Thursday, May 12, 2011

Review: 'The Who By Numbers: The Story of The Who Through Their Music'

So much has been written about The Who that I’m skeptical whenever another book is published on the band. Who could possibly have anything new to say about the guys? Steve Grantley and Alan G. Parker actually don’t have much new to say themselves in The Who By Numbers: The Story of The Who Through Their Music, particularly in light of John Atkins’s similar track-by-track review, The Who on the Record, published two years ago. Yet, Grantley and Parker accomplish something Atkins did not by performing a heroic level of research. Atkins’s assessments of The Who’s numerous albums, singles, and outtakes are the backbone of The Who on the Record. Grantley and Parker offer their own opinions about all of this great music, too, but they regularly step aside to allow Pete, Roger, John, and Keith to interject with their opinions and insight. This books’ bibliography is staggering, and most of the quotes the writers pulled from their multitudinous sources are totally new to me. Entwistle provides revelations about the composition of “I Can’t Explain” and the drumming on “I’m Free”. Pete explains the unique way Jimi Hendrix inspired him to write “Tattoo”.

Grantley and Parker’s personal opinions about The Who’s music aren’t without merit: they articulate some of the issues with Endless Wire very well, even if they're too hard on the record overall. Yet, they provide a lopsided portrait of The Who by not delving deeply into the music until after the band's ‘60s golden era. Those looking forward to detailed explorations of My Generation, A Quick One, and Sell Out will be disappointed by the writers’ cursory treatment of these classics. They also fail to mention a lot of the B-sides that didn’t make the running orders of the ‘90s reissues, such as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, “Dogs Part II”, “When I Was a Boy”, and “Here for More”. I still recommend The Who by Numbers to any serious fan who hasn’t read absolutely everything available about The Who, because Grantley and Parker do such an ace job of cherry picking enlightening tidbits from everything they’ve read. And they’ve read a lot.

Get The Who By Numbers: The Story of The Who Through Their Music at Amazon.com here.
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