The Who Sell Out (1967)
produced by Kit Lambert
written (mostly) and composed (mostly) by Pete Townshend with John Entwistle
sung by Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, and John Entwistle
guitar performed by Pete Townshend
bass guitar performed by John Entwistle
drum kit performed by Keith Moon
The Who Sell Out ranks up there alongside psychedelic pop classics like Revolver and Pet Sounds. It may not be quite as awesome as those albums, top to bottom, but it’s a rather cohesive and well-written effort. Unlike most of the other great psych-pop classics, The Who Sell Out is not stuffed with accordions, bass harmonicas, and orchestrations. Except for a few keyboard lines or a backwards horn loop here and there, it’s pretty much just good, old-fashioned guitar, bass and drums. I suppose this indicates that psychedelia is more of a recording style and attitude than a strictly overblown raaaaiiinnnnbow of sounds.
If my referring to this album as psychedelia offends, especially if you generally associate The Who with mod R&B or classic rock anthems, this album is the exception. On this collection the group sings about goofy things like cities in the sky, young boys getting tattoos, young ladies with shaky hands, and commercial products. Yes, commercial as in advertisements. See, that’s the theme of the album, get it? After every song or two a silly, sometimes clever, ad is played, just as you might hear while listening to the radio. Much, much funnier are the occasions when a fully realized song degenerates into an advertisement by its conclusion, as in the case of “Odorono”.
“Armenia City in the Sky” and “I Can See For Miles” stand somewhat apart as the big, noisy anthems standing as pillars at the beginning and middle of the album while “Rael” – one of those psychedelic-era ambitious-for-the-sake-of-being-ambitious numbers – holds up the end. In the case of the much-expanded, remastered 1995 re-release, the fun has only started, offering up another 11 tracks from the same recording period, complete with more commercial interludes. These tracks are generally of the same quality as those from the album proper and do not feel tacked on. Rather, the extended program feels quite natural, with more of the same quiky, catchy pop tunes and a driving rendition of “Hall of the Mountain King/Peer Gynt Suite”.
Like many of the great pop rock albums from this era, there is no dominant lead singer, as the band splits these duties up fairly evenly. Thank Satan for that – who wants to listen to Roger Daltrey for an entire album? Just look at the little shit on the cover image. God, what a cunt.
I wish The Who had continued in the direction found on The Who Sell Out. However, poor sales drove the group in the concept-album, teen anthem direction for which they became quite famous. And then Pete Townshend looked at child porn and played at the Super Bowl. Amen.