Popular Culture (Music) 20111104. Who Are You

(9 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

This is the last post that I shall do for albums released by The Who.  They died in 1978 when Moon died.  However, that does not mean that this is the last post about them.  There is lots of other material from 1978 back that I have not covered, and a few gems from later than 1978.

However, as a vital, functional band The Who really ceased to exist after the death of Moon.  As a matter of fact, the death of The Who was actually before that of Moon’s death since they were no longer in studio since Who are You had just been released.

This installment might get to be a bit emotional, so please bear with me.  The reasons will be obvious as the story unfolds.  With that said, let us go!

Originally I was going to write an history of the band on this piece, but I think that it would be better to keep to convention and write just about the particular album.  I think that I shall begin the historical part another time.  That shall take quite a few installments!

Who are You was released in 19780818 both in the UK and the US, sort of unusual for The Who, whose records were most often released in the UK earlier than in the US.  In the US, the label was MCA Records, and in the UK Polydor Records.  This date is sort of special to me, because that was within three weeks when I (and the former Mrs. Translator) moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas so I could finish up the work for my B.S. in Chemistry.  I scraped up the money to buy the LP, and just a couple of weeks later we were going to the wake for Moon (an impromptu one that many friends had, all really big fans of The Who).  I told you that I might get emotional writing this piece.

There are lots more bizarre coincidences with this album, not only personal.  But there is one more personal one that I just have to mention.  The former Mrs. Translator does not like it much when I mention her here, but this is so important to the piece that I just have to do so.  In no way is it derogatory to her.  She just does not want to be associated with me much any more.  Here is the story.

We married on 19780618 (a traditional June wedding) and had kept four invitations in reserve.  She was almost 18 years old, and I was barely 19 years old.  It is a wonder that we lasted over 30 years.  Anyway, we both wanted to send invitations to each member of the band, with a note that if they could provide the music, the wedding party would provide the food, and that we were really big fans.  (Our sons still are, so I must have taught them SOMETHING!).  Our parents finally talked us out of it, so we sent the invitations to four obscure relatives who did not show up anyway.

This is one of the regrets of my life.  I still wonder what would have happened if we had sent them?  It would have been big cool if they actually showed up and played.  I had gone so far as to find good addresses to which to send the invitations.  I wish that I had.  Not pushing the envelope towards one’s dreams is almost always a mistake.  This is a cautionary tale for all of you:  if you really, really want something, as long as your motives are pure, GO FOR IT!  Yes, I am shouting!  As we speak I am now pursuing a new dream of mine, and my motives are pure.  I should not have gotten so off topic here, but please learn from me NEVER to abandon your heart’s desire because of what others say.

In any event, I find this album to be sort of self reflective by Townshend, but in a different way than The Who by Numbers was.  As I said last week, The Who by Numbers seems to be an emotional autobiography, but Who are You seems to be more like a musical one, and with speculation where he might go next.  I shall provide examples as we go.

Another bizarre coincidence is the album cover.  It is pretty much a picture of them, as many of their covers were, but with Moon sitting in a chair with the stenciled label “NOT TO BE TAKEN AWAY”.  Was that prescient?  The common explanation is that Moon used that particular chair to sort of conceal his huge abdomen (my speculation was that he was going into liver failure from years of excess alcohol and drugs, and had a condition called ascites, an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen.  Over 80% of ascites cases are due to liver problems, and two thirds of those problems are caused by abuse of alcohol.  I am not a very firm believer of coincidence.

Here is a picture of the album cover:

Who are You Art

All of the songs, except as noted, were written by Townshend.

The first song, “New Song”, sort of reinforces my thesis that this album is about Townshend’s perceived in how music was evolving.  Gone were the days of the 2 minute 30 catchy tune (which Townshend blew away anyhow in with “A Quick One While he’s Away” over a decade earlier).  Here is the studio version:

Note the return to more electronic devices, as opposed to The Who by Numbers.  Also note that Glyn Johns was one of the producers, along with Jon Astley, a very good technical person at mixing, and of course Townshend.  Johns begged out of the project somewhere in the middle, citing a prior commitment.

I could not find a live version, but here is Townshend’s demo:

He was a one man band!

The next song was the first of two Entwistle compositions on the record, “Had Enough”.  Entwistle grumbled that he had to write a song for Daltrey to sing to get one on the album.  I do not blame him.  When I saw them last, Daltrey also sang “My Wife”, an Entwistle standard, but John was quite ill with heart disease at the time, and even had to lean on a support to play.  Here is the studio version:

I could not find a live version, and since it was not a Townshend composition, there is no demo.  But it was just John’s black humor, asking if someone could take his place if things were different.

The third one was also an Entwistle one, the brilliant “905”.  He was allowed to sing it as well!  It speaks to the horror of modern technology (I am not a Luddite, but he makes a point).  Before I look further, I suspect that there will be no live versions nor a demo.  If I am wrong, I shall leave the previous sentence in just to show that I am fallible.  Here is the studio version:

I did find a live version, but my his own band, not The Who.  It is still worth a look.  Note that this seems just to before he started to become ill.

The next song is “Sister Disco”.  Some reviewers say that it is tribute to disco by Townshend, but if you look at the lyrics deeply, it is, in my opinion, a very harsh rebuke of disco, with its flash and trash dance.  You be the judge!  Here is the studio version:

I find the line “Now I walk with a man in my face, a woman in my hair.” to be quite interesting.  I suspect that has to do with getting older and having marital problems.  That is just speculation.

Here is sort of a live presentation, a rehearsal video.  Keith was dead, and Jones was getting in tune, as well as he could.  I have nothing against Jones, but he never quite fit in well.  Zak did.

Here is Townshend’s demo version.  I really like the synthesizer introduction.

The next song, the last on the first side of the album, probably is fraught with more controversy than most songs by The Who.  Some accounts say that Moon never could keep 6/8 time, some say that he was losing his skills to drink and drugs, and some say that Townshend never wanted drums on this piece at all.  I have not been able to deconvolute it, so if you have better information than I have, please chime in on this topic!  The name of the song is “The Music Must Change”, still in keeping with my thesis that Townshend realized that The Who were from the past, and not part of the present.  Here is the studio version, and note that Entwistle still was playing horns even then:

I also appreciate the nod to “My Generation”, with the amphetamine stutter.  Pete never forgot his roots.  He and Gene Roddenberry are very much similar in that.  Daltrey’s voice was as beautiful and as in tune as I ever have heard it.

Here is a live version with Jones.  That is not such a difficult meter.  Moon could have done it.  I do not think that is was left out because he could NOT do it, but because he was too ILL to do it.  Keith was very, very ill from drink and drugs at the time.  If Pete could have kept him clean (like it was Pete’s fault) Keith could have played it perfectly.

Here is Townsend’s demo:

Note that the demo had no drums in it.  I think that my third idea, that Townshend never wanted drums in it, is the correct one.  It was not about Moon, it was about the song.

The sixth song, and the first one from the flip side of the record, is the Entwistle composition “Trick of the Light”.  This song is remarkable for several reasons, not the least of which is Entwistle’s excellent lyrics.  What most folks do not know that is much of the “guitar” is actually Entwistle playing a very tightly strung eight string bass.  Here is the studio version:

This was another one that he wrote for Daltrey to sing.  As I said previously, he did not like that very much.  It is interesting that the song in a way touches my situation.  Whislt that was obviously written about a working girl (I knew one very well many years ago, and she would come to my place to be treated as a real person) it seems that I am sort of in love with an impossible vision as well.

Here is a 1979 live version.  It looks like Jones drumming, but Entwistle sang.  That is the song as it should have been on the record.

Here is one ten years more recent, with the eight string bass.  I do not know who the drummer is, but it is a good rendition.  Please do even think that The Girl is, has been, or ever will be a working girl.  She is just difficult with whom to come to terms in an important manner.

Obviously there is no Townshend demo since it is an Entwistle song.

The next one is one of my personal favorites, “Guitar and Pen”.  This is also in keeping with my thesis that it was part of Townshend’s writing autobiography.  I wish that I could pen things as nicely as he has, but those of you who read me regularly know that I am near one thousand pieces here, some better than others.  I keep trying.

Now to the song.  Entwistle was perfect on the studio album.  Listen to how the voice of Daltrey and the bass of Entwistle work to together.  This is the studio version.

A couple of links tell me that this is how it is intended, but I could not tell much difference:

Oddly, I could not find a demo.  I really like that song, because it sort is like ME trying to write here.  I try often, and fail about two thirds of the time.  But I still keep writing!

The saddest song on the album is “Love is Coming Down”.  I can relate to that very much.  The line about standing on a razor’s edge is my life right now.  Here is the studio version:

No, wait.  The lyrics are way too apt.  The one that says

Surrounded by people,…, but I still feel lonely now

is written for me.

I could not find any live versions nor the demo.

The last song is the album title one.  I have mixed emotions about it.  I think that it sounds like a poor imitation of “Don’t Get Fooled Again” in some respects but on the other hand I think that it is a very fine song.  I am obviously a bit conflicted about it.  However, it does have some of the old humor that Townshend had in the early days.  Here is the original studio version:

Here is a longer version, often referred to as the “lost verse” version.  I think that I like it better than the one that was originally released.

Here is a live version from 1977:

Here is the version from the documentary film The Kids are Alright that was completed shortly before Moon’s death.  Note the inconsistencies.  Moon is using a high hat (he HATED high hats), and Entwistle is smoking whilst he sings.  It also shows Daltrey doing the vocals ostensibly with the rest of the band, but as I recall Daltrey did not have a single session with the rest of the band during the recording of the entire album, instead adding vocals after the instrumental tracks had been recorded.  I think that the whole scene was staged as a joke.

I like this version very much.  I was surprised at how good it was, and sort of wonder why more of the original flourish was not kept when they did the studio album.  It is bit rawer than the final product, and as we discusses when I wrote about Quadrophenia, I like raw.

Speaking of Quadrophenia, a new five disc box set is either out now or soon will be.  I understand that there is a tour planned for 2012.  For those of you who have never seen The Who, I recommend that you attend one of the concerts.  Although Keith and John are no longer with us, if Zak is the drummer it will sort of be like they were years ago.  If Zak is not drumming, it is probably not worth it.

Well, there you have my final installment about the “canonical” albums released by The Who prior to Moon’s death.  As I said, I shall have other pieces about The Who.  I should give some credits.  I relied on Wikipedia for the album listings and ratings, as well as the song order on each album.  I hate to use too much information from that source because it is very subjective, but on plain factual information that is well documented it is an easy to use and readily available source.  I must say that for definitive data, the book by Andy Neill and Matt Kent called Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere  The Complete Chronicle of The Who 1958 - 1978 us the ultimate source.  Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to use because it is, indeed, a chronicle, so it is necessary to look in multiple places in the book to make a cogent story.  I strongly recommend this book to any fan of The Who, even though it is difficult.  But that is the way scholarly works are:  information dense and up to the reader to make sense of the huge amount of data.  This book also has a tremendous amount of rare photographs and is well worth buying.  My copy does not have an ISBN number, but the publisher seems to be Friedman/Fairfax.

Another excellent source, but with an obvious concentration of subject matter is the Tony Fletcher book Moon: The Life and Death of a Rock Legend.  It also has lots of great pictures, but reads more easily since it is pretty much a standard, but extremely well researched, biography.  It was published by Avon Books, aka Spike Books, in 1999 with as ISBN of 0-380-97337-5.  I have not checked to see if the link works, but it at least used to be here.

Please submit suggestions as to where I should go covering The Who in future.  I have given some ideas already, and like the one that a reader send about short biographical pieces about not only the band members but also the other members of the team that made The Who possible.  More suggestions are always welcome.  You can be assured that there will be music embeds in all of them, but alas some might be repeats from pieces that I have done before.  I shall try to keep them relevant.

I shall try to be available to respond to comments tonight, but have promised The Girl to help her with a baby shower present in a few minutes.  With any luck, I will be able to sign on to you over there, and take a break now and then to respond.  She is making a hand made present, and I am honored for her to ask for my help in getting it ready.

Finally, I want to thank everyone here personally who have encouraged me to write this series.  By encouragement, I mean comments, questions, corrections, and recommendations.  If it had not been for them in the past, I would not have kept going.  This is not the end, just a new beginning, hopefully in more than one sense.  Even if you have nothing to say about the subject matter of this piece, please tip and rec, and even more important, leave a comment saying “Good Luck!”  just this one time as a good luck token for what might be some happiness in my future.

Thank each and every one of you for being so kind to me!

Warmest regards,

Translator, aka Dr. David W. Smith

Crossposted at

The Stars Hollow Gazette,

Daily Kos, and



  1. my favorite band, and for some recent happiness in my life?

    Warmest regards,


  2. I very much appreciate it!

    Warmest regards,


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