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The Who Sell Out

The Who Sell Out (1967) is The Who's third album. It is a concept album, formatted as a collection of unrelated songs interspersed with faux commercials and public service announcements. (Part of the intended irony of the title was that The Who was actually making commercials during that period of their career, some of which are included as bonus tracks on the remastered CD.)

The album came during a period when The Who was experimenting with Psychedelic Rock. Though the engineering is somewhat mushy and the material is somewhat quirky even by Who standards, the album continues as a big favorite among Who fans.

The cover is divided into panels featuring each of the band members, two on the front and two on the back. Front: Pete Townshend applying Odorono brand deodorant from an oversized stick; Roger Daltrey sitting in a bathtub full of Heinz baked beans. Back: Keith Moon applying Medac from an oversized tube; John Entwistle in a leopard-skin Tarzan suit, squeezing a big blonde bimbo in a leopard-skin bikini with one arm and a teddy bear with the other (an ad for the Charles Atlas[?] course mentioned in one of the album's faux commercials).

Track List:

(Concept material interspersed between or merged into the song tracks is identifed with bullets.)

Side 1:
  • "Monday, Tuesday, ..."
"Armenia City In The Sky" (Keene[?])
  • "Wonderful Radio London -- Whoopee!"
  • "Heinz Baked Beans" (Entwistle)
"Mary-Anne With The Shaky Hand"
  • "More Music, More Music..."
  • "Play it Rough! Play it Rough! ..." (a football chant)
  • (short instrumental with funny noise)
"Odorono" (a humorous ballad cast as a commercial)
  • "It's smooth sailing with the highly successful sound of Wonderful Radio London!"
"Tatoo"
  • "Radio London reminds you: Go to church of your choice."
"Our Love Was, Is"
  • "You're a pussycat, you're where it's at, ..."
  • "Hold your group together with Rotosound strings!"
  • "The Big 'L'" (in funny voice)
  • "Speak easy, drink easy, puh-leasy!"
"I Can See For Miles"
Side 2:
  • "The Charles Atlas[?] course with Dynamic Tension can turn you into A Beast of a Man!"
"I Can't Reach You"
"Medac" (Entwistle) (a 57 second 'commercial' appearing as its own track)
"Relax"
"Silas Stingy" (Entwistle)
"Sunrise"
"Rael"
  • "Track Records! ...", sung to sound like a record repeating endlessly at the end of the side.

All songs are by Pete Townshend except as noted. The interspersed concept material is uncredited, except as noted.

The album's release was reportedly followed by a bevy of lawsuits due to the mention of real-world commercial interests in the faux commercials and on the album covers.

"I Can See For Miles" was released as a single and became something of a hit; it remained in The Who's concert repertoire throughout the rest of their career. "Rael" was an excerpt from one of Pete Townshend's early attempts at Rock Opera. The plot is not clear from the excerpt, but it apparently evolves a heroic "Captain" who is betrayed by his crew during a clandestine attempt to save Rael (Israel) from a looming invasion by the Red Chins (Red Chinese). The dramatic instrumental section in the second half of the song shows up as a dreamy sequence in both "Sparks" and "Underture" of the later Rock opera Tommy. A live version of "Tatoo" appears on the remastered CDs of the Live at Leeds album. The remaining songs on The Who Sell Out have had little impact, and are almost unknown outside the circle of Who fans. "Mary-Anne With The Shaky Hand" is variously listed with and without the hyphen, and with or without an -s pluralizing Hand.

This album is highly recommended for all persons with flexible tastes.

Editions:

[1967] Track 612 002 (mono) / 613 002 (stereo)
Original UK LP release. Cover and tracks as described above. Producer: Kit Lambert[?]

[1968] Decca DL 4950 (mono) / DL 74950 (stereo)
Original USA LP release. Cover and tracks as described above. Producer: Kit Lambert[?]

[19??[?]] MCAD-31332 (ISBN 7673-11332-2)
Original CD release (AAD). Original cover on the front; simple track listing on the back. Standard MCA silver label with title and track listing. The front insert folds out to show the original back cover, another copy of the CD's track listing, and some spamish advertisements for other MCA CDs. Producer: Kit Lambert[?]. Executive Producer: Chris Stamp[?].

[1995] MCAD-11268 (ISBN 08811-12682)
Remastered CD release (ADD). Original covers on the front and back, except that the back is slightly modified to show the ISBN and the modified track listing. Custom disk label showing a section of classified ads[?] from a newspaper of music magazine, plus minimal title and copyright info. Original tracks and concept material plus 10 bonus tracks and a proportional amount of bonus concept material. The cover insert is a 12 leaf booklet including extended credits, facsimiles of period posters and flyers, an article and track background information by Dave Marsh[?], and period photos of the band. Producer: Jon Astley[?]. Executive Producers: Bill Curbishley[?], Robert Rosenberg[?], and Chris Charlesworth[?].

References:

  • Many of the factual details in this article are derived from the insert to the remastered CD of 1995, ISBN 08811-12682.



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