Talk about the album “The Who Sell Out”
12th April, 2021, BBC Radio 2
Host: Steve Wright
Guests: Pete Townshend & Roger Daltrey (The Who)
"Steve Wright in the Afternoon" Start from: 1:35:01
[Song: 'My Generation']
[Song: 'I Can See for Miles']
Steve: Now, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, the singer and the lead guitarist of the iconic rock band, the Who. In their incredible six-decade-long career, they've recorded a string of rock anthems that have sold over one hundred million records worldwide and inspired a generation of future rock bands, including the Ramones, the Clash, Guns N' Roses, Oasis, to name just a few. I could go on and on. The Who are now about to release a super deluxe edition of one of their greatest albums, “The Who Sell Out.” The cover of that record featured a photo of Pete applying Odorono deodorant and another of Roger sitting in a bathtub overflowing with Heinz baked beans, from which he got pneumonia. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend! [hands clapping] The Who are with us! How are you?
Roger: Hey, Steve. How are you, mate?
Steve: Very good. How are you, Pete?
Pete: I'm good, thank you.
Steve: Now, listen. Let me ask you about this album. What kind of special stuff can we find in this particular album?
Pete: This one is probably the most fun of any that we’ve ever done. It's a fabulous package. I found it, for me, was a great read. I was listening to a bunch of Tchaikovsky symphonies the other day and one of the things that really made it worth doing for me was that there were some fantastic liner notes. I really missed that! You know that people love the story and of course Tchaikovsky was a rock star of his era and the stories about his symphony writing and his ballets of course. It makes great reading. And this collection, you know, anybody that's interested in the history of the Who will love it. I think it's the best box set package that we've ever done and it offers a real challenge for what we might do next with an album like "Who's Next," which could be really great as well. There are some great essays include stuff from little movies that I was working on and stuff. There are a bunch of my demos which sort of reflect to some extent the chaos that was behind the curation of the album at the time. But the main thing is the stories that relate to the way that the album came together, not just stories about the Who, but also stories about Chris Huston, who recorded us in New York and he messed up the tape. He actually reconstructed one of our songs by using a cassette that he made during the recording [laugh].
Steve: Haha. But I mean the thing is I mean you've been touring, obviously not touring at the moment. Have you rescheduled that tour, by the way, Roger?
Roger: We tried to reschedule it, but the whole business at the moment is completely backed up because of the long jam of artists trying to find venues. The queue is enormously long, so we are in the lap of the gods here. We're just waiting, and once we're given the green light to go ahead, we will do that tour.
Steve: Ok, let's go back to the album. Uh, it's “The Who Sell Out.” We're going play 'Heinz Baked Beans,' which is one of those jingles on the end and tell me a little bit, Roger, about this documentary thing that's on Classic Albums, isn't it? On Sky Arts that's the one where they undo the tracks and they say, “Look! This is Roger here and on his own and all that"?
Roger: Exactly. Yeah basically me in the studio playing some tracks and breaking them down, trying to remember when we recorded it, which is very difficult [laugh]. Just the stories about how I got the short straw of sitting in a bath and baked beans.
Steve: It's a good picture by the way, Roger. Did you have water in there as well or was it just the beans?
Roger: No, there were four enormous cans of baked beans. The one I'm holding. There were four of those put into this Victorian bathtub and they came straight out of the fridge so they were freezing cold. And photo sessions always go on far longer than you ever imagined and after about 30 minutes I started to shiver. I just couldn't control the shivering. I was absolutely frozen.
Steve: You got sick after that. Didn't you get pneumonia or something?
Roger: Well, some bright spark had the great idea of putting a three-bar electric fire around the back of it. So, of course the beans started to cook by rear end and the front end was freezing. So, anyway I got out of this and like two days later I came down with the worst [cold I've ever had]. I was so ill. We just came back from Hawaii, so I'd been used to these 85-degree temperatures.
Steve: And I guess the doctor would say, “Well, have you been doing anything unusual lately?” You couldn't really say,” Well, I've been sitting in a bath of beans really” [big laugh]. Um, we'll come back to talk more about the album in just a moment, and the Who generally with Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend.
[Song: 'Heinz Baked Beans']
[Song: 'Pictures of Lily']
Steve: Back here! Talking about the album “The Who Sell Out” With Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. Just to say, Roger is of course a patron of the Teenage Cancer Trust and they're said to bid special tins of the Who branded beans to raise money for it. 57 of the tins will be signed by Pete and Roger. Now this record will release next Friday. That's the 23rd of April, first released in 1967. “The Who Sell Out” was a concept album which featured new songs mixed with commercials and jingles that pay tribute to pirate radios while also parodying consumerism. The new super deluxe edition of “The Who Sell Out” is the ultimate box set for fans and it features 112 tracks across five CDs, 46 of which are previously unreleased, including 14 unheard Pete Townshend's demos as well as two vinyl singles. The box set also includes an 80-page hard-back book with new liner notes by Pete Townshend as well as posters and other rare memorabilia, including a gig poster from a show at the City Hall in Newcastle, a flyer for a show at Bath Pavilion, and the Who Fan Club newsletter! [Pete: Wow!] I know! That was the time, wasn't it, 1967, of the concept album. I read, actually, Pete, that you did the concept album because you felt you didn't have enough songs for a regular album. Was that true?
Pete: Yeah, that's correct. The idea had been floating all around the band at the time about maybe doing something with commercials. Cos we'd done a commercial for Coca-Cola. Diana Rose and Ray Charles had done one. So, it was in our mind and that's how the idea of the concept came together. You know, the big concepts, of course, in that year were “Pet Sounds,” and…
Steve: “Sgt. Pepper?”
Pete: Ah, yeah, I'm pretty sure we were after “Sgt. Pepper” cos I can remember listening to “Sgt. Pepper” tracks all the time on the tour which was with the lovely Herman's Hermits.
Steve: Is it fair to say that it was a departure for the band this type of album and were the band united in wanting to do this type of albums?
Pete: We were very much, in those days, guided by our managers. The politics of the band was kind of supervised by them. We had done a kind of a concept with the album before, which is called “A Quick One, While He's Away” because there was a mini opera on it. That was about as far down the road as we got with the idea of a concept. I was trying to write a proper opera. For me, it was the “Pet Sounds” album which is not the Beach Boys. It's not really a concept as such, but it was such a change of direction. Suddenly they brought out this incredibly beautiful album with 'God Only Knows' on it, which is sort of a masterpiece, and I think it shook everybody to the foundation, and I think it’s what produced the concept of “Sgt. Pepper.”
Steve: What is the secret? You know, if I play a song of yours, it sounds like…it could be a contemporary song. It could've been written last week. What kind of things is that?
Roger: It obviously comes from the genius of Pete's writing, and, of course, we had incredible chemistry. There was a telepathic thing going on within the band where we could follow each other on a pinhead, changing direction. We kind of instinctively knew where things needed to be. Often we didn't get it right, but um that's the secret. It was just an incredible chemistry.
Steve: But Pete, if you’re writing a song, you're not thinking “I really hope this song's going sound contemporary in 2021”?
Pete: I think it's because the Stones, and the Who, and of course the Beatles were so influential. You know, Oasis, Blur, Pulp, all of these bands from that last Brit pop era have gone on to influence a lot of bands that are around now like 1975 that are doing very well. You know, guitar-based bands that still put out records. It's a knock-on of influence from that group of early Brit pop we called it the British Invasion back then because we were all trying to get to America and be big there. But I think that that's what it's about.
Steve: Listen! The super deluxe box set of “The Who Sell Out” is available for pre-order right now and will be released on Friday April 23, which is also the day that the album will feature on Sky Arts Classic Albums documentary series at 9 pm. Fantastic to talk to you guys again. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. The Who! Everybody, the Who!
[Song: 'Who Are You']