Original Air Date: December 4, 2008
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From the Biography.com listing http://www.biography.com/listings/episode_details.do?episodeid=383344:
In the annals of rock history The Who stand alone. Though technically they were Mods and musically self-proclaimed "Maximum R&B," The Who were also the godfathers of punk, the pioneers of rock opera, and among the first rock groups to integrate synthesizers. The group members--whose personality clashes are almost as legendary as their music, experienced drugs, death of a band member, and every other vice associated with the rock-and-roll lifestyle, but rose from the ashes to establish themselves as one of the greatest rock bands in history.
More info from http://www.biography.com/search/article.do?id=391572:
Rock group. Original members include Pete Townshend (b. May 19, 1945, in London, England), Roger Daltrey (b. March 1, 1944, London, England), John Entwistle (b. October 4, 1944, in Chiswick—d. June 27, 2002, in Las Vegas, Nevada), and Keith Moon (b. August 23, 1947, in London, England—d. September 7, 1978, in London, England). With their dynamic sound and well-crafted lyrics, the Who are considered one of the leading acts in rock history.
Daltrey, Townshend, and Entwistle knew each other from their school days in London's Shepherd's Bush neighborhood. Townshend and Entwistle played together in a band called the Confederates during their early teens. In the early 1960s, Daltrey was with a band called The Detours and later enlisted Entwistle to be their bass player. Entwistle encouraged the group to add Townshend on guitar in 1962.
The group used the name the Who for the first time in 1964, but they soon changed to the High Numbers at the suggestion of their publicist. That same year, Keith Moon joined the group as its drummer. They released one single as the High Numbers—"I'm the Face"—but it failed to attract much interest from the music-buying public.
With a brash, energetic quality all their own, the band became hugely popular as a live act. Townshend reportedly smashed a guitar at one show by accident and soon instrument destruction became part of their live performances. In late 1964, they signed their first record deal and returned to the name the Who.
"I Can't Explain," the Who's first single in England, became a top ten hit in January 1965. Later that year, they scored two more hits, including the now classic anthem "My Generation." Their first album, My Generation (1965), reached the fifth spot on the UK album charts that December.
By 1967, the Who were a huge success in their native England. The band started climbing the American charts around this time with "Happy Jack" off their second album, A Quick One (1967). The album also provided listeners with the Who's first mini-rock opera. In June 1967, American rock fans got to experience the band's high-energy stage show at the Monterey Pop Festival. The three-day event also featured performances by Jimi Hendrix; Big Brother and the Holding Company; and Otis Redding.
One of their greatest triumphs came in 1969 with the release of Tommy. Written by Townshend, the album is considered to be the first rock opera. It tells the story of a young boy who is deaf, blind, and mute. The boy becomes an expert pinball machine player (as described in the song "Pinball Wizard") and later a type of messiah (as heard on "I'm Free.") The Who did a tour of Tommy, playing at opera houses around the world, including the New York Metropolitan Opera House in 1970.
Before this tour, however, the Who played at one of the most famous music festivals of all time: Woodstock. Roughly 400,000 people turned up for the three-day event. Other significant acts that performed at Woodstock included Crosby, Stills, and Nash; Janis Joplin; Jimi Hendrix; and the Grateful Dead.
The Who earned perhaps their strongest critical praise for the album Who’s Next (1971). It featured such hits as "Won’t Get Fooled Again," and also showcased Townshend’s first musical experimentation with synthesizers. The Who scored another critical and commercial victory with Quadrophrenia (1973), a rock opera about a troubled young man named Jimmy who is part of the "Mods," a youth cultural movement in Britain. The recording featured such songs as “The Real Me” and “Love, Reign O’er Me.”
In the late 1970s, the band suffered a great loss when they lost drummer Keith Moon. Moon died of an overdose of Clomethiazole (Heminevrin) on September 7th, 1978. The drug had been prescribed to him to help with his alcohol abuse problem. Despite this great loss, the Who decided to continue recording and touring. Kenney Jones, formerly with the Faces, joined the band as the replacement drummer. Face Dances (1981) was their first album without Moon.
After the release of It’s Hard (1982), the Who embarked on a farewell tour. They regrouped in 1985 to play at Live Aid, a charity event to raise money to fight hunger in Africa. Four years later, Daltrey, Entwistle, and Townshend went on tour for the Who’s 25th anniversary. They played several special shows dedicated to the music from Tommy.
In 1990, this legendary group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Townshend reworked Tommy into a Broadway musical, which debuted in 1993. Three years later, the Who reunited for another benefit performance, this time playing Quadrophrenia in London to raise funds for the Prince’s Trust. Special musical guests on stage included Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan. The band then launched a tour of Quadrophrenia, traveling to the United States and Europe.
Over the next few years, the Who regrouped to tour together several times. They were about to start their 2002 North American tour when Entwistle died of a heart attack on June 27th, 2002, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Some of the group’s dates were cancelled, but Daltrey and Townshend did the remainder of the tour, playing in honor of their friend.
In 2006, the Who released Endless Wire, their first studio album in more than 20 years. The recording peaked at seventh spot on the Billboard album charts. Continuing to tour, the Who is usually accompanied by Pino Palladino on bass, John Bundrick on keyboards, Zak Starkey (the son of famed Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr), and Pete’s brother Simon Townshend on second guitar.
The band continues to fascinate and inspire their fellow musicians and music fans alike. They were the subject of a 2007 television documentary Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who and a 2008 special tribute concert. The concert was filmed and later aired on television as VH1 Rock Honors: The Who. In addition to the band, other performers at the event included grunge rockers Pearl Jam and alternative rock favorites the Flaming Lips. Actor Sean Penn and comedian Adam Sandler also served as presenters at the tribute.
Together for more than 40 years, the Who has become one of rock’s most successful acts. They have sold more than 100 million records, and their songs have become a lasting part of popular culture. With “Who Are You” as the theme song for the long-running crime show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, millions of people still listen to the Who. The song has remained as invigorating and relevant in the world of rock today as it was when it was first released in 1978.
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Aired on December 4, 2008 on the Biography Channel.