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January 1969

New music releases: Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin; Bayou Country - Creedence Clearwater Revival; Yellow Submarine - The Beatles; "Proud Mary" - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Thunderclap Newman Thunderclap Newman
Photo: Harry Goodwin

Pete helps form the group Thunderclap Newman around Andy Newman, a piano player Pete had idolized in art school, his former chauffeur and roommate John 'Speedy' Keen, and 15-year old Jimmy McCullouch.

On the 17th, Go magazine has the article: "The Who plan new tv pop opera" about a plan to film "Deaf, Dumb and Blind Boy" for television.

25 Jan 1969 ad 25 Jan 1969 ad

The Who continue studio work on the rock opera on the 21st while squeezing in a few dates around England. On the 18th, The Who they play the Civic Hall in Nantwich followed by Mother's Club in Erdington, Birmingham (19th), Civic Hall in Wolverhampton (24th), and a belated "New Year's Ball" at Middlesex Borough Road College in Isleworth, Middlesex (25th). On the last date they are supported by the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation, Terry Lightfoot's Jazz Band, the Pyramids and the Almond Marzipan Abbottfield Dance Orchestra.

Rolling Stone carries the article: "Who finishing rock opera" on the status of "Deaf, Dumb and Blind Boy."

On the 22nd, a nine-minute interview with the "Woo" is shown on Nederland 2's Later.

A Who in grey pinstripe A Who in grey pinstripe

On the 24th, Roger is fined £11 at Luton for minor motoring offenses.

On the 27th, the Who begin five days of rehearsals at the Whitehall Theatre working on a new set.

Meher Baba Meher Baba

It was Pete's intention to finish the Who's rock opera, then make a pilgrimage to India to finally meet his avatar, Meher Baba. He misses his chance on the 31st as Meher Baba passes on, or "drops his body" in his followers' words.








February 1969

New music releases: Goodbye - Cream; Cloud Nine - The Temptations; "Dizzy" - Tommy Roe; "It's Your Thing" - The Isley Brothers

On the 1st, New Musical Express reports The Who have rejected a spot on The Tom Jones Show because the money isn't right and the programme isn't in keeping with their image. They later change their minds (see below).

The same day, Pete is working in his home studio when Delia DeLeon calls him to tell him of Meher Baba's death and ask him to attend a special meeting that evening at the Soho Center. Pete excuses himself to play that night in Newcastle with The Who.

The Who Newcastle 1969 The Who Newcastle 1969
Photo: Graham Lowe

That night The Who are at the Union Ballroom at the University in Newcastle with opening acts Free and the Love Affair followed by the Coatham Hotel in Redcar on the 2nd.

Who callsheet Feb 1969 Who callsheet Feb 1969

On the 3rd, The Who begin another five days at IBC Studios working on Tommy. A surviving monthly plan sheet from The Who's management has "filming" planned for all this month's sessions but, unfortunately, the shoot is cancelled.

Arfur, Keith Moon, John Entwistle Arfur, Keith Moon, John Entwistle

On the 4th, manager Kit Lambert brings in the Guardian's rock critic Nik Cohn to listen to rehearsals of the song "Pinball Wizard" inspired by his love for the table-top game. Accompanying him is the young woman who is the subject of his book Arfur: Teenage Pinball Queen.

On the 6th, Down Beat magazine prints the article "The Who: an appreciation," in which Harvey Pekar declares The Who second only to The Beatles. This is the same Harvey Pekar who will later author the American Splendor comic.

On the 7th, The Who record the final studio version of "Pinball Wizard" at Morgan Studios in London.

That evening they hit the boards again, playing the Top Rank Suite at the University in Bath followed by Regent Polytechnic in London on the 8th with Family opening. Then on the 10th, it's back into IBC Studio A for five more days of Tommy sessions.

On the 12th, the B-side for "Pinball Wizard," the instrumental "Dogs, Part Two," is recorded at IBC Studio A, London. It is at this point called "The Dark Side Of...".

Keith Moon Hit Parader Apr 1969 Keith Moon Hit Parader Apr 1969

This article appears in Hit Parader magazine: "'Our albums are junk' says Who drummer Keith Moon."

That weekend's shows are Lancaster College in Coventry for Valentine's Day and Dreamland in Margate the next evening. Then it's back for another five days at IBC on the 17th.

Mike McInnerney Tommy artwork Mike McInnerney Tommy artwork

Around this time Pete employs International Times art director and fellow Meher Baba follower Mike McInnerney to design the album cover for Tommy.

Back out on the 21st, The Who play Birmingham University with support by The Idle Race and Honeybus followed by the University in Liverpool on the 22nd.

On the 22nd, Disc magazine reports that Pete sat in for Steve Marriott during a recent Small Faces' recording session after Marriott left the group."Ronnie asked me to play lead guitar for tham as a favour. They were making the discs to see how things would work out without Steve...I think that if Ronnie, Kenny and Mac don't find another guitarist they really like, they will break up completely."

John Entwistle Roundhouse 23-2-69 John Entwistle Roundhouse 23-2-69

On the 23rd, The Who take part in a charity event at the Roundhouse in London. Proceeds pay the legal fees of students who had staged a sit-in at the London School of Economics. Other performers include Feathers (David Bowie's mime troupe), Cat Stevens, Pete Brown's Battered Ornaments, the Third Ear Band, and Occasional Word Ensemble.

On the 24th, The Who head back into IBC Studio A for more Tommy work.



March 1969

New music releases: "Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In" - The 5th Dimension; "Hair" - The Cowsills; "Love (Can Make You Happy)" - Mercy; "Time Is Tight" - Booker T. & The MG's
Ad for 1 Mar 1969 gig Ad for 1 Mar 1969 gig

The Who continue paying the bills while awaiting the release of their grand opus Tommy. The 1st sees them at Mother's Club in Erdington, Birmingham followed by the Technical College in Headington, Oxfordshire (7th), and the Corn Exchange in Cambridge (14th).

On the 3rd, The Who go into IBC Studio A, London to record "Overture", the last piece of the Tommy puzzle, demoed by Pete in "a haze of exhaustion". Except for some overdubs this concludes five months in the studio recording the new rock opera.

Pinball Wizard Spanish picture sleevePinball Wizard Spanish picture sleeve
Spanish pciture sleeve

On the 7th, "Pinball Wizard," the first new recording from The Who in seven months, is released in Britain. The b-side is the Keith Moon-credited instrumental "Dogs Part 2," although the single also lists Towser and Jason, Pete and John's dogs respectively, as authors. The single, The Who's first to be released in stereo, will ultimately reach #4, The Who's first big hit in two years.

Pinball Wizard attack Pinball Wizard attack

The public may like it but the powers-that-be do not. BBC disc jockey Tony Blackburn attacks "Pinball Wizard" as "distasteful" and declares, "There is no excuse for the lyric." New Musical Express also attacks the song as "sick."

On the 10th, recording engineer Damon Lynn-Shaw and assistant engineer Ted Sharp begin the process of mixing Tommy.

On the 14th, prior to performing in Cambridge, The Who pre-tape an appearance on BBC 1's How Late It Is miming to "Pinball Wizard."

On the 15, Billboard reports that the forthcoming 45rpm release of "Pinball Wizard" will be Decca Records' first single released in stereo.

Circus magazine in the U.S. carries an advance article: "Pete Townshend on the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Boy."

The Moons 1969 The Moons 1969

In the midst of all this, Keith and his wife Kim appear on the cover of the Daily Mirror. Keith says he wants to purchase a royal title, not for himself, but for Kim.

On the 18th, The Who rehearse Tommy at the BBC's Paris Studios. Stuart Harvey does short interviews with John and Keith for Radio 1 Club.

Pinball Wizard US picture sleeve Pinball Wizard US picture sleeve

On the 22nd, "Pinball Wizard," again backed with "Dogs Part 2," is released in the U.S. It comes in a black-and-white picture sleeve that declares it is a selection from the forthcoming opera "Tommy (1914-1984)." The single will peak at #19 in Billboard and #15 in Cash Box, again the first Top Twenty hit in the U.S. for The Who in two years.

Also on the 22nd, Pete tries to answer criticism of his new work in an interview in New Musical Express. "It puts across a number of values...gives a modern idea of what good and bad is. A simple feeling of spiritual development in day-to-day living."

On the 26th, The Who continue rehearsals for their new Tommy-centered show at Bickersteth Memorial Hall, Grove Place, off New End, Hampstead in North West London. Pete later reports that he and Keith are both amazed at how well the opera adapts to live performance.

The Who backstage at TOTP 1969 The Who backstage at TOTP 1969
Photo: Harry Goodwin

On the 27th, The Who record a mimed performance of "Pinball Wizard" for a Top Of The Pops broadcast later that evening. They are paid £30 for their work but get some publicity photos out of it, taken by Harry Goodwin.

On the 28th, Go prints the article: "The Who return to blow your minds." Who manager Kit Lambert says the next step will be to turn Tommy into a movie.

Also on the 28th, The Who appear live on Thames Television's Today show broadcast from Television House in Kingsway.

Emma Townshend born Emma Townshend born

And also on the 28th, Karen Townshend gives birth to Emma, her and Pete's first child, at Queen Charlotte's Maternity Hospital in Hammersmith. Pete: "When I went into Karen's room to comfort her, the room was filled with angels. I didn't say anything, worried I was going mad and that I might frighten her. But as I sat holding Karen's hand and we smiled at each other, the room buzzed with magical energy. I wondered if I was having an LSD flashback." Later, Emma, after a short recording career, will become an author and gardening columnist for The Independent.

Keith Moon in Record Mirror 29 Mar 1969 Keith Moon in Record Mirror 29 Mar 1969

On the the 29th, Keith is interviewed in Record Mirror. He talks about how The Who's attention is increasingly drawn to America and the "Pinball Wizard" b-side that he still calls by its original title, "The Dark Side Of...".


The Who rooftop shoot 31 Mar 1969 The Who rooftop shoot 31 Mar 1969

Having spent a few days with the missus and child, Pete returns to The Who at Pan Sound, 23 Denmark Street in London for some additional recording on the 31st. Afterwards the band goes onto the studio rooftop for a publicity photo shoot.









April 1969

New music releases: The Chicago Transit Authority - Chicago; "Bad Moon Rising" - Creedence Clearwater Revival; "Get Back" - The Beatles with Billy Preston; Nashville Skyline - Bob Dylan

On the 1st, The Who continue rehearsing their new Tommy-centered act at the Community Centre, Westcott Crescent in Hanwell. Other rehearsal dates are the 3rd, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 21st and 23rd. Pete recalls in his autobiography that, after the last rehearsal, Keith took him for a drink, looked him in the eye and said, "Pete, you've done it. This is gonna work."

On the 2nd, they go back to the old set, performing at the Pavilion Ballroom in Bournemouth. The Third Ear Band and the Embers open.

On the 5th, Melody Maker groups The Who with Led Zeppelin and Free as one of "The heavy mob." The article describes their sound under the new label "heavy" rock, a label that will eventually mutate to "heavy metal."

On the 10th, The Who perform "Pinball Wizard" on Top Of The Pops. Keith upsets the show's director with his antics.

On the 11th, Pete is interviewed at BBC Studio 2, Kensington House, Richmond Way, West London. He describes the plot of Tommy in a little over a minute. It is released 31 years later on the BBC Sessions bonus disc.

On the 12th, Keith gets his chance to rate records without knowing who recorded them in the Melody Maker article: "Blind Date: Keith Moon".

"Pinball Wizard" enters the Dutch charts on this day where it will ultimately peak at #12.

On the 13th, The New York Times Magazine contains literary criticism of rock lyrics. One song discussed is "Substitute".

The Who on Tom Jones show The Who on Tom Jones show

On the 16th, The Who record their appearance on ITV's This Is...Tom Jones at Elstree Studio Centre, Borehamwood. They mime to a newly recorded instrumental track of "Pinball Wizard" with live vocals by Roger. It is first broadcast in the U.S. on the 18th and in Britain on the 20th.








On the 19th, New Musical Express contains the article: "Moon: drummer extraordinaire". The same day's Melody Maker has the article: "Why The Who aren't pop anymore" with quotes from Pete and Keith. Pete declares, "I feel anti-pop now. I don't call our music 'pop' any more. It would be nice to be in a pop industry where music with meaning sells, but that happens so rarely."

The Who publicity photo Apr 1969 The Who publicity photo Apr 1969
Photo: Marc Sharratt

During the month, The Who take another series of publicity photographs, these shot in a park for antique vehicles.

During this week, Tommy is mastered at IBC Studio A. Discarded at this point is a linking song, "Cousin Kevin Model Child," that will not resurface until the 1998 re-issue of Odds and Sods.

On the 22nd, The Who play the Institute of Technology, Casino Club, in Bolton, Lancashire.

Also on the 24th, The Who tape another appearance on Top Of The Pops. Any hopes that Keith will be under control this time are dashed when Tony Blackburn, the BBC DJ who had branded "Pinball Wizard" as "sick", appears as host. Keith answers his criticism by hurling drumsticks at his head.

28 Apr 1969 Who ad 28 Apr 1969 Who ad

On the 25th, The Who perform at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, Scotland supported by Jimmy James and the Vagabonds and Fred's Jazz Band. This is the first documented live performance of Tommy before a paying audience. Tommy rolls along to the Community Centre in Auchinleck supported by The Merry Macks and Pure Greed on the 26th, the Kinema Ballroom, Dunfermline supported by The Shadettes on the 27th, and the Whitburn Bay Hotel in Sunderland, Durham on the 28th.

On the 26th, "Pinball Wizard" reaches its U.K. chart peak of #4 staying there for the next three weeks.




May 1969

New music releases: Crosby, Stills & Nash - Crosby, Stills & Nash; Tommy - The Who; Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere - Neil Young & Crazy Horse; Stand! - Sly & The Family Stone
69-05-01 Who Ronnie Scotts 69-05-01 Who Ronnie Scotts

On the 1st, The Who present Tommy to the press at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London Chris Welch of Melody Maker later said the sound was so loud, his ears rang for 20 hours afterwards. Disc magazine headlines the performance: "Who's Tommy: A Masterpiece".

On the 2nd, Roger, John, Keith, Bobby Pridden, John "Wiggy" Wolff and roadies Tony Haslam and John "Bumper" East fly to New York to prepare for the upcoming tour. Pete does not join them until the 8th, the day before the tour begins.

On the 3rd, the Tommy album is premiered in its entirety on BBC Radio 1. On the same day "Pinball Wizard" enters the Tio i Topp Swedish charts where it will peak at #12.

69-05-09 ad 69-05-09 ad

The Who present Tommy to America for the first time at the Grande Ballroom outside Detroit on the 9th. The supporting act is Joe Cocker & The Grease Band. This venue gets the honors because it is run by Pete's old art school friend and former Who photographer Tom Wright. Wright tapes the show on a portable Nagra recorder. The Who return for the evenings of the 10th and 11th.

Monterey Pop Movie Monterey Pop Movie

D.A. Pennebaker's documentary Monterey Pop, featuring The Who's 1967 performance of "My Generation" and instrument smash, is released in theaters.

From there The Who head to Beantown to perform at the venue The Boston Tea Party on the 13th, 14th, and 15th. Support is provided by jazz saxman Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Pete later recalls in his autobiography, "I stood exhausted I the dressing room as Roland Kirk pushed his way in shouting, 'Where's that little white motherf***ing dude that wrote the thing about the deaf, dumb and blind kid?' I stayed quiet, but he heard me breathing, came over to me and gave me a hug. 'You don't know what it's like man, but you gave us blind folk our own opera thing at last! But I ain't dumb, and I ain't deaf.'"

Fillmore Plainclothes Fillmore Plainclothes

On the 16th, The Who return to the Fillmore East in Greenwich Village, New York City with opening acts Sweetwater and It's A Beautiful Day. The last time they played there was under the threat of rioting after the Martin Luther King assassination. This time the building next door to the Fillmore catches on fire. Policeman Dan Mulhearn runs on stage to stop the show and warn the crowd. "I was working plainclothes assigned to trying to get 'mugged' on the Bowery and responded to the Fillmore as a fire was reported there. Officer Gehrig began to usher people out the fire doors and I approached the stage, in plainclothes but with badge in hand. I thought the band understood what was going on as I was handed the microphone by Roger Daltrey. Then I was kicked in the groin area by Pete Townshend and two large gentlemen grabbed me from behind and I was thrown out the fire door backstage... There was no real injury as Pete missed his mark by a couple of inches, thankfully." The second show is cancelled and The Who spend the night at Bill Graham's apartment while the police search for them at their hotel.

69-05-17 Arraginment 69-05-17 Arraginment

On the 17th, Pete and Roger surrender themselves to the authorities at the Ninth Precinct station. They are released on bail and return to the Fillmore to perform two shows that evening and another two on the 18th to make up for the missed shows on the 16th. Jimi Hendrix drops by for one of the 18th shows to catch the new rock opera.

Tommy Dj Promo Tommy Dj Promo

As Pete and Roger are being arraigned, the first copies of the Tommy LP are appearing on store shelves in America, disc jockeys also receive a 4-single box set of selected tracks. Ellen Sander in Saturday Review calls it a masterpiece and says it features some of the best rock music ever recorded. John Gabree in High Fidelity calls it "superlative rock-and-roll". David Walley in Jazz &Pop hails it as a "superlative achievement" while Charles E. Fager in Christian Century loves it and calls it a "thoroughly religious work." Despite the acclaim and promotion, sales are slow for the rock opera at first.

69-05 RS UK-Pete 69-05 RS UK-Pete

Also on the 17th, Disc and Music Echo runs a profile on John, Pete and Keith's wives and Rolling Stone premieres its U.K. edition of the magazine with Pete on the cover while Hit Parader carries an interview with Pete in which he criticizes BBC Radio 1 for ignoring new artists.

On the 18th, BBC1 repeats the Omnibus: All My Loving special about The Who's Spring 1968 North American tour, this time in colour.

On the 19th, The Who run across the border, celebrating Pete's 24th birthday by playing The Rockpile in Toronto. Meanwhile, back in Manhattan, a statement of apology by The Who for the Fillmore East altercation appears in the New York Times.



The Who's next Canadian show, at the Capital Theatre in Ottawa on the 21st, is cancelled after their equipment fails to show up from Toronto and Keith comes down with "bronchial pneumonia."

Tommy UK Tommy UK

On the 23rd, Track Records comes out with the Tommy LP in Britain. Melody Maker picks it as "Pop LP of the Month" and Record Mirror calls it "one of the most incredible feats ever accomplished in music." However, Richard Green in New Musical Express pans the record. "Pretentious is too strong a word; maybe over-ambitious is the right term, but sick certainly does apply." Obviously few take his words to heart as the album goes to #2 in the U.K. charts.

69-05-23-24 Keith 69-05-23-24 Keith

On the day of Tommy's U.K. release, The Who are performing that evening at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia.






69-05-25 ad 69-05-25 ad

The next show, on the 25th, is one of the most famous double bills of The Who's career as the John-and-Keith-named band Led Zeppelin open for The Who at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia. Maryland. When time for Jimmy Page, et al., runs over, Who roadie Wiggy Wolff cuts their power. Afterwards The Who fly back to New York for three days of rest and courtroom action.








On the 27th is Roger and Pete's hearing for the May 16th Fillmore incident. The case is postponed until June 20th.

69-05-29 Kinetic PlaygroundAd 69-05-29 Kinetic PlaygroundAd

That done, The Who head to Chicago for three days at The Kinetic Playground in Chicago on the 29th, 30th and 31st. Joe Cocker's Grease Band provides support with jazz drumming legend Buddy Rich appearing on the 29th.


On the 31st, Fred Kirby reviews one of The Who's May 17th shows for Billboard magazine. He declares them the best performing rock band.





June 1969

New music releases: Johnny Cash At San Quentin - Johnny Cash; "In The Year 2525" - Zager and Evans; "Put a Little Love In Your Heart" - Jackie DeShannon; From Elvis in Memphis - Elvis Presley
Fillmore East ad June 5 1969 Fillmore East ad June 5 1969

The first North American Tommy tour continues with performances at Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis, Missouri with Joe Cocker and The Grease Band supporting (1st) and a two-night return to the Fillmore East with Chuck Berry and Albert King (5th and 6th). Unlike their visit the month before, nothing burns down and no one is arrested.



On the 7th, it's off to the Majestic Hills Theater at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin followed by the Tyrone Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota on the 8th.

On the 7th, Melody Maker declares Tommy the Pop LP of the Month saying it gives "a facelift to pop's image".

On the 9th, The Who and entourage fly to Los Angeles for some r'n'r before their Hollywood concert on the 13th. Everyone stays at the Continental Hyatt House (known to bands as the "Riot" House), all except for Pete who stays with a friend. During the stay manager Kit Lambert and possibly Pete meet with executives from Universal Studios who offer a two-picture deal consisting of a Tommy movie budgeted at $2 million and a concert movie.

Something In The Air picture sleeve Something In The Air picture sleeve

On the 11th, Thunderclap Newman's "Something In The Air," produced by Pete and with him on bass guitar, hits the British charts. The single will ultimately make #1 there.

The Who Hollywood Bowl 1969 poster The Who Hollywood Bowl 1969 poster

On the 13th, The Who stage the Hollywood premiere of Tommy, performing the rock opera at the Hollywood Palladium as part of the "Magic Circus" with fellow acts Poco and the Bonzo Dog Band. Attending the show are Janis Joplin, Spirit, Mama Cass Elliot, David Crosby, Peter Tork and The Turtles.






Pete Townshend boiler suit 1969 Pete Townshend boiler suit 1969
Photo: Peter Saunders

The show on the 13th is the first known time that Pete performs onstage wearing a boiler suit, clothing then only associated with workmen. Pete adopts it both as a rejection of the outlandish fashions of the psychedelic era and to claim he isn't a "rock star" but rather a worker like any other doing his job. Within two months he will trade his white trainers for black Doc Marten boots. The look will have a strong influence on the costumes in Stanley Kubrick's upcoming movie A Clockwork Orange (1971) and will make the utilitarian Doc Marten boots fashionable.

Rolling Stone July 12, 1969 Rolling Stone July 12, 1969

Pete has another interview in Rolling Stone where he talks at length about Tommy, drugs, Meher Baba and the popular groups of the day. Meanwhile in the New Yorker Ellen Willis provides a history of The Who.





June 17, 1969 review June 17, 1969 review

After Hollywood, it's up the coast to the Fillmore West in San Francisco for a three night stand on the 17th, 18th and 19th. Woody Herman and The Herd open. Despite a huge row between Bill Graham and The Who, Graham insists the band perform two shows a day. The second show on the 19th is cancelled as Pete and Roger must catch a flight to New York. Pete's onstage explanation is included at the end of the 30 Years Of Maximum R&B boxset.






On the 20th, Roger and Pete appear in New York City court for assaulting a policeman back at the May 16th Fillmore East concert. Pete is fined $75. The charge against Roger is dismissed. After sentencing, The Who remain in New York for another week.

The Who's Woodstock contract The Who's Woodstock contract

At the end of that week, on the 26th, Pete is trapped in tour booker Frank Barselona's apartment while Barselona attempts to talk Pete into having The Who return to the U.S. in two months for a one-off show. Having just had a brush with the U.S. law and exhausted from the recent tour, Pete is in no mood to give in. After an all-night argument, Pete finally acquiesces, allowing The Who to appear with the cream of Barselona's acts at an outdoor festival named after the town in New York where it is then scheduled to be held, Woodstock.

The Who fly home to London on the 27th.

On the 28th, New Musical Express reports a phone call they placed to Pete where he screamed, "L.A. is crummy, L.A. is full of liars!" and said he stayed at a friend's house during the recent L.A. shows and didn't go out.



July 1969

New music releases: The Soft Parade - The Doors; "I Can't Get Next To You" - The Temptations; "Honky Tonk Women" - The Rolling Stones; "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" - Tom Jones

On the 3rd, Brian Jones, ex-member of The Rolling Stones, is found dead in his swimming pool in Hartfield. Shortly afterwards Pete writes an obituary for him entitled "A Normal Day For Brian, A Man Who Died Everyday".

Pete Townshend Royal Albert Hall 1969 Pete Townshend Royal Albert Hall 1969
Photo: Robert Ellis

On the 5th, The Who close out a week of Pop Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Chuck Berry headlines the first show while The Who headlines the second. Fights break out between Berry fans and Who fans and to quell the rioters, roadie Tony Halsam fires a mace canister into the crowd. The second show is quieter as the audience fills up with people who have wandered over from The Rolling Stones' free concert in Hyde Park. Despite the controlled second show, the Royal Albert Hall bans rock performances at the venue for the next few years.

Im Free German picture sleeve Im Free German picture sleeve

Also on the 5th, "I'm Free" backed with "We're Not Gonna Take It" from the Tommy album is released in the U.S. It peaks at #37 in Billboard, #30 in Cash Box. The single is also released in many other countries, usually with "Tommy Can You Hear Me" on the flip.





Townshend producing Thunderclap Newman Townshend producing Thunderclap Newman

On the 6th, Pete begins producing the Thunderclap Newman album Hollywood Dream. Additional recording sessions will be held on the 7th, 8th, 15th, 16th, and 17th. At the beginning of the month, the group's single, "Something In The Air", will knock The Beatles out of the #1 spot in the U.K. charts.

During the same time, Roger produces an album for the group Bent Frame. Pete sends them the Andy Newman song "Accidents" to record as a potential single.

Fusion magazine prints a lengthy and praiseful review and analysis of Tommy.

On the 10th, Pete writes the music of "Day of Silence" while undergoing a day of silence for Meher Baba. He writes the lyrics the next day so as not to break his vow.

Meanwhile on the 10th, Keith accompanies "Legs" Larry Smith to a Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band show at the Locarno, Bristol where he plays drums as "The Lone Arranger." He does the same at the next days Bonzo show at the Van Dike Club in Devonport.

On the 12th, Melody Maker reports that Pete told them backstage at the Royal Albert Hall about The Who's deal with Universal International for a film of Tommy to be made at the end of 1969 with a six-figure budget.

The House That Track Built The House That Track Built

The Track Records compilation album The House That Track Built is released in the U.K. only. Included on the disc is an out-take from Tommy, a studio recording of Mose Allison's "Young Man Blues", that will remain otherwise unreleased for decades.

The Who Vogue 1969 The Who Vogue 1969
Photo: Jack Robinson

The Who are photographed for Vogue magazine.

In the Netherlands, "Pinball Wizard" peaks at #10 in this month's Muziek Express magazine and #19 in Muziek Parade.

Mothers Club 19 July 1969 Mothers Club 19 July 1969

On the 19th, The Who hit the stage at Mothers Club in Erdington, Birmingham. Keith hits the stage literally, passing out halfway through the set but returning later to finish the concert.




1969 Tommy promo single 1969 Tommy promo single
Courtesy: Joe Giorgianni

Meanwhile on this day, three promotional singles from Tommy are sent out to radio stations in Britain.

Melody Maker, Pete continues his description of the upcoming Tommy movie saying he will be working with a scriptwriter on the screenplay, it will have a budget of 2 million dollars, and no member of The Who will play Tommy.

The Who follow with more U.K. dates, playing the Pier Ballroom in Hastings on the 20th, the Redcar Jazz Club, Coatham Hotel in Redcar on the 27th, and opening the new Fillmore North at the Locarno Ballroom in Sunderland on the 28th.




August 1969

New music releases: Green River - Creedence Clearwater Revival; Santana - Santana; Blind Faith - Blind Faith; "Suspicious Minds" - Elvis Presley
Keith Moon Record Mirror 1969 Keith Moon Record Mirror 1969

On the 2nd, Keith denies to Record Mirror that he plans to leave The Who.

That settled, the Who continue to squeeze in some British play dates before returning to the U.S. On the 2nd, they play the Winter Gardens in Eastbourne followed by the Cosmopolitan Ballroom in Carlisle (2rd), The Pavilion in Bath (4th) and Assembly Hall in Worthing (7th).

Keith Moon Plumpton Racecourse 1969 Keith Moon Plumpton Racecourse 1969
Photo: Robert Ellis

On the 9th, The Who play their first outdoor show in the U.K. since 1966 at the Plumpton Racecourse in Lewes, Sussex as part of the 9th National Jazz Pop Ballads & Blues Festival. Yes, King Crimson and Roy Harper are among the opening acts. Keith sits in with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band playing drums as "The Lone Arranger." Melody Maker in their review of the festival calls The Who "the most exciting rock band in the world."

Who ad Aug. 12, 1969 Who ad Aug. 12, 1969

On the 10th, The Who fly back to New York and on the 12th, open for Jefferson Airplane at the Tanglewood Music Shed in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. B.B. King plays before The Who. This is the first rock concert held at the summer home of the Boston Symphony.




Something In The Air US Something In The Air US

On the 16th, Thunderclap Newman's "Something In The Air," produced by Pete and with him on bass, hits the U.S. charts. It peaks at #37 in Billboard and #45 in Cash Box.



Woodstock poster Woodstock poster

On the same day The Who arrive by helicopter in Woodstock, New York for the Woodstock Festival. It is at this point that they are informed that the festival has been moved to Bethel, New York some forty miles away. The Who, along with Pete's wife Karen and infant daughter Emma and Roger's future wife Heather, set off by car. Pete: ""people coming up to me - 'You're going to Woodstock? You're crazy. Turn back, go home, there's millions of people there, the food's poisonous and the water...' Well, I immediately got into an incredible state and I rejected everyone. I wouldn't talk to anyone. And I was telling really nice people like Richie Havens to fuck off and things like that. And it just got to a point where when we finally did get out of the helicopter and the helicopter never arrived and we eventually got in a queue of cars it took about six hours to get there. Well, we got there and then we waited another ten hours in the mud; the first cup of coffee I had had acid in it. I could fucking taste it." Now that they are in a really bad mood, the promoters tell the band that, since Woodstock is now a "free festival", they do not have the money on hand to pay them but can write them a check. The Who will have none of it leading to a fourteen-hour standoff as The Who refuse to take the stage. Finally a bank manager is flown in by helicopter with money, the standoff ends, and The Who take the stage at 4AM. Pete lets out some of his fury by kicking Michael Wadleigh, on stage filming the acts as part of his documentary Woodstock. The Who then run quickly through "Heaven and Hell" and "I Can't Explain" before launching into Tommy. All the fury and tension come out through their instruments as The Who blaze through the rock opera in a spectacular performance captured by Wadleigh's cameras.

The Who at Woodstock 1 The Who at Woodstock 1
Photo: Henry Diltz

At the conclusion of "Pinball Wizard", radical firebrand Abbie Hoffman runs out and grabs Pete's microphone to announce, "I think this is all a pile of shit while John Sinclair rots in prison!", referring to the manager of the Detroit rock band MC5 who got ten years in prison for possession of two marijuana joints. The Who are friends with the MC5 but Pete is in no mood for interruptions. "Fuck off my fucking stage!", he yells, and pokes Hoffman in the back of the head with his guitar neck causing Hoffman to retire from the microphone. Pete in 1970: "Quite honestly, I mean knock for knock, everything Abbie Hoffman said was very fair. Because I did hit him, he must have felt it for a couple of months after." Audio exists of the incident but, for some unknown reason, it is either not filmed or the film has been lost. A search of the outtakes in 1976 by Jeff Stein and Woodstock editor Thelma Schoonmaker found no trace of it.





The Who at Woodstock 2 The Who at Woodstock 2
Photo: Jim Marshall

The sun comes up just as The Who reach "See Me Feel Me" and it is the first time the members of the band see the size of the crowd, a half million people stretching off to the horizon. Finally realizing the importance of the event, The Who put their all into the finale. After they play the new long version of "My Generation", Pete tosses his guitar into the crowd as the band walks off. The Who's roadies run out into the audience and quickly retrieve the guitar. Footage of The Who's performance at Woodstock is included in the movies Woodstock and The Kids Are Alright.









On the 18th, Tommy becomes The Who's first album to be certified gold in the U.S. by the RIAA.

Keith Moon breaks foot in fall Keith Moon breaks foot in fall

Five days after Woodstock, on the 22nd, The Who are back in England performing at the Music Hall in Shrewsbury. Afterwards Keith begins an early celebration of his 23rd birthday and ends up breaking his foot after falling down the stairs.

The Who ad 23 Aug 1969 The Who ad 23 Aug 1969

The Who were to have played at the Grays Festival Marquee in the Brentwood Road, Grays, Essex on the 23rd but they show up only to apologize for having to cancel because of Keith's busted foot.

On the 23rd, "I'm Free" hits its peak on the Billboard charts at #23, holding that position the next week.


With a new supply of high-powered painkillers, Keith accompanies The Who to Hamburg, Germany on the 26th for two days of recording a Beat Club television special about the new rock opera, miming to the record over chroma-keyed pinball tables and stills from the Tommy booklet. Pete is also interviewed in English at some depth about the meaning of Tommy.

Also on the 26th, a pre-recorded interview with Pete airs on the Nederland 1 programme Televizer.

On the 28th, Who manager Kit Lambert phones Ronald Foulk who is putting on the upcoming 2nd Isle of Wight Festival. Having heard that Bob Dylan is getting £35,000 to perform, Lambert ups The Who's fee from £450 to £5000. A compromise is reached at £900 with £200 expenses.

On the 29th, The Who play the Pavilion in Bournemouth to see if the drugged Keith can still play well enough to earn that Isle of Wight fee.

The Who at the Isle of Wight 1969 The Who at the Isle of Wight 1969
Photo: Brian McCreeth

Having learned their lesson at Woodstock, The Who helicopter in to the Isle of Wight on the 30th, play their set plus Tommy, and leave. Their daytime performance is filmed by French television. Bob Dylan, despite his own sizable fee, uses The Who's PA for his concert.










September 1969

New music releases: Abbey Road - The Beatles; Through The Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2) - The Rolling Stones; I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama - Janis Joplin; The Band - The Band

On the 5th, Keith and John attend a screening of Richard Stanley's Lone Ranger at the International Film Festival in Edinburgh. Pete appears in the film and provides music for the soundtrack.

On the 6th, The Who head up north to play the Kinema Ballroom in Dunfermline, Scotland. Alan Jordan and the Shadettes provide support. The next night (7th) finds them at The Cosmopolitan Club in Carlisle.

The Who Croyden 1969 The Who Croyden 1969
Photo: Barry Plummer

On the 13th, they appear at The Belfry in Sutton, Coldfield with The Herd opening then on the 21st, Fairfield Hall in Croydon. There is no support on this last gig so The Who provide an extended set. The hall provides excellent acoustics and Pete later calls this The Who's best live performance of Tommy. Alan Lewis, attending this show for Melody Maker, agrees saying The Who are the band to which all others must now be compared. Elton John is in the audience.

David Walley in Jazz & Pop calls Tommy "a superlative achievement." However, he says it is a cantata, not an opera.

Rolling Stone gives a favorable review of Direct Hits now available in the U.S. as an import.

The Who at Concertgebouw 1969 The Who at Concertgebouw 1969
Photo: Laurens van Houten

On the 29th is the first of Who manager Kit Lambert's attempts to ram Tommy down the throats of the highbrows by having The Who perform it at famous opera houses and concert halls. The Who's show at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam is partly filmed and broadcast on the show Journaal for Dutch television while the entire concert is simulcast on AVRO radio. Bootlegs of this simulcast are released under a wide variety of titles.








October 1969

New music releases: Led Zeppelin II - Led Zeppelin; "Something" - The Beatles; "I Want You Back" - The Jackson 5; Ummagumma - Pink Floyd

On the 1st, part two of The Who's Concertgebouw show is broadcast on AVRO radio.

On the 8th, Charles E. Fager in Christian Century magazine calls Tommy "a thoroughly religious work."

Boston After Dark review Boston After Dark review

The Who begin their second Tommy tour of North America at the Commonwealth Armory in Boston, Massachusetts on the 10th. The Flock and Pacem open and the show is M.C.'d by local DJ J.J. Jackson.


Oct 11, 1969 ad Oct 11, 1969 ad

The following night The Who returns to The Grande Ballroom in Dearborn, Michigan with local band Alice Cooper and The Sky opening. The Who and Cooper bond as Keith comes out during the latter's set to join drummer Neal Smith during his solo on "The Ballad of Dwight Frye." The next night is another show at The Grande Ballroom with support by All The Lonely People and The Amboy Dukes. Dukes' guitarist Ted Nugent later claims Keith made fun of him backstage for his refusal to take drugs.





Oct 15, 1969 ad Oct 15, 1969 ad

The Who head over the border to play the CNE Coliseum in Toronto on the 14th, followed by the Capitol Theatre in Ottawa. M.R.Q. supports. A terrible sound system plagues the show. Pete: "We regret having to play in this garbage can, for your sake more than ours." Nevertheless, the show is recorded for possible release as a Who live album but is not released commercially until the Tommy 2013 Deluxe Edition.






I'm Free German picture sleeve I'm Free German picture sleeve

"I'm Free" peaks at #18 in the German charts and #17 in the Netherlands' Muziek Express charts.

Pete Townshend in Circus 1969 Pete Townshend in Circus 1969

In Hit Parader magazine, John and Keith talk about their favorite non-Who records - two by The Beatles and one by The Beach Boys. Meanwhile in Circus is the article "Pete Townshend: deaf, dumb, blind and straight." It reports a Pete press conference where he denounced the use of drugs.





Oct 17, 1969 ad Oct 17, 1969 ad

The tour continues at Holy Cross College Gymnasium in Worcester, Massachusetts on the 17th (Ascension supports) followed by the New York State University Gymnasium in Stoneybrook, New York on the 18th (The Flock supports). The 19th finds them at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. Pete tells the audience that the show is being recorded, as are all the shows on the tour, for a live album release in November.








Fillmore East Oct. 1969 Fillmore East Oct. 1969

On the 20th, The Who begin a six-night stand at the Fillmore East in New York accompanied by the Joshua Light Show. After the first night, Bill Graham throws a party for The Who at Max's Kansas City. Led Zeppelin, who were in the audience for the show, also attend. These shows, running through the 25th, are The Who's last at either of the Fillmores.





On the 26th, the classical music reviewer for The New York Times, Clive Barnes, discusses The Who and rock operas in an article. Barnes, who attended one of the recent Fillmore East shows, says the band played their music too loud but, nevertheless, dubs Tommy "an enormous success" and predicts that a new kind of opera could arise from it.

Oct 26, 1969 ad Oct 26, 1969 ad

That night The Who play one last venue before vacation at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh. The James Gang is the supporting act.

After this night, The Who split up for separate vacations in the U.S. Pete flies down to Florida with roadie "Wiggy" Wolff to spend time at his old friend Tom Wright's father's farm. One night "at three in the morning drunk out of my brain," Pete writes The Who's next single "The Seeker."

On the 27th, a documentary film called Shadows Of Bliss is broadcast on BBC-2 TV's Horizon series. The program deals with recent discoveries about sub-atomic particles and features music by Pete and Terry Ralph Knight.

1969 Pete Townshend letter about The Kinks 1969 Pete Townshend letter about The Kinks

On Halloween, the tour resumes at the Kinetic Playground in Chicago. The opening act is The Kinks. The next day, Pete writes the following to a friend: "Ray [Davies] told me something that I wasn't aware of which explains a lot. He said the Kinks were banned from touring the States over some Union hassle or Tex hassle in 64. Wow, man, it's set them back but after seeing them and hearing them and hearing their album [Arthur] I just know they are going to get it together. they seem much more together and perhaps the prospect of discovering a new and sincere audience over here will affect them the way it affected us. At the show I mentioned the Kinks a couple of times and got such warm reactions I ended up dedicating our opera to them and theirs and got a standing ovation for doing it. I'm sure a lot of our fans are their fans."







November 1969

New music releases: Willy and The Poor Boys - Creedence Clearwater Revival; "American Woman" - The Guess Who; "Arizona" - Mark Lindsay; To Our Children's Children's Children = The Moody Blues

In Rolling Stone of all places, a reviewer of The Who's performance the previous month at the Fillmore East says they were too loud for all but the most fanatical Who fans.

Who poster Georgetown 1969 Who poster Georgetown 1969

Put in your earplugs as The Who's 2nd North American Tommy tour continues with shows at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Columbus, Ohio (1st), McDouough Gymansium at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. (2nd) a sell-out where over 800 crash the gate, Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York (3rd), Bushnell Auditorium in Hartford, Connecticut (4th) and the Livingston Gymnasium Indoor Track at Denison University in Granville, Ohio (6th).






Who denied lodging Who denied lodging

Before the Ohio University show at the Raccoon Creek Rock Festival in Athens, Ohio on the 7th, The Who are refused admittance to their hotel because they are "long-haired hippie entertainers who smoke marijuana and cause trouble." The student committee find the Who lodging in nearby Lancaster, Ohio. That night police confiscate three bottles of whiskey "which The Who had taken on stage to help them sing." The chairman of the Campus Entertainment Committee is sent out by The Who's manager for another bottle and, after making his delivery, is arrested.

Who ad Nov 8, 1969 Who ad Nov 8, 1969

The drunken louts continue on to the Kiel Opera House in St. Louis, Missouri on the 8th. A planned show at Chicago's Kinetic Playground on the 9th is cancelled after the venue burns down.

On the 8th, Melody Maker announces that The Who will be performing their rock opera at London's Coliseum. Pete later reports that The Who tried to get Covent Garden but were refused. The refusal is particularly galling for Who manager Kit Lambert who had planned on The Who performing their rock opera Tommy there as an act of revenge for his father, composer-conductor Constant Lambert, who was blackballed by the famed opera house.

Nov 14, 1969 ad Nov 14, 1969 ad

Buildings that don't mind The Who playing in them are the Palace Theater in Albany New York (10th) with The Flock supporting, The Tea Party in Boston (11th, 12th) with Tony William's Lifetime supporting, New York State University Gymnasium in New Paltz, New York (13th) with The Flock supporting, the Public Music Hall in Cleveland, Ohio (14th), Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, New York (15th), and the War Memorial Auditorium in Syracuse, New York (16th).





On the 15th, New Yorker magazine contains an article on The Who on the occasion of their receiving gold records for Tommy.

I'm Free picture sleeve used in Sweden I'm Free picture sleeve used in Sweden

"I'm Free" backed with "Tommy Can You Hear Me?" is released as a single in Sweden.


On the 18th, The Who fly back to England.

On the 19th, Cleveland After Dark prints an interview with Pete where he raves about a local band he met, The James Gang, and especially their lead guitarist, Joe Walsh.



December 1969

New music releases: Let It Bleed - The Rolling Stones; Grand Funk - Grand Funk Railroad; Okie From Muskogee - Merle Haggard and The Strangers; "Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" - Sly & The Family Stone

The Who stage a few concerts ahead of their big show at the London Coliseum. On the 4th, they play the Hippodrome Theatre in Bristol. The show is disrupted when two smoke bombs are hurled on stage forcing The Who to temporarily leave the stage. The next night they are at the Palace in Manchester and the 12th finds them at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool. All the shows are filmed and recorded as back up for the Coliseum, but it is doubtful that the footage still exists.

On the 4th, Disc magazine reports that The Who are planning to turn Tommy into an animated film. George Dunning, the man behind the Beatles' Yellow Submarine movie, sees Tommy as a possible cartoon follow-up. The magazine also reports plans to stage a Tommy ballet.

On the 6th, Speight Jenkins reviews The Who's Tommy performance at The Fillmore East the previous October in Opera News Magazine. He gives it a generally favorable review, but says it sounds more like an oratorio than an opera. He adds that the music was much too loud, feels the opera's music is not as original as The Beatles' songs, and that Tommy lacks the emotions of a traditional opera libretto.

1969 Coliseum Flyer 1969 Coliseum Flyer

On the 14th, The Who play their opera at The Coliseum in London's Covent Garden. The entire concert is recorded and filmed but rejected as the lack of proper film lighting produces a very dark image. The footage is re-discovered years later by Jeff Stein while seeking Who film for The Kids Are Alright and "Young Man Blues" is included in that movie. The entire concert is released in 2008 on the DVD The Who: Kilburn 1977. Denied the privilege of performing their rock opera at London's Sadler's Wells, The Who still get a post-show party at the venue thrown by Who manager Kit Lambert with guests "Legs" Larry Smith of the Bonzo Dog Band, Jimmy McCulloch of Thunderclap Newman and the American band The Rascals.








Keith Moon John Lennon picture sleeve Keith Moon John Lennon picture sleeve

Keith and "Legs" are two of the many people roped into performing on the 15th at the Lyceum Ballroom in London as part of a UNICEF benefit titled "Peace For Christmas". Topping the bill is John Lennon and Yoko Ono, then in the middle of their "War Is Over" campaign and the breakup of The Beatles. Also appearing in the all-star band is George Harrison, Eric Clapton, the Delaney & Bonnie Band, Klaus Voorman, Bobby Keys, Billy Preston, Jim Gordon and another drummer to play along with Keith, Alan White. The superband, given practically no rehearsal time, mostly indulges in lengthy jams. Two of these, "Cold Turkey" sung by John and "Don't Worry Kyoko" sung by Yoko, are released three years later on the John & Yoko album Some Time In New York City.






This month, Pete moves the London Meher Baba Information Centre to his wife Karen's old flat in Eccleston Square.

On the 16th, The Who rehearse and record an appearance on the BBC1 TV programme Pop Goes The Sixties miming to "I Can See For Miles." The show airs at 10:40pm on New Year's Eve.

On the 17th, Variety has the article: "Hint The Who may be new leader of Britain's pop cult" naming The Who the Beatles' successors in the category of intellectual rock.

1969 Newcastle ad 1969 Newcastle ad

On the 19th, The Who film and record another concert, this one at City Hall in Newcastle.




On the 27th, Billboard magazine declares Tommy the 34th Top LP of 1969. Number one is Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.




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