A new name is being hurled around in hip circles – The Who. They are four mods from Shepherds Bush, London. And their popularity is gathering strength in exactly the same way The Animals experienced two years ago.
Like The Animals and The Yardbirds, The Who are a product of the club scene. Today, with one hit gone and another on the way, they are reckoned by the ‘in-crowd’ to be on the crest of a success wave that could make them the new rave – on a nation-wide scale.
The Who are Roger Daltrey (aged 20, singer); Pete Townshend (aged 19, lead guitar); John Entwistle (aged 19, bass guitar) and drummer Keith Moon, who is 17.
Moon is the most popular with fans. They mob him. Already.
Their music is defiant, and so is their attitude. Their sound is vicious. This is no note-perfect ‘showbiz’ group.
The Who lay down a heavy beat, putting great emphasis on the on and off beats.
Moon thunders round the drums. Townshend swings full circles with his right arm. He bangs out Morse code by switching the guitar pick-ups on and off.
Notes bend and whine. Pete turns suddenly and rams the end of his guitar into the speaker. A chord shudders on the impact. The speaker rocks.
Townshend strikes again on the rebound. He rips the canvas covering, tears into the speaker cone, and the distorted solo splutters from a demolished speaker.
The crowds watch this violent display spellbound.
The Who started a year ago, changing their name from The High Numbers. They played regularly at the Goldhawk in Shepherds Bush, and graduated to the plusher Marquee in London’s West End.
They were billed in small print and played to audiences of 200 every Tuesday. But word spread. The name intrigued.
Tuesday audiences grew. They became favourites of the mods: “Have you heard The Who yet?”
That was the start.
Mods identified themselves with The Who because The Who identified themselves with them.
Pop music is often allied to social trends and fashions.
Pete Townshend wore a suede jacket, Roger Daltrey hipster trousers. They were mods playing mod music.
It’s an exhausting act to watch. But also highly original and full of tremendous pace.
What makes The Who click on stage?
Townshend: “There is no suppression within the group. You are what you are and nobody cares. We say what we want, when we want. If we don’t like something someone is doing, we say so.
“Our personalities clash, but we argue and get it all out of our system. There’s a lot of friction. Offstage we’re not particularly matey. But it doesn’t matter.
“If we were not like this it would destroy our performance. We play how we feel.”
The Who are linking their image with what they call Pop Art.
They describe their current chart success, ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’, as “the first Pop Art single,” and they have started designing their own Pop Art clothes.
“Pop Art is something society accepts, but we represent it to them in a different form. Like Union Jacks. They’re supposed to be flown. John wears one as a jacket.
“We think the mod thing is dying. We don’t plan to go down with it, which is why we’ve become individualists.”
Anti-Who people condemn their music as a messy noise. The Who like this; “Best publicity we could have.”
Their idea of a messy noise is the music of Freddie & The Dreamers, Val Doonican and Ronnie Hilton; “It’s just dozy.”
Cathy McGowan and Ready Steady Goes Live assistant editor Vicki Wickham are devout Who followers.
The Who are modern, short-haired rebels with a cause. There’s sadism in their characters and in their music. But at least what they’re doing is something NEW.