The WHO FAQ
Mike Segretto (Backbeat Books 2014, Trade Paperback) 371 pages, index and illustrated $24.99 cover price
It's a bit of a fool's game to choose a Mount Rushmore of classic rock bands. For one thing, given that The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and The Who each had four members, it would get more than a little crowded on that South Dakota mountain. Plus it would really piss off Abraham Lincoln and you don't want to be around Abe Lincoln when he's pissed off. The number of hotel rooms that man trashed in his time...
Such fun Presidential fantasies aside, the real point of choosing the Top Four all-time rock bands just leads to nasty arguments as most people would draw up slightly different lists, although anyone who did not choose The Beatles richly deserves to spend the rest of his life on a desert island with nothing but a battery-driven Eight Track player with a single copy of KC and The Sunshine Band's Greatest Hits to drive the castaway into madness. (Oh alright, we'll throw in a DVD player and a concert film of One Direction. We are merciful. We believe in quick executions.)
The Who would definitely make my list. When I reached university, near the end of the band's golden age which stretched from The Who Sell Out through Who Are You, they were the first group I fell in love with. There were only two posters on my dorm room wall: one of Linda Ronstadt because you know, I'm a guy; and the second one was The Who in full concert fury. Pete Townshend was in mid-leap, Keith Moon's drumsticks a beige blur, Roger Daltrey swirling a microphone above his bare chest, and John Entwistle looking on like a parent wondering what the kids had broken this time. Before heading off to exams, the last song I would play would be Underture from Tommy, for proper inspiration; and the first song I ever learned to play properly on guitar was Pinball Wizard. Ah, you never forget either your first love or your first band.
That was why, when I received word from the publicist at Backbeat Books that they were offering up a new volume in their terrific FAQ series, this one on The Who, I leapt at it like Moon to a champagne fountain. And the result is that this may be the best of the dozen or so FAQ books I have read this far.
These are not traditional, chronological biographies. Instead, the subject is examined topic-by-topic, such as 'Inside Outside: The Album Covers,' or 'Heaven and Hell: The Who on Religion.' As such, much as the author Mike Segretto suggests in the foreword, one can just dip in to a chapter.
What is most enjoyable about Segretto's book, besides the intense research that one expects from the FAQ series, is that he freely interjects his opinions. Now personally, I didn't think that Ann-Margret was all that bad in the film adaptation of Tommy, whereas Segretto refers to her 'fudge-curdling performance.' Yet that is the fun of it. The effect is like sitting in a pub with an absolute expert in a field that one enjoys and having a grand conversation about it.
This is a Must Have for fans of The Who.
Be seeing you.