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  • Writer's pictureJO'B

Beanz Meanz Modz - The Who Sell Out

Pete Townsend’s daughter was at the same university as me – I have a memory of imitating her father’s whirlwind guitar move in front of her early in our time at Exeter, but I genuinely don’t know if this is imagined or happened. It does sound like the sort of rubbish thing I would have done.

I do seem to recall having a drink with her towards the end of our studies, and managing not to mention her old fella once. Not just because that would have been embarrassing, but to be honest, I was never that bothered about The 'Hoo…I liked the singles, but not enough to go much further.

It’s only later in life I’ve gone back and can appreciate them beyond the hits. Their first album is a stormer, and Tommy is just superb. Loz took me to the Tommy musical in the mid-90s and it was wonderful.

Plus I went to see them in Hyde Park in 2015 and managed to carry eight pints of lager, precariously balancing four pints each in two box lids, one lid on top of the other. I wobbled through the crowd of middled aged men in Fred Perrys (I was already a bit pissed) and received three standing ovations for my beer-balancing prowess (though my own FP was covered in Carling Black Label by the time I got to my comrades). It’s the laddiest moment of a pretty resolutely unladdy life.

Beyond I Can See For Miles, I don’t know The Who Sell Out. It’s an impulse buy, so it’s first couple of spins are filled with curiosity. I love its concept – an album based on pirate radio (the fantasy Radio London), with unrelated songs interspersed with made up commercials for everything from deodorant to beans, plus public service announcements. This is Townsend in full pop-art mode.

Armenia City In The Sky is jubilant psychedelia, written by Speedy Keen from Thunderclap Newman. I Can’t Reach You is bright and catchy, showcasing Pete’s lovely faltering vocal, inspired by the perils of air travel. It also has fantastic wig-outs like Relax, with its swirling organ care of Al Kooper.

They’re necessary for the concept, but I do struggle with some of the longer jingles, especially Medac (aka Spotted Henry) – sorry John Enwistle…That said, I love Silas Stingy, one of his other contributions, which is suitably macabre and has a weird Xmas Carol feel to it.

Rael closes proceedings, an overblown (in a good way) dystopian story of population overspill – Peter Gabriel claims it has nothing to do with Rael, the lead character from Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, which is a shame as that would have been prog-tastic. I will keep listening, determined to find (invent?) a link…

Mrs JO’B was firmly unimpressed, so it’s up with the other concept albums (hello Marillion!), that will be played when she’s out. Overall, it’s ok, but I don’t love it. It’s of its time, it’s clever but I suspect a few tracks like Armenia City In The Sky, Relax and Rael will make it onto my The Who playlist, while the album may otherwise gather dust. The extra disc in full of curiosities for the fans, though it's great to hear the alternative version of Rael and their storming cover of Summertime Blues.

And whilst clearly, adverts have no impact on me, God I really fancy some beans….

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