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New coffee table books gives in depth look at the Who

By Allyson B Crawford

Photo: Mat Snow released “The Who: 50 Years of My Generation” Nov. 2

The Who remain one of the most iconic rock acts in the world. On Nov. 2, journalist Mat Snow released “The Who: 50 Years of My Generation” (Race Point Publishing), a comprehensive coffee table book paying homage to the band’s debut My Generation, now five decades old.

More than just your average coffee table book, “50 Years of My Generation” explains the history of each member and follows the band through changing music trends and superstardom.

Fans of the Who may be pleased to learn that this latest coffee table retrospective takes a deep dive in to each band member’s personal history, looking at their respective upbringings and family life. This is what really sets Snow’s work apart from other books about the Who and therefore makes “50 Years of My Generation” a great starting point for anyone looking to learn more about the British rockers.  

Some of the photos may be new to even the die-hard Who fans, especially those at the beginning of the book, showing Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon in their formative years. There’s young Pete, looking through his mother’s antique shop while smoking a cigarette. You’ll also find a promo shot of the band when they were known as the High Numbers.

Further on, readers are welcomed to the fifth chapter with a shot of the Who smashing their gear on stage. The caption puts the timeline at 1967. Snow remarks that the British rock scene was “small and accessible.” It’s hard to imagine bands like the Who, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones playing in tiny rooms and literally walking amongst the fans after their gigs.

The opening of Chapter 7 proclaims the 1965 debut “My Generation” an overnight success. The track was raw and edgy: it sounded fresh, new. And Snow writes “…the Who took their rebellion to a whole new level: if you were old, they despised you.”

The book also delves into the band’s other interests, including women and drugs. John’s June 1967 wedding photo featuring his bride Alison Wise shares a spread with a story about Keith trying out the hallucinogenic drug STP, which resulted in an apparently terrifying out-of-body experience and the resolve to never touch that particular drug again.

By the time Tommy rolled around in 1969, the Who were officially rock royalty, but there was apprehension within the band’s camp about reception of the new album. Taking a stand and getting on the road in America before the actual album release, the Who were able to gin up enough excitement for their new album to assure solid sales. Snow takes readers through the amazing realization that the Who could stay on the road for years just on the strength of Tommy alone. For modern music fans or those of the millennial generation, this should come as a shock: musicians today are just not afforded the same luxury to let an album catch on, gaining fans and sales along the way.

Fans of rock music—especially what is now regarded as classic rock—will likely get a kick out of all the concert posters sprinkled throughout “50 Years of My Generation.” There are also classic movie posters from the cinematic release of Tommy, ticket stubs and tour programs to peruse.

Snow shines when addressing the demons that plagued Keith Moon. An addict for years, Snow recounts Keith’s multiple attempts to get off alcohol, pills and cocaine. Keith died at age 32 of a massive overdose. Recounting Keith’s death, Snow writes simply “Pete was in the studio that day when Roger phoned: ‘He’s done it.’ No more needed to be said.” Being a retrospective, there’s naturally a photo of mourners at Keith’s funeral, taken at the Golders Green Crematorium in London.

The 1980s were hard for the Who with waning album sales, depressed creativity, failing marriages, drug abuse and a change in musical tastes. The retrospective does a good job at recounting that dark period in the band’s history without being condescending or too overtly positive. Striking such a balance is tough, but Snow manages nicely.

“50 Years of My Generation” ends with photos of the band “still rocking” 50 years later at the O2 Arena in March 2015.

A true research resource, the book features comprehensive photography credits and index. While it is entirely possible some fans may not learn anything new from the work, it seems doubtful since the book is so meticulously researched and chronicles the near day to day workings of the band, at least in the early years. Coming in at over 230 pages, the hardcover edition is attractive enough to earn a spot in any respectable library.

Allyson B. Crawford lives in Kettering and writes about ’80s metal bands on her daily blog bringbackglam.com. You can usually find her at all sorts of metal shows around Ohio and across the country. Allyson can be reached at AllysonCrawford@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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About Allyson B. Crawford

View all posts by Allyson B. Crawford
Allyson B. Crawford lives in Kettering and writes about ’80s metal bands on her daily blog bringbackglam.com. You can usually find her at all sorts of metal shows around Ohio and across the country. Allyson can be reached at AllysonCrawford@DaytonCityPaper.com

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