The Who Sell Out is the third studio album by The Who, released in 1967. A Concept Album, it is formatted as a collection of unrelated songs with fake commercials and public service announcements in between them. Part of the intended irony of the title was that The Who were making real commercials around this time.
Lawsuits followed the album's release due to the mention of real-world commercial interests in the faux commercials and on the album covers, and by the makers of the actual Radio London jingles, who claimed the Who used them without permission.
The album is best remembered for "Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand" and "I Can See for Miles", the latter which indirectly inspired The Beatles song "Helter Skelter" on The White Album. Paul McCartney had read that The Who had written the "heaviest rock song ever" and, without having heard the actual song, felt that they should top that. And they pretty much did.
- "Armenia City In The Sky" (3:48)
- "Heinz Baked Beans" (1:00)
- "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand" (2:28)
- "Odorono" (2:34)
- "Tattoo" (2:51)
- "Our Love Was" (3:23)
- "I Can See For Miles" (4:44)
- "I Can't Reach You" (3:03)
- "Medac" (0:57)
- "Relax" (2:41)
- "Silas Stingy" (3:07)
- "Sunrise" (3:06)
- "Rael (1 And 2)" (5:44)
Bonus Tracks (1995 Reissue):
- "Rael 2"
- "Glittering Girl"
- "Someone's Coming"
- "Early Morning Cold Taxi"
- "Hall Of The Mountain King"
- "Girl's Eyes"
- "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand (Alternate Version)"
- "Glow Girl"
- Roger Daltrey - lead vocals, percussion
- John Entwistle - bass, backing and lead vocals, horns, sound effects
- Keith Moon - drums, percussion, backing and lead vocals, sound effects
- Pete Townshend - guitar, backing and lead vocals, keyboard, pennywhistle, banjo, sonovox
Her deodorant had let her down—she should have used Troperono:
- Alliterative Title: "Glittering Girl", "Glow Girl", "Silas Stingy".
- Almost Kiss: "Odorono"But his expression changed, she had seenAs he leant to kiss her face... It ended thereHe claimed a late appointment..." If only she'd used Odorono...
- Aluminum Christmas Trees:
- The band recorded some real commercials around the time The Who Sell Out was recorded, some of which are featured on later reissues.
- The "Radio London reminds you to go to the church of your choice" jingle sounds strange today and an apparently unlikely thing for an anti-establishment pirate station to broadcast. But the jingle is completely genuine. In fact, evangelical organisations were major advertisers on many of the leading pirate stations.
- Bathos: "Odorono" blends an account of a woman's emotional rollercoaster into a fake deodorant ad.
- Break Up Song: "Melancholia"The sheets are gray, left since the day she went away, I lost all power
- Buccaneer Broadcaster: The album is recorded In the Style of... a pirate radio broadcast. Tongue in cheek, of course.
- But Now I Must Go: "Odorono"She was happier than she'd ever beenAs he praised her for her graceBut his expression changed, she had seenAs he leant to kiss her faceIt ended thereHe claimed a late appointmentShe quickly turned to hide her disappointment
- Concept Album: 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.
- "Days of the Week" Song: The album starts off with a distorted voice saying "Monday", "Sunday", "Tuesday", "Saturday",... This has been Sampled Up a lot too.
- Double Entendre: "Mary-Anne With The Shaky Hands"Mary is so prettyThe prettiest in the landGuys come from every cityJust to shake her shaky hands
- Embarrassing Tattoo: "Tattoo"—played with in that the owner of the tattoo doesn't find it embarrassing, but he does assume he'll regret it one day.Welcome to my life, tattooI'm a man now, thanks to youI expect I'll regret you
- End of an Era: The album as a whole evokes this for the golden age of pirate radio, which was coming to an end following a UK government crackdown. By the time the album was released, most of the pirates had gone off air, including Radio London, from which the between-tracks jingles were taken.
- Face on the Cover: Pete Townsend applies Odorono deodorant, while Roger Daltrey sits in a bathtub full of Heinz baked beans on the front cover. The back cover depicts Keith Moon applying Medac from an oversized tube and John Entwistle in a leopard-skin suit, squeezing a blonde woman in a similar outfit with one arm and a teddy bear with the other.
- Fading into the Next Song: All tracks fade into each other to give the feeling of a radio broadcast.
- Fake Radio Show Album: All throughout the album fake commercials and genuine radio station jingles are heard. Several songs are also lyrically similar to a commercial.
- Intercourse with You: "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand", who apparently is very talented with her hands
- List Song: "Mary-Anne With The Shaky Hands"I danced with LindaI danced with JeanI danced with Cindy
- Long Hair Is Feminine: "Tattoo"Our old man didn't like our appearanceHe said that only women wear long hair.
- Medley: "Rael" was originally intended as one, but was never completed and until the 1990s, only the first part was commercially available.
- Miniscule Rocking: Most tracks are rather short to mimic a radio commercial.
- New Sound Album: Aside from all the jingles, there's quite a bit of psychedelia on this album.
- 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.
- Obsession Song: "I Can't Reach You"I can't reach youWith arms outstretchedI can't reach youI crane my neckI can't reachTryin' to get on youSee, feel or hear from you
- One-Woman Song: "Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand", "Glittering Girl", "Glow Girl"
- One-Word Title: "Odorono", "Tattoo", "Medac", "Relax", "Sunrise", "Rael", "Melancholia", "Jaguar".
- Overly Long Gag: The album ends with a looping plug for their label, Track Records.
- Packaged as Other Medium: The album cover is designed to look like an advertisement in a magazine. The album itself is meant to sound like a radio broadcast.
- Papa Wolf: "Someone's Coming"Your father doesn't like meTold you that you couldn't see me anymoreThat's why we meet in secretThat's why we're hiding here
- Parody Commercial: One of the most famous examples in rock history and presumably one of the first to have such on an album.
- Product Placement: Real life products are shown on the album cover. The track "Armenia City In The City/Heinz Baked Beans" name-drops "Heinz". Several tracks follow a pattern of a commercial by telling a story and then naming the fake product in the last stanzas, for instance in "Odorono"She ripped her glittering gownCouldn't face another show, noHer deodorant had let her downShe should have used Odorono
Then, when just about to crackHe found another cream - MedacWhen Henry in the mirror peeredHis pimples all had disappearedHenry laughed and yelled "I got 'em!Me face is like a baby's bottom"
- "Medac" is another song that appears to be an advert. It's about an adolescent who suffers from acne.
- Rated M for Manly: "Tattoo"Me and my brother were talking to each otherAbout what makes a man a manWas it brain or brawn, or the month you were bornWe just couldn't understand(...) We knew what we had to doWe went downstairs, past the barber and the gymnasiumAnd got our arms tattooedWelcome to my life, tattooI'm a man now, thanks to youI expect I'll regret youBut the skin graft man won't get youYou'll be there when I die, tattoo
- Rise of Zitboy: Henry Pond, in "Medac".Henry Pond had no funHad a face like a currant bun
- The Scrooge: "Silas Stingy", about an old miser.
- Self-Plagiarism: In Tommy they used an instrumental tune from "Rael 1" as a leitmotif.
- Self-Titled Album: The band is mentioned in the title.
- Sell-Out: This album is a massive lampshade of the group's numerous commercial endeavours during the late 1960's, 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.
- Near the end of "I Can See For Miles" the Charles Atlas body-building course commercials are referenced.
- Petra Haden did an A Cappella version of this album in 2005, where every single instrument was covered with her voice.
- Siamese Twin Songs: All the songs on the album are connected this way, in order to mimic a radio broadcast.
- Special Guest:
- Al Kooper plays organ on this album.
- John "Speedy" keen from Thunderclap Newman wrote and sings backup on "Armenia City In The Sky".
- Spoken Word in Music: "Armenia City in the Sky/Heinz Baked Beans" ends with a fanfare playing and every time the music stops someone speaks:What's for tea, Mum?What's for tea, darling?Darling, I said "what's for tea?"What's for tea, daughter?Heinz baked beans
- Step Up to the Microphone/Vocal Tag Team: The album is a very collaborative work vocally, as opposed to its more Roger Daltrey-focused predecessors. Pete Townshend sings lead vocals on "Odorono", "Our Love Was", "Can't Reach You" and "Sunrise". He also has co-lead vocals on "Tattoo" and "Relax". John Entwistle sings lead vocals on "Heinz Baked Beans", "Medac" and "Silas Stingy". Keith Moon sings lead vocals on the bonus tracks "Jaguar" and "Girl's Eyes".
- Top Ten Jingle: The album contains several original songs written as faux-jingles for Heinz Baked Beans, Jaguar automobiles, and other popular brands of the time.
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: "I Can See For Miles" neatly lampshades it - Daltrey mentions the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal immediately after the key change.