The Who

Part 1: I Can't Explain.

I began my first volume of Rivals Of The Beatles (not dreaming at the time that there would ever be another volume) with the group that seemed to demand I consider them before any of the others on my long list of worthy applicants: The Rolling Stones. Second book, second time around, another band has belligerently forced its way to the forefront of my mind, insistently demanding of me: what about us? Why not us? You’d better do us next, or else. You better, you bet! This untidy, unruly, ill-fitting amalgamation of quarrelsome individuals became collectively known as….The Who.

The Who. One of the most exciting and innovative groups to arise during the heady days of the mid-1960s. They started out on the recording scene only a couple of years after the Beatles and The Rolling Stones began making records, and created thrilling masterpieces like ‘I Can’t Explain’, ‘My Generation’ and ‘Substitute’, before going on to finally conquer the world with that deaf, dumb and blind kid, Tommy.

The curious thing however was the length of time it took for The Who to gain the full measure of international acclaim they had deserved almost from the outset of their career. By the time Tommy emerged to bring The Who to superstardom, and rescue the group’s members from abject poverty, it was the summer of 1969. A long five years had elapsed since their first hesitant disc (under the name of The High Numbers).

The Who had such an abundance of talent and potential, and were bursting with such raw energy it seemed impossible to imagine that they would not inherit The Beatles’ glittering crown – at least at some stage of their career. But although The Who effortlessly established themselves in the top echelons of pop and rock groups from the mid 1960s onwards, try as they might they were never quite able to reach the absolute summit of sales and adoration.