Of all the grandiose mysteries this experience called Life offers us, the current one stuck in my craw, the one I stutter on the hard consonants of, is the legacy of The Who.
For those who are too young to understand (or to think this is a half baked, fully stoned Sci Fi reference…or even a pronoun), The Who was a Rock Band. Not a Blues band turned up. Not a R&B band (yeah, that’s right, come at me Who fans…).
The Who were big. Bombastic. Smart…maybe overly so. The Who were required listening if you lived in a Classic Rock Town. The Who made amazing music, killer singles, created a sound that would in time be bled of purpose and become ‘Radio Rock’.
As the big bands of the time continue to be worshipped, deified in these days of ‘All the best music is ollllld…..’… not The Meaty, The Beaty, The Big nor even The Bouncy. I have dear friends whose taste I trust implicitly who can’t even listen to the stuff. And look upon the World at Large….there is still Zeppelin Radio Hours and Pink Floyd Nights and endless Beatle-y bits. But The Who is fading.
Why? I am not even the biggest Who fan…but I know why they are great. Some truly great songs, a real Rock and Roll attitude not hampered by fear of offending, concepts that are occasionally dumb but…ambitious. A literate lyric style unique to the author and the sound. This is where Punk came from, in attitude, in ambition.
So…sure. Rock Stars deservedly. But…..what happened? I am going to take some fairly unthunk up guesses…cause I don’t know. Do you?:
1) The Never Ending Ending: Sure the reunions were cash grabs. Sure, it was ridiculous that they continued to even exist after Keith Moon died. Is that it? They may have been the first, right? Certainly not the last. I will say though…the cash grab does come off a bit worse for wear from a band that seemingly had an ideology once upon a time.
2) Pete: Yeah….Pete. It is an uncomfortable subject. It is a hazy subject. Let me tell you how uncomfortable: I have no interest in looking it up. Pete has always been a polarizing figure. What was flippantly revolutionary…what was thrilling, the calling out of the culture for what it was…sold out / selling out…. with age and an excess amount of press facts and statements came out that were…creepy. You have the Internet too. If curious, go digging.
3) Sell Out: Is it because The Who were so quick and successful at selling out? Is it the mystical but commercial codex that translates the electronic binky intro to ‘Wont Get Fooled Again’ into the phrase ‘Buy Me’. Is it the irony of The Who selling so completely that I hear more of them in car commercials than on the radio?
4) The Concept Records (and shows)? The creepy English dance hall vibe? The just below the meanness in everything they say and do? The movie ‘Tommy’ (to me, a true dividing point that jackbooted my sicker inclinations towards baked beans and laundry soap).