Launched on 15th December, 1967, The Who Sell Out is our favourite album from London’s version of the Fab Four.
And a Super Deluxe Edition is about to launch to mark its excellence. Let’s review this SOB right now so you can sell out and buy it.
The Build Up to The Who Sell Out
This was the album before the band’s landmark Tommy (1968), which launched the group to superstardom (alongside a well-time performance at Woodstock).
Before The Who Sell Out, the Londoners were a singles band with a number of chart hits under their belts.
But Pete Townshend (by 1967 the band’s figurehead and creative leader) wanted to do something totally different.
And he had his mind set on a rock opera. He’d dabbled with that a bit in A Quick One While He’s Away (1966).
And he turned his idea into a concept album, poking fun at the idea the band would sell out to promote baked beans and the like.
Roger Daltrey drew a short straw and had to get in a bath of baked beans for the album’s front cover. The many upsides for being in a chart topping band, eh?
Townshend (as usual) wrote most of the songs for The Who Sell Out. But the others contributed radio jingles and the odd song here and there.
Recording the album wasn’t a relaxed affair. In debt at the time, The Who needed a stellar hit album to keep the group together.
And yet the finished product showed a band on an ever upward trajectory, finding incredible new creative peaks. Even if it was bloody stressful.
The Who Sell Out’s Songs
The album begins with a radio jingle before launching into a highly unusual psychedelic number called Armenia City in the Sky.
That one was surely an eye-opener for Who fans expecting another Can’t Explain as it still sounds like a bizarre, radical number even now.
Next up it launches into the humorous radio jingle Heinz Baked Beans, tying into Roger Daltrey’s beans bath on the album’s front cover.
Of course, the band got express permission from Heinz to do this.
Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand follows this straight off, a number the band recorded around nine times before deciding on an acoustic burner.
Track four is Odorono. It’s one of our favourite Who songs, a mini-story about an unfortunate singer who doesn’t quite make it after an audition.
But there’s a typical bit of late ’60s Who humour thrown in, with the little nod towards how Odorono could have saved the day.
We find it a great example of The Who at their best, here with Townshend on lead singer duties.
It’s more advanced than their hit singles, such as My Generation, offering a poignant story far removed from the teen angst of early efforts.
Again, that’s down to how rapidly Townshend was advancing as a songwriter and musician. He was around 22 at the time.
But it’s also a great example of Moon doing his bit and holding back a more sedate approach to his drumming, rather than sounding like an octopus hyped up on drugs.
In this album more than any other, he plays to the requirements of the songs. Kind of like the way Ringo Starr did for The Beatles.
And anyone suggesting Moon wasn’t versatile need only listen to the whole album, as he shows relentless flashes of genius.
Tattoo follows Odorono as track five, a story about parents chastising their kids for getting a tattoo (very risqué behaviour in the Sixties).
Now, when the band was recording the album Townshend and his manager Chris Stamp realised it was going to be a bit short.
So Townshend decided to make it a concept album, wrapping radio jingles around the songs to make it sound like it’s a continuous radio show.
Some of the jingles were written by Moon and The Who’s bassist John Entwistle. They’d have a lunch in a pub near the studio and scrawl out the ditties.
Moon also contributed the cute little ditty Girl’s Eyes, although this only turned up on bonus discs decades after the album’s launch.
The second half of the album strays further into psychedelia, with Townshend experimenting with jams. He directly took some of these ideas into Tommy a year later.
Others are more obscure Who songs you may not have heard before.
But we think the likes of Relax are certainly fine efforts, really tying into the Swinging Sixties psychedelic vibe.
Strangely, the second half of the album also seems to drop the radio jingle concept.
Critics are the time were a bit baffled by this and seemed to rate the album harshly as a result, but we don’t think it affects the high-quality nature of the songs.
But The Who Sell Out wasn’t the hit the band needed.
It reached #13 in the UK charts. Already in debt, it was a disappointing return for a fine album.
The band’s habit of demolishing equipment on stage was proving costly. And Moon’s destructive hotel destroying was laying the band further into financial troubles.
Townshend was also royally pissed off when the single I Can See For Miles (what he saw as his masterpiece at the time) didn’t chart well.
Alarmed, he felt the band was doomed. But then he went off and penned Tommy as a last resort.
We feel The Who Sell Out possibly alienated fans a bit. What was this odd new album? The short pop songs were there, but they were a bit different to Substitute and the like.
And the band seemed to forget most of the album, only taking Tattoo off it to perform during their extensive gigging tours.
That’s a bloody shame. It seems to have taken over 50 years for the album to finally get the proper recognition it deserves. As we think it’s The Who’s masterpiece.
Beanz Meanz The Who
To celebrate the release of the Super Deluxe album, The Who teamed up with Heinz to reminisce about the 1967 thing.
Back in the Sixties, the brand started using the Beanz Meanz Heinz. Marketing man Maurice Drake came up with the slogan.
And it quickly became, like, a marketing legend. The power of the brand and all that.
Although we must admit we find 99.99% of all marketing vomit inducing. But stuff like this got people eating more beans, which is utterly fantastic.
This time out Heinz has social media to help its efforts along.
It’s an American company, founded in the 19th century. Henry J. Heinz created “catsup” and it appeared on US shelves from 1876 onward.
Eventually we got all manner of other foodstuffs from the brand, including the legendary baked beans. They’re the stuff of miracles here in England.
For its new The Who Sell Out marketing, Heinz was at it again.
Although Daltrey didn’t get back into a bean bath, he and Townshend have signed some limited edition tins of baked beans.
They’ve also been part of documentaries honouring the album, as well as various interviews to mark the occasion.
So, like beans? Like The Who? Get yourself a tin of Heinz baked beans!