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The Who: I Was There by Richard Houghton review

Album Review

Fans and insiders tell it like it was

The latest addition to an ongoing series of collected fly-on-the-wall accounts takes us through The Who’s career from 16-year old Keith Moon’s December 1962 audition with his first band The Beachcombers at Harrow’s British Legion Hall, to The Who’s Royal Albert Hall show in March this year.

It’s fascinating stuff, obviously, and made all the more gripping for Houghton’s canny choice of eye witnesses. For example, not only is it The Beachcombers’ rhythm guitarist John Schollar recalling how neophyte Moon aced his audition by skilfully nailing down the off-beat of The Shadows’ Foot Tapper, it’s also Schollar, 55 years later, who calls up Roger Daltrey’s office in the hope of blagging some Albert Hall tickets. He got VIP passes. “Well,” Schollar concludes, “they did nick our drummer.”

I Was There works on two levels: as a reasonably comprehensive history of The Who (from first-person memoirs rather then third-person Wiki-work), or as a lightweight bog book you can dip into for an occasional satisfying snippet. Near neighbour Keith Rowley reveals that Daltrey was known as Trog at school because he could “put his legs behind his head". Among the many illustrations peppered throughout, there’s the photograph Entwistle autographed as ‘John Brown’ – a name he was toying with briefly – for Maureen Browning at the Stevenage Locarno in February 1965.

Who fans, especially those with a modernist’s attention to detail, will love this 450-page paperback treasure trove. Accept no substitute.

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