Follow TV Tropes


Music / The Who

Go To
The Who during their heyday. From left to right: John Entwistle, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon, and Pete Townshend.

"People try to put us d-down
Just because we g-get around
Things they do look awful c-c-cold
I hope I die before I get old"
— "My Generation"

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 Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Kinks 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 band was founded by Roger Daltrey as the Detours in 1959. After several line-up changes, by 1961 Daltrey (who played guitar in the band) recruited schoolmates John Entwistle on bass and Pete Townshend on guitar. With Townshend on guitar, Daltrey dropped the instrument and shifted to singing. They became The Who in 1964 after hearing of another band also known as The Detours. After firing founding drummer Doug Sandom, the band enlisted Keith Moon mid-gig. The group then spent a while beating around the bush 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 that generally lacked memorable songs. 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 10 hit in the US, "I Can See for Miles". This, 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 best — 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 ended up killing 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 and more problematic 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 tranquilizers (the put to sleep large animals kind of tranquilizers), 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; 26 undigested pills were found in his stomach during his autopsy.) He was replaced by Kenney Jones of The Small Faces and 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 songwriting, 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 longtime 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. A new song, "Be Lucky," was recorded for the occasion.

Despite rumors that this tour would be their last, 2019 saw the band embarking on a symphonic tour and recording their fifteenth, WHO.

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, "The Seeker" in the fourthnote , plus 20 downloadable songs. For the announcement of Rock Band 2 at E3, they even held a concert in promotion for it. Their entire performance at the 2010 Super Bowl is also available for download.

The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

Not to be mistaken for the cult TV series Doctor Who; the only thing the two has in common is that they're both British icons that started in the '60s. Nor should they be confused with Canadian band The Guess Who, or the World Health Organization.

You can now vote for your favourite Who album HERE!

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, died 2019)
  • 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)

Studio Discography:

  • 1965 - My Generation
  • 1966 - The Who Sings My Generation note 
  • 1966 - Ready! Steady! Who! note 
  • 1966 - A Quick One
  • 1967 - Happy Jack note 
  • 1967 - The Who Sell Out
  • 1969 - Tommy
  • 1971 - Who's Next
  • 1973 - Quadrophenia
  • 1975 - The Who by Numbers
  • 1978 - Who Are You
  • 1981 - Face Dances
  • 1982 - It's Hard
  • 2006 - Endless Wire
  • 2019 - WHO

Live Discography:

  • 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

Non-album Singles:

  • 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"
    • "Waspman" as the B-side.
  • 1973 - "5.15" note 
    • "Water" as the B-side.
  • 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"

Trope Namers for:

Who's Tropes:

  • Achievements in Ignorance: John Entwistle's instrument-defining playing style was by his own admission because he was a guitarist, who basically took on the bass to fill out the band, and because his fingers were too big for guitar strings. All his flashy techniques were for the most part nabbed from various lead guitarists.
    • Although it should be said that Entwistle could be a standard bassist, and often played that part on studio recordings, he simply chose not to as often as possible.
    • Keith Moon reportedly had some lessons, but any drum teacher would tell you his technique was in parts atrocious. The man could barely hold time but made up for it with his completely insane attitude, and his flashy fills.
  • Aerith and Bob: Happens within Pete Townshend's full name, which is Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend.
  • All Drummers Are Animals: Keith Moon was both the Trope Codifier and the inspiration behind the eponymous Muppet.
    • Besides his highly energetic drumming, he was 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.
    • Moon was befriended by Joe Walsh, himself no slouch in the insane and destructive rockstar department. However, Moon's antics terrified even Walsh.
    • 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.
    • Daltrey was once quoted as saying that Moon was such an eccentric and extreme prankster that when they attended his funeral, they genuinely expected him to pop out of the coffin and yell "Haha! Fooled you all!"
    • And of course, the infamous "exploding drum kit" incident, which happened during their live appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Keith had blown up his drums before, but this time he had packed approximately ten times the "normal" amount of gunpowder. The resulting detonation threw Moon off his drum riser and his arm was cut by flying cymbal shrapnel. Townshend's hair was singed and his left ear left ringing, and a camera and studio monitor were destroyed. The Who were never invited on the show again.
  • 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... This is 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."note 
  • Ambiguously Bi: Townshend has flip-flopped on the matter of his attraction to men since the '80s, claiming that his song "Rough Boys" was specifically about gay sex and coming to terms with his interest thereof. He later revoked this and said that it was about his friends who were gay. In his autobiography, he writes that he's "probably bi", saying that he was certainly attracted to Mick Jagger at one point.
  • 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 was chosen from the audience to play the drums at a gig in San Francisco after Moon collapsed and was unable to continue playing.
    • 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.
  • Ax-Crazy: In the early days, you'd most likely get your head half knocked off if you pissed Roger off. He even got fired for it once, right before they made it big.
    • Pete as well. His tendency for destroying guitars originally stemmed from fits of rage he would experience with technical malfunctions. Not to mention he swung a 12-pound guitar aiming for Daltrey's head during an argument.
  • Badass Boast: Keith Moon joined the band after pointing at their then-drummer and saying, "I can play better than him". He then proceeded to break the kick drum pedal.
  • Band of Relatives: Whenever Pete's younger brother Simon joins the band on tours as a second guitarist. And then Simon returned the favor by having Pete's son Joseph play drums on his solo work.
  • 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. Hoffmann was trying to protest about the imprisonment of the poet and activist John Sinclair; Townshend later said that he agreed with Hoffmann on the issue, but was furious that he had intruded on stage. An audio recording of the incident exists on YouTube for skeptics such as Hoffman to listen to. Here's the full transcript:
        Abbie Hoffman: (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!
      • This nearly got Pete arrested at one point since the person who climbed onstage turned out to be a cop who was trying to get the venue to evacuate due to a fire next door. note 
    • Similarly, Townshend's 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.
    • Since developing asthma, Daltrey has been known to put his foot down about smoking during concerts, as one sniff too many could send him to the hospital and end the show early.
  • The Big Guy: John Entwistle. He was fairly tall (6'), built like a brick house, and with his deep speaking voice, he often seemed even bigger than he actually was.
    • Roger Daltrey. Despite being well below average height (5'6"), he was a former steelworker and a part-time bodybuilder who physically dominated his much taller bandmates when they stepped out of line.
    • One interpretation of the title of the compilation album Meaty, Beaty, Big & Bouncy was that Daltrey was "Meaty" (due to his muscular physique), Moon was "Beaty" (due to his beating the drums), and Townshend was "Bouncy" (due to his habit of leaping around onstage). Entwistle was "Big", of course.
  • 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.
  • 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 pedophile, 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.
    • Also, John Entwistle: Dave Marsh's biography of the band notes that Entwistle was actually by some distance the weirdest member. Moon was straightforwardly out of control, a genial madman who couldn't stand being bored even for a second, but Entwistle was both reserved and private and also a collaborator in Moon's madness. Roger Daltrey once commented that Entwistle had "some very weird ideas."
  • 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 (well, one of his problems) was that 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.
    • According to Pete Townshend, one motivator for The Who's reunion was to help John Entwistle with his money problems, brought on by decades of completely batshit insane purchases including hundreds of vintage guitars, authentic suits of armor, horror props, and an effigy of freaking Quasimodo.
  • 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. Townshend's original demo in fact reveals that some of the chords were actually changed to make the bluesy original into a more Who-like arrangement.
    • 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 off of compilations of these demos, 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 with their jokes about masturbation, 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 catalog, but they were increasingly relegated to one or two tracks per album if that, and they were often written by John Entwistle, ensuring that the comedy was dark.
    • This also 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. Which may induce Mood Whiplash, since A Quick One is otherwise quite cheeky and light.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • Almost all of The Who's albums contained a couple of 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 among 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 Funny Moments.
    • 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. Though a re-release of The Who Sell Out adds a song written by Moon and a song co-written by Daltrey.
  • Dull Surprise: John Entwistle's schtick. The man literally played an arena dressed in a leather skeleton suit, moving up-and-down the fretboard at the speed of light and still looked like he was stuck in traffic.
  • Deaf Composer: Pete Townshend is now almost totally deaf, although he has taken steps to prevent losing his remaining hearing. Roger Daltrey suffers from it almost as bad.
    • In later years John Entwistle was completely deaf, reading off lips in conversations. He also took to feeling the vibration and wind from his amps when playing, since he couldn't actually hear anything he was playing.
  • 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.
  • Dented Iron: Roger and Pete are both partially deaf in one ear (opposing ears, as they were facing each other) due to a stunt during their appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour; Keith's drumkit was loaded with dynamite, and set to explode at the end of their performance, and, as it turns out, too much was used, causing a bigger, not to mention louder explosion than was intended.
  • Designer Babies: "905".

  • Diagnosed by the Audience: invoked Done within the band:
    • Pete Townshend has speculated in interviews that John Entwistle had Asperger Syndrome, which seems to be plausible, given that he was a very introverted guy, with strong, unusual fascinations and odd social behaviors.
    • Roger Daltrey has also said that he suspected Keith Moon was some sort of autistic savant, given his natural, yet unorthodox talent for drumming and his flat-out bizarre behavior, and suggested that some of his substance abuse was a way for him to cope with said disorder, and the difficulties connecting with others that comes with it.
  • 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. 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 members. From then on out, he wasn't quite as violent. Townshend also developed this stance after a bad acid trip aboard a plane, though he had a little harder time sticking to it.
  • 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 stuttering organ riff at the start of "Baba O'Riley," similarly the buildup in "Eminence Front." 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.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: An interesting Real Life example. During their "pop period" (roughly 1965 to early 1968), Daltrey essentially destroyed his naturally curly hair with a product called Dippity-Do to make it straight, which he then styled into a Beatles-esque moptop. Around mid-1968, however, he stopped using the Dippity-Do and grew his hair out, coinciding with the band's transition to a heavier rock sound.
  • Fading into the Next Song: All of The Who Sell Out, most of Tommy and Quadrophenia, "Love Ain't for Keeping", "My Wife" from Who's Next, "They're All in Love", "Blue, Red and Grey" from The Who by Numbers...
  • 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. During a tour in 1989, Pete impaled his right hand on the tremolo arm of his Stratocaster guitar during a performance in Tacoma, Washington (his hand, fortunately, escaped nerve damage), and he spent many dates afterward on the tour performing with a hand cast.
  • Four More Measures: "Baba O'Riley".
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: Roger is the Optimist, Pete is the Cynic, John was the Realist and Keith was the Apathetic.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble:
    • Roger (Sanguine) - hard-working, uptight, temperamental and domineering.
    • Pete (Melancholic) - moody, self-righteous, insecure, stubborn and temperamental.
    • John (Phlegmatic) - quiet, even-keeled, charming, witty, and mischievous.
    • Keith (Choleric) - hyper-active, arrogant, temperamental and insecure.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: "Won't Get Fooled Again," which is also Trope Namers for Meet the New Boss.
  • Fun with Flushing: Keith Moon had a documented habit of flushing firecrackers down the toilets of hotel bathrooms.
  • Guttural Growler: John Entwistle's speaking voice. Not enough that he barely spoke, when he did it was basically a low, raspy murmur.
  • Gadgeteer Genius:
    • In the early days, when the band was short on cash Roger actually built most of the band's equipment by himself, and reportedly fixed some of Pete's "auto-destructive art pieces."
    • John Entwistle had a hobby of building Fenderbirds, which basically involved gutting Gibson Thunderbirds, installing all-new hardware, cutting off the neck, and routing a whole new neck pocket to fit a Fender bass neck — which is no mean feat.
    • A famous story is that John Entwistle built his very own bass as a teenager. He had a carpenter carve a block of wood into a vague bass shaped thing, then wired and built the entire rest of the bass by himself. Easy to say though, it wasn't exactly great playing according to Entwistle himself.
  • Gag Nose: Pete's characteristic big nose. He lampshades this during his first solo concert in 1974, changing the lyrics of "Magic Bus" to this:
    I'm so nervous I guess it shows
    Don't say a thing about my great big nose
  • 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 Cloudcuckoolander / animalistic drummer (Keith), and the lead guitarist as the songwriter and the lynch-pin holding it all together (Pete).
    • 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.
  • 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.
    • Roger would regularly get into fistfights with the other members and even managed to knock Keith unconscious once, for which he was temporarily fired. He was eventually let back in on the condition that he'd keep his temper under control - outside of that one time in the mid-'70s when he almost killed Pete with an ill-fated sucker punch.
  • 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 masterpiece, to anyone, which led to a Happily Failed Suicide and the scrapping of the entire project in favor 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, chilblains, blindness, whooping cough, the mumps, chickenpox, flu, and smallpox in quick succession.
  • I Am the Band: Pete Townshend.
  • Insistent Terminology: John Entwistle was not a bassist, he was a bass guitarist in his own words, since he always held a keen interest in guitar, with a lot of his playing being more traditionally "lead guitar" than the actual guitarist's.
  • Iconic Item:
    • Pete's red Gibson SG special, and later his modified Les Paul Deluxe, and in the very early days his Rickenbackers.
    • John Entwistle's experimental Buzzard bass guitars, and before that his "Fenderbirds"; Gibson Thunderbird basses he attached Fender bass necks onto.
    • A lesser-known one is John's Danelectro Longhorns, a bizarre lyre-shaped bass whose strings Entwistle grew particularly fond of, famously buying several basses because he kept breaking the incredibly thin (and incredibly rare) strings.
    • Extends to fashion as well. For example, Daltrey's fringed jackets, Townshend's white boiler suits, and Entwistle's skeleton outfit.
  • I Can Explain: Averted with "I Can't Explain".
  • Improbable Weapon User: Pete Townshend has used his guitar to hit people over the head, as during the Abbie Hoffman incident at Woodstock, or when he almost hit Roger Daltrey on the head with it during a particularly heated fight.
  • Intercourse with You: "Squeeze Box", "Mary Ann with the Shaky Hand".
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: "The Kids Are Alright".
  • Last Chorus Slow-Down: A lot of their songs do this in some way. "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.
  • 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 a hyperactive drummer and a truly over-the-top person. Pete's stage antics could also get very hammy, with him jumping all over the place and smashing guitars. In fact, Entwistle was arguably the only member who wasn't.
  • Last Note Nightmare:
    • The Tommy out-take "Cousin Kevin, Model Child" ends with one of these.
    • "Tommy's Holiday Camp" from the same album ends with a really creepy growl from Townshend after a minute of bouncy fairground barrel organ music.
    • "Love, Reign o'er Me" has two: the first being Roger's explosive "LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE!!!!", the second being the mournful horn sting after Keith's solo, accompanied, appropriately enough, by the sound of broken glass.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: In "My Generation":
    Why don't ya all f-f-fade away
  • Long-Runner Line-up: The classic line-up falls under Type 2 and lasted from 1964 to Keith Moon's death in 1978.
  • 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 that 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"). They 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 and wound up creating the now-classic "Marshall Stack", just so they could be heard over Keith Moon's hard-hitting drumming. This is why the band was once described as "a Lead Singer, a Lead Guitarist, a Lead Bassist, and a Lead Drummer".
  • Love Triangle: "Substitute," "A Quick One, While He's Away," the plot of the early songs in 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.
  • Meet the New Boss: "Won't Get Fooled Again" provided the trope name.
  • Metal Scream: The famous YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAHHHHH!!!!! during the climax of "Won't Get Fooled Again."
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: The Live At Leeds album sleeve was deliberately designed to look like a bootleg, with stamped text on a plain cover, plus handwritten labels on the LP 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.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Roger Daltrey made the Rock God archetype, and definitely lived up to it with his physique and fondness for wide-open shirts. Even more impressive is that he's still in fantastic shape to this day.
  • Mood Whiplash: The almost consistently depressing album The Who by Numbers, so miserable it's been called "Pete Townshend's suicide note," also contains the goofy track "Squeeze Box" and the sweetly optimistic "Blue, Red and Grey" ("I like every minute of the day").
  • The Napoleon: Roger Daltrey is the shortest member of the group, and reports of his height vary between 5'5" (165 cm) and 5'7" (170 cm), which is quite short by British standards. This was particularly noticeable when he stood between Townshend and Entwistle, both of whom were over 6 ft tall. In the band's early days, he was known for being a self-proclaimed fighter and for having a very dominant role within the band, often getting into fistfights with the others to solve disputes. He calmed down a lot between the release of The Who Sell Out and Tommy, but he remained a tough, assertive person and you still had to be careful what you said around him.
    • While he ceded artistic control to Townshend quite early on, Daltrey was still arguably the band's onstage supervisor, and Townshend even admitted that at the end of the day the Who was Daltrey's band.
  • 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.
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: Zig-zagged with John Entwistle. He is widely admired by fans, critics, and bandmates alike for his bass playing skills. Plenty of people even consider him one of the best bass players of all time, but he was also often completely ignored by the cameras during live shows (even when he was playing Lead Bassist during "My Generation") and was rarely asked questions during interviews, though this was also a side effect of him barely speaking or really moving at all on-stage.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "A Quick One, While He's Away", "Baba O'Riley", "The Punk And The Godfather".
  • Not So Above It All: John Entwistle, the taciturn bassist known as the only member of the band who didn't destroy his instrument onstage, would hand Keith Moon the matches when he was blowing up toilets with cherry bombs while the two shared hotel rooms during the band's early tours.
  • Ode to Youth: "My Generation".
  • One-Hit Kill: Famously, after Pete Townshend swung a guitar at Roger Daltrey once and tried socking him in the jaw, Daltrey retaliated by downing Pete with one hit, causing him to almost crack his skull on the stage floor.
  • 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 on "Substitute" claims that he's older than he looks:
      I look pretty young but I'm just back-dated...
  • 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!"
  • Packaged as Other Medium: The cover of The Who Sell Out looks like an advertising sheet. Live at Leeds is packaged like a bootleg album of the era, with a stamped title on a plain front cover, and handwritten labels on the original LP.
  • Perky Goth: John Entwistle, a perky pre-Goth.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Roger Daltrey is only 5'6", half a foot shorter than two of his band-mates, and known for being in charge. Keep that in mind the next time you hear that famous scream from the end of "Won't Get Fooled Again".
    • Moon also wasn't particularly tall, but he certainly had an outsized personality and left massive amounts of prank-fuelled destruction in his wake.
  • 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).
    • And 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 catalog:
    • 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 Beslan 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.
  • Pun: And plenty. Foremost being the band name itself.
  • Punny Name: "Pick Up The Peace," Who's Next. Honorable 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.
  • 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 (however, some sources say touring drummer Zak Starkey was offered a spot as a full-time band member and declined). 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. Though it helps the part used in the opening starts with a bang.
    • CSI: NY uses "Baba O'Riley"... which makes no sense whatsoever.
      • Those NY characters put their back into their living.
      • Word of God says that Anthony Zuiker wanted to use "Behind Blue Eyes" to make reference to NYPD cops, but through Executive Meddling, they ended up using "Baba O'Riley".
    • CSI: Cyber continues the theme with "I Can See For Miles".
    • Pete alluded to this trope on the band's 2006 album Endless Wire with the song "Mike Post Theme", which doubles as a Shout-Out to the legendary composer for crime-based TV shows.
  • Rhyming with Itself:
    Happy Jack wasn't old, but he was a man
    He lived in the sand at the Isle of Man
  • Rated M for Manly: Roger Daltrey, the muscled, bare-chested former factory worked turned singer, with a habit of knocking his bandmates out cold for disobeying him.
  • Rockers Smash Guitars: The Who were perhaps the first ever to do this (with Keith also having exploded his drums at least once). Pete is even the page image!
  • Rock Opera: Tommy, Quadrophenia. Lifehouse was meant to be one. Tommy is the Trope Namer, Trope Maker, and Trope Codifier. See below.
  • Rock-Star Song: "Success Story," "How Many Friends" (most of The Who By Numbers really), "New Song", "Put the Money Down"... "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.
  • Scooter-Riding Mod: The Who were closely associated with the British mod scene during their early career, with their second album 1966's A Quick One 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:
    • Tommy uses 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 actually 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 '60s, 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.
  • The Show Must Go On:
    • In the middle of a concert in San Francisco in November 1973, Keith passed out after taking tranquilizers (which were meant for animals) mixed with brandy, and wasn't able to continue playing. After doing one song without drums, Pete asked the audience: 'Can anyone play the drums? I mean someone good!'. 19-year old fan Scot Halpin was plucked out of the audience and played with the band for the final three songs so that they wouldn't have to cut the show short. Scot did a good job and was awarded Rolling Stone Magazine's 'Pick-Up Player of the Year Award' for his performance.
    • A tragic example happened when John died on the evening before a big American tour was supposed to kick off. Despite the emotional pain and technical difficulties, this must've caused, the band managed to get session bassist Pino Palladino to fill in on short notice. With him, they did the tour anyway after a delay of only a few days.
  • Single Stanza Song / Looped Lyrics / Title-Only Chorus: "See Me, Feel Me."
  • Single-Target Sexuality: In his 2012 autobiography, Townshend claimed that Mick Jagger was "the only man I've ever seriously wanted to fuck."
  • Solo Side Project: All four members have released solo albums, with varying degrees of success.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Townshend and Daltrey, respectively. This 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 sang "soprano" to both Daltrey and Townshend's "gravel", his falsetto being a big part of The Who's vocals. He also sang much lower than Daltrey's tenor in "Summertime Blues", for comedic effect. And Entwistle actually does that with himself in the song "Boris The Spider", where he switches from his normal voice to some of the deepest growls you'll ever hear during the chorus and a funny falsetto during the bridge. And a shining example is in "Sea And Sand" on Quadrophenia.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The Who Sell Out: blistering hard and psychedelic rock ... interspersed with pirate radio jingles performed by female jazz singers and swing bands. (And a few by The Who themselves.)
  • 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. It says something when 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 also 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.
  • Take That, Audience!: In "However Much I Booze" Pete Townshend criticizes the audience for judging him without really knowing what his life is like, which he sees as pointless.
    You at home can easily decide what's right
    By glancing very briefly at the songs I write
    But it don't help me that you know
    This ain't no way out
  • Team Dad: One might think that, as the famous lead singer of a particularly notorious rock band, Roger Daltrey would be a party animal, but in fact he was the only member of the band who barely touched drugs and has been happily married to the same woman since 1971. He also had a tendency to boss the other members around.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The band often argued with each other in the early years. In the original lineup, Doug Sandom had been the peacemaker and settled disputes. Keith Moon, by contrast, was as volatile as Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, but some of his wild antics were often done to diffuse tension between them. John Entwistle was too passive to become involved in arguments. The group established their live reputation and stage show in part out of insecurity and aggression among its members, and Townshend recalled that all decisions had to be made democratically "because we always disagreed". The only friendship in the band during the 1960s was Moon and Entwistle, who enjoyed partying together. Daltrey and Townshend frequently argued over the band's direction well into the 1970s.
    • Townshend admitted in his autobiography that he didn't feel like he actually loved Daltrey until as late as 2006.
  • 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!"
  • To the Tune of...: The two sides of their first single as The High Numbers, "Zoot Suit" and "I'm The Face", were new lyrics written by then-manager Pete Meaden to the tunes of "Misery" by The Dynamics and "Got Love If You Want It" by Slim Harpo, respectively.
  • 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. As for the Codifying, Tommy is still one of the best examples of a continuous narrative via music there is, and uses several common Rock Opera Tropes, particularly Leitmotif.
  • 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. This is especially true in recent years. Now Roger's voice is a lot lower than it used to be back in the '70s. Pete's voice has also changed in a similar fashion. It was once high-pitched and light, but it has become a lot lower and rougher over the years.
  • Verbal Tic: Pete's "...y'know".
  • Vocal Tag Team: Even though Roger Daltrey has the official position of lead vocalist, there are a handful of songs on every album that feature Pete Townshend on lead vocal or on co-lead vocal. John Entwistle has a few lead vocals too (mainly on songs he wrote) and even Keith Moon (who was not known for his singing abilities) gets to sing lead a couple of times. Whole songs featuring harmonizing between Roger, Pete, and John are not uncommon either.
  • Word Salad Title: The title of the song "Eminence Front"note  barely makes sense even if you do understand the context.
  • You Are Number 6: "905"



Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend


The Who

Roger Daltrey's famous screaming in "Won't Get Fooled Again".

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / MetalScream

Media sources: