Last Friday saw the release of a major compilation from the Who entitled Maximum As & Bs, featuring nearly all their singles from their first release as the High Numbers to their most recent.
I’ve been a somewhat passive Who fan in the past, knowing most of their more famous songs from listening to classic rock radio as a youth, but I never really followed them too closely until years later. I found them very similar to the Kinks; they were an acquired taste and you kind of had to understand their very British influences in order to really appreciate them.
So of course during the course of Friday afternoon I streamed the collection from Amazon, and found it quite fascinating. Like most bands from the 60s (yes, even the Beatles), the band flailed around for a few years trying to find their footing. There’s a lot of mod posturing and moon-June lyricism going on in the early tracks. They managed to get past this most of the time, thanks to Pete Townshend’s wit and amazing riffs, John Entwistle’s thundering bass lines, and of course Keith Moon’s manic drumming. Roger Daltrey’s of course a great singer, but those first couple of years are a bit shaky for him; it felt like he was trying too hard to fit his powerful voice into quiet songs. By the time they came to Tommy, though, they were a powerhouse and a rock radio staple.
[Granted, their concept album era of Tommy and Quadrophenia isn’t for everyone. I myself find both projects a little too ridiculous, but they both contain some stellar songs that stand on their own amazingly well.]
This compilation is quite long, covering multiple decades (and is essentially a cd/digital repackaging of the singles box sets they released recently), so you may want to take it in a cd at a time, but it’s definitely worth checking out.