They’re not exactly The Who, but it’s semantics. The real Who included John Entwhistle and Keith Moon, each of whom are long deceased.
But The Who as they stand are originators Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey. And their self-titled album sold the most copies this past week, 90 thousand. It’s their first number 1 in over thirty years. The number two album, also without streaming figures, was the very hot, very now Camilla Cabello, whose “Romance” did about 45,000 CDs and downloads.
Of course when you add in streaming, The Who came in second to someone called Roddy Ricch. But Roddy’s sales are almost purely from streaming. His 100,000 total had just 3,000 paid downloads and CDs. No one wanted to own a copy of Roddy’s album. Everyone wanted The Who.
It’s kind of amazing. But well played. The real last Who album was in 1981, it was called “Face Dances” and had the real hit, “You Better You Bet.” There was one the following year called “It’s Hard.” The single was “Athena,” so maybe that counts. But the next one was the forgettable “Endless Wire” in 2006. And then nothing til now.
So it’s been 13 years since any Who album. According to Billboard, the real last number 1 was “Who’s Next” in 1971, which, of course, is their quintessential album with “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Baba O’Riley,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” and so on.
The Who have had many final tours over the last 40 years. Many of them spawned live recordings, although their most famous concert album, “Live at Leeds,” was recorded in 1970.
Interesting note: thought it may seem old to you, Pete’s and Roger’s age are on the younger edge of their generation. Pete is 74, Roger is 75. They’re younger than all the Beatles, Stones, etc. They’re also in good shape. Daltrey always boasted about taking care of himself. So they’re not wrapping it up any time soon, knock wood.
The new “Who” album has some great backing musicians with Ringo’s son Zak Starkey on drums, and famed producer Lenny Waronker’s son Joey also on drums. But most of it is made by Townshend and Daltrey singing, playing and writing 97% of it. How cool is that?
The album is distinctively robust. Many of the sounds are recycled little bits and pieces from classic Who. But a lot of it is fresh and contemporary, with more topical lyrics than usual. The first time I played it I had a funny feeling, like zombies had returned to lay down tracks. But that’s because we haven’t heard this sound with new material in at least 13 if not more years. The more I played it the more I liked it. And it will be fun to hear in concert.
So god bless The Who. As long as we’re all still here, let’s enjoy them!