got them plenty of media coverage. They landed two European tours but crazy twists of fate prevented the band from being “who” they were on both tours. Fans were vocal about their disappointment. The pressures of life on the road, medicated by pills, lead to other challenges within the band and as a result the experiences almost shattered The Who. Despite being a broken band, they would end the year by recording “just about the grandest statement pop had ever made.”