The Who’s Pinball Wizard was released as a single in 1969 and reached No. 4 in the UK charts and No. 19 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. When you listen to Pete Townshend’s isolated guitars, you’ll hear there are two acoustic guitars, one playing the low 8th note pedal note on the intro parts, which then doubles the other acoustic during the strumming. The electric guitar, which plays on the intro, first verse and chorus.
Townshend once called Pinball Wizard “the most clumsy piece of writing [he'd] ever done.”
Rod Stewart performed the song for the 1972 orchestral version of Tommy, and it is included on several of Stewart’s greatest hits compilations. According to the book The Duh Awards by Bob Fenster, Rod Stewart asked Elton John if he should accept an offer to sing in a film version of “Tommy.” John replied no way, “Don’t touch it with a barge pole.” A year later, The Who asked John to sing the same song, and he agreed. “I don’t think Rod’s quite forgiven me for that,” he commented years later.
The Who have made their entrance with the worst show – ever, courtesy of this video by Pierre Héroux. He’s just a genius for taking out the good stuff from the audio track from a video, then provides a new audio track to sync with the video. Baba O’Reily has never sounded so bad. Except, of course, when I play it.
…and here’s the greatest rock and roll band in the original video.
To celebrate their 50th anniversary as a band, the Who are releasing a two-disc retrospective collection called Who Hits 50! that’s made up of some of their biggest hits. The collection also includes “Be Lucky,” the first new Who song recorded in eight years. The track’s lyrics reference both Daft Punk and AC/DC: “You wanna climb without a safety line, Daft Punk will tell you that it’s gonna be fine,” Roger Daltrey sings before an Autotuned voice says, “It’s gonna be fine.” He repeats the same refrain with AC/DC subbed in and shouts out “Highway To Hell” in a separate line. All royalties proceeds from the track will be donated to the Teen Cancer America charity.
“I Can See for Miles”, written by Pete Townshend of The Who, was recorded for the band’s 1967 album, The Who Sell Out. It was the only song from the album to be released as a single, in October, 1967. It remains The Who’s biggest hit single in the US to date, and their only one to reach the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.
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.
…and here’s the pretty amazing drums (listen for the sloppy kicks) of Keith Moon.