Personalities | The Who | Live & Loud (1966–68) | An Overview
The Who became embroiled in legal proceedings with their record company and producer. Finally extricated from a restrictive contract, the group launched into a period of creative brilliance, spurred on by Townshend’s eloquence and knack for writing the perfect pop single.
Encouraged by Lambert and influenced by classical composers such as Purcell and Scarlatti, Townshend experimented with elaborate arrangements and extended works. His first piece, the spoof ‘Gratis Amatis’, set the tone for what was to come. A project provisionally entitled Eccentrics was cherry-picked for the band’s first mini-opera A Quick One, While He’s Away. ‘Rael’, on the third album, allowed Townshend to hone his skills further. At the same time, non-stop touring saw the band forge a fine reputation, although backstage bust-ups still occurred with alarming alacrity. During their first tour of America, The Who performed at the Monterey Festival, establishing themselves as headline artists.
After Monterey, Townshend renounced drugs and looked instead towards a more spiritual outlet; he discovered the teachings of Meher Baba, which he found inspirational. A new writing project, begun in 1967, took shape the following year. The band was perilously in debt, however, and although touring kept the wolf from the door it could not pay the bills. Despite this, Daltrey, Entwistle and Moon allowed Townshend the luxury of time to work on the project, in the hope he would pull a rabbit out of the hat. The explosive result was Tommy.
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