Popular Culture (Music) 20120120. A Brief History of The Who. 1974

(9 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Whilst 1973 was a roller coaster year, 1974 was downright bizarre.  The main reason for that was the extreme domination of time and energy by the film version of Tommy.

This is as close to writing a piece about that motion picture as I am going to get, because I really did not like it very well, and though that it was just a caricature of the outstanding album.  I also blame that motion picture in part for the demise of Moon a few years later, mostly because of Moon’s relationship with Oliver Reed.

This year also provided a dearth of material from the band, with only two singles and one album being released.  There were also personal conflicts, particularly betwixt the band and their management.  

On 19740112 “The Real Me” with the “B” side of “I’m One” was released in the US only.  My primary source indicated that this was a Track Records release, but I think that this is in error.  The record number looks like an MCA number, and MCA was their US distributor at the time.  In any event, it charted to a disappointing #92.

Almost all of the first half of the year was dominated by Tommy, and this was particularly stressful for Townshend since he agreed to be the musical director for the motion picture, working under the quirky and unpredictable director, Ken Russell.  Adding to the musical woes were the casting of Oliver Reed as The Stepfather and Jack Nicholson as The Doctor.  Neither of these actors had decent singing voices, and Townshend had to coach them.  Also a problem was casting Ann-Margret as The Mother, but she actually worked out fairly well, and could sing.  Russell insisted that there be no spoken dialogue in the film, as so every word was sung.

During February they did take to the stage in France, playing seven shows betwixt beginning on 19740210 and ending on 19740224.  It was during those engagements that the band decided not to play Quadrophenia any more, save for just a few select numbers.  The technical challenges were just too great, but Drowned continued to be one of their favorite stage numbers.

Since Moon was not heavily involved in the production of Tommy, he had time to appear in a film named Stardust, playing fictional drummer J. D. Clover.  The band in the film has some interesting parallels with The Who.

Actual filming for Tommy commenced on 19740422, and would end up taking much longer and costing much more than originally planned.  Making this film really tried Townshend’s soul.  Daltrey fared better, since he just acted.  Townshend had to make the music work in a difficult environment.  They played little live venues during this time, but did play a large local concert on 19740518 and a private one for the extras appearing in Tommy on 19740522.

Not touring had always been toxic for The Who, but Townshend’s crisis of confidence made even touring a miserable experience.  He was very displeased with much of the February French engagements, and was not happy with the 18 May concert as well.  Townshend was slowly becoming undone.

The week of 19740610 The Who played four engagements at Madison Square Garden in New York.  The first was, according to Daltrey, “…fucking ‘orrible.”, but the other three were pretty good as determined by reviewers.  Townshend did not think so, but that was likely due his already increasing depression and general feeling out of control of the band, his life, and his emotions.  Townshend was overcome with the feeling that the fans just wanted to hear standards and were trying even to influence the set list.  Such is what paranoia does.  Daltrey was a bit more generous, but did admit that it seemed like the band was just “…running on three cylinders.”

Entwistle was busy doing other things.  He had mixed the horn work for Tommy, but that was not a huge effort.  In the mean time, he had been working on mixing the songs that would become Odds and Sods, and finished on 19740704.  It was mastered at Apple on the 17th of that month.  He also finished up mixing what would become his next solo effort, Mad Dog that he had been recording since the early part of the year, but it was not released until the next year.

On 19740821, filming for Tommy was finally completed.  The planned 12 week, one million pounds budget ended up being 18 weeks and 2.4 million pounds.  Now that the filming was done, it had to go to post production.

Moon moved to California in early September, and that remained his residence for the rest of his life.  He did some low grade film work there, and his first solo single, “Don’t Worry, Baby” with the “B” side of “Teenage Idol” was released in the US only by MCA on 19740928.  It was a critical failure and failed to chart.  The version of “Don’t Worry Baby”, by Christian and Wilson, on the single is a different take than the one from his solo album, but I was able to find both of them on a single You Tube post.  I believe, as the poster does, that the first version is from the single and the second, at 3:34, is from the album.  Unfortunately, my turntable is not working so I have no way to play the vinyl to verify that.  Actually, I like the first version better.  It was produced by Mal Evans.  The second was produced by Skip Taylor and John Stronach.

Here is the Jack Lewis song, “Teenage Idol”.  I am sure that it is from Two Sides of the Moon.  Note the girl sitting with him in the car.  That is Annette Walter-Lax, his girlfriend until the night he died.  The driver is Peter “Dougal” Butler, Moon’s actual driver and all around assistant.  Remember, Moon never drove except for once, and that one time he ran over and killed his then assistant, Neil Boland.  That is actually controversial, as Boland’s daughter did her own extensive investigation is appears to be convinced that Moon was not driving when Boland was killed.

The only album from the entire group, Odds and Sods, was released by Track on 19741004 in the UK, where it charted at #10.  The US release was on 19741012 by MCA, and it charted to #15.  That is really a very good record, and I wrote about it here and here.  This would be their very last release on Track Records, as their contract was now fulfilled with Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, and the parting was not amicable, due to the theft of royalty monies from the band by Kit Lambert.  From then, The Who dealt directed with Polydor, the manufacturing and distribution company that Track Records used for support.

The Who also ended their agreement with Lambert and Stamp for producing them, and hired Daltrey’s producer, Bill Curbishley, to become their new producer.  Interestingly, Curbishley worked for Track until his defection.  He has been with them for most of the time since.

In early November, Daltrey started work on his next solo effort, and Moon was also working on his only solo album.  In late November the final editing and dubbing of Tommy was completed by Townshend, and the project was finally finished.  Also in November the US release of the single “Postcard” and “Put the Money Down” was made by MCA.  Once again my source indicated Track Records, but the number is an MCA number and MCA was their US distributor.

On 19741208, Entwistle and his band, Ox, began a UK and US tour.  That effort would end up costing him over 30,000 pounds due to lack of audience support.

Thus ended 1974, a bizarre and emotional year for Townshend.  The motion picture Tommy dominated most of the year, and 1974 was not a good year at all for the band in the sense that they became somewhat estranged from each other.  Lambert and Stamp were gone, and I personally believe that the departure of them, Lambert in particular, was one of the sources of Townshend’s depression.  As much as a nadir that 1974 was, 1975 would prove to be a zenith.  We shall have more on that next time.

That will do it for tonight.  I hope that you enjoyed the research and the songs, most of which are found in the links above to Odds and Sods except for the ones by Moon.  I look forward to your comments and additions.

Warmest regards,

Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith

Crossposted at

The Stars Hollow Gazette,

Daily Kos, and



  1. a bad year?

    Warmest regards,


  2. I very much appreciate it.

    Warmest regards,


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