The Who to Rake in Millions on Tour

Even before they'd played a single show, their farewell tour looked to be colossal financial success

Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who. Credit: George Rose/Getty Images


efore the Who had played even a single show, their 1982 U.S. tour was looking like a major financial success, perhaps on the same scale as the Rolling Stones' 1981 U.S. trek.

In fact, for the first leg of the tour (twenty shows in sixteen cities), it was expected that the band would play in front of nearly 1 million people and gross as much as $15 million from ticket sales alone. Two weeks prior to the start of the tour on September 22nd, in Largo, Maryland, the Who had already sold about 550,000 tickets to fourteen shows, and with ticket prices ranging from fifteen to seventeen dollars, the band had grossed more than $8.5 million.

In almost every city, tickets sold out within a matter of days; in some cities, in a matter of hours. In Largo, for example, all 18,672 tickets to the Capital Centre show went in ninety minutes. In Pittsburgh, several people were arrested after fans rushed the Civic Arena ticket window for the band's September 28th concert, and the 17,500 tickets were gone within four hours.

But perhaps the biggest success of the first leg of the tour (at press time, the band had not yet announced the second leg) was in New York City, where the Who are scheduled to be the first rock band to play at Shea Stadium since Jethro Tull played there in 1976. All 140,000 reserved-seat tickets for the two shows (October 12th and 13th) sold out in two days; promoter Ron Delsener later put an additional 24,000 general-admission tickets on sale.

"My staff and I took those tickets to four locations around the area, called WAPP [a local FM station] and announced they were on sale," Delsener said. "Rather than a buildup of people breaking down doors and sleeping overnight, people trickled in. Guys told me they stopped their cars on the highway and turned around." The tickets sold out in four days.

The Who shows will mark the first time fans – those with the general-admission tickets – will be able to sit on the field at the city-owned Shea. Delsener said he got permission to allow people on to the field after agreeing to spend $16,000 on four tarpaulins to protect the turf. But that isn't the only problem confronting Delsener.

"The Jets play football there the Sunday before the shows and the Sunday after," he said. "From the time they finish their game on the 10th, we'll have forty-eight hours to get the stage set up and the place together." To do that, Delsener said he will employ three fifty-man crews to work around the clock.

Though the Who's stage show is massive, it is not as extravagant as the Rolling Stones'. "The Who are at the totally opposite end of the pole from the Stones," said Ian Knight, who designed the band's stage with Larry Hitchcock. "The charm of the Who is that they are pretty straightforward, while the Stones have always been excessive. I just tried to put something together that would satisfy their needs."

For the outdoor shows on the tour, the band's stage set spells out the name WHO in forty-foot-high letters, with the bar of the H as the roof of the stage and the W and O covering the scaffolding on the left and right sides. Indoors, according to Knight, "they have a good lighting rig, and that's it."

The Who's sound system is similar to the one the Stones used last year. Both were put together by Showco, a Dallas-based firm that specializes in tour sound setups. Outdoors, the Who use a 110,000-watt main PA system and a 15,000-watt monitor system; indoors, they employ a 41,000-watt "flying" system that hangs over the sides of the stage, and they use the same 15,000-watt monitors.

According to Showco's Robin Magruder, eleven semi trucks are required to transport the Who's sound and light systems and staging from gig to gig. The touring crew is made up of about thirty production people, plus fifteen additional people who handle the staging.

The Who's total tour entourage consists of about a hundred people – not including opening acts. At press time, the Clash, Santana, John Cougar, Eddie Money, Jethro Tull and Loverboy were scheduled to open various shows.

The band is also making plans for at least three video projects – one for home video (cassettes and discs), one cable-TV concert special and one sixty- or ninety-minute concert videotaped specially for commercial TV (which would be released after the cable concert). The programs will be distributed by Twentieth Century-Fox Telecommunications, which purchased the video rights to the tour for an undisclosed sum.

The entire tour is being underwritten by Schlitz beer. The deal—which includes Schlitz ads at concert sites – is reportedly the largest ever between a rock band and a major corporation. No one would comment on a dollar figure, but a comparable deal last year between the Rolling Stones and Jovan is said to have been worth several million dollars.

The Schlitz package was put together by Contemporary Marketing Inc, a St. Louis-based outfit that went so far as to place an ad in an issue of the trade periodical Advertising Age, stating that "sponsorship of the 1982 Who Tour of America will generate positive brand image and product loyalty which means high volume and high profits. . . ."

This story is from the October 14th, 1982 issue of Rolling Stone All Access.