Iconic Albums: ‘Who Are You’ by The Who [First in a Series]
With the passing of Ralph Stanley, bluegrass banjo legend; Scotty Moore, Elvis' early guitar player, and Prince, well -- Prince was Prince -- three musicians that revolutionized and formed our current understanding of music and how we hear it today, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some truly iconic rock albums.
Strangely, I've chosen Who Are You by The Who to be the first. It lives in rock and roll history as the last release from the original lineup of Roger Daltery (vocals), Pete Townshend (guitar), John Entwistle (bass), and Keith Moon "The Loon" (drums). I've also chosen it for another reason, which we'll get to in a moment.
In my opinion of all the British Invasion bands, The Who is the most introspective of the lot, only rivaled by The Kinks. The Who was a four-part jigsaw puzzle driven by the songwriting of Townshend and delivered by Daltery. Pete Townshend once told me he writes for Roger's voice, but only if it's a song he doesn't plan to sing for himself. And then we have perhaps the best rhythm section in rock history.
The introspective nature of the band is front and center here in, "The Seeker," released in 1971.
Who Are You was released seven years later and is best know for the classic rock anthem of the title track with its repeating chorus:
Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
'Cause I really wanna know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Is the character asking the stranger that "staggered back to the underground
as the breeze blew back my hair?" Or is he asking it to himself?
Who Are You?
If we look past the mega hit of the title song, the album can be defined by the often overlooked gem, sung by "The Ox," a longstanding nickname for bassist, John Entwistle. John was also know as "Thunderfingers." The Song: "905"
What makes Who Are You an iconic album beyond what's stated above is the chair Keith Moon is sitting on: NOT TO BE TAKEN AWAY.
Keith Moon died three weeks after the release of the album, the irony is not lost on rock fans.
Moon The Loon is a drummer and true rock star of mythical scope. In plain English, he was completely out of his effin' mind.
I was in the next studio, recording an interview with Barry Fey, legendary concert promoter, when Barry told the story of having Keith over for dinner.
To paraphrase Barry:
Keith was invited over to dinner, a nice and rather lavish spread. Fine food, a gorgeous floral centerpiece, and drink flowed freely. It wasn't until the end that we noticed Keith ate the entire centerpiece!
Yeah, he ate the flowers on the table.
Now, we can chalk that up to a single incident,
Pete Townshend related the following tale in another interview I recorded:
On one of the early Who tours of the U. S., we were leaving the motel and Keith was running late, making us late, but eventually made it to the taxi. We're on the way to the airport to fly to the next gig. Nearly to the airport, Keith yells: " Wait, stop, go back! We've got to go back to the hotel!" Townshend continued, We didn't know if he'd left drugs or a woman behind, so we went back. Upon arrival at the hotel, Keith jumped out of the taxi, ran to his room. And moments later from the balcony, a television crashes to the ground.
Upon Keith's return to the taxi, his only comment was, "I almost forgot..."
As the last recordings of Keith and the "chair," Who Are You is truly an iconic rock album.
The Who's Live at Leeds, highlights the best of Keith's drumming style.