With the Who‘s third album, 1967’s The Who Sell Out, seeing release next month in a massive “super deluxe” edition, Pete Townshend took time to chat with Uncut and admitted that the album felt like a crossroads for the band, explaining, “I think The Who Sell Out was tough for all of us. For example, I remember a lot of sessions at DeLane Lea (studios) when Roger (Daltrey) just wasn’t around. That’s why I sang quite a few of the songs on the album. I think Roger would’ve heard a song like ‘I Can’t Reach You’ and just thought, ‘What the f*** is this about?’ Not because of a lack of intelligence or willingness to take on new stuff — he’d taken on all kinds of weird stuff that I’d written — but I think it was just that we were in a strange place.”

He added, “I felt that a lot of it was stuff that was necessary for me to write about, to touch on, to explore. I didn’t particularly want the Who to have to carry it. So when we got together with the marketing guys, (Our manager and producer) Kit Lambert decided to take the idea of doing a radio show a bit further and bring commercials (on to the album). I remember thinking, ‘Thank heavens.’ In a sense, it saved what could otherwise have been a kind of Moody Blues exercise.”

Townshend went on to say that the work the Who created early on in its career still resonates heavily in the present day: “Of course, we didn’t know then that our catalogue and our band would be so valuable — but it’s what keeps us in beans. It allows Roger and I to do charity work and political work and support fiends and family and whatever else with our money. It’s all rooted in those days.”

SIDE NOTES

  • Coming on April 23rd is the “Super-Deluxe Edition” of The Who Sell Out in a massive box set, with a total of 112 tracks over five discs. The collection includes never-before-heard outtakes and Pete Townshend demos — along with a heaping dose of replica memorabilia from the era.
  • The Who Sell Out, which was originally released on December 15th, 1967, was the pinnacle of the group’s pop art period and featured tracks interspersed with original radio spots, commercials and public service announcements in an effort to ape England’s then pirate radio stations.
  • The album included the band’s sole Top 10 hit — “I Can See For Miles” — along as the instant concert staple, “Tattoo,” along with such fan favorites as “I Can’t Reach You,” “Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand,” “Sunrise,” “Relax,” and “Our Love Was.”

CHECK IT OUT: Pete Townshend’s 1967 demo for “Odorono” from the upcoming “deluxe edition” of The Who Sell Out: