Review of The Greatest Hits & More Album by The Who

Some of those Contact readers born in the eighties and nineties will be unfamiliar with The Who, other than when their dad plays 'My Generation' in the mirror whilst furiously imitating Pete Townsend's air-guitar windmilling. And dinosaurs they may be, but they're also worthy of respect.

The Who The Greatest Hits & More Album

Let's not forget after all that the Sex Pistols debut set at an unsuspecting St. Martin's College contained various covers, including a version of 'Substitute'. And slightly more obvious kudos should be gained from the fact that without them there would simply have been no Quadrophenia, no Oasis and by extension no Britpop. Thus it could be argued that the London four piece were surrogates for two of the most influential British rock bands of the twentieth century, and all that grainy YouTube footage of them smashing up their instruments on stage can now be viewed in an appropriate context. Oh, and they've sold approximately ninety-nine and a half million more records than N-Dubz.

A thirty-five track, two disk edition, Greatest Hits & More tells a story of a group which took some time to find it's identity, as the sub-Kinksian 'I Can't Explain' and 'Pictures of Lily' demonstrate. Little more remains to be said about 'My Generation', but if anything it's 'Substitute' which makes for the band's most intriguing early contradiction, musically staid but lyrically reflecting chief songwriter Pete Townsend's emerging fondness for themes of dissolution and sexual jealousy. We then enter the era of their creative and commercial peak; the stadium rock before it existed of 'I Can See For Miles' here exceeded by the globe-conquering ubiquity of 'Pinball Wizard'. Their later commercial flurry is represented by more AOR sounding 'You Better You Bet' and 'Who Are You'.

Given that there have been umpteen similar Who compilations over the years I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised to find some previously undiscovered country amongst these well trodden chords in the darkly introspective 'Behind Blue Eyes'. And the metamorphosis of Daltrey's voice from its pop beginnings to its more familiar asphalt-melting growl is one gloriously completed on 'Won't Get Fooled Again', a song about the abuse of power whose opening verse remains depressingly timeless: 'We'll be fighting in the streets/with our children at our feet/and the morals that they worship will be gone/and the men who spurred us on/sit in judgement of all wrong/they decide and the shotgun sings the song'. None of their modern work has anywhere near this much gravity.

The second disk - the 'More' of the title that's presumably meant by Polydor to make fans feel slightly less like their pockets have been picked - consists of more than an hour of the band live in locations as exotic as San Francisco, Nassau and Swansea. It's also worth stating that, having released the most successful live album of all time (1970's Live At Leeds) it's hard to understand why it's completely ignored here. Of mild interest is a three song medley of Naked Eye, Let's See Action and My Generation culled from what was supposedly the loudest concert on record (At Charlton Athletics Valley) but with everything already much bootlegged, all the material here is for a subset of Who fans that regard diehards as amateurs acting on a whim.

It's in no doubt that The Who shaped the face of modern guitar music, but I can think of no reason why Greatest Hits & More has been released other than to squeeze a few more quid out of people like your dad. Roll on 2020 then, when The Libertines: The ultimate collection is released, and you can embarrass your own kids.

Andy Peterson


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