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The Who

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In his autobiography, Pete Townshend smashes his guitars not just because he loves them, but because it’s a more political act:

“I had no idea what the first smashing of my guitar would lead to, but I had a good idea where it all came from. … I was brought up in a period when war still cast shadows, though in my life the weather changed so rapidly it was impossible to know what was in store. War had been a real threat or a fact for three generations of my family…

I wasn’t trying to play beautiful music, I was confronting my audience with the awful, visceral sound of what we all knew was the single abso lute of our frail existence—one day an aeroplane would carry the bomb that would destroy us all in a flash. It could happen at any time. The Cuban Crisis less than two years before had proved that. On stage I stood on the tips of my toes, arms outstretched, swooping like a plane. As I raised the stuttering guitar above my head, I felt I was holding up the bloodied standard of endless centuries of mindless war. Explosions. Trenches. Bodies. The eerie screaming of the wind.”

Hey! It’s that song from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation!

“Who Are You”, composed by Pete Townshend, is the title track on The Who’s 1978 release, Who Are You, the last album released before drummer Keith Moon’s death in September 1978. Moon died just under a month after its release, and on the cover, he is shown sitting in a chair ironically labelled “Not to be taken away”. Moon had insisted on sitting in the chair with the back to the camera so as to hide his distended stomach, the result of his alcoholism. But I digress…

The lyrics begin with a true incident, courtesy of Pete’s alcoholism. He claims he really did “wake up in a Soho doorway”, and a policeman recognized him and advised him to go home.

Beware of the F-word sung at 2:14 and 4:27 if you’re at work.

The album peaked at #2 on the Billboard Album Charts. The release that blocked it from being their first (and only) #1? The soundtrack to Grease.