The Who And Their Use Of The Word “Who”
On Oct. 27, The Who is set to release a compilation album called The Who Hits 50! The 42-track, double-disc collection contains their greatest hits, rare tracks, and a brand new song called “Be Lucky.” The name of this ultimate oeuvre is also the name of their upcoming world trek. Both the album and The Who tour are celebrating the band’s 50th Anniversary.
The Who begins what they’re calling their last tour on Nov. 23 in Abu Dhabi. It ends Nov. 4, 2015 in Philadelphia. The North American portion of their odyssey kicks off April 15, 2015 in Tampa. Highlights of their “Amazing Journey” include Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver, Boston, and New York City.
I won’t be at any of the above shows but I will be at the Sept. 25 Who concert in Portland, Oregon. The Who are one of my all-time favorite bands and I’m not going to miss the chance to say goodbye. I not only enjoy their music, I also enjoy the hilarious wordplay that their name inspires.
“Who are you listening to?”
“I don’t know who, that’s why I’m asking.”
It’s silly but it’s always funny. ALWAYS.
The Who are definitely aware of the fun that can be had with their appellation. They’ve incorporated it into several song and album titles. Below, Musicology-101 looks at the seven times The Who used their titular pronoun to name something.
Who’s Next (1971)
The Who Sell Out dropped in 1967 but without a question mark at the end it’s not asking someone to repeat a query (as in “who sold out?”). The title is just telling us that the band has sold out. Four years later, the band released one of the greatest albums of the 1970s and dubbed it Who’s Next—the first time The Who really played around with their name.
Originally, the project was called Lifehouse but it was so difficult to pull off that the idea was scuttled. Instead, the band made Who’s Next, an album comprised of unrelated songs. Key tracks on Who’s Next include “Baba O’Riley,” “Bargain,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
Who Are You (1978)
On the cover of Who Are You, The Who’s eighth studio album, Keith Moon is seen sitting in a turned-around chair. The back of the chair reads “not to be taken away.” Twenty days later Keith Moon died of a drug overdose. Like Who’s Next, Who Are You contains a lot of tracks inspired by the failed Lifehouse project. Also like Who’s Next, The Who used a lot synthesizers.
In Who Are You, Townshend (who wrote six of the album’s nine tracks) was trying to combine progressive rock with punk rock, two seemingly conflicting genres. Did he succeed? Not really, but Who Are You is a great album nonetheless.
“Who Are You” (1978)
“Who Are You” is the title track of the album of the same name (as well as the theme song to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation). The single peaked at number 14 in the United States. It’s The Who’s third-highest charting single on the other side of the Atlantic.
The song is based on a real story. Like the first lyric of the song explains, Pete Townshend did wake up drunk in a Soho doorway, he was recognized by a police officer, and the cop did tell him to get up and go home. Quite unusual for a mainstream rock album from 1978, “Who Are You” contains two instances of the “f-word.”
Who’s Greatest Hits (1983)
If you’re new to The Who a great place to start is 1983’s Who’s Greatest Hits. The 13 tracks found on this collection represent the band’s finest work—from “Substitute” to “Who Are You.” It also contains “Relay,” a fairly obscure track, and the original version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Get this album on vinyl. The Union Jack shirt on the cover is well worth the additional cost.
Who’s Last (1984)
Who’s Last is a live album released in 1984. It was meant to be the band’s final opus. It was not. Most of the album was recorded Dec. 14, 1982 in Cleveland, Ohio. The performance was billed as the last Who concert in the United States. It was not.
Who’s Missing (1985)
Released in November of 1985, Who’s Missing is a collection of rare and unreleased Who songs. Tracks on the compilation include “Shout and Shimmy,” “Barbara Ann,” “Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand,” and “Bargain (Live).” Two years later, The Who released a similar album called Two’s Missing.
Who’s Better Who’s Best: This Is The Very Best of The Who (1988)
Apart from the Who’s Greatest Hits, Who’s Better Who’s Best: This Is The Very Best of The Who is the band’s definitive collection. It includes several tracks not found on the Who’s Greatest Hits including "The Kids Are Alright," "I’m a Boy," "I Can See for Miles," "I Can’t Explain," "See Me, Feel Me," "Join Together," and "You Better You Bet." The Who’s Greatest Hits rocks hard while Who’s Better Who’s Best showcases Townshend’s songwriting prowess. Again, you’ll want this album on vinyl if for nothing else than the linear notes.