The Who Sell Out

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The Who Sell Out
Studio album by The Who
Released 15 December 1967
Recorded May – November 1967
Studio Talentmasters Studios, New York City, New York
IBC Studios, Pye Studios, De Lane Lea Studios, CBS Studios, and Kingsway Studios, London, England
Gold Star Studios, Los Angeles, California[1]
Length 38:46
Label Track, Decca
Producer Kit Lambert
The Who chronology
A Quick One
The Who Sell Out
Magic Bus: The Who on Tour
Singles from The Who Sell Out
  1. "I Can See for Miles"
    Released: 14 October 1967
  2. "Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand"
    Released: 2 February 1968 (Netherlands)

The Who Sell Out is the third studio album by English rock band The Who, released in 1967 by Track Records in the UK and Decca Records in the US. It is a concept album, formatted as a collection of unrelated songs interspersed with faux commercials and public service announcements.[2] The album purports to be a broadcast by pirate radio station Radio London. Part of the intended irony of the title was that the Who were making commercials during that period of their career, some of which are included as bonus tracks on the remastered CD.

The album's release was reportedly followed by lawsuits due to the mention of real-world commercial interests in the faux commercials and on the album covers, and by the makers of the real jingles (Radio London jingles), who claimed the Who used them without permission. (The jingles were produced by PAMS Productions of Dallas, Texas, which created thousands of station ID jingles in the 1960s and '70s). It was the deodorant company, Odorono, who took offense that Chris Stamp made a request for endorsement dollars.[3] "I Can See for Miles" was released as a single and peaked at #10 in the UK and #9 in the US.


The cover is divided into panels featuring a photograph by David Montgomery of each of the band members, two on the front and two on the back. On the front is Pete Townshend applying Odorono brand deodorant from an oversized stick, and Roger Daltrey sitting in a bathtub full of Heinz baked beans (holding an oversized tin can of the same). Daltrey claims to have caught pneumonia after sitting for a prolonged period in the bathtub, as the beans had been frozen.[4] On the back is Keith Moon applying Medac from an oversized tube, and John Entwistle in a leopard-skin Tarzan suit, squeezing a blonde woman 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).

Original vinyl copies of Sell Out end with an audio oddity that repeats into a locked groove (In response to the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band). The music in the locked groove is an instrumental version of what was originally intended to be a vocal jingle for the Who's UK label Track Records.

When the LP was released on Track Records in the UK in 1967 (Track 612 002 Mono & Track 613 002 Stereo), a poster was included inside the first 1000 copies (500 stereo and 500 mono). They came with sticker on the front cover stating 'Free Psychedelic Poster Inside'. Due to its rarity, first pressings with poster and sticker have sold for more than £600, and have been known to sell for much more. Included in the inner sleeve of the 1995 MCA CD reissue; the poster art of a Butterly initially intended as the LP cover was scrapped, and turned into the free poster.

Music and lyrics[edit]

Music critic Richie Unterberger called the album's music "jubilant" psychedelic pop and felt that it exhibits a balance between "melodic mod pop and powerful instrumentation".[5] Edna Gundersen of USA Today observed power pop on the album.[6] The album also includes the psychedelic Relax.[7]

The album is a tribute to Wonderful Radio London and features sound effects, station breaks, and singing commercials.[8] It features many faux-commercials on and in-between songs. Some of them were real jingles from pirate radio station "Radio London". The majority of the commercial jingles recorded for the album were written and performed by Entwistle and Moon.[9]

"Armenia City in the Sky", was written by a friend of the band, John Keen. John "Speedy" Keen later found fame as a member of Thunderclap Newman whose smash hit "Something in The Air" features production by Pete Townshend and bass playing from Townshend under the pseudonym Bijou Drains.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[5]
Robert Christgau A+[10]
eMusic 4.5/5 stars[11]
Mojo 4/5 stars[12]
NME 9/10[12]
Q 4/5 stars[12]
Record Collector 4/5 stars[12]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars[13]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[14]
Uncut 5/5 stars[15]

In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone magazine, Jann Wenner called The Who Sell Out "fantastic" and praised its "exquisite" sense of humor and the Who's "consummate" musicianship, which includes "wholly original" instrumentation and cleverly placed electronic sounds.[16] Robert Christgau, writing in Esquire magazine, said that the album establishes the band as "the third best not just in Britain but the world", and cited "Tattoo" as the best song Townshend has "ever written, worth the price of the album".[8] In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Richie Unterberger said that, "on strictly musical merits, it's a terrific set of songs that ultimately stands as one of the group's greatest achievements."[5]

In 1995, The Who Sell Out was reissued by MCA Records with numerous outtakes and rejected jingles to the end of the original 13-track album.[17] In the liner notes for the reissue, Dave Marsh called it "the greatest rock and roll album of its era" and "the Who's consummate masterpiece, the work that holds together most tightly as concept and realization". Marsh felt that the album's essence is "most tightly linked to the glorious pop insanity that psychedelia and its aftermath destroyed forever."[18] In a review of the reissue for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau called it the Who's "only great album" and felt that they had yet to "take their pretensions seriously." He observed "no bad songs here," including the faux-ads and bonus tracks.[10] Melody Maker said that it is a masterpiece because of its "glorious celebration of pop as useless commodity and a commercially corrupted art form" without degrading itself.[19] Rolling Stone called it "the most successful concept album ever" in a 1999 review.[13]

In 2003, The Who Sell Out was ranked number 113 on Rolling Stone '​s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[20] Mark Kemp, writing in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), called it Townshend's first and best concept album and said that he "successfully does what he would overdo" in Tommy and Quadrophenia: "There's no fixed narrative to take away from the music. And the music is sensational".[21] In 2007, Rolling Stone included it on their list of the 40 essential albums of 1967 and stated, "the Who's finest album exemplifies how pop this famously psychedelic year was."[22] The album was reissued in 2009 as a two-disc deluxe edition, which Danny Kelly of Uncut magazine said was the "definitive" release of the Who's most "entertaining" and "endearing" album.[15] In his review for eMusic, Lenny Kaye said that The Who Sell Out is a "classic of prophetic pop art" because of "the concept of branding that has taken the place of record label patronage these days".[11]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Pete Townshend, except where noted.

(The between song jingles apparently have no official titles and are not listed anywhere on the original album packaging, though they are listed in the inner booklet of the 1995 remaster.)

Side one
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. "Armenia City in the Sky" (Speedy Keen) Daltrey and Keen 3:48
2. "Heinz Baked Beans" (John Entwistle) Entwistle 1:00
3. "Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand"   Daltrey 2:28
4. "Odorono"   Townshend 2:34
5. "Tattoo"   Daltrey, with Townshend 2:51
6. "Our Love Was" (Original US LPs listed the title as "Our Love Was, Is") Townshend 3:23
7. "I Can See for Miles"   Daltrey 4:44
Side two
No. Title Lead vocals Length
8. "Can't Reach You" (Retitled "I Can't Reach You" on various reissues) Townshend 3:03
9. "Medac" (Entwistle) Entwistle 0:57
10. "Relax"   Daltrey, with Townshend 2:41
11. "Silas Stingy" (Entwistle) Entwistle 3:07
12. "Sunrise"   Townshend 3:06
13. "Rael (1 and 2)" (Retitled "Rael 1" on 1995 reissue) Daltrey 5:44
1995 reissue
2009 Deluxe Edition

The 2009 Deluxe edition contains the original album in stereo mix on disc one, and the mono mix on disc two.




Certifications-UK-Silver [23]

Year Chart Position
1967 UK Chart Albums 13[24]
1968 Billboard Pop Albums 48[25]
Year Single Chart Position
1967 "I Can See for Miles" Billboard Pop Singles 9[26]
UK Singles Charts 10[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Who Official Band Website – Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon, The Who Sell Out". Retrieved 23 February 2011. 
  2. ^ "Show 49 – The British are Coming! The British are Coming!: With an emphasis on Donovan, the Bee Gees and the Who. [Part 6, : UNT Digital Library". Pop Chronicles. 1969. Retrieved 23 February 2011. 
  3. ^ "B.O., Baked Beans, Buns and The Who", Rolling Stone. Vol 1 No. 3, December 14, 1967
  4. ^ "Roger Daltrey's concert conundrum" from BBC News
  5. ^ a b c Unterberger, Richie. "The Who Sell Out – The Who". AllMusic. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  6. ^ Gundersen, Edna (5 December 2003). "Top 40 albums — the USA TODAY way". Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
  7. ^ John Atkins The Who on Record: A Critical History, 1963-1998 -2000 Page 95 "One of the most radical tracks is "Relax," which has a complex structure based on raga guitar drones and organ fills. It is the least Who-like song on the record, although it boasts strong melodies, changes in mood and pace, extensive vocal ..."Relax" is another drug-influenced song complete with a prime, manic and pounding psychedelic freak-out [1.32],"
  8. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (May 1968). "Columns". Esquire (New York). Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  9. ^ "The Who Sell Out Liner Notes". Retrieved 2012-11-08. 
  10. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (26 December 1995). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Kaye, Lenny (16 November 2010). "The Who, The Who Sell Out". eMusic. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
  12. ^ a b c d "Who Sell Out CD". Muze. Archived from the original on 1 July 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  13. ^ a b "Review: The Who Sell Out". Rolling Stone (New York). 28 November 1999. 
  14. ^ Kemp 2004, p. 871.
  15. ^ a b Kelly, Danny (April 2009). "The Who – The Who Sell Out". Uncut (London). Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  16. ^ Wenner, Jann (10 February 1968). "The Who Sell Out". Rolling Stone (New York). Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  17. ^ "Who Sell Out [Deluxe Edition]". Allmusic. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  18. ^ Boren, Ray (2 August 1995). "2 Who Albums Re-Emerge Full of Rollicking Appeal". Deseret News (Salt Lake City). Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  19. ^ "Review: The Who Sell Out". Melody Maker (London): 36. 22 July 1995. 
  20. ^ "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone (New York): 124. 11 December 2003. 
  21. ^ Kemp 2004, p. 872.
  22. ^ "The 40 Essential Albums of 1967". Rolling Stone (New York). 12 July 2007. Archived from the original on 1 July 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ a b The Who at
  25. ^ The Who at AllMusic. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
  26. ^ The Who Sell Out at AllMusic

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]