The Who

The Who are an English rock band formed in 1964. Their best known line-up consisted of singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist Pete Townshend, bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon. For much of their career they have been regarded as one of the most important British rock acts along with The Beatles. The Who, along with the Beatles, expanded what could be done in rock music and laid the groundwork for the merging of the intellectual and the artistic with the power of rock and roll, making what prog rock would be attempting to do in the years to come more easier to accomplish. They made the prog rock music movement possible and they introduced another future prog standard, the concept album. The Who achieved recognition in the UK after support by pirate radio and television, and their first single as The Who, "I Can't Explain" reached the top ten. A string of hit singles followed including "My Generation", "Substitute" and "Happy Jack". In 1967, they achieved success in the US after performing at the Monterey Pop Festival, and with the top ten single "I Can See for Miles". They released The Who Sell Out at the end of the year, and spent much of 1968 touring the US. The release of their fourth album, Tommy, in 1969 was a major commercial and critical achievement. Subsequent live appearances at Woodstock and the Isle of Wight Festival, along with the live album Live At Leeds, transformed the Who's reputation from a hit-singles band into a critically acclaimed rock act. With their success came increased pressure on lead songwriter Townshend, and the follow-up to Tommy, Lifehouse was abandoned in favour of 1971's Who's Next. The group subsequently released Quadrophenia (1973) and The Who by Numbers (1975), oversaw the film adaptation of Tommy and toured to large audiences before semi-retiring from live performance in 1977. The release of Who Are You in August 1978 was overshadowed by the death of Moon on 7 September, at the age of 32. Kenney Jones, formerly of the Small Faces and the Faces, replaced Moon and the group resumed touring. A film adaptation of Quadrophenia was released in 1979 along with the retrospective documentary The Kids Are Alright. The group continued recording, releasing Face Dances in 1981 and It's Hard the following year, before breaking up. They occasionally re-formed for live appearances such as Live Aid in 1985, a 25th anniversary tour in 1989 that drew mixed reviews, and for a tour of Quadrophenia in 1996. The Who resumed regular touring in 1999, with drummer Zak Starkey, to a positive response, and were considering the possibility of a new album, but these plans were stalled by Entwistle's death in June 2002 at the age of 57. Townshend and Daltrey elected to continue as The Who, releasing Endless Wire (2006), which reached the top ten in the UK and US. The group continues to play live on a regular basis, and in 2012 they began a further tour of Quadrophenia.


The three founding members of The Who, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and John Entwistle, all grew up in Acton, London. In 1959, Roger Daltrey started the band that would later evolve into The Who. The band, called The Detours, played professional gigs from the very beginning, such as corporate and wedding functions, with Daltrey keeping a close eye on the finances as well as the music. John Entwistle became the bassist of the band and suggested Pete Townshend as an additional guitarist. In the early days of The Detours, the band played instrumentals by The Shadows and The Ventures, as well as a variety of pop and trad jazz covers. The line-up consisted of Daltrey as lead guitarist, Townshend on rhythm guitar, Entwistle on bass, Harry Wilson on drums and Colin Dawson as vocalist. Daltrey was considered the leader of the group. Wilson was fired in the summer of 1962 in preference to Doug Sandom, who despite being significantly older than the rest of the band, and married, was a more accomplished musician, having been playing semi-professionally for two years at that point. Dawson subsequently quit after arguing too much with Daltrey. With the departure of Dawson, Daltrey moved to performing as lead vocalist, and Townshend, with Entwistle's encouragement, became the sole guitarist. Through Townshend's mother, who was a musician as well, the group obtained a management contract with local promoter Robert Druce, who started booking the band as a support act, and they became increasingly influenced by bands they were supporting. Their guitarist, Mick Green, inspired Townshend to take up a combined rhythm and lead guitar style, while Entwistle's bass became more of a lead instrument. In February 1964, they became aware of the group Johnny Devlin and the Detours, so they decided to change their name. Townshend and his room-mate Richard Barnes spent a night considering potential names, focusing on a theme of joke announcements, including "No One" and "The Group". Townshend preferred "The Hair", while Barnes liked "The Who" because it "had a pop punch". Daltrey listened to suggestions the next morning and decided The Who was the best choice.


By the time The Detours had evolved into The Who, they had already found regular gigs including the Oldfield Hotel in Greenford, the White Hart Hotel in Acton, the Goldhawk Social Club in Shepherd's Bush, and the Notre Dame Hall in Leicester Square. They had also replaced Druce as manager with Helmut Gorden, with whom they secured an audition with Chris Parmeinter for Fontana Records. At the end of the audition, Parmeinter explained the drumming was a problem. Sandom quit and the band met Keith Moon for the first time. Unlike the other members, Moon grew up in Wembley, and had been drumming in bands since 1961. At the time he was performing with a semi-professional band called The Beachcombers, but wanted a full-time role. Moon played a few songs with the group and the band were immediately impressed with his energy and enthusiasm, and offered him the job. In the summer, the group switched management again to Peter Meaden. He decided that the group would be ideal to represent the growing mod movement in Britain which involved fashion, scooters and music genres such as rhythm and blues, soul, and beat music. He renamed the group The High Numbers, dressed them up in typical mod clothes, secured a second, more favourable audition with Fontana and wrote the two sides for their single "Zoot Suit"/"I'm the Face" as an attempt to appeal to mods. Although Meaden attempted to promote the single, it failed to reach the top 50 and the band reverted to calling themselves The Who. Meaden was replaced as manager by two filmmakers, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp. They were looking for a young, unsigned rock group that they could make a film about, and had seen the band playing at the Railway Hotel in Wealdstone. Lambert found affinity with Townshend in particular, due to his art school background, and encouraged him to write songs. In August, Lambert and Stamp filmed a promotional film featuring the group and their audience at the Railway. To highlight their music style, the band changed their set towards soul, rhythm and blues and Motown covers, and created the slogan "Maximum R&B". In June 1964, during a performance at the Railway, Townshend accidentally broke the head of his guitar on the low ceiling above the stage. Angered by laughing from the audience, he smashed the instrument on the stage, then picked up another guitar and continued the show. The following week, the audience were keen to see a repeat of the event. Moon promptly obliged and kicked his drum kit over. Subsequent auto-destructive art, as described by Townshend, became a feature of The Who's live set.

By late 1964, The Who had started to become popular in London's Marquee club, which attracted a rave review in Melody Maker over their live act. Lambert and Stamp had managed to attract the attention of American producer Shel Talmy, who had already found success by producing The Kinks. Townshend had written a song, "I Can't Explain", that deliberately sounded like The Kinks in order to attract Talmy's attention. Talmy saw the group in rehearsals and was immediately impressed. He signed the group to his production company, and sold the recording to the US arm of Decca Records, which meant that the group's early singles were released in Britain on Brunswick Records, UK Decca's label. The Who achieved a major boost in popularity when they appeared on the television programme Ready Steady Go! Lambert and Stamp had been given the task of finding "typical teens", and simply invited the group's regular audience from the Goldhawk Social Club. Their enthusiastic reception on television, aided by regular airplay on pirate radio stations such as Radio Caroline, helped the single slowly climb the charts during early 1965, eventually reaching the top 10. For the follow-up single, "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere", credited to both Townshend and Daltrey, Talmy arranged the deliberate use of guitar feedback, which was so unconventional that the US arm of Decca rejected the master tapes. The single also reached the top 10 in the UK. The transition into a hit-making band with original material, eagerly encouraged by Lambert, did not sit well with Daltrey, particularly after a session of recording R&B covers for an album was shelved. The Who were not particularly good friends either, with the notable exception of Moon and Entwistle, who enjoyed clubbing together. The group experienced a particularly fraught time touring Denmark in September. Immediately on returning to Britain, Daltrey was sacked from The Who. After a band meeting, he was reinstated on the strict condition that the group became a democracy without his dominant leadership. At the same time, the group enlisted Richard Cole as a roadie. The group recorded a follow-up single, "My Generation" in October. Townshend had written it as a slow blues, but after several abortive attempts, it was turned into a more powerful song with a bass solo from Entwistle. It became the highest charting single the group have achieved to date, reaching number 2. The debut album My Generation (The Who Sings My Generation in the US) was released in late 1965. It included original material written by Townshend, including the title track and "The Kids Are Alright", as well as several James Brown covers that Daltrey favoured, from the aborted session earlier that year.

I Can't Explain

After My Generation, The Who fell out with Talmy which meant an abrupt end to their recording contract. Lambert and Stamp claimed the royalty rate was poor, while Talmy claimed it was due to Lambert wanting to take control of the recordings away from him. The resulting legal acronymy resulted in Talmy holding the rights to the master tapes, which prevented the album from being reissued. The dispute was finally resolved in 2002, when it saw a proper remix and CD reissue. Meanwhile, The Who were signed to Robert Stigwood's Reaction Label, releasing "Substitute". Talmy took legal action over the B-side, "Instant Party", and so the single was withdrawn and replaced with "Waltz for a Pig", recorded by the Graham Bond Organisation under the pseudonym "The Who Orchestra". Subsequent singles released in 1966 included "I'm a Boy", "Happy Jack" and an EP, Ready Steady Who that tied in with their regular appearances on Ready Steady Go!. In order to alleviate some of the financial pressure on the band, Lambert arranged a songwriting deal which required each member to write two songs for the next album. Entwistle contributed "Boris the Spider" and "Whiskey Man" and found a niche role as a second songwriter in the band, but after recording the material, the band found they needed to fill an extra ten minutes. Lambert encouraged Townshend to write a longer piece, which became "A Quick One, While He's Away". The album was subsequently titled A Quick One (released as Happy Jack in the US), it was released in 1966 and reached number 4 in the charts. It was followed in 1967 by the UK Top 5 single "Pictures of Lily." By 1966, Ready Steady Go! had stopped being broadcast, and mod was no longer as popular. The Who found themselves in competition with Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience on the London gigging circuit. Lambert and Stamp realised that commercial success in the US was paramount to the group's future, and so arranged a deal with promoter Frank Barsalona for a short package tour in New York. The group's performances, which still involved smashing guitars and kicking over drums, were well received, and led to them being on the bill at the Monterey Pop Festival, which was their first major appearance in the US. Immediately afterwards, the group toured the country with Herman's Hermits. The next album was The Who Sell Out (1967) —a concept album based on pirate radio, which had been instrumental in raising The Who's popularity, but had been banned that August. It included several humorous jingles and mock commercials between songs, a mini rock opera called "Rael" whose closing theme ended up on Tommy, and The Who's biggest US single, "I Can See for Miles". Later that year, Lambert and Stamp formed their own record label, Track Records, with distribution by Polydor. As well as signing Hendrix, Track became the imprint used for all The Who's UK output until the mid-1970s. The group started 1968 with a fairly disastrous tour of Australia and New Zealand with the Small Faces, and continued to tour across the US and Canada during the spring and summer.

I Can See For Miles

By 1968, The Who had started to attract attention in the underground press. In August, Townshend gave a major interview to Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner in which he described an album project he was working on, describing the plot of what eventually became the Tommy album in intricate detail. The basic concept was to describe the life of a deaf, dumb and blind boy, and his attempt to communicate with others. Some songs, such as "Welcome" and "Amazing Journey" came directly from Townshend's studies of the teachings of Meher Baba, while others came from observations within the band. "Sally Simpson" was written about a fan trying to climb onstage at a gig by The Doors that they attended and "Pinball Wizard" was written to attract the interest of New York Times journalist Nik Cohn. Townshend later said "I wanted the story of Tommy to have several levels; a rock singles level and a bigger concept level", containing the spiritual message he wanted as well as being entertaining. By the end of the year, 18 months of continuous touring had led to a well rehearsed and tight live band. Tommy was completed and released in May 1969 with the accompanying single, "Pinball Wizard", and a debut performance at Ronnie Scott's, after which the group set out on tour, playing most of the new album live. The album was an immediate success, selling 200,000 copies in the first two weeks of release in the US. In addition to commercial success, Tommy became a critical smash. Daltrey's singing had become significantly better, and it translated well into performing the new material. He had grown his hair and tended to wear open shirts on stage, and this set the template for rock singers in the 1970s. Townshend, meanwhile, had taken to wearing a boiler suit and Doctor Martens on stage, and settled on the Gibson SG Special as his main live instrument, using one for every gig until 1973. Today, Gibson manufacture a signature Pete Townshend SG. In August, The Who performed at the Woodstock Festival, despite being reluctant to do so and only agreeing after being paid $13,000 up front. Originally scheduled to appear at 10pm on Saturday 16, the festival ran late and the group did not take to the stage until 5am Sunday, where they played most of Tommy. The set was professionally recorded and filmed, and portions of it appeared on the Woodstock film, The Old Grey Whistle Test and The Kids Are Alright. While Woodstock in general has been regarded as culturally significant, The Who have been critical of the event. Daltrey declared it as "the worst gig we ever played". A more favourable appearance came a few weeks later at the second Isle of Wight Festival, which Townshend later described as "a great concert for us".

See Me Feel Me / Listening To You

Pinball Wizard

By 1970, The Who were widely considered to be one of the best and most popular live rock bands. They decided a live album would help demonstrate the contrast of their gigs to the studio work on Tommy. They booked two shows, one in Leeds on 14 February, and one in Hull the following day, with the specific intention of recording them for a live album. Technical problems from the Hull gig resulted in the Leeds gig being used, which became Live at Leeds (1970). The album is viewed by several critics as being one of the best live rock albums of all time. The original album contained six songs, taken from the middle and end of the set, and has been reissued several times in expanded and remastered versions, which remedy technical problems and contain the performance of Tommy, as well as renditions of earlier singles. The Leeds University gig was part of the Tommy tour, which not only included gigs in European opera houses but saw The Who become the first rock act at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. In March The Who released the UK top twenty hit "The Seeker", continuing a theme of issuing singles separate to albums.

The success of Tommy had secured The Who's future. Entwistle, tired of not getting enough of his own songs on The Who albums, recorded Smash Your Head Against the Wall, his first solo effort. During the latter part of 1970, Townshend thought of a suitable follow-up to Tommy. He came up with Lifehouse, which was designed to be a multi-media project symbolising the relationship between an artist and his audience. He developed numerous ideas in his home studio, creating various layers of synthesizers, and the Young Vic theatre in London was booked for a series of experimental concerts. Townshend approached the gigs with optimism; the rest of the band were just happy to be gigging again. Eventually, the others confronted Townshend, complaining the project was too complicated and they should simply record another album. Things deteriorated to the point at which Townshend had a nervous breakdown, and Lifehouse was abandoned. In March 1971, The Who began recording the available Lifehouse material with Kit Lambert in New York, which had to be abandoned and then restarted the sessions with Glyn Johns in April. Selections from the material, with one unrelated song, "My Wife", by Entwistle, were released as a traditional studio album, Who's Next (1971). The album became their most successful album among critics and fans, reaching No.4 in the US pop charts and No.1 in the UK. Two tracks from the album, "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again", are early examples of synthesiser use in rock music; both tracks' keyboard sounds were generated in real time by a Lowrey organ, and on "Won't Get Fooled Again", it was further processed through a VCS3 synthesiser. Townshend was credited with "VCS3 Organ" and "ARP Synthesizer" on the final album credits. "Baba O'Riley" also featured a violin solo by Dave Arbus, produced by Moon. The Who continued to release Lifehouse related material over the next few years. In October they released the UK top twenty hit "Let's See Action" which came from the project, followed by further singles "Join Together" and "Relay". Following the success of Who's Next, the band went back on tour, replacing much of the old Tommy material with the new songs. On 4 November they opened the Rainbow Theatre in London and played for three nights, continuing on to the US later that month. The Los Angeles Times Robert Hilburn described The Who as "the Greatest Show on Earth." The tour was slightly disrupted, however, at the Civic Auditorium in San Francisco on 12 December, when Moon passed out over his kit.

Baba O'Riley

Won't Get Fooled Again

Following the tour for Who's Next, and needing time to write a follow-up, Townshend insisted that The Who took a lengthy break. Having been continually touring since the band started, there was no group activity for the first part of 1972. They then started recording new material, but the results were uninspired, and the sessions were abandoned. Tensions began to emerge between the group members; Townshend believed Daltrey just wanted a money making band; Daltrey, conversely, thought Townshend's projects were getting pretentious. Moon's behaviour was also becoming increasingly destructive and problematic. Daltrey had also discovered that Lambert and Stamp had left significant amounts of money unaccounted for, and believed them to be no longer effective as managers, which Townshend and Moon disputed. The remainder of 1972 was spent working on an orchestral version of Tommy, with Daltrey and Townshend collaborating with Lou Reizner. By 1973, The Who had decided to record an album about mod and its subculture, set against clashes with Rockers in the early 1960s in the UK, particularly at Brighton, called Quadrophenia. The story is about a boy named Jimmy, who undergoes a personality crisis, and his relationship with his family and the mod culture. By the time the album was being recorded, relationships between the band and Lambert and Stamp had broken down irreparably, and Bill Curbishley replaced them as manager. Townshend played a variety of multi-tracked synthesizers, and Entwistle played several overdubbed horn parts. The album became their highest charting cross-Atlantic success, peaking at No.2 in the UK and US.


The tour for the album started in Stoke on Trent in October, but was immediately beset with problems. Having successfully played "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" to a backing tape with the synthesizer parts live, Townshend had assembled a variety of similar tapes for Quadrophenia for the band to play along to. Unfortunately, the technology was not sophisticated enough to deal with the demands of the music, and rehearsals were interrupted due to an argument which culminated in Daltrey punching Townshend and knocking him out cold. At a gig in Newcastle, the tapes completely malfunctioned. The US tour started on 20 November at the Cow Palace, Daly City, California, where Moon passed out during "Won't Get Fooled Again" and, after a break backstage, again in "Magic Bus". Townshend asked the audience, "Can anyone play the drums? I mean somebody good." An audience member, Scot Halpin, filled in for the rest of the show. By 1974, serious work had begun on the Tommy film. Ken Russell was suggested as director by Stigwood, and Townshend had admired his previous work. It featured a star-studded cast, including the band members themselves. After auditioning David Essex as the title role, it went to Daltrey, after some persuasion by the band. The other cast members included Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Elton John, and Jack Nicholson. Townshend and Entwistle worked on the film soundtrack for most of the year, but because Moon had moved to Los Angeles, they decided to use Kenny Jones and Tony Newman as drummers. A number of session men also played bass and keyboards. Elton John insisted on using his own band for his performance of "Pinball Wizard". The Tommy film premiered on 18 March 1975, to a standing ovation from the audience. Ann-Margret received a Golden Globe Award for her performance, and was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Pete Townshend was also nominated for an Oscar for his work in scoring and adapting the music for the film. The film was shown at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival, but was not entered into the main competition, and won the award for Rock Movie of the Year in the First Annual Rock Music Awards. It was a commercial success, generating over $2M in box-office receipts in the first month of release. The soundtrack was also successful, reaching number 2 on the Billboard albums chart.

Tommy film: Elton John-Pinball Wizard

Because work on Tommy took up most of 1974, live performances by The Who were restricted to a one off show at Charlton Athletic Football Ground in May in front of 80,000 fans and a few gigs at Madison Square Garden in June Towards the end of the year, the group released the outtakes album Odds & Sods, which featured several songs from the aborted Lifehouse project that had been compiled by Entwistle. Their 1975 album, The Who by Numbers, had introspective songs that dealt with dissolutionment, lightened by "Squeeze Box", another hit single. The group set out touring in October, playing little new material, removing most of the Quadrophenia numbers and reintroducing Tommy to the set. On 6 December 1975, The Who set the record for largest indoor concert at the Pontiac Silverdome, attended by 78,000 fans. On 31 May 1976, they played at The Valley, the home of Charlton Athletic, in what was listed for more than ten years in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's loudest concert, at over 120 dBs. Entwistle considered The Who's live performances to be at their peak at this time.

Slip Kid

Following the end of the 1976 tour, Townshend insisted of having most of the following year off in order to spend time with his family. The group reconvened in September, when Townshend announced there would be no live performances for the immediate future, a decision that Daltrey endorsed. By this point, Moon was so out of shape that The Who conceded it would be difficult for him to cope with the rigours of touring. The only live gig performed that year was an informal show at the Gaumont State Cinema in Kilburn, London, on 15 December, as part of an upcoming documentary film about the band, The Kids Are Alright. Having not played for 14 months, the band was weak. Moon's playing was particularly lacklustre and he had put on a lot of weight. Further filming was shelved. Recording of Who Are You started in January 1978. Daltrey clashed with Johns over the production of his vocals, and Moon's drumming was so poor that Daltrey and Entwistle considered he should be sacked. His playing subsequently improved, but on one track, "Music Must Change", he was absent entirely. In May, The Who were required to film another performance at Shepperton Sound Studios in May for The Kids Are Alright, due to the poor performance at Kilburn. Their performance was strong, and several tracks were used on the final cut. It was the last gig Moon ever performed with The Who. The album was released on 18 August, and became their biggest and fastest seller to that date, peaking at No.6 in the UK and No.2 in the US. Instead of touring, Daltrey, Townshend and Moon did a series of promotional television interviews, while Entwistle worked on the soundtrack for The Kids Are Alright. On 7 September 1978, Keith Moon was discovered dead at the age of 32.

Music Must Change


The day after Moon's death, Townshend issued a statement saying "We are more determined than ever to carry on, and we want the spirit of the group to which Keith contributed so much to go on, although no human being can ever take his place". In November 1978, Kenney Jones, formerly of the Small Faces and the Faces, joined the band as Moon's successor. Keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick also joined the live band as an unofficial member. Brundrick was scheduled to have played on Who Are You, but he was unavailable due to an injury. On 2 May 1979, The Who returned to the stage with a well-received concert at the Rainbow Theatre in London, followed up over the spring and summer by performances at the Cannes Film Festival in France, in Scotland, at Wembley Stadium in London, in West Germany, at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey and in five dates at Madison Square Garden in New York City. 1979 also saw the release of a film of Quadrophenia. It was directed by Franc Roddam in his feature directing début, and features straightforward acting rather than the musical numbers in Tommy. Sting starred as the Ace Face, a fellow mod and friend of Jimmy. The idea of casting John Lydon as Jimmy was considered, but the role eventually went to Phil Daniels. The soundtrack is notable for being Jones' first appearance on-record after taking over as full-time drummer from Moon after his death, performing on newly written material that was not on the original album. The film was a critical and box office success in the UK and appealed to the growing mod revival movement. The Jam were particularly noted for being musically influenced by The Who, particularly the relationship between Townshend and their leader, Paul Weller. 

The Kids Are Alright was also completed in 1979. It was a retrospective of the band's career to that date, directed by Jeff Stein. The film included footage of the band at Montrey, Woodstock and Pontiac, and clips from the Smothers Brothers' show and Russell Harty Plus. The film became significant for the band, since Moon died only one week after he had seen the rough cut of the film with Daltrey. It contains Moon's final live performance at Shepperton Studios, and an audio track of him playing drum sounds over silent footage of himself was the last time he ever played the drums.

The Kids Are Alright trailer

In December, The Who became the third band, after The Beatles and The Band, to be featured on the cover of Time. The article, written by Jay Cocks, said the band had "outpaced, outlasted, outlived and outclassed" all of their rock band contemporaries. On 3 December 1979, a short tour of the United States was marred by tragedy in Cincinnati, Ohio, where a crowd crush at the Riverfront Coliseum killed 11 fans. This was due in part to the use of festival seating; a seating arrangement in which seating is unassigned (non-reserved), so the first to enter the venue get the best positions to view the concert. Additionally, many fans waiting outside mistook the band's sound check for the actual concert, and attempted to force their way inside. When only a small number of the arena's entrance doors were opened, a bottleneck situation ensued and, with so many thousands trying to gain entry, the crush became deadly. The Who were not told until after the show because civic authorities feared crowd problems if the concert was cancelled. The band were deeply shaken upon learning of the incident, and requested that appropriate safety precautions be taken at subsequent concerts. The following evening, in Buffalo, New York, Daltrey told the crowd that the band had "lost a lot of family last night and this show's for them." Daltrey took a short break from The Who in 1980 to work on the film McVicar, in which he took the lead role of bank robber John McVicar. The soundtrack album is a Daltrey solo album featuring other members of The Who, and was his most successful solo release. The Who released two studio albums with Jones as drummer, Face Dances (1981) and It's Hard (1982). Face Dances produced a US top twenty and UK top ten hit with the single "You Better You Bet" and its video was shown on MTV on its first day of airing. Both Face Dances and It's Hard sold fairly well and the latter received a five-star review in Rolling Stone. "Eminence Front" was a hit, and became a regular feature of live shows, including future reunions. By this time, however, Townshend was again at odds with Daltrey and Entwistle, who merely wanted to tour and play hits. In addition, Jones' consistent and precise drumming was very different from Moon's wild and unpredictable playing. There was resentment too, that Townshend appeared to have saved his best songs for his solo album, Empty Glass. Townshend wanted to stop touring completely and leave The Who as a studio act, though Entwistle threatened to quit unless there were promises of further tours. Townshend did not change his mind, and so The Who embarked on their farewell tour of the US and Canada with The Clash as support, including two shows at Shea Stadium in New York and ending in Toronto on 17 December. Townshend spent part of 1983 trying to write material for the studio album still owed to Warner Bros. Records from a contract in 1980. By the end of 1983, however, Townshend declared himself unable to generate material appropriate for The Who and paid for himself and Jones to be released from the record contract. He then focused on solo projects such as White City: A Novel, The Iron Man (which featured Daltrey and Entwistle and two songs on the album credited to "The Who"), and Psychoderelict. In July 1985, The Who reformed for a one-off performance at Bob Geldof's Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium, London. The BBC transmission truck blew a fuse during the band's set, meaning that the video was temporarily lost. It resumed a short while later. At the 1988 Brit Awards, held at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England, the band was honoured with the British Phonographic Industry's Lifetime Achievement Award. The Who played a short set at the ceremony, which turned out to be the last time Jones played with The Who.


In 1989, the band embarked on a 25th anniversary The Kids Are Alright reunion tour. Simon Phillips played drums, and Steve "Boltz" Bolton played lead guitar, as Townshend relegated himself to acoustic guitar and some electric rhythm guitar to minimise damage to his hearing. Their two shows at Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, sold 100,000 tickets in less than eight hours, beating previous records set there by U2 and David Bowie. The tour included most of Tommy with several guest stars, including Phil Collins, Billy Idol and Elton John. A 2-CD live album, Join Together, was released in 1990. In 1990, The Who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum. The group have a featured collection in the museum, including one of Moon's velvet suits, a Warwick bass used by Entwistle, and a drum head dating from 1968. In 1991, The Who recorded a cover of Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" for the tribute album Two Rooms: Celebrating the Songs of Elton John & Bernie Taupin. This was the last time they released any new studio work with John Entwistle. In 1994, Daltrey turned 50 and celebrated with two concerts at Carnegie Hall. These included guest spots by Entwistle and Townshend. Although all three surviving original members of The Who attended, they did not appear on stage together except for the finale, "Join Together", with the other guests. Daltrey toured that year with Entwistle, Zak Starkey on drums and Simon Townshend filling in for his brother as guitarist. In 1996, Townshend, Entwistle and Daltrey (though not specifically billed as The Who) performed Quadrophenia with guest stars at a concert in Hyde Park, with Zak Starkey as the drummer. The performance was narrated by Phil Daniels who played Jimmy the Mod in the film. Despite technical difficulties the show was a success and led to a six-night residency at Madison Square Garden. The success of the Quadrophenia shows led to a US and European tour through 1996 and 1997. Townshend played mostly acoustic guitar, but eventually was persuaded to play some electric. In 1998, VH1 ranked The Who ninth in their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of Rock 'n' Roll. In late 1999, The Who performed in concert as a five-piece for the first time since 1985, with Bundrick on keyboards and Starkey on drums. The first show took place on 29 October 1999 in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, which was partially broadcast on TV, as well as the internet, and would later see release as the DVD The Vegas Job. They then performed acoustic shows at Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California, on 30 and 31 October, followed by gigs the House of Blues in Chicago. Finally, there were two Christmas charity shows on 22 and 23 December at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London. Critics were delighted to see the band back on form with a basic line-up comparable to the tours of the 1960s and 1970s. Andy Greene, writing in Rolling Stone, claimed the 1999 tour to be even better than the final one with Moon in 1976. The success of 1999 led to a US tour in 2000 from June to October, moving to the UK in October and November, to generally favourable reviews. The final date was charity show on 27 November at the Royal Albert Hall for the Teenage Cancer trust, which included guest performances from Weller, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Oasis' Noel Gallagher, Bryan Adams and Nigel Kennedy. Allmusic's Stephen Tomas Erlewine described the Albert Hall gig as "an exceptional reunion concert". The band performed The Concert for New York City at Madison Square Garden on 20 October 2001, which was dedicated to families of fallen New York City firemen and policemen who lost their lives at the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001. The Who were also honoured with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award that year. The Who played some concerts in the UK in early 2002, in preparation for a full US tour. On 27 June 2002, the day before the tour was due to commence, John Entwistle was found dead at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. The cause was heart attack. He was 57.


Entwistle's son, Christopher, gave a statement supporting The Who continuing the tour, which began at the Hollywood Bowl on 2 July with Pino Palladino replacing Entwistle as bassist. Townshend dedicated the show to Entwistle, which ended with a montage of pictures featuring him. The tour lasted until September. The loss of a founder member of The Who caused Townshend to re-evaluate his relationship with Daltrey, which had become strained several times over the band's career. He decided their friendship was important, and this ultimately led to writing and recording new material. As part of a general plan to combat bootlegging, the band began to release the Encore Series of officially released soundboard tapes via An official statement read "to satisfy this demand they have agreed to release their own official recordings to benefit worthy causes." In 2004, the Who released "Old Red Wine" and "Real Good Looking Boy" (with Pino Palladino and Greg Lake, respectively, on bass guitar), as part of a singles anthology (The Who: Then and Now), and went on an 18-date tour playing Japan, Australia, the UK and the US. Later that year, Rolling Stone ranked The Who No.29 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Real Good Looking Boy

The Who announced in 2005 that a new album was being worked on. Townshend posted a novella called The Boy Who Heard Music on his blog, which developed into a mini-opera called Wire & Glass, forming the basis for the album. Endless Wire was released on 30 October 2006 (31 October in the US). It was the first full studio album of new material since 1982's It's Hard and contained the band's first mini-opera since "Rael" on 1967's The Who Sell Out. Endless Wire reached No.7 on Billboard and No.9 in the UK Albums Chart. Starkey was invited to join Oasis in April 2006, and The Who in November 2006, but he declined, preferring to split his time between the two. In November 2007, the documentary Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who was released. The documentary includes footage not in earlier documentaries, including film from the 1970 Leeds University appearance and the 1964 performance at the Railway Hotel when they were The High Numbers. Amazing Journey was nominated for a 2009 Grammy Award. Since the release of Endless Wire, The Who have continued to tour and receive awards on a regular basis. Highlights include performing on the London stage of the Live 8 concert in July 2005, winning the Freddie Mercury Lifetime Achievement Award in Live Music at the Vodafone music awards, performing at the BBC Electric Proms at the Roundhouse in London, headlining the Glastonbury Festival and a return appearance at the Isle of Wight, being honoured at the 2008 VH1 Rock Honors in Los Angeles, appearing in the music video game Rock Band, recognition at the Kennedy Center Honors, and being the final act at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. In August 2009, Townshend announced on The Who's website that he is working on a new musical titled Floss which follows the story of an ageing rocker known as "Walter", some songs of which may appear on a future Who album. On 19 November 2012, The Who released the album Live at Hull, the band's performance in Hull on 15 February 1970 —the night after the Live at Leeds gig was recorded. The missing bass at the start of the gig was restored by using the recording from the Leeds gig and digitally realigning it. A remastered mono mix of "My Generation" was also released as a single. The Who performed Quadrophenia at the Royal Albert Hall on 30 March 2010 as part of the Teenage Cancer Trust series of 10 gigs. This one-off performance of the rock opera featured guest appearances from Vedder, Kasabian's Tom Meighan and the London Symphony Orchestra's Tom Norris. Townshend told Rolling Stone that the band had planned a tour for early 2010, but later stated this was jeopardised due to the return of his tinnitus. In July, Daltrey stated that they had acquired new equipment, including earpieces, that he and the band are learning to use to enable Townshend to perform. The Who hoped to tour again in 2011, with "a new show," according to Daltrey, or possibly a retooled stage presentation of Quadrophenia. The tour was officially announced in July 2012, and started on 1 November in Ottawa. Bundrick was not present for the tour, having been replaced by keyboardists Chris Stainton, Loren Gold and Frank Simes, the latter of which also acted as musical director. The tour moved to Europe and the UK in 2013, ending at the Wembley Arena, London on 8 July. In October 2013, Townshend told the London Evening Standard that The Who would stage their final tour in 2015 to coincide with their 50th anniversary and will perform in locations they have never performed previously. However, some journalists were suspicious of this being a genuine "final" tour, with the Daily Mirror's Johnny Sharp pointing out that The Who previously quit touring, supposedly for good, in 1982.

Studio albums

My Generation (1965)
A Quick One (1966)
The Who Sell Out (1967)
Tommy (1969)
Who's Next (1971)
Quadrophenia (1973)
The Who by Numbers (1975)
Who Are You (1978)
Face Dances (1981)
It's Hard (1982)
Endless Wire (2006)


1975 Tommy
1979 Quadrophenia


1979 The Kids Are Alright
2000 Classic Albums: The Who–Who's Next
2008 Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who