Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Who Sell Out

Tired of all those mid-60's, by-the-numbers psychedelic albums? No, of course not. It's amazing that we can ponder such silliness simply because the glut of music from the era can be so pervasively overwhelming. Think of the great singles of the year: "Strawberry Fields," "Ruby Tuesday," "Somebody to Love," "Brown Eyed Girl," "For What It’s Worth," "Light My Fire" and "Purple Haze" (off the top of my head) – any one of which could be the top single of any other year in the era.  But, indeed, one can find himself sick of having to decipher psychedelia's pseudo-philosophical lyrics only to find out they mean nothing.

With The Who Sell Out you too can rid your household of psychedelic effluvium; here's a psych album that's both fun and rocking! But wait, there’s more: The Who, who previously brought you hits like "I Can’t Explain," "My Generation" and "I'm a Boy," venture into new territory; their re-creation of radio-inspired commercials and public service announcements makes The Who Sell Out one of the earliest examples of a concept album!

The LP was like nothing that had come before (or has really been heard since): an album that simultaneously satirized and paid tribute to the pirate radio stations that broadcast offshore in the UK to give listeners an alternative to the narrowly defined playlists and choices presented by the stodgy BBC. The LP also featured one of the coolest album covers ever: the band hawking products, much like the ersatz radio jingles interspersed amid the tracks on the record. In fact, as a point of trivia, Daltrey actually caught pneumonia from sitting in that Heinz Baked Beans-filled bathtub during the photo shoot for the LP cover. Nobody, apparently, had fully thawed out previously frozen, still chilly, beans. 

And then there are the songs themselves. With one weird guitar trick Townshend makes "Armenia City in the Sky" the band's most psychedelic song. "Odorono" starts out as a bit of storytelling, with a famous singer as the main character. You won’t believe what happens next! "Tattoo" and "I Can't Reach You" stand alongside The Who’s only top ten American single, "I Can See for Miles," as infectious as BBQ chips. In "Sunrise," Townshend accomplishes more with just an acoustic guitar than most bands do with dozens of instruments and overdubs.

There were few bands in which the musicianship was as stellar as The Who. Zeppelin, maybe, the Relayer version of Yes, ELP, King Crimson, but I could go on about Moony from now until forever. I’ll say it hear it and now, Keith Moon is my favorite musician in the world ever and he's so obviously the best drummer ever that if you think otherwise you should be thrown in the sea. John Bonham? Ha. That guy from Rush? Come on. Ginger Baker (okay, maybe). 


What makes him so great?  Well it's the mid sixties. His job is to provide a backbeat, it’s what drummers do. Endless backbeat, keeping time, hitting the beat like a cop. Moony did that for about two seconds, got bored, and threw the backbeat out the window. Goodbye backbeat, hello Lead Drums. So what, on the face of it, are these nice sixties songs, songs that could be The Hollies or The Dave Clark Five, suddenly have these rolls and tumbles all over them by this precocious kid who played with this weird style with his arms out front and wrists facing down. And what's crazy is, he hadn't even started yet. Quadrophenia for this writer is the Who's masterpiece, edging out Tommy and even Who's Next, and it's there that Moon will pull out all the stops, but it's The Who Sells Out where Moon first shines as the 60's greatest drummer.

Don't let The Who Sell Out be the one that got away. Order today!