Popular Culture (Music) 20110422: The Who Sell Out

(8 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

The Who Sell Out, the third album by The Who, was their finest to date and in my opinion is still one of their best works.  To be sure, it fell short hither and thither, but I think that it was great.  There are a number of reasons why it is so good, one of them being Kit Lambert once again producing.  As you recall from the previous installment, he was so much better than the hack Shel Talmy that there is really no comparison.

Another reason that it was so good was that it has a lot of energy for a studio album.  The third reason that I shall cite is that it was one of the very first concept albums, in that there was a unifying theme throughout the record.  Since it was on vinyl, it only runs around 37 minutes, so lots of material got scrapped when the final edit was done.  I shall include some of that material late in the piece.

The Who Sell Out was released 19671215, apparently simultaneously in the UK and the US.  In the UK the releasing company was the newly formed Track Records, a company formed by The Who and Kit Lambert.  Obviously they did not have the facilities to do the actual pressing, but at last The Who actually owned some of the profits, rather than just royalties, from the release.  In the US it was released by Decca.  Before we even get to the music, the album cover needs to be considered.  It was a single album, so only two surfaces.

Here is a picture of it, both sides.  I had to scan my personal copy to get both sides, as there does not seem to be a source of the reverse on the net:

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Note the upper right corner of the first (front) picture.  I tiny piece of the jacket has been cut off of it.  This indicates that it had been marked down because it was “returned” to the distributor.  I bought this brand new for one dollar.

Each of those pictures are for actual products.  I was not convinced about Ordorono, but that product is still available, and can be ordered over the internet.  Very cool.  The story about Daltrey getting pneumonia after sitting in the tub of beans is, as far as I can find, untrue.  You will remember the scene in the motion picture Tommy, where Ann -Margret swimmed in the same kind of beans.  Both the Daltrey and the movie takes are sort of eye catching.  But now to the music.  The concept for this concept album was that it was being broadcast from a pirate radio station, outside of the territorial waters of the UK, and that the pirate station had a name, Radio London.  None of that ever existed.  This was a studio album that mocked the several pirate radio stations that existed at the time.

The first track on the album was Armenia City in the Sky, sung by Daltrey.  It was written by John David Percy Keen, who is no longer with us.  Keen worked with Lambert and Townshend for a couple of years, and the band Thunderclap Newman was born from that collaboration, producing the song Something in the Air.  Townshend actually played bass on the song.  The song was preceded by the days of the week from “Radio London”.  Here it is:

As far as I can tell, there is no live version.  This piece is important for a couple of reasons.  First, Townshend was experimenting with electronic augmentations to music, even in that early year.  Note the distortion of Daltrey’s voice when he rattles off the days of the week.  Second, in the song itself, Townshend’s mastery of distortion of guitar becomes evident.  Even if not written by the band, this is a really good song.

The last part of this one is the Wonderful Radio London jingle, Whoopie!  There is more on this particular embed, and it follows the album well.  However, it only goes through Radio London Smooth Sailing, so this gets a bit more difficult.

The next song was the brilliant and witty Heinz Baked Beans, written by, and mostly sung by, Enwistle.  He also did all of the horn parts.  He was a genius.  Also, this is one of only four or five cuts of which I know that Townshend plays banjo (his first string instrument to learn).  Name two more in the comments and you will make it to Doc’s List as a Who fanatic.  I am not sure, but I think that it might be Moon that said the “What’s for dinner, daughter?!” part, but Entwistle was so versatile vocally that it might have been him.  Just after that there was the More Music, More Music advert.  That got them into trouble, because the Texas firm that cut such things thought that it was a copyright violation.  These days, it probably would be exempt under the Fair Use clause.

The next one is one of my all time favorite songs by The Who, Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand (that title must have been too suggestive for Decca, because it was titled Mary Anne with the Shaky Hands in the US).  This is one of my favorite songs by them.  Acoustic Who can be still as exciting as electric Who.  Let me see if I can find alternative versions.  By the way, Townshend was the lead singer for that one.

Oh, yes!  Here is a pretty much acoustic version, but with lots of Hammond organ!  The stills of Diana Rigg are pretty nice, too.  Remember, she was Mrs. Peel on the seminal UK TeeVee show, The Avengers.  I like this version very much.  I believe that Townshend was playing the Hammond organ.  It sounds like either an M-3 or a B-3, and I will say most likely a B-3 because of the Leslie speaker.

Just after that song on the LP was a spot for Premier Drums.  Yes, that is Moon shouting.  He got more out of them then they got out of him.  The “experts” still disagree, but I can say for certain that Moon was the only drummer who, at the time, could make The Who the band that they were.

The cut just after that one was supposed to be a radio station jump for Radio London.  No words, and not very memorable.

The next cut was another Townshend piece, and he sang it as well.  The first embed has the album cut, so let us see if we can find a live version.  It is called Odorono, a deodorant brand.  Note that it used the US spelling, as did the real product.  Otherwise, it would have been Odourono.  LOL!  That was a real, and still is, a product available.

I have not been able to find a live version of it, so here is the studio one.  It is a great song!

That one ends with the Smooth Sailing with the Highly Successful Sound of Wonderful Radio London piece, intentionally miked so that the “ess” sound was overloaded.  Just like the old radio stations in my town used to be!

The next one was nothing less than inspired.  It is called Tattoo, and is a Townshend piece.  Daltrey sings it.  I love this song!

This was the studio version.  Here is a live one:

I LOVE this song!  On the original record  it was followed by another Radio London piece, Go to the Church of Your Choice.  Unfortunately, there are no other embeds available for the album, but I did find one of all of the jingles.  You will have to use your imagination to piece them together.  Here is the jingle embed, and I shall put the times in the embed at the appropriate places so you can find them.  If you can open a second tab, you can jump from the jingle embed to the songs without too much trouble.

The next one was the Radio London Go to the Church of Your Choice.  It is on the jingle embed at 1:20, followed by Our Love Was (called Our Love Was, Is in the US release).  It was written and sung by Townshend.  It is an OK song, but not one of their very best

This was followed by three more adverts, Radio London Pussycat, Speakeasy, and Rotosound Strings (the bass strings that Entwistle used).  They appear at 1:31 on the jingle embed.

The final song from side one was the marvelous I Can See For Miles, written by Townshend and sung by Daltrey.  This is as quintessentially Who as songs come.

Here is a live version, and it appears really to be live, judging from Moon’s actions at the drums.  As I have mentioned previously, he hated to lipsynch and made little effort to drum when forced to do so.

Thus ended side one.  Side two starts out with The Charles Atlas Course, probably written by Entwistle, but it is uncredited.  It appears at 1:47 on the jingle embed.  The first real song is Townshend’s I Can’t Reach You, also sung by him.  I like the song, but it is still not their top drawer material.

I could find only the studio version.  If you find a live one, please add it to the comments.

Following that is a short Entwistle piece, Medac, about an actual acne product.  He also sang it.

Once again, I could find only the studio version.

After that was Relax, written by Townshend.  He and Daltry sang it.

Here is a live version that I like very much.

After that, Entwistle’s wonderful Silas Stingy appeared.  He also sang it.

After Silas, the hauntingly beautiful and sad Sunrise, written and sung by Townshend plays.  I find this to be one of the most emotional songs that he ever wrote, and the imagery just outstanding.  The part that goes “…each day I spend in an echoing vision of you” has real meaning for anyone who has loved and lost.  This embed has some really good pictures of Townshend from that era.

Here is a much more recent, live performance with Townshend and Rachel F├╝ller.

The last real song is Rael 1 and 2, but only 1 was on the album.  It was a short little opera.  Many of you will recognize that much of it was later included on Tommy a year and a half later.

I was unable to locate a live version of it.  The album ends up with a plug for their new record label, Track Records.  The literature says that this was pressed to be an endless loop, but on my vinyl copy it repeats several times and then the album ends.  I wonder if those who say that it is a true endless loop ever really listened to it.  It is at 5:24 on the jingle embed.

That was the end of the original record, but it was rereleased later on CD, with more material that could not be included on the original vinyl.  Here are some of my favorite cuts from that.  Since this is getting pretty long, I shall only include two.

The first choice is Townshend’s Jaguar.  I chose it because Moon does most of the vocals on this song.  He had a really sweet voice but of extremely limited range.  As a bonus, this embed also has another jingle, for John Mason car sales.  Moon in the mandarin outfit makes me chuckle.

Finally, Townshend’s Glittering Girl in a nice tune.  He sings it.  I sort of like this song, but it is less typical of The Who than many other numbers were.

I hope that you enjoyed The Who Sell Out.  The next Who installment will be about their album Magic Bus:  The Who on Tour, which is actually a compilation of studio tracks.

Whilst on the topic of popular culture, let me remind you that the season premier of Dr. Who airs tomorrow night on BBC America.  On a sad note, the British actress Elisabeth Claira Heath Sladen died this week.  Fans of the Doctor will remember her as Sarah Jane Smith, one of the longest lived companions to the Doctor.  Her original part ran for three and one half years, a long time for a companion and longer than some Doctors.  There is planned a tribute to her tomorrow night after the season premiere.

Warmest regards,

Doc

1 comment

  1. one of the finest albums ever?

    Warmest regards,

    Doc

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