When Baltimore Heard The Who

50 Years of Hooliganism on Tour

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Baltimore and Maryland in 1967 would not be recognizable today. The mayor of Baltimore was a Republican, Theodore McKeldin. The governor of Maryland was also Republican, Spiro Agnew. The Baltimore Orioles were the reigning 1966 Baseball World Series Champions. The Baltimore Colts celebrated their 15th season with 11 wins, 1 loss and 2 tie games. Jack Bowden began his news anchor career at WMAR. Radio host Tom Marr started working at the WFBR radio station.

After 50 years of touring the USA, The Who have only played Baltimore twice: August 11, 1967 at the Civic Center and once again on September 23, 2006 at Pimlico Race Course for the Virgin Festival. The Who had performed on a package tour in 1967 with Herman’s Hermits as the headliners and The Blues Magoos as the opening act.

Numbers of Detours

The Who did not participate in the initial wave of the 1964 British Invasion. The Who spectacularly appeared on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in September 1967. The quartet performed a bombastic version of “My Generation”, which included the demolition of Townshend’s guitar and Moon’s drumkit.

The Who toiled about London under two other names before they decided to un-name their fledgling mod band. The Detours nor The High Numbers did not perform as the heavy-handed rockers that The Who are today. Formed by Roger Daltrey in 1961, The Detours sang and played rhythm and blues covers. Daltrey had invited bassist John Entwistle to join his group. Entwistle in turn recommended Pete Townshend as guitarist as the two had been friends since 1959.

Management had changed the band’s name again to The High Numbers, which had recorded and released their only vinyl single in 1964 consisting of two cover songs. The Who were indeed struggling to establish an identity. With a hostile take-over in management, the new team encouraged Townshend to compose original material and rechristened the band as The Who and with the release of “I Can’t Explain” in January 1965. With this, The Who had their first commercial hit on the British charts.

And over here, the guy who plays the sloppy drums

Vocalist Roger Daltrey, bassist John Entwistle, and guitarist Pete Townshend were in dire need of a permanent drummer. In April 1964, the trio encountered Keith Moon resembling an animated gingerbread man dressed all in brown. Moon’s performance behind the skins impressed the lads and Moon the Loon was adopted as the group’s new drummer. The classic Who sound finally began to jell and the quartet were now generating attention.

The Who’s first official single was “I Can’t Explain”. It was their third single of 1965, “My Generation” written by Townshend that established the The Who as a creative force to be reckoned with among the British beat groups. On the strength of this single, The Who Sings My Generation as an album was released before the end of 1965. “I Can See For Miles” is the classic psychedelic Who single that was released on the heels of the spontaneous Summer of Love in 1967.

The Beatles influenced 1967 unlike any other social or cultural phenomena with the release of their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Summer of Love ushered in the psychedelic era. The Beatles single “All You Need Is Love” topped the charts around the globe in July 1967. The Rolling Stones released the controversial “We Love You” as a single in August 1967.

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As a determined sign of solidarity, The Who recorded two Jagger/Richard compositions “The Last Time” b/w “Under My Thumb” to protest the arrest of the Glimmer Twins by Scotland Yard induced by drug hysteria as promoted by the media in February 1967. Entwistle was away on his June honeymoon and his absent bass guitar is audibly evident on these two cover recordings by a trio of The Who.

Long Live Rock

Townshend was the principal composer for The Who, but Entwistle began to write more material for the band for both himself and Daltrey to sing as singles or album tracks. Tommy from 1969, Lifehouse rejected as an album follow-up became Who’s Next in 1971, and 1973’s Quadrophenia were all huge commercial successes for The Who.

The Who have managed to survive the deaths of two founding members: drummer Keith Moon in September 1978; and bassist John Entwistle in June 2002. The septuagenarian Brits have had a knack of transcending most of their peers from the classic rock era by continuing to perform at multiple iconic rock events during the course of their lengthy career. Thank goodness they did not retire in 1982!

The Who appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, the Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus in December 1968, Woodstock in August 1969, the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea in December 1979, Live Aid in London in July 1985, the Bridge School Benefit in October 1999, the Concert for New York City in October 2001, Super Bowl 44 on February 7, 2010, the Concert for Sandy Relief in December 2012, and Desert Trip in October 2016.

Timothy Tilghman
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