The Who wrapped up their “farewell tour” at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens on December 17th, 1982. They’d been touring at a grueling pace over the past three years and everyone was drained, particularly Pete Townshend. The guitarist had been ingesting insane amounts of booze, cocaine and even heroin. His bandmates began fearing for his life.
“I was the instigator,” Roger Daltrey told Rolling Stone in 1982. “I was responsible for getting him back on the road after 1978. And after three tours of America, he was a bloody junkie. I felt responsible for that. It was really hard to live with, and I just don’t want to think about it anymore. I mean, I think the world of that guy. I think enough of him to stop the Who.”
They weren’t going to stop one of the biggest bands of all time without a giant farewell tour, though, so in September of 1982 they launched a three-month world tour that hit stadiums all across America, often with the Clash on the bill. When the weather got cold, they moved into arenas before wrapping up in Toronto. The group was insistent that they’d continue to record.
Bassist John Entwistle was none too happy about the decision to stop touring. “I don’t intend to get off the road,” he told Rolling Stone. “There’s not much I can do about it except hope they change their minds. I’m not prepared to just carry on doing albums. If the touring isn’t there, then I’d rather get my own thing together, which involves touring as well.”
Entwistle’s threat to defect didn’t sit well with the others. “If John feels that he couldn’t even address himself to the prospect of doing recording, then of course we’ve got a problem,” Townshend said. “He’ll have to find about $1 million to give back to Warner Bros.” The guitarist wasn’t willing to contemplate carrying on without Entwistle. “It would be Daltrey and Townshend,” he said. “But, oh, it would not be the Who.”
The final show opened with “My Generation” and closed with “Twist and Shout.” Here’s a video of “Eminence Front” from that final gig.
The band have toured eight times since then. Five of those trips were after John Entwistle died. Their only new album was 2006’s Endless Wire.