September 19, 2020

’67 Melody Maker review of The Who Sell Out

A quick review of The Who Sell Out

The Who can always be relied upon to come up with great new ideas, and the totally new direction and humorous concept of their latest and best album, "The Who Sell Out," really is a sell-out. In fact, it’s almost, "The Who drop out of everything that is supposedly fashionable and therefore valid in 1967’s flowery year."

It’s an iron-backed album of strong and refreshing Pete Townshend compositions, run through by strange and eerily freaky old Radio London announcements and link-ups, and some beautiful hard-sell adverts on the tasty subjects of Heinz Baked Beans, Odorono and Charles Atlas, among others.

"It all started," said Pete this week, "with this number I had written called ‘Jaguar’. The number was a really powerful and loose thing like ‘The Ox’ from our first album, with Keith thrashing away like hell and us all pumping out ‘Jag-u-ar’ like the Batman theme tune.

"At this time we were working on new ideas for the album. As it stood I could see that we had an album of good songs, but there was nothing to differentiate it from our last LP, ‘A Quick One’. It needed something to make it stand out. We thought of using a powerful instrumental number that we made for Coca Cola, and then I linked it up with the number ‘Jaguar’. Then, of course, we thought, ‘Why not do a whole side of adverts?’ As things progressed, we realised that the whole album could be built around this aspect of commercial advertising.

"At the same time, Radio London and the pirates were being outlawed. You don’t realise how good something like the pirates are until they’ve gone – so to give the album that ethereal flavour of a pirate radio station, we incorporated some ‘groovy’ jingles, And so The Who sell out."

On the whole, this album easily surpasses anything The Who have done before. ‘Tattoo’, ‘Our Love Was’, ‘1 Can See For Miles’, ‘Relax’, ‘Sunrise’ and then finally The Who’s coup de grace, another shattering Townshend mini-opera called ‘Rael’.

It doesn’t matter if they are selling out. Selling out to what, anyway?