Who Are You

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This article is about the album. For the title track from the album, see Who Are You (song). For other uses, see Who Are You (disambiguation).
Who Are You
Who Are You album cover.JPG
Studio album by The Who
Released 18 August 1978
Recorded October 1977 – April 1978
Studio Ramport Studios, Battersea; Olympic Studios; RAK Studios, St John's Wood and Pete Townshend's own studio in Goring-on-Thames
Genre Hard rock
Length 42:13
Label Polydor, MCA
Producer Glyn Johns, Jon Astley
The Who chronology
The Story of The Who
Who Are You
The Kids Are Alright
Singles from Who Are You
  1. "Who Are You" / "Had Enough"
    Released: 14 July 1978
  2. "Trick of the Light" / "905"
    Released: 2 December 1978

Who Are You is the eighth studio album by English rock band The Who, released by Polydor Records in the United Kingdom and MCA Records in the United States. The album received mixed reviews from critics, though it was a commercial success, peaking at number 2 on the US charts and number 6 on the UK charts.[1]

Who Are You was The Who's last album to feature Keith Moon as drummer; Moon died three weeks following the album's release. The paradoxical nature of the text "Not To Be Taken Away" that was written on Moon's chair on the album cover was noted by some critics.[2] Moon's death brought concerns that the group would have to fold; he was ultimately replaced as drummer by Kenney Jones.



Who Are You was recorded at the time when punk rock was highly popular. This is not reflected in the album's music, which incorporates elements of progressive rock and, according to biographer Tony Fletcher, was produced in such a way as to appeal to commercial rock radio at the time.[3] The album showcases some of Townshend's most complicated arrangements, with multiple layers of synthesizer and strings. Many of the songs also revisited themes from Townshend's long-contemplated Lifehouse project, featuring lyrics about songwriting and music as a metaphor for life, as indicated by titles like "Guitar and Pen", "New Song", "Music Must Change", and "Sister Disco".[4] The latter two, along with "Who Are You", ultimately appeared on Lifehouse Chronicles, Townshend's actualization of the project. Several of the song's lyrics also reflect Townshend's uncertainty about The Who's continued relevance in the wake of punk rock.[5]

There was a three-year hiatus between Who Are You and The Who's previous album, The Who by Numbers. The band was drifting apart during this period, as band members were working on various solo projects, and Moon was sinking deeper into alcohol and drug abuse. The initial sessions at Ramport Studios, produced by Glyn Johns and Jon Astley, were lackadaisical; Jon Astley recalled that "no one wanted to work", and the members looked forward more to drinking and reminiscing at six in the evening.[3] Astley felt that he and Johns pushed Moon too hard to play a simpler style, while Johns believed that Moon had "lost confidence in his ability" and would deliberately go out of his way to resist his suggestions.[5]

Moon's health was especially an object of concern, as his drumming had noticeably deteriorated and his performances for most of the sessions were substandard. He was unable to play in 6/8 time on the track "Music Must Change", so drums were removed completely from the track and only a few cymbal crashes were added. John Entwistle remarked that he "couldn't think of anything to play."[6] On another occasion, Astley recalled, "I was doing a drum track, and he hadn't learned the song. I actually had to stand up and conduct. He said, 'Can you give me a cue when you get to the middle part?' [...] He hadn't done his homework."[7] Entwistle similarly described him as "really out of condition", and "disgusted with himself" as a result.[8]

The recording was further disrupted by Roger Daltrey undergoing a throat operation, a lengthy Christmas break, Townshend slicing his hand in a window during an argument with his parents, and session keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick breaking his arm falling out of a taxi at the studio door, necessitating his replacement by Rod Argent.[8] When the sessions resumed in March, they were moved to RAK Studios, which caused further delays due to the equipment malfunctioning, including the wiping of a backing track. Astley stated that the RAK equipment made the existing material sound different when played back, necessitating further delays as he attempted to fix the audio problems.[8] In one incident, Daltrey punched Johns due to an argument over a rough mix, rendering him unconscious.[8] The argument was caused by Ted Astley adding a string arrangement to "Had Enough", which Daltrey derided as "slushy".[9] Following a frustrating day at work, Townshend threatened Moon with expulsion unless he cleaned up his act.[8] The threat drove Moon to attempt to kick his alcohol habit and work more enthusiastically. Due to a prior commitment to produce the Joan Armatrading album To the Limit, Johns had to leave in April, with Astley remaining as sole producer. Under Astley, the sessions returned to Ramport, with all of the drums except for "Who Are You" recorded in the last two weeks of production.[6]

Moon died just under a month after its release, and on the cover, he is shown sitting in a chair labelled "Not to be taken away". Photographer Terry O'Neil had insisted Moon sit in the chair with the back to the camera so as to hide his distended stomach, the result of his alcoholism.[10][4]

"Sister Disco"[edit]

Main article: Sister Disco

"Sister Disco" seems to mourn the death of disco, although it could be construed to be a criticism of it. It features complicated synthesiser tracks that are the result of hours Townshend spent programming an ARP 2600 synthesiser.[4]

The song was never performed with Moon. However, it was performed regularly when The Who toured with Kenney Jones as drummer, and quickly became a live favourite. It was included on the band's 2002 Ultimate Collection album. It was also revived for their fall 2008 tour.[4]

"Empty Glass"[edit]

The song "Empty Glass" appears as a bonus track on reissues of the album. The lyrics in this version are notable for having more suicidal undertones than those in the final version, which appeared on Pete Townshend's solo album Empty Glass. Most notably, the line, "Killing each other, then we jump off the ledge" was changed to "Killing each other by driving a wedge" for the final version.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars[11]
Robert Christgau B+[12]
MusicHound 3/5[13]
Rolling Stone (favourable)[14]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3/5 stars[15]

The album was a commercial success, going 2× platinum in the US and Canada, Gold in UK, and peaking at number 2 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart. The soundtrack to Grease prevented Who Are You from achieving number 1 status in the US. The success of Who Are You generated excitement at the prospect of a new Who tour for the album. However, the album is surrounded by tragedy for Who fans due to Moon's death shortly after the album's release. The songs on the album were later performed on tour in 1979 when The Who were joined by new drummer Kenney Jones and keyboardist John Bundrick. Bundrick had been invited to play on the album, but broke his arm falling out of a taxi at the studio door and was unable to participate.

Live performances[edit]

Across the band's entire career, just slightly less than half of the album has been played live.

"Who Are You" was the first of the album's songs to have a live performance, its first dating to a concert from the band's 1976 tour at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, albeit in a very raw and abbreviated version extremely different from the finished product. Another early and abbreviated live performance with Moon can be found on the DVD The Who at Kilburn: 1977. It was also played as part of the encore for the Who's 2012 "Quadrophenia and More" tour.

On The Who's 1979 tour, only four songs were played live: "Sister Disco", "Music Must Change", "Trick of the Light", and "Who Are You". On that tour, "Sister Disco" was played quite close to the studio version, except that the guitar outro was changed from country-style to a more bluesy one, except in 1989, where Townshend used acoustics, and 2008–09, where he could switch his Fender from 'electric mode' to 'acoustic mode'. Townshend actually stated in an interview that this was one of his least favourite songs to perform live (the other being "Dreaming from the Waist"), as Daltrey encouraged Townshend to share a microphone whilst harmonizing on the final vocal tag, evoking a camaraderie Townshend stated didn't really exist.[16] It was played in the tours of 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1989, 2008 and 2009.

"Music Must Change" was often given an extended workout live, with performances usually ranging from seven to nine minutes. It was played in the 1979, 1980 and 1981 tours, and was also rehearsed for the 2002 tour. Entwistle died before the start of the tour and the band were not able to perform this song.

The Who have not been known to play "New Song", "Had Enough", "905", "Guitar and Pen", and "Love Is Coming Down". However, the John Entwistle Band used to play the Entwistle-penned songs.[17]


In 1985, MCA Records released the album on CD. There were no extra tracks on this CD, as it only contained songs from the original LP.

In 1996, the album was reissued on CD. This re-release was remixed and remastered by Jon Astley and Andy Macpherson; some of the elements from the original mixes were eliminated or changed, including an alternate guitar track on "Music Must Change", while other elements were restored, such as "Trick of the Light" being restored to its full length of 4:45. This remaster included five bonus tracks: outtakes "Empty Glass" and "No Road Romance", and alternate mixes for "Guitar and Pen", "Love Is Coming Down", and "Who Are You".

On 24 December 2011 Universal Japan reissued the original analogue mixes of the album on CD for the first time in over a decade. Although the album used the original mixes, the bonus tracks from the 1996 album were included using vintage mixes where possible for these tracks. The album was reissued in a miniature replica of the vinyl album for CD. As of January 2012, there were no plans to reissue these original mixes on CD anywhere other than on this limited, numbered edition of the album in Japan.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Pete Townshend, unless otherwise noted.

Original LP Release and MCA Records 1985 CD re-release

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "New Song"   4:12
2. "Had Enough" (John Entwistle) 4:30
3. "905" (Entwistle) 4:02
4. "Sister Disco"   4:21
5. "Music Must Change"   4:37
Side two
No. Title Length
6. "Trick of the Light" (Entwistle) 4:48
7. "Guitar and Pen"   5:58
8. "Love Is Coming Down"   4:06
9. "Who Are You"   6:21

Sales chart performance[edit]


Year Chart Position
1978 Billboard Pop Albums 2[18]
1978 UK Chart Albums 6[19]


Year Single Chart Position
1978 "Who Are You"/"Had Enough" Billboard Pop Singles 14[citation needed]
1978 "Who Are You"/"Had Enough" UK Singles Chart 18[19]

Sales certifications[edit]

Region Certification
Canada (Music Canada)[20] 2× Platinum
United Kingdom (BPI)[21] Gold
United States (RIAA)[22] 2× Platinum


The Who[edit]

Additional musicians[edit]

  • Rod Argent – synthesizer on "Had Enough", piano on "Who Are You", keyboards on "Guitar and Pen"; and (uncredited) keyboards on "Love is Coming Down"
  • Ted Astley – string arrangement
  • Andy Fairweather-Low – backing vocals on "New Song", "Had Enough", "Guitar and Pen", "Love Is Coming Down", and "Who Are You"
  • Billy Nicholls – backing vocals on "New Song" and "Had Enough"
  • Michael Nicholls — backing vocals on "Had Enough"


  1. ^ "The Who Official Band Website – Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon , , Who Are You". Thewho.com. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  2. ^ Fletcher, Tony (1998). Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon. Omnibus Press. p. 416. ISBN 978-1-84449-807-9. 
  3. ^ a b Fletcher 1998, p. 408.
  4. ^ a b c d The Hypertext Who. Who Are You Liner Notes. Retrieved 22 April 2010.
  5. ^ a b Fletcher 1998, p. 409.
  6. ^ a b Fletcher 1998, p. 414.
  7. ^ Fletcher 1998, p. 412.
  8. ^ a b c d e Fletcher 1998, p. 413.
  9. ^ "The Hypertext Who › Liner Notes › Who Are You". Thewho.net. 
  10. ^ Fletcher 1998, p. 416.
  11. ^ Who Are You at AllMusic
  12. ^ Christgau, Robert. "CG: the who". robertchristgau.com. Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  13. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 1227. ISBN 1-57859-061-2. 
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ "The Who: Album Guide". rollingstone.com. Archived from the original on 6 February 2011. Retrieved 2 September 2015. 
  16. ^ "The Who Least Favorite Songs To Play". YouTube. 21 July 2009. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  17. ^ Klemens Jaeger. "The Who Concert Guide: Concerts". Thewholive.de. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  18. ^ "Artist Chart History – The Who". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 November 2009. 
  19. ^ a b "The Who at". Chartstats.com. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  20. ^ "Canadian album certifications – The Who – Who Are You". Music Canada. 
  21. ^ "British album certifications – The Who – Who Are You". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Who Are You in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Gold in the field By Award. Click Search
  22. ^ "American album certifications – The Who – Who Are You". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]