"Hope I die before I get old", sang Roger Daltry in 1965. I wonder how he feels now? The Who will tour in 2002, over 40 years since their inception. The mad man drummer is no longer among us. There are added mucicians. However the legacy and more importantly the music lives on.
In 1961 Pete Townsend (guitar) and John Entwistle joined a band called the Detours. The band was a local favorite in Britain. Included were Dan Sandom (drums), Roger Daltry (guitar vocals) and Colin Dawson (vocals). Moderate success was enjoyed by the band but chart recognition eluded them. During the height of their dance hall success Colin Dawson was dropped and Roger Daltry became the lead vocalist. The name was also changed to The Who.
By now (1963), the British invasion had started in America led by the Beatles. Pete Townsend had taken an interest in American culture and tried his hand at writing his own songs. The first few were modest to say the least. However the band adopted an R&B persona modeled after the Rolling Stones. Pete even copied the windmill style of Stones guitarist Keith Richards. This allowed the lads to ride the coattails of the "beat" group popularity. During this time it was decided that Doug Sandom was not the powerful drummer needed for American R&B.He was let go. The band played with several drummers until hiring away Keith Moon who played for a surf band called "The Beachcombers". The line up was now set.
During this time the band met and hired Pete Meaden as their manager. He was a high profile member of the rising "Mod" culture in working-class Britain. Flashy clothes and Motown music from America were the symbols of this short-lived genre. The band's name was changed to "The High Numbers" to reflect numbered t-shirts favored by the Mods. Meaden booked the High Numbers at the Scene Club, a popular hang out for the crowd. Playing American blues proved to be a hit and gave the lads popularity. This led to the recording of 2 singles "I'm the Face" and "Zoot Suit". Unfortunately neither charted.
After the "mod" stage of the band ran its course, they returned to being "The Who". It was during this time when in a live performance technical difficulties occured. An irate Pete Townsend started beating his guitar on the ground, smashing it to bits. The crowd loved it. The rest of the band followed suit and a radical new stage persona was born. Although the band was topping the charts in Britain, it would be they're wild stage antics that made their mark in America.
Even though the band was a chart success in Britain, they only had cult status in the U.S. due to destruction of equipment at their live shows. Cost of equipment and stage repair was soon dwarfing the meager income from recordings. Entwhistle and Moon threatened to quit. However new management encouraged Pete to pursue his interest in "art rock". Thus the penning of the rock opera "Tommy". The rest as they say is history