Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Who Super Bowl weekend (part 2)

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a TV airing of “Amazing Journey: The Story Of The Who” – billed as the definitive documentary on the band. It certainly is a thorough piece of work. Nominated for a 2009 Grammy Award, the movie received its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2007, and is available on DVD.

The doc offers insight into the makeup of one of rock’s most volatile bands, whose origins developed from a traditional jazz band known as The Confederates, with Pete Townshend on banjo and John Entwistle on French horn. In 1961, as lead guitarist in his band The Detours, Roger Daltrey spotted Entwistle walking down the street one day with a bass slung over his shoulder and asked him to join the band; John accepted, and a few weeks later suggested they bring in Pete as a second guitarist.

The Detours played shows, their drummer quit, they fired the singer - Roger took over - and then fate stepped in one more time: as Roger tells it in the film, Keith Moon walked up to him at a gig and, just as the band wrapped up a set and was about to take a break, flat out told him to his face that he’s a better drummer than the one they have (a rent-a-drummer, as they were between members). Daltrey accepted the challenge, Moon jumped behind the kit and the band took off like a 747. The impromptu Keith Moon “audition” consisted of one song: “Road Runner,” and legend has it he broke the bass pedal and two drum skins.

You couldn’t plan to form a band this way and have it work out as well as it did. Crazy stuff.

In February 1964, one of Pete’s art-school pals suggested they change their name to The Who, so they did; then, a few weeks later, a new publicist walked in and, in an effort to appeal to fans known as The Mods, changed their name to The High Numbers. They released a single - “Zoot Suit” - which failed to chart and, after a management change, they became The Who again in November of the same year (wow, did Spinal Tap ever nail this: The Originals –> The New Originals –> The Thamesmen, etc.).

The doc includes some pretty cool footage of The High Numbers playing The Railway Hotel in London in 1964 - it was at this club that Pete accidentally smashed his first guitar in the fall of that year; a week later, Keith Moon trashed his drum kit in a show of band solidarity…and the rest is history.

Check out this vintage footage from The Railway Hotel; the guys were all roughly about 20 at the time this was shot.

The High Numbers - Ooh Poo Pah Doo / Gotta Dance To Keep From Crying

The High Numbers – Zoot Suit
Released July 3, 1964
(still image accompanies audio of single)

The High Numbers – I’m The Face (b-side of Zoot Suit)
(slide show accompanies audio)