The Who, For Serious Fans Only

When biographies just aren't enough

Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, Keith Moon, Pete Townshend, The Who
Chris Walter/WireImage
Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, Keith Moon, and Pete Townshend of The Who.
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The Who Concert File, which attempts to describe every Who concert from 1962 (when the band was known as the Detours) through early '97, is a fascinating, often fawning and sometimes frustrating project. Authors Joe McMichael and "Irish" Jack Lyons (one of the inspirations for the Jimmy character in Quadrophenia) are longtime fans who recount with unwavering enthusiasm performances both historic (Monterey, Woodstock, Isle of Wight) and infamous (the night the backing tapes failed on the '73 Quadrophenia tour). Yet the most notorious night of Who music ever – the tragic 1979 Cincinnati concert – warrants only two paragraphs.

The Who's Best: Five Great Books About the Who

Townshend's Horse's Neck is a slim collection of the songwriter's prose and verse, written during one of his most volatile periods, between 1979 and 1984, as he worked through the demise of the Who, the aftermath of Keith Moon's death, and the ravages of alcoholism, depression and a faltering marriage. No wonder Townshend is moved to write, "Nothing else in nature behaves so consistently and rigidly as a human being in pursuit of hell."

Chris Charlesworth's The Complete Guide to the Music of the Who is a pocket-size take on each Who album, with anecdotes about every track and the occasional mild critical zinger ("'Who Are You' is unquestionably the last great Who song the group recorded").

Classic Rock Albums: The Who – Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy, by John Perry, describes the making of each track on the singles compilation and reprints Townshend's cheeky "review," originally published in 1971 in Rolling Stone.

This story is from the September 14th, 2000 issue of Rolling Stone.

From The Archives Issue 849: September 14, 2000