Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Book: The Who: 50 Years: The Official History Hardcover by Ben Marshall (Harper Design, 2015)

This coffee table book purports to be the official history of The Who, but the pictoral history would be more accurate as the book is stuffed with fantastic photos of the band, and the narrative is rather hit and miss. The book takes a roughly chronological account, beginning in the aftermath of the second world war and the early rock and roll of the 1950's like Bill Haley, Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard. The musicians are introduced as somewhat wayward youths who came together to form a band at the hight of the Mod cultural explosion on Britain in the Mid 1960's. There are some interesting asides explaining Mod since they were so associated with it and the idea would emerge again in the Quadrophenia album and film. Along with their managers Kit Lambert and Chris stamp, they began to rise through the music scene with a series of excellent singles and then exploded with the legendary rock opera Tommy. There is some fairly in depth exposition about the making of the album along with Pete Townshend's ill fated concept album followup Lifehouse which ironically was salvaged into their most critically regarded album, Who's Next. Constant touring made the band larger than life in the eyes of many rock music fans and led to great pressure for follow up albums like the extraordinary mod coming of age double album Quadrophenia. The book tries to make a connection between the mod revolt of the mid/late 1960's and the punk revolt of the mid/late 1970's. The link is a little tenuous, but there's no doubt that there was much influence on bands like The Jam and The Clash. The band and the narrative flounders a bit moving through the late 1970's, rocked by drummer Keith Moon's death and the band's fading to a halt in the early 1980's The remainder of the book covers the various reunion tours that have happened since then and the loss of bassist John Entwistle in the 1990's. The band soldiers on with only two members remaining and Townshend ominously closes his comments by saying that the last one alive will have the final word. Overall, this will be a book that fans of the band and classic rock will want to have, since the photographs of the band and the ephemera of their years together are fascinating. The "history" is somewhat whitewashed with Townshend and Roger Daltrey overseeing, so you might want to balance it with a more critical and objective account the bands history as well. The Who: 50 Years: The Official History - amazon.com

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