05 March 2008

Covering Covers # 1

In the song itself, Roger Daltrey growls "Who the fuck are YOU???" and he's definitely asking a direct question. That is not the case with title of the song and album, however.
There is no question mark. There are no questions. The band isn't posing there, behind their wall of amplifiers in a sea of cables, and wondering WHO WE (you and me) ARE?
No, they're saying WE (you and me) ARE THE WHO!
(The) Who Are You (period)
They're us! And we're them!
Waking up in Soho doorways, brokenhearted and drunk...Swaying about on mass transit and spitting epithets at all the strangers around you - "Who the fuck are you, you, you, yeah YOU!"
Who hasn't been there?
So there they are, The Who, posing amongst all their equipment like a gang of roadies, except Entwistle's the only one who really looks the part...
Townsend looks like he just got done with a shift as a croupier at a low-rent casino...
Moon's about to go fox hunting...
And Roger...
I'm not exactly sure what Daltrey's outfit is saying...Cuffed jeans, white sox, suspenders, striped shirt...Is he supposed to be gay? A sailor on shoreleave? Simple rebellious youth?
The point is, taken together, the four lads represent a decent cross-section of society.
They are us, and we are them, or at least one of them. For example, I'm John Entwistle, the blue-collared bassist from suburban Chiswick. You might be the weary croupier.
I've known a couple sailors in my day, though I've never gone fox hunting.
My point is, the point of this cover is - off the stage, behind the stage, anywhere but ON the stage, these four enormous rock'n'roll superstars are just like you and me, and isn't that just loverly?
Anyways, this whole communion between the band and its audience is reflected by the songs on the album itself. In 1978 Townsend was finally moving away from the complex rock opera lumpen (Tommy, Quadraphenia), and back to the kind of radio-friendly rock songs so beloved by the hoi polloi...The more casual kinda rock fan that is content with what radio delivers, and to this day, on the classic rock station in your city, at least one of the three hit songs from this album is played every day. Now that's populism!
Finally, I couldn't blather about the Who Are You album cover without mentioning Keith Moon and the chair he's sitting on in the photo.
NOT TO BE TAKEN AWAY, and of course two weeks after this album's release, Moon died of a drug overdose...
What's funny/ironic about all this is that the drug Moon overdosed on was Clomethiazole, taken to help wean him off alcohol, but the only reason the chair is backwards in the photo, exposing that fateful text, is to hide Moon's weight gain from his alcoholism and general high-classed gluttony.
Such seemingly random events conspired to turn a rather unremarkable album cover into one that is nothing less than legendary.
Hotcha! Hank

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The squirrel chasers loved the Who.
The Midnite showing of Quadrophenia at Northridge in the '80s

March 16, 2008 9:47 PM  
Blogger Hank Mohaski said...

Also, The Kids Are Alright at Northridge at midnite...

Yeah, us Grafton kids were alright...

Those squirrel chasers were alright...

They kept the grand tradition of streaking alive, if nothing else...

April 18, 2008 9:22 PM  

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