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Who, The

Entry updated 1 March 2014. Tagged: Music.

Highly regarded UK rock band, formed in 1964 by guitarist and songwriter Peter Townshend (1945-    ), vocalist Roger Daltrey (1944-    ), bassist John Entwhistle (1944-2002) and drummer Keith Moon (1946-1978). The Who's blues and rock grounding is evident in a range of skilfully noisy and slyly affecting songs about teenage disaffection, some of the most enduring in the rock-and-roll canon. But Townshend's ambition from an early stage was to write coherent concept albums; he was, indeed, one of the first pop musicians to think in such terms. The first, and perhaps most famous of these rock operas was Tommy (1969), a phantasmagoric social fable about a traumatized boy who suffers hysterical deafness, dumbness and blindness, but who nonetheless goes on to become a world champion player of pinball and the messiah-figure at the centre of a religious cult. Quadrophenia (1971), a more complete and mature work, sticks closely to Townshend's autobiographical experiences of life as a mod in London in the early 1960s. The most ambitious of these projects was to be called Lifehouse, set in a futuristic Dystopia in which music no longer exists and all experiences are accessed "through test tubes" (or in alternate drafts, through television). A "very, very, very old guru figure" recalls the world to music in the titular domicile, thus reinvigorating humanity. The band worked at the project intermittently over many years without ever completing it, although elements of it were released in various places. Most notably, the album Who's Next (1971), one of the very best rock albums recorded, consists of disconnected portions of the project. These songs, alternately thunderous and delicate, brilliantly capture a dystopian mood in which teenage alienation is projected onto the cosmos as a whole. Further "Lifehouse" songs appeared on Who Are You? (1978), and a number of other bits and pieces have appeared over the years in various forms. [AR]


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