Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Brooks on Books: The Who: The Story of the Band That Defined A Generation

When I saw this sharp-looking hardcover on the New Releases shelf at my local liberry, I was a bit confused. Something seemed off. It didn't look like something I expected to see there, but it sort of looked familiar. I grabbed it and took it home. Well, I checked it out with my card first, of course. I could have been more "rock and roll" and stole it or smashed it on the ground, but I went the conventional route.

Turns out this is a repackaging of the Treasures of the Who collection that combined a book with all kinds of goofy crap--reproductions of handbills, photos, and stuff like that. This is just the book--no crap. I remember seeing the Treasures and thinking it was pretty cool but not wanting to pay for it. I'm sure it ended up in the "bargain bin" at Barnes and Noble like all those books do, and it was probably worth it at that point.

Chris Welch's text in this "unofficial and unauthorized" volume is lively and surprisingly critical of the music. It doesn't delve much into the personal lives of the band members, but there isn't a lot of space for that.  The emphasis is on the band as a band, and each album gets a brief section with commentary on the album as a whole and the individual tracks.

Along the way, Welch tells the basic story of the band's origins and its high and low points, with several "chapters" (each chapter in this book is a few pages) devoted to biographical sketches of the individual members. It's an entertaining and brisk overview of The Who for non-experts.

Arguably the main attraction for aficionados of The Who, if they aren't disappointed at the exclusion of the goofy crap, is the wealth of photos of ephemera like letters to fans, original concert tickets, and the like. There are outstanding action shots and publicity pics as well, and it's all vivid and eye-pleasing in the smartly designed book.

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