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Waxwings - The Who Sell Out

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 13 / 1 / 2002

Waxwings - The Who Sell Out
Label: Select Label
Format: N/A


Whenever I’m asked what my favourite album of all time is the following records always spring to mind: ‘Pet Sounds’ by The Beach Boys, ‘The Small Faces’ (the Immediate one), Aimee Mann’s ‘Whatever’,’

Whenever I’m asked what my favourite album of all time is the following records always spring to mind: ‘Pet Sounds’ by The Beach Boys, ‘The Small Faces’ (the Immediate one), Aimee Mann’s ‘Whatever’,’ Nobody’s Perfect’ by The Distractions, Billy Bragg’s ‘Don’t Try This At Home’, Ian McNabb’s ‘Head Like A Rock’, ‘The Story Of Simon Simopath’ by (the original) Nirvana and ‘The Who Sell Out’. For me it is not easy to pick just one from that list and I wouldn’t like to be without any one of them. I’ve given a lot of thought to this and as I am only allowed one for this piece it would have to be ‘The Who Sell Out’. I was a month short of 14 years old when ‘Sell Out’ was released in December 1967. Of course, for many there was only one album which mattered in 1967, ‘Sgt. Pepper’ by The Beatles. But for me it didn’t come close. There was no competition. Sure, there were a couple of good tracks on Pepper but every track on ‘Sell Out’ was good. It was, and still is, a brilliantly conceived album of good, melodic pop songs linked together by jingles for, and adverts from, the pirate radio station Radio London. If my memory serves me right, the pirate stations had recently ceased to broadcast when ‘Sell Out’ was released. I was a fan of The Who from the first time I heard ‘I Can’t Explain’ in the school playground in 1965 on a radio we had taken in with us. They had a run of great pop singles from then until ‘Join Together’ in 1972 which no other group, even to this day, can match. Any track from ‘Sell Out’ could have joined that run of singles. They were all that good. The Who’s first album, ‘My Generation’ was their R&B album and the follow up, ‘A Quick One While He’s Away’, was a stepping stone to ‘Sell Out’. Featuring a mini-opera (as does ‘Sell Out’) and classic Who songs in the shape of ‘Whiskey Man’ and ‘So Sad About Us’ it was let down by an unnecessary cover of the Motown song ‘Heatwave’. But ‘Sell Out’, however, was their masterpiece. It was the only Who album which dabbled in psychedelia and, while obviously evoking the sounds of 1967, the album still stands up today. From the opening siren like sounds of ‘Armenia City In The Sky’ (written, incidentally, by Speedy Keene of Thunderclap Newman) to the closing mini-opera of 'Rael 1', the album takes in a touching love song, masturbation fantasies, acute snapshots of rebellion ('Tattoo', with a unusually soft and tender vocal from Roger Daltrey) and an English strain of psychedelia which steers clear of the music hall / toytown pop many groups were fond of in ’67. One thing that I feel is always missed when discussing this album is the humour in Pete Townshend’s songs. John Entwistle was, of course, well known for his humour in songs like ‘Boris The Spider’ on ‘A Quick One’ and ‘Silas Stingy’, and his adverts for Heinz beans and acne treatment on this album, but I feel that Townshend’s humour was always overlooked on this record. The last line on the sad tale of a budding female singer on ‘ Odorono’, for instance, reveals that she didn’t get far as her deodorant let her down! A more subtle humour to Entwistle’s, sure, but it made these songs. The only single lifted from ‘Sell Out’ was ‘I Can See For Miles’ which must have been one of the best singles of ’67. The fact that a brilliant song like that doesn’t actually stand out on the album as the best track says a lot for the other songs. In fact, I can’t choose a favourite track from this record. Sometimes it’s ‘I Can’t Reach You’, at others ‘Tattoo’ and even, at times, the adverts! Even the cover, with the band members each acting out one of the adverts on the album, shouts out “fun!”. At the end of the day maybe that’s why I play this album more often than any other. I never tire of the humour; the very British ’67 feel it has, the Beach Boys harmonies and the inspired playing by all concerned. For me, this is the album where Daltrey really sings, where Keith Moon’s drumming pulls it all together and the writing skills of both Entwistle and Townshend came of age. The Who’s masterpiece. In closing, I would like to add that it is not always an improvement on the original to have classic albums remastered and remixed. Sometimes it is not always done with the care needed and the added bonus tracks on offer are not always worth hearing. The c.d. reissue of ‘The Who Sell Out’, which was released in 1995, is an exception though. The bonus tracks and adverts all sound like they should have been used in the first place!

Track Listing:-

Picture Gallery:-
Waxwings - The Who Sell Out

Waxwings - The Who Sell Out

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