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Doubt, denial, punch-ups and peace of sorts,
This review is from: The Who By Numbers (Audio CD)
In August 1975 it had been two years since Quadrophenia, which itself had been two years after "Who's Next", so these were lean times for Who fans. It would be three years the next one. "The Who By Numbers" is a remarkable album, recorded in discord, punch-ups and hospitalisation for Townshend after a Daltrey special to the jaw. May and then August had seen two very honest and confrontational interviews in NME first from Townshend being highly critical of himself and especially Daltrey, (leading to the Big Fight)and then Roger Daltrey laying it on the line about Pete's problems, all caused by Pete himself. Here was the atmosphere for the recording!
Sessions had to be suspended as Townshend, Moon and Entwistle took time out to get their feel again as a working unit. On return the band knuckled (literally) down to produce a work of an extremely rare type for the times, the confessional, almost self-deprecating honesty of a band and specifically a song-writer who had to question whether their time had come and gone, were they still relevant to their ideals, and more importantly in their opinions, were their audience still receptive to The Who?
The answer is a resounding yes, still relevant, still receptive. On release there was much criticism in the letters pages of NME and Melody Maker over the lyrics of "They're All In Love" (Goodbye all you Punks...)while the confessional and self-analytical nature of other songs escaped many minds. Townshend didn't want to go down the same road as the majority of the Rock audience, the It's only Rock 'n Roll, it's entertainment with a few gestures (The Stones,Led Zep, Glam etc), so produced with Glyn Johns a re-statement for grown-ups, we're older but still here, here's my soul so take it or leave it. Funnily enough, it was "Squeezebox" which gave them a return to the Top ten singles charts, a laugh on record and off. The 1975 tours on the back of this showed, as NME journalist Charles Shaar-Murray said at the time "who the real Guv'nors were. Who's the Greatest Rock 'n roll band in the world? The Who, that's who". The audiences at the UK shows were mainly under 20's, so relevancy, not nostalgia, were assured. It's much the same today.
The re-issue/remaster comes with three live tracks from Swansea in June 1976, all excellent, especially Entwistle's bass fingering during "Dreamin' From The Waist". Sure, most Who fans would have preferred the live versions of rarieties performed on the '75 UK tour, but you can't have everything. 'Tho you can ask.