Originally called The Detours (and also a later, brief incarnation as The High Numbers), The Who was formed in 1964 by John Entwhistle, Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and Keith Moon, and quickly became fixtures of the British Mod subculture of the 1960s, their popularity cemented by a tendency to smash instruments on stage, to the delight of their young, rebellious audiences.
Their first single release was “I Can't Explain” in 1965, a Top 10 hit in the UK, followed by “Substitute”, both coming from the album My Generation, and it was this title track which, for many of their fans, summed up their own teenage angst. Most songs were written by the prolific Townshend, who was already looking to where The Who's musical direction was heading, adamant that they were to be an intelligent, story-telling band, not just a group who spat out commercial, market-led pop songs that had no theme. The 1966 album, A Quick One, was originally intended by Townshend to be a rock opera, but the band instead considered it an experiment for things to come. The Who Sell Out (1967) was a concept album that confused many, with its radio jingles and mock-commercials, and the same year the band performed at many overseas events, including their infamous set at the Monterrey Pop Festival, where they destroyed most of their equipment.
Music's first real rock opera, Tommy, appeared in 1969, and is still considered by many to be Townshend's finest work to date, the band performing a sizeable portion of it at the Woodstock Festival the same year. The beginning of the 1970s saw the albums Live At Leeds (1970) and Who's Next (1971), the latter demonstrating cutting-edge use of synthesizer. Quadrophenia (1973) was a double-album rock opera set against the backdrop of the 1960s Mods v Rockers clashes, while Odds & Sods (1974) contained mainly outtakes from a previously abandoned album, Lifehouse.
Who Are You (1978) was one of the group's biggest album successes, but its release was marred by Moon's death just three weeks later, from an overdose of an alcohol withdrawal drug. It took eight months for the band to return to the stage, but 1979 was one of their busiest years, with the release of two films, a documentary called The Kids Are Alright and the movie version of Quadrophenia.,.
The 1980s saw two more albums, Face Dances (1981) and It's Hard (1982), but the band was in crisis, mainly due to Townshend's drug and alcohol-fuelled implosion. A US tour in 1982 marked The Who's split, notwithstanding a mini-reunion for Live Aid (1985) and a 1989 tour for The Kids Are Alright. A 1996 performance of Quadrophenia in London's Hyde Park brought The Who back consciousness, and they began touring the US and UK again at the beginning of the new millennium. John Entwhistle's sudden death in Las Vegas in 2002, prior to kicking off another US tour, shocked the music world, but instead of disbanding, as many expected, The Who finished the tour and Daltrey and Townshend announced they would continue with guest members, which have included Zak Starkey and Townshend's brother, Simon.
The Who's first studio album in 24 years, Endless Wire, was released in 2006, and Townshend announced in 2011 that he and Daltrey would be touring their album, Quadrophenia, in 2012.
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