Two albums to listen to: The who’s who of The Who

Chris Duncan

  • Tommy 
  • The Who

After their first concept album, The Who Sell Out, The Who declared themselves a pop art group, living a consumerist lifestyle instead of the popular hippie culture. However, the band’s guitarist, Pete Townshend, quickly abandoned that idea once he met Meher Baba, an Indian spiritual master who inspired Townshend to compose his first rock opera.

Tommy tells the story of a deaf, dumb and blind boy and his struggles to communicate with the world. Written almost entirely by Townshend, the double LP is complex yet never loses sight of the pop melodies and lyrics that inspired The Who’s earlier work.

This record was quickly hailed as The Who’s mainstream breakthrough upon its release, with critics heaping praise upon the album’s conceptual narrative. Although its critical standing has diminished in the years after its release — thanks in part to the success of The Who’s second rock opera, Quadrophenia — Tommy still holds up as one of the most influential albums of its day.

Tracks to listen to:

  • “Christmas,” 
  • “Pinball Wizard,” 
  • “Go To The Mirror!”


Who’s Next

  • The Who

Live at Leeds, arguably the greatest live rock album of all time, followed Tommy; but The Who, and more specifically Pete Townshend, never stopped writing music. His sequel to Tommy, titled Lifehouse, was in the works for a year until Townshend suffered a nervous breakdown, resulting in the brand new effort of Who’s Next.

During the recording of this record, Townshend developed an infatuation with synthesizers, which can be found all over the album adding texture and force to every song. This is a loud and boisterous album, and it captures each member of The Who at their finest; drummer Keith Moon exercises no restraint, bassist John Entwistle plays infectious bass lines and Roger Daltrey never sang better in his life.

Combined, all of these outstanding efforts make Who’s Next stand out amongst a sea of tremendous rock operas and concept albums as the band’s best.

Tracks to listen to: 

  • “Baba O’Riley,” 
  • “Behind Blue Eyes,”
  • “Won’t Get Fooled Again”