The Who during their heyday. From left to right: John Entwistle, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon and Pete Townshend.
"Inside Outside/Leave me alone Inside Outside/Nowhere is home Inside Outside/Where have I been? Out of my brain on the 5:15"
"I don't need to fight To prove I'm right I don't need to be forgiven!"The Who
are a famous, groundbreaking British rock band from Shepherd's Bush, London, known both for their many influential songs and for their pioneering of the art of instrument destruction
. They are so influential that when people talk of the great rock bands of The British Invasion
, it's often The Beatles
, The Kinks
, The Rolling Stones
and The Who in the same breath. But of the four, only The Who actually spawned a whole musical genre
. Don't take our word for it: Johnny Rotten
, Johnny Ramone
, and Joe Strummer
(to name only three) are on record as saying something like, "If not for The Who ..."
The group started out as the Detours in 1962 when classmates Pete Townshend and John Entwistle met Roger Daltrey, then a high-school drop-out working in a sheet metal factory. They became The Who in 1964 after hearing of another band also known as The Detours. After firing founding drummer Doug Sandom, recruiting Keith Moon mid-gig, and beating around the bush for a while as a mod-rock act, changing their name to the High Numbers and then back again to the Who, they finally struck gold in 1965 with the singles "I Can't Explain", "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" and the classic "My Generation". The album of the same name
however was a rushed affair generally lacking in memorable work. Guitarist and primary songwriter Pete Townshend had more ambition though, and included the 9-minute "mini-opera" "A Quick One, While He's Away" on the album A Quick One
, which was released the next year (and also featured the single "Boris The Spider", written and sung by Entwistle), as a taste of things to come.
Their first breakthrough was the 1967 Concept Album The Who Sell Out
, which included their first Top 40 hit in the US, "I Can See For Miles". That plus their appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival marked their breakthrough in the US. In 1968, Townshend became a convert to the teachings of Meher Baba, an Indian guru who preached a gospel of love, pantheism, and music as the key to understanding the universe. Inspired by his new religion, and the rejection of psychedelic drugs that it called for, Townshend wrote what many consider the Who's Magnum Opus
- the famous Rock Opera Tommy
in 1969, about a deaf, dumb and blind kid who sure plays a mean pinball. The tour in support of this album, which took the band to Woodstock
and often featured them performing Tommy
in its entirety, established them as one of the most dynamic and exciting live acts of their day. Around this time Townshend conceived an epic project called Lifehouse
, a story set in a Crapsack World
led by an authoritarian government in which hundreds of people gather at a concert and ascend to a higher plane of existence through The Power of Rock
. However he over-exerted himself this time, and the absence of manager/co-producer Kit Lambert (who convinced the band about the Tommy
concept) to explain just what the fuck Pete wanted killed the project until it resurfaced as a Townshend solo album in 2000. Instead, The Who regrouped in 1971 with producer Glyn Johns and reworked the songs written for Lifehouse
to produce Who's Next
. Who's Next
reached #1 on the UK charts, #4 in the USA, was critically acclaimed and contains some of their best-known songs: "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Baba O'Riley" and "Behind Blue Eyes".
After a quick break, The Who recorded another Concept Album
/ Rock Opera
, this time about a mentally ill teenager named Jimmy and his conflicts with his family and friends during the height of the mods-rockers conflict in the 1960s. Named Quadrophenia
, it was released in 1973 to critical acclaim, and spawned another hit with the ballad "Love, Reign O'er Me". During the supporting tour, which proved less impressive than the Tommy
tour due to an increased reliance on then-primitive synthesizers and backing tapes, a famous incident occurred on 20 November 1973 in San Francisco, when Keith Moon passed out twice during the performance due to tranquillizers (the put-to-sleep-large-animals kind of tranquillizers), the first time returning after a half-hour delay, and the second time he was carried off. After playing "See Me, Feel Me" with Daltrey on tambourine, Townshend asked "Can anybody play the drums? I mean someone good!" An audience member, Scot Halpin, filled in for the three-song encore and did a pretty good job. When interviewed by Rolling Stone
, he noted: "I only played three numbers and I was dead".
The Who began faltering after this period, as a result of Keith Moon's addiction to drugs and alcohol and Townshend's depression, which resulted in 1975's bleak The Who By Numbers
, full of songs about self-loathing, alcoholism, middle-age, and fear of irrelevance, lightened by the Top 10 hit "Squeeze Box". The same year a movie
version of "Tommy
" was released with an all-star cast under Ken Russell
's direction. The move away from concept albums and epic rock operas continued with the stripped-down Who Are You
, released in 1978, which again climbed up the charts (higher in the US than the UK) and spawned a hit single, "Who Are You".
However, one month after the album's release, Keith Moon died after accidentally overdosing on Heminevrin, a drug he had been prescribed to treat alcohol withdrawal. (He had taken to downing them by the dozen and mixing them with alcohol
; 31 undigested pills were found in his stomach during his autopsy.) He was replaced by Kenney Jones of The Small Faces
, who lacked Moon's characteristic hyperactive drumming style, with John "Rabbit" Bundrick unofficially added as the band's keyboardist, a position which Townshend (and occasionally Nicky Hopkins) had filled in the past. With Jones, they recorded two more albums: Face Dances
in 1981 and It's Hard
in 1982, which suffered from uninspired song-writing, the only notable songs being "You Better You Bet" and "Another Tricky Day" from the former, and "Athena" and "Eminence Front" from the latter. Finally, in December 1983, Townshend issued a public statement that The Who had disintegrated.
The Who first reunited for a one-off performance at Live Aid in 1985, and they again briefly in 1988. That was to be the last time Kenney Jones appeared with The Who, they went their separate ways shortly after. A 1989 anniversary tour followed, where, citing an inability to play electric guitar due to hearing problems, Townshend recruited a large backing band (similar to the one he'd played with in The Deep End), including a lead guitarist (Steve "Boltz" Bolton), a drummer (Simon Phillips, who previously played on Townshend's Empty Glass
) and a percussionist (Jody Linscott), three backing singers and a five-piece horn section, and mainly played acoustic guitar instead
. During this tour, the band regularly performed Tommy
in its entirety for the first time since 1971. The tour ended up damaging the band's reputation quite badly due to the over-expanded backing band and the slick and overstuffed arrangements that resulted, earning it the derisive nickname "The Who On Ice". In 1991, the band recorded its last single with John Entwistle, a cover of Elton John
's "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)" released on the Elton tribute album Two Rooms
1996 saw the band's next tour - a similarly large-scale production of Quadrophenia
, featuring guest vocals by Billy Idol, Gary Glitter, and others, and the first appearance of Zak Starkey, son of Ringo Starr
and childhood protégé of Keith Moon, as the group's regular drummer. Beginning in 2000, the Who returned to touring as a five-piece group, which they did on a biannual basis throughout the 2000s. The night before the scheduled kickoff of the 2002 tour in Las Vegas, John Entwistle died of heart failure after spending the night with long time rock groupie/stripper Alycen Rowse, and was replaced on short notice by session bassist Pino Palladino, who has played for the group since.
The band's current incarnation, which Townshend jokingly refers to as "Who-2", consists of Daltrey, Townshend, Palladino, Starkey, and Townshend's little brother Simon on backing guitar and vocals, among other touring members. In 2006, the group released Endless Wire
, their first studio album since It's Hard
. While not particularly a hitmaker, the album featured some rather good songs, including the Man In A Purple Dress
, a Dylanish Protest Song
inspired by The Passion of the Christ
; It's Not Enough
, the band's first charting single since 1982; Mike Post Theme
, a salute to the writer of theme songs for many of the TV shows catalogued on this very Wiki; and Wire And Glass
, a "mini-opera" adapted from Townshend's novella The Boy Who Heard Music
The band has performed only sporadically since 2008, including a handful of charity shows and a performance during the Super Bowl
half-time show in 2010, though Roger Daltrey has toured internationally with a solo band in recent years, including the first touring production of Tommy
since 1989. The band performed as the final act of the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, and toured internationally in 2014 and 2015 to celebrate their 50th anniversary.
The Who has also made an appearance in Rock Band
: "Won't Get Fooled Again" in the first game, "Pinball Wizard" in the second, "I Can See For Miles" in the third, plus 20 downloadable songs
. For the announcement of Rock Band 2 at E3 they even held a concert in promotion for it. Not to mention their entire performance at the 2010 Super Bowl is available for download.
Principal members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):
- Roger Daltrey - lead vocals, harmonica, percussion, guitar, trombone, bass drum, tambourine (1964-1982, 1985, 1988-1991, 1996-Present)
- John Entwistle - bass, lead vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, horns, trumpet, french horn, sound effects, flugelhorn, brass, piano (1964-1982, 1985, 1988-1991, 1996-2002, died 2002)
- Kenney Jones - drums (1978-1982, 1985, 1988)
- Keith Moon - drums, percussion, occasional vocals, kazoo, sound effects (1964-1978, died 1978)
- Doug Sandom - drums (1964)
- Pete Townshend - guitar, lead vocals, bass, synthesizer, keyboard, piano, cello, banjo, ukulele, accordion, tin whistle, organ, VCS3, harmonica, jaw harp, violin, sound effects (1964-1982, 1985, 1988-1991, 1996-Present)
- 1970 - Live At Leeds
- 1984 - Who's Last
- 1990 - Join Together
- 1996 - Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970
- 2000 - BBC Sessions note
- 2000 - Blues To The Bush
- 2003 - Live At The Royal Albert Hall note
- 2006 - Live From Toronto note
- 2007 - View From A Backstage Pass note
- 2010 - Greatest Hits Live note
- 2012 - Live At Hull note
- 2014 - Quadrophenia Live In London
- 1964 - "I'm The Face" note
- "Zoot Suit" as the B-side note
- 1965 - "I Can't Explain"
- "Bald Headed Woman" as the B-side
- 1965 - "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere"
- "Daddy Rolling Stone" as the UK B-side
- "Anytime You Want Me" as the US B-side
- 1965 - "My Generation" note
- "Shout And Shimmy" as the UK B-side
- "Out In The Street" as the US B-side note
- 1966 - "Substitute"
- "Instant Party (Circles)" as the first UK B-side note
- "Waltz for a Pig'' as the US and second UK B-side note
- 1966 - "I'm A Boy"
- "In the City" as the B-side
- 1966 - "Happy Jack" note
- "I've Been Away" as the UK B-side
- "Whiskey Man" as the US B-side note
- 1967 - "Pictures Of Lily"
- "Doctor Doctor" as the B-side
- 1967 - "The Last Time"
- "Under My Thumb" as the B-side
- 1967 - "I Can See For Miles" note
- "Someone's Coming" as the UK B-side
- "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand" as the US B-side note
- 1968 - "Dogs"
- "Call Me Lightning" as the B-side
- 1968 - "Call Me Lightning" note
- "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" as the B-side
- 1968 - "Magic Bus"
- "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" as the UK B-side note
- "Bucket T" and "Someone's Coming" as the first and second US B-sides note
- 1969 - "Pinball Wizard" note
- "Dogs (Part Two)" as the B-side
- 1970 - "The Seeker"
- "Here For More" as the B-side
- 1970 - "Summertime Blues" note
- "Heaven And Hell" as the B-side
- 1971 - "Won't Get Fooled Again" note
- "I Don't Even Know Myself" as the B-side
- 1971 - "Let's See Action"
- "When I Was A Boy" as the B-side
- 1972 - "Join Together"
- "Baby Don't You Do It" as the B-side
- 1972 - "Relay"
- 1973 - "5.15" note
- 1973 - "Love, Reign o'er Me" note
- "Water" as the B-side note
- 1974 - "Postcard"
- "Put The Money Down" as the B-side
- 1974 - "Long Live Rock"
- "Pure And Easy" as the B-side
- 2004 - "Real Good Looking Boy"
- "Old Red Wine" as the B-side
- 2014 - "Be Lucky"
- All Drummers Are Animals: Keith Moon was the Trope Codifier, legendary for wrecking hotel rooms - including part of a Holiday Inn in Michigan on his 21st birthday while The Who was touring the US. Popular legend claims that the chain banned the Who from all its hotels afterward, though Moon's biographer claims this was an exaggeration.
- Moon's trademark room-wrecking gambit involved dropping a lit cherry bomb into the toilet; he bought five hundred cherry bombs on his first trip to the U.S. and spent the next few years working through them. In later years, John Entwistle confessed that he occasionally joined in the fun, handing Keith the matches.
- Beam Me Up, Scotty!: One of the most frequently told tales about Moon revolves around him driving a limousine into a swimming pool; however, nobody seems to be able to confirm where or when this actually happened.
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: The band recorded some real commercials around the time The Who Sell Out was recorded. Some of them are featured on the 1995 reissue.
- Always Second Best: The Who never had a #1 single in the UK or US throughout their career, being constantly denied the top slot by The Beatles, The Small Faces, Bob Dylan, and others.
- Which is funny because The Small Faces were Always Second Best in the mod-rock genre right behind The Who...
- Possibly lamp-shaded by Pete in the Live At Leeds album. When introducing "Substitute", "Happy Jack", and "I'm A Boy", he mentions that the first "was our first #4", the second "was our first #1... in Germany", and the third, "according to Melody Maker, was our first #1 in England... for about half an hour." ("I'm A Boy" ended up peaking at #2 in the UK)
- Angrish: The stuttering in "My Generation" is meant partly to evoke this, and partly to invoke a pill-popper who can't control his speech because he's high on amphetamines.
- Anti-Villain: 'Behind Blue Eyes' is considered this trope's theme song.
- Audience Participation: Scot Halpin.
- Hell, even Keith Moon was picked up as an audience member, claiming to be better than their drummer at the time. In an interview clip from 1977, Moon claimed that he was never officially hired by the band, and he'd just been sitting in for 15 years.
- In the Broadway version of Tommy, the line "How can we follow?" in "I'm Free" is intended to be sung by the audience.
- And at the call and answer part of "Pinball Wizard" (how do you think he does it? / I don't know!), the second part is often done by the audience.
- Berserk Button: If Pete Townshend catches you on stage during the band's set, be prepared to talk to the guitar.
- Even Abbie Hoffmann, who was told to "get the fuck off my fucking stage" at Woodstock. An audio recording of the incident exists on YouTube for sceptics such as Hoffman to listen to. Here's the full transcript:
: (grabs the microphone away from Pete)
I think this is a pile of shit! While John Sinclair rots in prison... Pete Townshend
: Fuck off! Fuck off my fucking stage! (whacks Hoffman with his expendable guitar)
I can dig it! (Cue song) Pete Townshend
: The next fucking person that walks across this stage is gonna get fucking killed, all right? (audience laughs) You can laugh, but I mean it!
- Similarly, his nervous breakdown during the Lifehouse sessions was triggered by their manager calling him "Townshend".
- One of the concerts on the Quadrophenia tour turned into a disaster when the tape playing the backing music note was played out of sync. Townshend reportedly went backstage and bodily dragged the sound engineer across the audio console.
- Big "YES!": A "YEEEEEEAHHH!" heard towards the end of "Won't Get Fooled Again". Which has now undergone Memetic Mutation thanks to the song's status as theme song for CSI: Miami.
- Bowdlerise: For its US single release, "Substitute" had a line changed from "I look all white but my dad was black" to "I try walking forward but my feet walk back". Lampshaded in an early interview, where Pete Townshend said that, in America, their records only sold in cities that tended to have race riots.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Keith Moon. Let's face it, when you're a touring band and your drummer's antics have gotten you banned from several notable hotel chains, he's gotta be a pretty amazing drummer.
- Call Back: Jimmy, the main character from the Rock Opera Quadrophenia attends a concert performed by the Who themselves, circa 1965. The song "Helpless Dancer" even ends with a brief fragment of their early hit "The Kids Are Alright".
- From "You Better You Bet," released on the 1981 album Face Dances (and as the band's last top 20 single): "I drunk myself blind to the sound of old T.Rex / And Who's Next."
- Part of the chorus in "Sister Disco" uses the phrase "deaf, dumb and blind". Sound familiar?
- Canon Discontinuity: As Gary Glitter has been just a wee bit publicly disgraced and exposed as a paedophile, his contributions to the 1996 Quadrophenia tour have been excised from the CD and DVD releases. As Townshend had a run-in with the law himself on charges of possessing child porn not that long ago, his desire to avoid Guilt By Association is understandable.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Keith Moon.
- Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Pete Townshend saw John Entwistle as this to Keith; they even used to share an apartment. The trouble was that sometimes Keith's crazy antics were just too much fun for John not to join in on...
- Cluster F-Bomb: Watch any interview with Pete Townshend. It's pretty funny.
- Concept Album: The Who Sell Out. In its original LP release, the concept gets more or less abandoned by the start of side two. Later CD releases correct this error by including real-life commercials recorded by the band to pad out the concept.
- Conspicuous Consumption: The instrument destruction, which actually caused the band a lot of financial problems.
- Keith's problem. He couldn't control his spending habits, and even after the band became big he was often in debt. His entire revenue from the 1975 tour amounted to £47.35 due to his financial recklessness.
- The Cover Changes The Meaning: The cover of Sonny Boy Williamson II's "Eyesight To The Blind", as featured on Tommy, was reworked to fit it into the story of the album.
- The Who later did it to one of their own songs. "The Kids Are Alright", off My Generation, is a pop song about a man who has to leave his girlfriend because she'll be better off without him. Beginning in 2000, the live performances of the song worked in an extended freestyle section which varied from show to show, where Townshend and Daltrey described how their lives and their perspectives on life had changed between now and when they first sang the song.
- Crapsack World: The unreleased Lifehouse project took place in one, and several songs that were originally intended for inclusion on that album eventually found their way onto other albums. Also, John Entwistle's "905" takes place in a Crapsaccharine World similar to (if not actually inspired by) Aldous Huxley's Brave New World
- Crazy-Prepared: Townshend's preferred manner of preparing songs to be recorded by the band was to record demo tracks on which he sang lead and played all the instruments himself, to give the other band members a clear idea of what he wanted. His "Scoop" trilogy of solo albums is made of of compilations of these demo's, and two discs of the six-disc "Lifehouse Chronicles" box set are made up of them.
- One of his demo tapes even got onto Tommy. "Tommy's Holiday Camp" was intended to be sung by Keith Moon (as indeed it was when played live), but Pete's original solo version was used instead.
- Darker and Edgier: A lot of their early material bordered on comedy: "I'm A Boy" was the lament of a child whose mother refused to acknowledge his gender, "Pictures Of Lily" and "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand" both serving as a cheeky attempt at fooling 1960s censors, etc. Then there's Tommy, with its cynical take on adultery, child abuse, pop culture stardom, and social isolation only slightly obscured by the inclusion of a song about a blind kid playing pinball. And it gets much, much worse from there on out, with Creator Breakdown leading to a string of bleaker and bleaker albums throughout the 1970s, culminating in 1975's The Who By Numbers, sometimes referred to by fans as "Pete Townshend's suicide note." Joking and light-hearted songs didn't entirely disappear from the group's catalogue, but they were increasingly relegated to one or two tracks per album, if that.
- This happened earlier and smaller with '66's "Whiskey Man", a song about a drunk who gets committed to a mental institution to cure him of a booze-induced Imaginary Friend. Possible Mood Whiplash, since A Quick One is otherwise quite cheeky and light.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Never outright stated but strongly implied in "Pictures Of Lily". The singer is a young man who has insomnia. When his father gives him the titular pictures Lily, he feels better, and is able to sleep.
- A Day in the Limelight: Almost all of The Who albums contained around two or three songs composed by bassist John Entwistle (instead of the main songwriter Pete Townshend), the majority of them sung by Entwistle himself instead of lead singer Roger Daltrey.
- Additionally, every live performance had at least one John Entwistle song, with him on lead vocals, usually "Heaven And Hell" (as an opening number), "Boris The Spider" and/or "My Wife". These numbers would usually be amongst of the rare moments of the concert where the spotlight was on the stoic bassist.
- Keith Moon used to sometimes take the lead vocal on rare occasions, on studio recording and during live performances, which would often also qualify as Crowning Moment of Funny.
- A Quick One is the only Who LP to contain songs by all four members of the band (one by Daltrey, two each by Moon and Entwistle, and the rest by Pete); their manager had finagled a deal with their label that would net each contributing songwriter the then princely sum of £500.
- Deaf Composer: Pete Townshend is now almost totally deaf, although he has taken steps to prevent losing his remaining hearing.
- Delicious Distraction: The promo film for "Happy Jack" has the band as a gang of Blatant Burglars who sneak into an apartment and start trying to break into the safe... only to be quickly distracted by a lovely cake.
- Designer Babies: "905".
- Disappeared Dad: The narrator of "A Legal Matter" is a dad who disappears because "marryin's no fun".
- Drugs Are Bad: Roger Daltrey was straight-edge, and heavily objected to the other members' drug abuse. Once, he lost it on Keith Moon and flushed his pills down the toilet. Townshend also developed this stance after a bad acid trip aboard a plane. note
- Roger Daltrey was actually nearly kicked out of the band (for the space of about a week) because he beat up Keith Moon for giving out drugs to the rest of the band. From then on out, he wasn't quite as violent.
- Easily Forgiven: The girl who is the subject of "A Quick One, While He's Away" is forgiven by her long-absent boyfriend immediately after admitting her infidelity with Ivor the engine driver. A rare justified example - said boyfriend mentions he wasn't entirely faithful himself.
- Embarrassing Tattoo: "Tattoo" - played with in that the owner of the tattoo doesn't find it embarrassing.
- Epic Instrumental Opener: The synth riff at the start of "Baba O'Riley".
- Also, the Overture from Tommy.
- Epic Rocking: "A Quick One, While He's Away", "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Love Reign O'er Me", "Baba O' Riley", "We're Not Gonna Take It"... among others.
- Emotional Torque: A major component of Pete Townshend's musicianship, as he considered audience reaction to be just as much a part of a concert as the music itself (a concept he attempted to take to the next level in Lifehouse). In fact, he smashed his first guitar in a spur-of-the-moment attempt to induce this: he had accidentally broken it on the low roof of a venue and, when the audience failed to react, he proceeded to "make a big thing" out of destroying it so that the event would not go unnoticed.
- Fake Radio Show Album: The Who Sell Out.
- Fingore: Yes, Pete hurts his hand playing the guitar like that. In many cases, he loses fingernails outright.
- Four More Measures: "Baba O'Riley".
- Full-Circle Revolution: "Won't Get Fooled Again", which is also Trope Namer for Meet the New Boss.
- Fun with Flushing: Keith Moon had a documented habit of flushing firecrackers down the toilets of hotel bathrooms.
- Genre Savvy: The band's on-stage personalities tended to reflect the stereotypes of their instrument/role in the group: the flashy lead singer (Roger), the stoic bassist (John), the Cloud Cuckoo Lander/animalistic drummer (Keith), and the lead guitarist as the songwriter and the lynch-pin holding it all together (Pete).
- Additionally, several lines from "Behind Blue Eyes" (the ode to the Anti-Villain) are basically rules from the Evil Overlord List worded differently. And, y'know, published 25 years before the list.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Roger Daltrey clearly says "Who the fuck are you?" on two different occasions in "Who Are You?" Many radio stations play it uncensored.
- Hair of Gold: Roger Daltrey used to slick his curly hair down in mod fashion, but his role as the Messianic Archetype in Tommy coincided with his decision to let his hair grow naturally.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Pete was known for this, although fortunately his anger often vanished as quickly as it appeared.
- Harsh Vocals: John Entwistle's growled refrain in "Boris The Spider" has been cited as one of the earliest examples of a death-growl.
- Heavy Meta: "Long Live Rock".
- Henpecked Husband / Woman Scorned: "My Wife".
- Heroic BSOD: Pete after he realised that he couldn't properly explain Lifehouse, his intended Magnum Opus, to anyone, which led to a Happily Failed Suicide and the scrapping of the entire project in favour of Who's Next.
- Again with Pete and the rest of the band after the disastrous and deadly 1979 Cincinnati concert riots. This nearly broke up the Who.
- Heroic RROD: Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, and John Entwistle all suffered varying degrees of hearing loss over the years as the result of the group's overwhelmingly loud music (they once held a Guinness World Record for "loudest band").
- As of the 2000s, Pete was almost completely deaf; when playing acoustic guitar on-stage, he has to wear headphones just to be able to hear his own playing. At the end of his life, John was also profoundly deaf and had to wear powerful hearing aids in both ears during his final sessions with the group before his death in 2002.
- And then there was Keith Moon's drum kit from their appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Moon was said to have packed more powder into the kit than the technicians were comfortable with and nobody but him knew about it. Pete and Roger claim that their respective hearing losses began in opposite ears because they were facing each other when Keith's bass drum exploded.
- Hypochondria: The song "Doctor, Doctor" has this in the lyrics, with someone claiming to have palpitations, chillblains, blindness, whooping cough, the mumps, chickenpox, flu, and smallpox in quick succession.
- I Am the Band: Pete Townshend.
- I Can Explain: Averted. See "I Can't Explain".
- Intercourse with You: "Squeeze Box", "Pictures Of Lily", "Mary Ann With The Shaky Hand".
- Incredibly Lame Pun: And plenty. Foremost being the band bane itself.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: "The Kids Are Alright".
- Last Chorus Slow Down: "Baba O'Riley" is a subversion; it moves from on-the-edge hard rock to folk rock with fiddle playing at the end, but then the fiddle moves into accelerando.
- A lot of their songs do this in some way.
- Lampshade Hanging: Townshend has a solo song called "Let's Get Pretentious", which is exactly what it sounds like.
- Large Ham: Roger can get really enthusiastic. And Keith was both an hyperactive drummer and a truly over-the-top person.
- Last Note Nightmare: The Tommy out-take "Cousin Kevin, Model Child" ends with one of these.
- Last-Second Word Swap: In "My Generation"
Why don't ya all f-f-fade away
- Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: The original LP release of Live At Leeds consisted solely of six tracks on a single record. The first reissue in 1995 added the entire concert except for the live performance of Tommy and some of Pete's stage banter. The 2001 reissue added that as well, and the 2010 version also included the sister concert performed a few days later at Hull (which had been shelved due to audio issues that couldn't have been fixed with pre-2010 technology).
- Long Runner Lineup: The classic line-up falls under Type 2 and lasted from 1964 to Keith Moon's death in 1978.
- Lost Forever: Several of the songs the group recorded for Lifehouse, such as "Mary", were lost due to the master tapes being inadequately preserved, and decayed to uselessness by the time the group sought to remaster them in the '90s. Some, like "Put The Money Down" and "Time Is Passing", were partially restored with new vocals and overdubs added to what could be retrieved from the originals.
- The group's cover of "Under My Thumb", as reissued in the CD era, is missing the lead guitar part, which similarly was lost due to a damaged master tape.
- Loudness War: Some of their recent remasters, especially Meaty. You could argue the Who were the rock-throwing cavemen from whom a direct line can be drawn to the high-tech, range-compressing warriors of today. The Who just used plain old wattage (see "Heroic RROD" above). Dougal Butler, who wrote Full Moon, a hilarious memoir of his days with the band, said: "The Who have been clocked at 120 decibels near the stage. This is a condition which can be exactly duplicated by sticking your head in a jet engine." This was only in live performances though, as thankfully technology back then couldn't stand as much abuse as CDs nowadays.
- In fact, The Who were somewhat actively engaged in a Loudness War with other bands, since they made it their goal to be the loudest band ever. Pete's memoir even recounts how depressed he and his band-mates were in 1967 when they gained a serious loudness competitor in the form of Vanilla Fudge ("They had found a way of amplifying a Hammond organ up to rock guitar decibels. We were actually upset by this").
- The Who were also in a Loudness War with themselves. Everyone wanted to be heard over the other guy, so Pete Townshend and John Entwistle went to Jim Marshall (of Marshall amps fame) and wound up essentially creating the now-classic Marshall Stack.
- Love Triangle: "Substitute," "A Quick One, While He's Away," the plot to Tommy.
- Mad Bomber: Keith wasn't that fond of toilets.
- Malaproper: Roger does this Live At Leeds while introducing Tommy.
- The Mad Hatter: Keith again. He once referred to himself as The Who's "kept lunatic".
- Medley: "A Quick One, While He's Away," "Wire And Glass." "Rael" was originally intended as one, but was never completed and until the 1990s, only the first part was commercially available.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: The Live At Leeds album sleeve was deliberately designed to look like a bootleg, with the LP itself having a handwritten track listing and an instruction that the scratching noises are on the record itself and are not being caused by your phonograph. The CD remaster instead states that the scratches have been corrected.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: They were among the first bands to really cross into levels 5 and 6, with some ventures into higher levels later on.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Several of Pete Townshend's late '90s recordings mashed up classic Who songs with freestyle rap sections performed by Hame.
- New Sound Album: Who's Next sees the group stepping decisively away from their early mod / pop art roots.
- No Ending: "Rael 1" was intended as the first part of a longer "mini-opera" in the same vein as "A Quick One, While He's Away". Only Pete Townshend didn't finish writing it, so the story ends abruptly before it really has a chance to get started.
- Non-Appearing Title: "A Quick One, While He's Away", "Baba O'Riley", "The Punk And The Godfather".
- Not Christian Rock: Pete Townshend is a follower of Meher Baba, an Indian pantheist guru, and as such many of the songs he wrote for the Who are either addressed to God ("Who Are You", "Bargain", "Listening To You"), written from the perspective of God ("Let My Love Open The Door", "God Speaks Of Marty Robbins"), or are about God in a more abstract sense ("Drowned", "Don't Let Go The Coat"). Most of Townshend's religious songs are oblique enough that one wouldn't notice it unless they were informed of it beforehand. His work with the Who aside, Townshend also recorded a trilogy of solo albums with Ronnie Lane which were explicitly dedicated to and based on the teachings of Meher Baba.
- Older Than They Look: Roger Daltrey seems to age at a fraction of the normal rate. Probably partly explained by his being straight-edge.
- The singer in "Substitute" claims that he's also older than he looks.
- Overly Narrow Superlative: Keith Moon, as quoted by Pete Townshend, uncharacteristically failing to handle the 6/8 time signature of "Music Must Change" during the Who Are You sessions: "I'm having a bad day, but I am still the best fuckin'...Keith Moon-type...drummer in the world!"
- Perky Goth: John Entwistle, a perky pre-Goth.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Keith, quite literally; after his death, the other three realised that his constant comedy routine had played a major role in holding The Who together by easing tensions within the group.
- Porn Stash: "Pictures Of Lily".
- The Power of Rock: Lifehouse.
- Precision F-Strike: Live At Leeds has one at the end of "Young Man Blues".
- There's also one (or two) in "Who Are You" (depending on the version).
- There's one in "Real Good Looking Boy".
- Protest Song: The Who were never a very political band, but there are a few examples among their catalogue;
- When Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were briefly jailed for marijuana possession in 1967, the Who released a cover of "Under My Thumb", backed by "The Last Time", in protest. The plan was reportedly for the Who to keep covering Stones songs for as long as Jagger and Richards were in jail, but as it turned out the pair were released even before the "Under My Thumb" single was issued.
- "I've Known No War" and "Why Did I Fall For That?" on the It's Hard album, a pair of pieces about fear of nuclear war in the 1980s.
- "Man In A Purple Dress", on Endless Wire, is a scathing attack against organized religion and the clergy, inspired after Townshend watched The Passion of the Christ.
- Off the same album is "Black Widow's Eyes", a topical if not exactly protest-y song about Stockholm Syndrome setting in during the Beslam school massacre.
- And of course, there's "Won't Get Fooled Again", an anti-protest song about how revolutionaries always end up imitating the people they overthrew.
- Punny Name: "Pick Up The Peace," Who's Next. Honourable mention to the original name for the album that morphed into Tommy: Who's For Tennis.
- The Quiet One: John Entwistle, who went so far as to write a song about himself, with that title.
- Refrain from Assuming: It's "Baba O'Riley", not "Teenage Wasteland".
- However, there is a Pete Townshend version of the song with a slower tempo called "Teenage Wasteland", making it easy to mistake.
- The song "Teenage Wasteland" has two verses, a bridge, and a second chorus section that were later cut out when the song became "Baba O'Riley".
- Replacement Goldfish: Oddly enough, not any of the drummers or bassists brought in to replace the classic rhythm section (With the exception of Kenney Jones): Pete calls the current touring band "Who-2" and maintains that Keith Moon and John Entwistle can never be truly replaced. A more straight example is Simon Townshend for his yet-living brother; Roger Daltrey has taken him on his non-Who solo tours to basically do everything Pete would typically do (guitar-playing, various vocal parts in Tommy songs). Pete's other brother Paul voiced Pete when The Who appeared on The Simpsons since Pete had lost his voice at the time.
- Repurposed Pop Song: "Who Are You" is the Theme Tune for CSI. Which makes sense, because the show is about finding the killer. Well, except that the song is really about getting drunk, being hassled by the cops, and finding God.
- CSI: Miami grabbed "Won't Get Fooled Again," which makes less sense, but still some—they don't want to be fooled. Of course, the song is really about revolution.
- CSI: New York uses "Baba O'Riley"... which makes no sense whatsoever.
- Those NY characters put their back into their living.
- Word of God says that they were originally planning to use "Behind Blue Eyes" to make reference to NYPD cops, but through Executive Meddling, they ended up using "Baba O'Riley".
- Rockers Smash Guitars: Perhaps the first ever to do this.
- Rock Opera: Tommy, Quadrophenia. Lifehouse was meant to be one. Tommy is the Trope Namer, Trope Maker, and Trope Codifier. See below.
- Rockstar Song: "Success Story," "How Many Friends" (most of The Who By Numbers really), "New Song"
- "Long Live Rock", be it dead or alive!
- Rockumentary: The Kids Are Alright. There's also the recent Amazing Journey: The Story Of The Who, which is a more serious look at the band's history.
- Single-Target Sexuality: In his 2012 autobiography, Townshend claimed that Mick Jagger was the only man he ever considered sleeping with.
- Scooter Riding Mod: The Who were closely associated with the British mod scene during their early career, with 1966's A Quick One, their second album, being the zenith of their association with that subculture. The next few albums following it, though, see the group reinventing itself as one of the pioneers of 1970s hard rock, a process that was more or less complete by 1971's Who's Next.
- Quadrophenia, written after the movement had already died out, was a deliberate attempt by The Who to acknowledge and play with their mod roots.
- Pete Townshend still rides a moped.
- Self Plagiarism: In Tommy they used an instrumental tune from "Rael 1" (on the album The Who Sell Out) as a leitmotif.
- The song "Glow Girl", recorded during the The Who Sell Out sessions but unreleased for a number of years, ends with a short song fragment ("it's a girl, Mrs. Walker, it's a girl") that is recycled almost verbatim as the second track of Tommy.
- The fragment is present in no less than four different songs all with a different meaning: Tommy's birth during "It's A Boy", the aftermath of the plane crash in "Glow Girl", the Rael-Red Chin war during "Rael 1", and Tommy on drugs during "Underture". In fact, "Underture" is completely made of the same leitmotif over and over again.
- A subtle one: listen carefully to the music during the chorus of "I'm One" from Quadrophenia; part of it sounds like part of the ending of "Overture" in Tommy.
- Sell Out: The Who Sell Out is a massive lampshade of the group's numerous commercial endeavours during the late 1960s, including recording radio promos for Coca-Cola, Heinz Baked Beans, a car dealer, a maker of guitar strings, the United States Air Force, and anyone else they felt would reimburse them for their trouble. The original plan was to entice the companies mentioned on the album to pay for the references. No one was interested, but the band was blatant enough about it that many listeners took the album as intentional satire.
- Single Stanza Song / Looped Lyrics / Title Only Chorus: "See Me, Feel Me".
- Soprano and Gravel: Townshend and Daltrey, respectively.
- Wasn't always the case, though; it wasn't until after Daltrey's Vocal Evolution that it really became like this trope.
- John Entwistle sometimes sung "soprano" to both Daltrey and Townshend's "gravel", his falsetto being a big part of The Who's vocals. Also sung much lower than Daltrey's tenor in "Summertime Blues", for comedic effect.
- Entwistle actually does that with himself in the song "Boris The Spider", where he switches from his normal voice to some of the deepest growl you'll ever hear during the chorus, and a funny falsetto during the bridge.
- The shining example is in "Sea And Sand" on Quadrophenia.
- Special Guest: Roger, John and Pete's brother Paul on The Simpsons (episode titled "A Tale Of Two Springfields"). Touchingly, the fact that they were being animated meant that Keith Moon could be brought back, albeit without any lines.
- Spiders Are Scary: "Boris The Spider"
Creepy, crawly / Creepy, crawly / Creepy, creepy, crawly, crawly...
- Step Up to the Microphone / Vocal Tag Team: While Daltrey was the regular vocalist, Townshend did sing lead on a number of songs, as did (more rarely) Entwistle and (even more rarely) Moon.
- The Stoic: John Entwistle played this role within The Who, usually not moving too much and keeping a straight face to contrast with the other members' wild antics. It's really only comparatively, though; he had his fair share of crazy moments, including sometimes joining the others in the on-stage instrument-destroying.
- "Comparatively" is right. It's odd that you can be described as the low-key member of the group while performing an entire concert in a leather Halloween skeleton costume.
- Special mention should be made to his outfit from the Monterey Pop Festival. He's not on screen much, but when you see him, it's like getting hit with a psychedelic neon club.
- Subdued Section: "You Better You Bet" among others.
- Three Chords and the Truth: Especially in the early period, to the extent that many of the early punk bands cited the Who as their prime inspiration. (The Ramones and Sex Pistols both recorded covers of "Substitute".) In a bump recorded for Little Steven's Underground Garage, Townshend quips "Wanna see a magic trick? Look what I can do with only three chords!"
- Trope Maker / Trope Codifier: Though not the Ur Example of Rock Operas (The Story Of Simon Simopath by Nirvana and S.F. Sorrow by The Pretty Things both predate it), The Who's Tommy was the earliest one to become a hit. The Who maintain that S.F. Sorrow wasn't an influence in any major way, but several critics, and The Pretty Things themselves have disagreed. No one seems to have asked them about The Story Of Simon Simopath since Nirvana never got too popular.
- Unsound Effect: Because they couldn't afford to hire additional musicians, Pete, Roger and John had to sing "cello cello cello cello" for the part in "A Quick One, While He's Away" that was supposed to have strings.
- Very Special Episode: "Little Billy", an anti-smoking jingle the group recorded for the American Cancer Society in 1968.
- Vocal Evolution: Just listen to how Roger Daltrey used to sound in their early years, like in Tommy, and then compare it to how he sounds in their later albums, such as Quadrophenia. Back when he was still "finding his voice", as Pete Townshend put it, his voice had a lighter, smoother sound to it. Afterwards, his voice started to become more distinct by becoming deeper and rougher.
- Word Salad Title: The title of the song "Eminence Front" note barely makes sense even if you do understand the context of the words.
- You Are Number Six: "905"
- Your Cheating Heart: "I Can See For Miles", "A Quick One, While He's Away".