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  • Accidental Innuendo: Pete Townshend has said that "Squeeze Box" is about nothing more than a woman who plays accordion to the annoyance of her family. But John Entwistle said that when he first heard the song, he knew "it was about tits." According to this, however, "[Squeeze Box was] Intended as a poorly aimed dirty joke."
  • Alternate Aesop Interpretation: Proposed by Pete himself: the message of "Won't Get Fooled Again" is essentially "Revolution is futile because the person in charge will always make it harder for everyone below them," but he's proposed that a more positive way of looking at it is "Don't even bother listening to the boss. You control your own destiny."
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  • Anti-Hero: Jimmy in Quadrophenia. He's actually quite an unpleasant person, being somewhat racist and homophobic (though this may be a case of Fair for Its Day, particularly as the album's storyline is set in the early to mid '60s), and at one point he makes comments about desiring to rape a girl. However, the fact that he is likely saying these things because of his depression and drug addiction keep him from being a Complete Monster for most fans.
  • Archive Panic: A career spanning over 50 years and different versions of each album, plus many non-albums singles, live albums and rarities/demos/outtakes etc. have lead to this. But fear not! Multiple guidebooks exist with overviews of all of their music.
  • Awesome Music:
    • The version of "A Quick One" from The Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus featured in The Kids Are Alright stands out. Part of the reason the Stones sat on the footage for several years was because they couldn't take being upstaged by a rival band in their own film.
      • The accuracy of this claim has been disputed, as some say that the real reason was that Brian Jones looked so horrendously drug-addled and out of it that the band didn't feel right releasing the program.
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    • "See Me, Feel Me", "Won't Get Fooled Again", "The Real Me", etc.
    • Oh hell, just take your pick! "My Generation", The Who Sell Out, Tommy, Who's Next, Quadrophenia, and so on...
    • Their performance of "Who Are You" at The Concert For New York City with John Cusack giving an awesome spoken-word lead in.
      "The next act is so big and so legendary, it takes all of these heroes [of the September 11th attacks] to introduce one of the greatest bands in the world! A band that loves New York and they are loved by New York!! You ready?? FROM ENGLAND, THE WHO!!!"
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: The end of "I Believe in Everything" from Entwistle's first solo album suddenly breaks into the whole band (including an incredibly drunk-sounding Keith Moon) singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"
  • Broken Base:
    • The disputes over whether the band should have quit after Moon's death have been...energetic, especially with Kenney Jones and the 1989 Tommy tour. It got better (mostly) after Zak Starkey became the drummer.
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    • There is disagreement within the fanbase as to whether the band's 70s material or its 60s material is superior.
    • The quality of the 1995 remixes, which are the main commercially available single-CD versions of the band's albums. Some feel that the remixes are an audible improvement, while others think that they are sloppy and deviate too much from the originals. The one remix that everybody seems to like, however, is The Who Sell Out, which adds the previously missing second verse to "Rael" (thereby removing the jarring edit present on all other versions of the song), as well as a selection of truly essential bonus tracks which are sequenced along with various advertisement outtakes to complement the spirit of the original album.
  • Covered Up: They are often the coverers though: "Young Man Blues" (Mose Allison), "Eyesight to the Blind" (Sonny Boy Williamson II), "Summertime Blues" (Eddie Cochran), "Leaving Here" (Eddie Holland, Jr.), "Baby Don't You Do It" (Marvin Gaye).
  • Crazy Awesome: Keith Moon. According to Alice Cooper, only a fraction of the rumors about rockers like Ozzy, Iggy Pop, and Alice Cooper are actually true. All the stories about Keith Moon are true... and you've only heard a fraction of them.
    • Not just Moon either - their appearance on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and their reaction to Tommy Smothers' teasing, as well as smashing his (unstrung) acoustic guitar after the bigger-than-planned explosion. A lot of that was scripted, though the big explosion certainly wasn't. Tommy was a big fan of the Who, and decided to have them on after he saw them at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Moon had a knack for going off-script.
      • In fact, Roger is on record saying that the other three members genuinely thought that he was trolling them about being dead, expecting him to pop out of his coffin at the funeral and laugh at how he fooled everyone.
  • Dork Age: Many fans consider everything the band did after Keith Moon's death to be an extended Dork Age. Even more will agree that it started with John Entwistle's death in 2002.
  • Ear Worm: A lot of their songs. Particular examples are "Who Are You" and "Pinball Wizard".
  • Epic Riff:
    • "My Generation", "Baba O'Riley", "I'm Free"...
    • "Won't Get Fooled Again" contains an epic synthesizer riff. Actually, a Lowrey Berkshire Deluxe TBO-1 organ run through an EMS VCS3 synthesizer.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: John Entwistle, who would stand as still as a statue onstage while tossing out mind-bending bass parts as though they were nothing. His songs, particularly "Boris the Spider" and "My Wife," are beloved by the fandom, and his harmonies were integral to the band's sound, as he was the only member who could sing both very low ("Boris," "Summertime Blues") and very high ("A Quick One, While He's Away").
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: An interesting Real Life example. During the Who's "pop period" (roughly 1965 to early 1968), Daltrey essentially destroyed his naturally curly hair with a product called Dippity-Doo to make it straight, which he then styled into a Beatles-esque moptop. Around mid-1968, however, he stopped using the Dippity-Doo and grew his hair out, coinciding with the band's transition to a heavier rock sound.
  • Face of the Band: Averted. In the band's heyday, all the members were well-known. One could make the case that in the pre-Tommy period it was actually Daltrey who was the least distinctive in the eyes of fans. However, once he grew his hair out and found his voice, he became an icon as well.
  • Fandom-Enraging Misconception: Don't call into a classic rock station and request "The Who's Teenage Wasteland". Not only will they not play it, but they may come to your house and work you over. The title is "Baba O'Riley."
  • Fandom Rivalry: With Led Zeppelin. This generally boils down to which individual members were the "Greatest of All Time" on their respective instruments. Other issues include which band was more influential and who was truly the best live. It probably stems from Keith Moon and John Entwistle declining Jimmy Page in recreating The Yardbirds as a supergroup before Led Zeppelin was even around. It should be noted though that this rivalry isn't as present in the bands' native United Kingdom, where Led Zeppelin is seen as just another rock band, while the Who are if anything more beloved because Townshend's lyrics often explicitly dealt with aspects of British life (in fact, their early work was a major influence on Britpop).
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Most fans agree that the band ceased to exist after Who Are You, the last album with Keith Moon.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • The line "Hope I die before I get old," in "My Generation", after the deaths of Keith Moon and John Entwistle. In another Flip-Flop of God, Townshend took in The '90s to claiming that "oldness" is a state of mind, not a descriptor of physical age.
    • "A Quick One, While He's Away" is this for Pete Townshend. He initially wrote it on a whim as a light-hearted story about affairs and a love triangle. But years later, he started seeing it as a metaphor for the sexual abuse and other bad experiences he suffered while living with this grandmother as a child. In his autobiography, he claims that he might have subconsciously written the song as a way to cope. As a result, it is not played live anymore.
  • Growing the Beard:
    • Tommy. Prior to this, The Who had been a fairly run-of-the-mill pop band, with their best songs being mostly non-album singles. After Tommy, they became rock legends.
    • Their live performances became this between '67 and '68.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The cover for Who Are You has a photo of the band with Keith Moon sitting in a chair with the words "Not to be taken away" on the back. Sadly, he died of a drug overdose one month after the album was released. (The reason he was sitting on the chair in the first place was to hide the effects of his alcohol and drug abuse.)
  • Heartwarming Moments: When Pete and Roger were honored by the Kennedy Center in 2008, the video montage placed emphasis on their reuniting to support the police, firefighters, and soldiers who volunteered in the aftermath of 9/11. Later on, during Rob Thomas' performance of "Baba O'Riley," the stage opened up to reveal hundreds of firefighters and policemen/women, singing along (and fist-pumping) to the "teenage wasteland" section. The two were pretty moved; after all the performances, Roger and Pete simply looked at each other and shook hands. They'd done alright, it seemed.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • The commercials on The Who Sell Out, since the band's music has been featured in several real ones, as well as CSI.
    • The line "I look pretty young but I'm just back-dated" in "Substitute", given that Roger Daltrey has aged surprisingly well.
  • Hype Backlash: Moon gets some of this from listeners who find him to be all flash but lacking in fundamentals such as time keeping.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • A Quip to Black in the CSI style, followed by "YEEAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" from "Won't Get Fooled Again".
    • "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" from the same song. Used to criticise every politician in office, ever.
  • More Popular Replacement: Keith Moon, compared to their previous drummer Doug Sandom.
  • Never Live It Down:
    • Pete Townshend (supposedly) getting caught with child pornography while researching sexual child abuse in the early 2000snote . It doesn't help that it came about just as several noteworthy members of The BBC were being outed for years of sexual misconduct with minors, making Pete's "research" claim seem flimsy to some. And that's all we're going to say about it.
    • Townshend has always blamed the start of his hearing loss on Moon's exploding drums prank on the Smothers Brothers show.
  • Nightmare Fuel: "Fiddle About."
  • Replacement Scrappy: Kenney Jones was seen as this when he followed the late Keith Moon, not only because Moon left such big shoes to fill, but also because Jones's drumming was far more reserved than Moon's famously anarchistic style, which many fans felt dampened their edge. Daltrey himself commented that while Jones was an excellent drummer with the Small Faces and the Faces, his style was simply wrong for the Who.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny:
    • "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" were among the first rock songs to feature synthesized patterns. Now it's common in every pop song.
    • Tommy often gets this treatment now that its revolutionary factor has worn off. Many fans see the production as being rather thin and the songs lacking compared to those on Who's Next and Quadrophenia.
    • The Who Sell Out: The idea of rock stars shilling for various products isn't as nearly as funny now as it was in 1967, since everybody does it nowadays.
    • Their tendency to wreck their instruments onstage was radical and even subversive in 1964. It's become almost a cliché now.
  • Sequel Displacement: Despite the title track being one of their best known singles, My Generation was out of print in the UK for decades, and prior to 2005 only an altered U.S. release, The Who Sing My Generation, was available on CD. This has recently been rectified with the release of several deluxe edition packages of the original UK album.
  • So Bad, It's Good: Keith Moon released exactly one album, called Two Sides of the Moon, and it consisted largely of crooning covers of The Beach Boys and The Beatles songs, and one song where Keith and Ringo Starr were just telling corny old vaudeville jokes back and forth over some music. Bless his heart, he wasn't any good at singing, but he was just so enthusiastic and just so obviously enjoying himself that it's infectious.
  • Sophomore Slump: A Quick One, from 1966, is pretty much universally regarded by the fanbase as being this, lacking both the raw power and live-in-the-studio feel of My Generation and the clever concept and psych-rock sheen of The Who Sell Out. Additionally, it was the only album on which each member contributed songs, a practice that was quickly abandoned when it became clear that the writing skills of Moon and Daltrey weren't up to par. It doesn't help that the most readily available release of the album features an odd blend of songs in mono, stereo, and crude "fake stereo" (made by panning the bass frequencies of the mono mix to one side of the stereo image and the treble frequencies to the other).
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: So very, very much with Live at Leeds. Many see the whole point of the album as showing the Who in their raw, live form as the original LP did. The 1995 and 2001 re-releases gave us the whole concert, but with crackling noises removed, some of the vocals re-recorded, and on the 2001 version, the Tommy section moved to a separate disc.
    • The 1995 remixes have gotten this reaction from some fans (see Broken Base).
  • The Woobie: Tommy from the eponymous album. First he's rendered deaf, dumb and blind after he witnesses a murder as a young child. Then he gets tortured by his cousin. Then he's given tons of drugs by the "Acid Queen", then gets molested by his Uncle Ernie. Eventually his sight, voice, and hearing are restored, and he becomes a Messiah figure to the fans he gained playing pinball. His followers turn on him shortly after.

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