Exploring The Who: 18 Intriguing Facts About This Iconic Rock Band

Facts About The Who

For over 50 years, The Who has been one of the most influential rock bands of all time. Known for their dynamic live performances, rebellious attitude, and loud, aggressive sound, The Who pioneered the rock opera format and heavily impacted the punk rock genre.

While their milestones and accolades speak for themselves, there are many fascinating facts about The Who that even hardcore fans may not know.

Here are 18 interesting facts about one of rock’s greatest bands:

  • The Who pioneered hard rock, power pop, and rock opera, and heavily influenced punk rock with their loud, aggressive sound and attitude.
  • Legendary original members included Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Keith Moon, and John Entwistle.
  • They are considered one of the greatest rock bands of all time with over 100 million records sold.
  • The Who persevered through challenges and personal tragedies during their illustrious career.
  • Their iconic target logo and anthems like “Baba O’Riley” are instantly recognizable.
  • Both their music and memorabilia continue to excite fans and collectors around the world.

1. Multiple Name Changes Preceded The Who

1200px The Who Hamburg 1972
The Who, Ernst-Merck-Halle Hamburg, August 1972: Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Keith Moon (Source)

Before settling on the name The Who in 1964, the band performed under two earlier names. They originally formed as a rock band called The Detours in 1962 with Roger Daltrey on lead guitar, Pete Townshend on rhythm guitar, John Entwistle on bass, Doug Sandom on drums, and Colin Dawson on lead vocals. After Dawson left the group in early 1963, Daltrey transitioned into the role of lead vocalist.

Later that year, the band rechristened themselves as The High Numbers at the recommendation of their manager to sound more mod. Under this name, the band released their first single “I’m The Face / Zoot Suit.” However, the single was not successful, and the band changed its name back to The Who by 1964.

2. Pete Townshend Coined the Term “Power Pop”

Pete Townshend first coined the term “power pop” in 1967 to describe The Who’s melodic, punchy guitar-driven singles like “I Can’t Explain” and “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere.” This style of music directly influenced later power pop acts like Cheap Trick, The Knack, and Badfinger.

3. The Who Inspired Punk Rock

With their loud distorted guitars, aggressive musicianship, and rebellious attitude, The Who heavily influenced early punk rock. They directly inspired bands like The Clash, Ramones, and Sex Pistols. Pete Townshend in particular coined phrases like “power pop” and referred to the band’s sound as “auto-destructive.” This outsider attitude was a key influence on punk.

4. Keith Moon Was Known for His Chaotic Drumming Style

Keith Moon, the Who, drumming, Winterland, SF CA USA, 3/28/1976
Keith Moon, the Who, drumming, Winterland, SF CA USA, 3/28/1976 (Source Flickr.com, Bill Abbott)

The Who’s drummer Keith Moon was known for his chaotic, hyperactive drumming style and manic behavior. He often kicked over his drums mid-performance and sometimes explosives in them for effect. Moon’s drum teacher from an early age remarked that he had “great ability, but must guard against a tendency to show off.”

5. Over 100 Million Records Sold Worldwide

As one of the most popular and recognizable rock bands of the 1960s and 70s, The Who has sold over 100 million records worldwide. Among English rock groups, they rank 3rd in total record sales behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

6. The Who Have the Guinness World Record for Loudest Concert

On May 31, 1976, The Who played at The Valley in London where the concert registered a record 120 dB, earning them a Guinness World Record for the Loudest Concert. They broke The Rolling Stones’ previous record of 117 dB. The band’s penchant for playing very loudly eventually caused permanent hearing damage for Townshend and Daltrey.

7. The Who Performed at Woodstock

In August 1969, The Who performed at the legendary Woodstock Music & Art Festival along with iconic acts like Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, and Janis Joplin. Their performance was a breakthrough moment that cemented their status at the time as one of the biggest rock bands in the world.

8. Won Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

In 2001, The Who was deservedly awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for their massive contributions to music over the decades. Other recipients of this elite award include legends like The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, and B.B. King.

9. Carried on Performing Despite Tragedies

The Who persevered through many personal tragedies during their career including the 1978 death of Keith Moon and the on-stage death of 11 fans at a 1979 concert in Cincinnati. Through these challenges and more, their passion for their music and performing never ceased.

10. Target Logo Represented Explosiveness

the who logo

The Who’s recognizable logo featuring a target design was created to represent the precocious energy and explosiveness of the band’s sound and persona. The use of targets in their imagery connected to their theme of rebellion against norms.

11. Signature Song “Baba O’Riley”

While The Who has many hits, their signature anthem recognized by classic rock fans worldwide is “Baba O’Riley” off the 1971 album Who’s Next. The quirky synthesizer line at the start is one of rock’s most iconic intros.

12. Influenced By Jazz and R&B

While The Who pioneered hard rock, they took major influence from American jazz and R&B artists that Pete Townshend appreciated like Booker T and the MGs, James Brown, and John Lee Hooker. These influences rubbed off in The Who’s rhythmic, groove-oriented approach.

13. Used Feedback and Distortion Heavily

Pete Townshend embraced feedback and distortion from his guitars and amps as essential parts of The Who’s raw, aggressive sound. Their early use of feedback preceded mainstream rock acts like Jimi Hendrix.

14. Pioneered the Rock Opera Format

With albums like Tommy and Quadrophenia, The Who pioneered the rock opera format where songs connect together to tell an overarching story. This approach to albums paved the way for future progressive rock concept albums.

15. Keith Moon Was Notoriously Wild

As The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon developed a reputation for outlandish antics like kicking over his drum set, dumping buckets of water on concert goers, and driving cars into swimming pools. His rambunctious partying was legendary but likely contributed to his untimely death at 32.

16. Conceived The First Concept Album

The Who’s 1966 album A Quick One was one of the first albums in rock to connect multiple songs together by a common theme, making it one of the earliest concept albums. The linked songs told a story across the album.

17. Performed Under Other Band Names

Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend actually began performing together in 1961 as members of a schoolboy band called The Aristocrats. Later, Townshend joined Daltrey’s band called The Detours before forming The Who.

18. Featured in TV and Films

Given their success and recognition, The Who’s songs have been featured extensively in movies, shows, and commercials. Notable examples include “Who Are You” in CSI, “Eminence Front” in GTA V, and “I Can See For Miles” in The Americans.

The Who’s legacy and influence is undeniable, and their enduring catalog of songs will impact music lovers for generations to come. Even 50 years later, The Who remains a monumental force in rock history.

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