The Marquee Club - A tribute site dedicated to the history of the legendary Marquee club at London's 90 Wardour street.

The Who - Biography

the Who

Gigs at the Marquee club: 29
Period of performances: 1964-1968
Line-up members at the Marquee club:
Roger Daltrey (vocals), Pete Townshend (guitar, vocals), John Entwistle (bass), Keith Moon (drums).

The Who was originally formed as the Detours in late 1962 when guitarist Roger Daltrey joined bassist John Entwistle and guitarist Pete Townshend, who used to play in a Dixieland band as teenagers, plus drummer Doug Sandom and vocalist Colin Dawson. After Dawson's departure Roger Daltrey took charge of the vocal parts. During the early 60's the Detours were one of the first bands of the Britishrhythm & blues scene. In 1964 the band changed it's name to the Who, by suggestion of Pete Townshend's school friend Richard Barnes, after finding out another band using the same name.

On April 1964 Doug Sandom was invited to leave the band to be replaced by Keith Moon, who did an audition with the band and got the job after smashing Doug Sandom's foot pedal. In May 1964 the Who started working under the management of Pete Meaden, who was one of the most influential figures of the British mod scene.

Meaden decided to renamed the band to the High Numbers and also wrote the single "I'm the Face" which was a commercial failure but turned the band into a mod cult band. At this stage the band started a new management with Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, changing it's name back to the Who. Lambert and Stamp were a definitive influence in the band's career and later started writing songs for them.

On the rainy and dark evening of November the 24th 1964 the Who performed their first gig at the Marquee club for an audience no bigger than 40 people, which actually was the start of a Thursday residency that lasted for seven weeks. The show was published by the new band's managers who printed special black and white posters of the Who and concession cards under the tag line of "Maximum R&B". However in a few weeks the Who broke the attendance records which remained during all of their appearances at the Marquee.

The Who Maximum R&B poster

The Who Maximum R&B poster

During the early days of the band the Who became one of the most popular bands of the London scene for their legendary smashing gear shows, which started after Pete Townshend hit the ceiling of the Railway Tavern in Harrow and Wealdstone with his guitar in September 1964, cracking the neck of the instrument. Townshend explains how everything happened: "I just started getting into feedback and expressed myself physically. And it just led to when, one day, I was banging my guitar around making noises and I banged it on this ceiling in this club and the neck broke off, because Rickenbackers are made out of cardboard. And everybody started to laugh and they went, ‘Hah, that’ll teach you to be flash.’ So I thought what I was going to do, and I had no other recourse but to make it look like I had meant to do it. So I smashed this guitar and jumped all over the bits and then picked up the 12-tring and carried on as though nothing had happened. And the next day the place was packed." (April 1980 Issue of Sound International) Keith moon told to Beat Instrumental magazine in 1968: "My most memorable moment at the Marquee was when Pete Townshend started smashing up his guitar. Really, you should have seen the audience. Mouths open, great rows of teeth showing. You could almost count the cavities. But when we started there, the audiences weren't very big. Word-of-mouth recommendations helped and we ended up breaking all previous records... unofficially as I've said". On the next performance Townshend repeated his new number and Keith Moon joined too by smashing his drum kit. It was during this period when Pete also developed his unique poses while playing guitar, inspired by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.The image of PeteTownshend jumping, spinning his right arm like windmills and then smashing his guitar became the Who's signature.

The Who

The Who at the Marquee, 1965

In 1965 the Who started a long term partnership with the producer Shel Talmy, famous for his works for the Kinks, who got a record contract for the band to Decca Records in the U.S. On the 6th August 1965 the band performed at the 5th National Jazz & Blues Festival, organized by the national Jazz Federation and the Marquee club, and they got in some trouble when they Roger Daltrey ran along the front stage kicking all of the lights in a row, causing the annoyance of the organizer's wife, Barbara Pendleton, who was sure to get the cost of the lamps deducted from the band's fee.

In December that year, the band released the hit and mod anthem "My Generation", which coincided with the end of the band's Thursday residency at the Marquee club. At this stage the band decided to fire Roger Daltrey for his violent attitude, but he was accepted back after Daltrey accepted to chill out. In 1965 the Who released their debut album "My Generation" which was followed by the break of the contract after a lack of support from Decca in the US they were resigned to Atlantic Records in the U.S. and Reaction in the U.K. A year later the Who released their second album "A Quick One", which featured the mini-opera written by Pete Townshend "A Quick One While He's Away".

John Entwistle smashing his guitar at the 6th National Jazz & Blues Festival, 1966

Pete Townshend smashing his guitar at the National Jazz & Blues Festival, 1966

The album was followed by the first visit of the band to the U.S., being one of the first British pop acts to tour the "new world". Keith Moon said about their American experience: "America is fine. It's like the Marquee club, only ten million times larger". That same year they also performed on the 30th of July at the 6th National Jazz & Blues Festival in Windsor and Roger Daltrey didn't break any lights. In 1967 they performed at the Monterey Pop Festival in California and toured as the supporting act of the Herman's Hermits. It was during this period when Keith Moon started building a reputation for vandalizing hotels after his after-show Birthday party at a Holiday Inn in Flint when he broke out a tooth when he slipped in his birthday cake while running from the police.

Melody Maker ad

In December 1967, the band released "The Who Sell Out", a concept album that imitated a broadcast from the pirate Radio London. During this period Pete Townshend decided to quit drugs and became a disciple of the Indian mystic Meher Baba. He also built up his own studio, which was located at the top floor of 87 Wardour Street, just a few numbers from the Marquee club. Here is where Townshend would write the basis for the next work of the band, the legendary conceptual double album "Tommy". On April the 23rd of 1968, the Who returned to the Marquee and in the summer the next year the band break internationally after their performance at the Woodstock Music Festival. On the 17th of December of 1968, being already one of the most popular bands of the international rock scene, the Who played their last gig at the Marquee club. At this stage the band was one of the most powerful and innovative bands of all times which pioneered experimentation with feedbacks and were one of the first bands to use the double bass drum.

The success of "Tommy" was followed by the production of the musical film, directed by Ken Russell featuring the Who, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Tina Turner and Elton John. "Tommy" was also opened as a Broadway musical on April 1993. Roger Daltrey performed the starring roll and the soundtrack on another Russell's musical production in 1975, based on the life of the Hungarian composer Frank Liszt, featuring Ringo Starr and Rick Wakeman. During the same period the Who recorded several albums more oriented to the experimentation, including the masterpiece album "Who's Next" (1971).

In 1973 the Who released "Quadrophenia", which was inspired in the personal history of the old friend, fan and supporter of the band Irish Jack. The album became an all time classic despite of technical problems that surrounded it's production, since it was mixed for the new four-channel quadraphonic system and mixed down to stereo with an inadequate technology. This period coincided with Keith Moon's personal problems after his wife left him shortly before the "Quadrophenia" tour, taking their daughter with her. Moon found a refugee in drugs and alcohol and finally passed out in the middle of the show at the San Francisco show that opened the U.S. tour, being replaced by a drummer in the audience. A few months later Pete Townshend had a nervous breakdown and got into a heavy drinking period. All these facts were noticeable after the release of the album "The Who By Numbers" (1975). To add more trouble in 1976 Pete Townshend found out that he was going to be deaf if he didn't stop touring. This coincided with the break between the band and the managers Lambert and Stamp by early 1977 after Roger Daltrey's accusations of stealing part of the band's profits. In 1978 the band released "Who Are You" and participated in the production of the film about the band "The Kids Are Alright". Sadly, on September 7th, Keith Moon died of an accidental overdose of pills that the doctor he had prescribed for the control his alcoholism leaving a big question mark upon the future of the band, the same as would happen a year later with the death of the drummer of Led Zeppelin, John Bonham.

In January 1979 Keith Moon was replaced by Kenney Jones, ex-drummer of the Small Faces and keyboardist John "Rabbit' Bundrick, was added to the lineup. Tragedy returned to the life of the band when, in December 1979, eleven fans were crashed to death in the rush for seats at a concert in Cincinnati. In 1980 Pete Townshend went through a hard period that moved him from his drinking habit to the use of cocaine and eventually heroin. Roger Daltrey offered to stop touring to save Pete's life after an overdose of heroin at London's Club For Heroes. After this incident Townshend moved to California to clean up. After his return the Who released in 1982 the album "It's Hard" which was followed by The Who's Farewell Tour and Townshend announced the end of the Who at a press conference December 16th, 1983.

The Who made a return appearance on July 13th 1985 at the charity concert Live Aid. In February 1988 they reunited again to receive the BPI Life Achievement Award and played a short set after the ceremony at London's Royal Albert Hall. They also performed for the 25th Anniversary of the band featuring members of Deep End and a special night was celebrated in Los Angeles featuring Phil Collins, Elton John and Billy Idol. In 1994 a Roger Daltrey's 50th birthday concert was held at the Carnegie Hall featuring John Entwistle and Pete Townshend. Daltrey and Entwistle also toured the U.S. performing material from the Who, including Townshend 's brother Simon on guitar and Ringo Starr's son Zac Starkey on drums. In April 1996 the band performed "Quadrophenia" at a benefit concert at Hyde Park, which was followed by a USA tour billed with the individual names of the band.

Roger Daltrey began a solo career in 1973 with the album "Daltrey" and built his own studio. His solo discography includes the albums followed by "Ride A Rock Horse" (1975), "One of the Boys" (1977), "Parting Should Be Painless" (1984), "Under a Raining Moon" (1985) and "Can't Wait to See the Movie" (1987). After the definitive split of the Who he followed in with his acting work for films and television. In 1992 he worked with the Irish folk band in The Chieftains in the Grammy awarded album "An Irish Evening: Live at the Grand Opera House".

Pete Townshend started a solo career in 1980 with the album "Empty Glass", followed by "All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes" (1982), "Pete's Listening Time" (1982), "Scoop" (1983), "White City" (1985), Pete Townshend (1986), "Another Scoop" (1987), "The Iron Man" (1989), "An Eye For An I" (1989) and "Lifehouse Elements" (2000). After the split of the Who Pete Townshend got a job at the publishing house Faber & Faber and concentrated in campaigns against heroin use and wrote the book of short stories "Horses' Neck".

In 1971 John Entwistle started a solo career with the album "Smash Your Head Against The Wall". Through the early 1970's he released two solo albums characterized by his personal and dark sense of humor: "Whistle Rymes" (1972) and "Rigor Mortis Sets In" (1973). Entwistle, nicknamed The Ox, is considered as one of the top five rock bass players ever known due to his revolutionary technique in the use of an overhand fretting and the pick. John Entwistle died of an apparent heart attack on June 27, 2002 in a hotel room in Las Vegas, the day before the Who were about to start a new U.S. Tour.

starMore info on Pete Townshend
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The Who gigs at the Marquee Club


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