Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who
Movie: ♦♦♦ 1/2
Pete Townshend is the composing brains and compulsively analytical mouth of the Who. Yet in this flawed but gripping history of one of rock’s most stubbornly enduring bands, singer Roger Daltrey emerges as its thoughtful heart, reflecting on lunacy and loss with the vivid, emotional force he brings to Townshend’s songs. At one point, Daltrey describes how he got so frustrated by his bandmates’ devouring of amphetamines that after one disastrous mid-Sixties gig he threw away their pills and was fired (briefly) for his trouble. The hurt in his voice, on his face, is still there.
Director Murray Lerner traces the Who’s arc of triumph, death and rebirth with his own relentless energy, lacing new interviews through a brisk parade of vintage stills (many of a young, shockingly haunted Townshend) and rare clips of the Who in action: at the Railway Hotel as the High Numbers in 1964; on French TV in 1966; in British DJ John Peel’s office, as Townshend explains the pirate-radio theme of The Who Sell Out. The sins and genius of the late Keith Moon and John Entwistle are treated at length. But Amazing Journey shortchanges the most amazing part of the tale: the music. Live songs are seen in teasing fragments, layered with voice-overs. (The Railway footage, lost for decades, thankfully appears in its surviving entirety on Six Quick Ones, a second disc of bio sketches and reminiscences.) You need the performance anthologies The Kids Are Alright and Thirty Years of Maximum R&B to truly see why this is a story worth telling. But Amazing Journey is still a wild ride, especially with Daltrey riding shotgun.
This story is from the November 1st, 2007 issue of Rolling Stone.