Updated July 21, 2023

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January 1979

New music releases: "Don't Stop Me Now" - Queen; "Heart of Glass" - Blondie; Armed Forces - Elvis Costello & The Attractions; We Are Family - Sister Sledge
A New Face appears with The Who

Early in the month, The Who, now with Kenney Jones on drums and John "Rabbit" Bundrick on keyboards, go into the studio to record new material for the Quadrophenia Soundtrack. Ultimately released are "Get Out And Stay Out" and Pete's 1968 song "Joker James." "Four Faces," a track recorded in 1973 and left unfinished, is completed with Pete, Roger and John layering new material over a previously recorded Keith Moon drum track. One of the more controversial plans made by producer John Entwistle is an attempt to record a "disco" version of "The Real Me." Over three attempts the new Who prove to be congenitally incapable of maximizing this form of R&B and John abandons the idea. One of the takes is later released on the 1994 30 Years Of Maximum R&B box set. Ultimately, John uses the 1973 version of "The Real Me" with a new ending recorded by The Who with Kenney.

An announcement is made to the press that Kenney is Keith's official replacement.

On the 13th, "Trick Of The Light" peaks at #107 in the U.S. Billboard charts.

The Second Movement

On the 20th, the album Classic Rock: The Second Movement by the London Symphony Orchestra is released by K-Tel. It features a cover of "Pinball Wizard" with a vocal by Pete.

On the 27th, in Melody Maker, Pete says he is optimistic about The Who's future and their upcoming film projects and says Kenney was the only possible replacement for Keith.

Also on the 27th, Pete appears on LWT's The Saturday Morning Show with Alan Love, star of the upcoming Tommy musical on the West End. On the 29th, Pete is interviewed on Thames Television's The Eammon Andrews Show and, on the 30th, The Old Grey Whistle Test does a piece on the premiere with talks by Pete, Alan Love, and Anna Nicholas who portrays The Acid Queen.

February 1979

New music releases: Spirits Having Flown - The Bee Gees; "Tragedy" - The Bee Gees; Rickie Lee Jones - Rickie Lee Jones; "Oliver's Army" - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
1979 Tommy production

On the 6th, Tommy opens as a musical in London's West End. The script is based on the screenplay to the film written by Pete and Ken Russell. Allan Love stars as the afflicted hero and Paul Tomlinson and John Hole direct. The first nighters give it an enthusiastic but seated ovation. Afterwards, Pete acts as host for the after party at the Sundown disco. John also makes the party but Roger is nowhere in sight. Chris Welch in Melody Maker gives it a positive review although he finds much of the story pretentious. Variety pans the production. It closes after 118 performances.

Mirror Stars LP

On the 10th, The Fabulous Poodles' LP Mirror Stars hits the U.S. charts where it peaks at #61. Three songs, "Work Shy," "Mr. Mike," and "Cherchez La Femme," all feature bass by John.

On the 12th, the press reports that Pete is starting another record label to be called Propeller Records and has signed three groups.

March 1979

New music releases: Breakfast in America - Supertramp; Van Halen II - Van Halen; Evolution - Journey; "Old Time Rock and Roll" - Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle

The soundtrack to the Sex Pistols' movie The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle is released featuring a cover of "Substitute".

The Movies signing

During the month, Pete gets The Movies as the first UK signing for his Propeller Records.

Dave Lambert Framed

The Strawb's Dave Lambert releases his solo LP Framed featuring John on bass. His credit reads "John Entwistle appears out of the goodness of his heart."

April 1979

New music releases: Greatest Hits - Waylon Jennings; Million Mile Reflections - The Charlie Daniels Band; Bad Girls - Donna Summer; Voulez-vous - Abba

On the 7th, John holds the first recording session for a new solo album that will emerge over two years later as Too Late The Hero.

On the 9th, The Who, now with John "Rabbit" Bundrick on keyboards and Kenney Jones on drums, begin rehearsing their stage act. Over the next two-and-a-half weeks they rehearse for a total of six days. The rehearsals are filmed by the BBC as part of a feature on the programme Nationwide and footage of The Who rehearsing "Who Are You" and "Sister Disco" are later released on the 30 Years Of Maximum R&B video.

In the early part of the month Roger and Kenney are interviewed on the BBC children's programme Swap Shop.

Long Live Rock 1979 picture sleeve

On the 12th, the advance single from The Kids Are Alright soundtrack, "Long Live Rock" backed with "I'm The Face" & "My Wife (live)" is released in Britain. The seven-year old A-side peaks at #48.

Kenny shines with The Who

On the 21st, Kenney is interviewed in Melody Maker. He says being picked to fill Keith's chair has made him nervous.

May 1979

New music releases: Discovery - Electric Light Orchestra; "Boogie Wonderland" - Earth, Wind & Fire; "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" - The Charlie Daniels Band; Dionne - Dionne Warwick
The Who The Rainbow 1979
Photo: Claude Gassian

On the 2nd, The Who return for their first concert after Keith Moon's death playing the Rainbow Theatre in London. According to John Swenson, the audience went "absolutely bonkers" and Who fans and reviewers are ecstatic about the new line up featuring Kenney Jones on drums and John "Rabbit" Bundrick on keyboards.

Kenney appears on The Old Grey Whistle Test to talk about joining The Who.

On the 9th, in Variety, Pete says he wants to put out videodisc albums with visuals that would go along with the music. They also report that Roger is now working on the film McVicar.

The Who concert Cannes 1979
Photo: Richard Young

On the 12th and 13th, The Who play two dates at the Arena Des Frejus, in France while also appearing at the nearby Cannes Film Festival where both The Kids Are Alright and Quadrophenia have their world premiers. Press reviews of these shows are almost completely raves. Ex-Who manager Kit Lambert shows up backstage and spends fifteen minutes telling Pete what is wrong with their current live act.

The Who presser Cannes 1979
Photo: Bob Gruen

During the Cannes festival The Who do a number of interviews and pose for publicity photos. Roger strongly denounces Jeff Stein, director of The Kids Are Alright in several interviews. Stein is not present for the world premiere of his film, having been advised by Pete to stay away due to recent problems between Stein and the band.

From Cannes, The Who travel to Paris for two more shows at the Pavilion de Paris on the 16th and 17th.

Pete appears on a report on LWT's The London Weekend Show called "The Mod Revival".

June 1979

New music releases: Candy-O - The Cars; I Am - Earth, Wind & Fire; Live Killers - Queen; Get The Knack! - The Knack

On the 1st, the May 16th Who performance is broadcast in its entirety on French Radio.

The Kids Are Alright soundtrack

On the 5th, The Kids Are Alright soundtrack double LP is released in the U.K. and on the next day in the U.S. Complimentary reviews come from Chris Welch in Melody Maker, Charles Shaar Murray in New Musical Express and Steve Simels in Stereo Review. Greil Marcus dubs the album "okay" in Rolling Stone, using the review as a platform to damn the song "Won't Get Fooled Again" for being "stale." David Hepworth in Sounds gives the record a thumbs-down in a review entitled "How To Flog Dead Horses." The album peaks at #26 in Britain and #8 in America.

The Who ticket 8 Jun 1979

On the 8th, the new Who start a two date tour of Scotland playing the Apollo Centre in Glasgow followed by the Odeon Theatre in Edinburgh on the 9th.

The Kids Are Alright poster

On the 14th, the movie The Kids Are Alright has its U.S. premiere in New York. John and Kenney Jones fly over to attend the showing. The next day they are interviewed on WPIX and WPLJ radio. Pete flies over on the 16th and the three are interviewed on WLIR. The following evening Pete, John and Kenney attend a dinner party in honor of The Who at Windows on The World at the top of the World Trade Center. Roger, meanwhile, stays in England to work on his movie McVicar.

On the 18th, Pete, John and Kenney are interviewed by Robert Klein at RCA Studios in New York for his syndicated radio show The Robert Klein Hour. They are later interviewed for the Drake/Chenault syndicated radio show. The next day Pete talks solo for D.I.R.'s radio show A Conversation With Dave Herman.

On the 27th, Pete is interviewed in Variety by Harlan Jacobson. Pete discusses the genesis of The Kids Are Alright movie and The Who's financial holdings that include 25% to 33% of Shepperton Studios, "the prettiest piece of the tattiest studio in the world."

On the 29th, The New York Times prints an interview with Pete where he admits he has reservations about touring but feels "fired up" about the new Who. On the same day The Kids Are Alright soundtrack is certified gold by the RIAA.

Pete Townshend Secret Policemans Ball 1979
Photo: Paul Cox

On the 30th, Pete performs as a solo act with acoustic guitar at Her Majesty's Theatre in London as part of The Secret Policeman's Ball event benefiting Amnesty International. His performances of "Pinball Wizard", "Drowned" and "Won't Get Fooled Again", the latter accompanied by classical guitarist John Williams, are later released on The Secret Policeman's Ball album and video.

July 1979

New music releases: Highway To Hell - AC/DC; "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" - Michael Jackson; "Highway To Hell" - AC/DC; Risqué - Chic
Long Live Rock US single

On the 7th, "Long Live Rock" from The Kids Are Alright soundtrack backed with "My Wife (live)" hits the U.S. charts, reaching #54 in Billboard and #66 in Cash Box.

On the 8th, Pete is on the cover of The London Observer Sunday Supplement.

Pete Townshend Rock Against Racism
Photo: Virginia Turbett

On the 13th, Pete performs an electric set at The Rainbow Theatre in London as part of the Rock Against Racism benefit. The event is in part a protest against racist remarks made by Eric Clapton at a concert in 1976. Pete, a friend of Clapton, says he might bring Clapton along to play but he is told Clapton will have to apologize for his remarks first. Clapton does not show up. The band, Pete's first of his own devising, consists of Kenney Jones, Tony Butler, John "Rabbit" Bundrick, Peter Hope-Evans and Neil Abbot. He premieres a new song, "Cats in the Cupboard".

On the 21st, Simon Frith writes an editorial for Melody Maker concerning The Who's business dealings called "The Kids are all wrong."

On the 26th, the British Phonographic Industry awards The Kids Are Alright soundtrack "silver" status.

August 1979

New music releases: Off The Wall - Michael Jackson; In Through The Out Door - Led Zeppelin; "Don't Bring Me Down" - Electric Light Orchestra; Mickey Mouse Disco - Walt Disney
Public Enemy No. 1 - That's Who

Roger spends this month at shooting his new feature film McVicar, while using his private helicopter to wisk him to Shepperton Studios for rehearsals with The Who.

Quadrophenia movie poster

On the 16th, the movie version of Quadrophenia goes into general release. Arriving just as the retro-Mod movement is reaching its peak in the U.K., Quadrophenia the movie becomes a cult favorite and provides a collection of iconic scenes that will have influence in Britain decades later. Sting begins his acting career with this movie and a host of future British movie and television actors such as Ray Winstone, Phil Daniels, Leslie Ash and Philip Davis get their start here.

The Who Roar In poster

Two days later The Who Roar In headlining an all-day concert at Wembley Stadium in London. The other acts at the day-long show are AC/DC, Nils Lofgren and, oddly enough, The Stranglers, the punk band that had been in a back-and-forth sniping war with Pete in Melody Maker two years earlier. The Who's show is less exciting than it could be as the Greater London Council forces them to turn their volume down and even limits their laser show.

Peppermint Lump picture sleeve

On the 24th, drummer and future new age musician James Asher releases the single "Peppermint Lump" backed with "Breakfast In Naples" under the name Angie. The single features Pete on guitar and backing vocals. He is also pictured on the front and back of the single's picture sleeve. The single fails to chart. James Asher is later hired to drum on part of the solo album Pete will soon be recording.

September 1979

New music releases: The Long Run - The Eagles; Fresh Aire III - Mannheim Steamroller; Head Games - Foreigner; Kenny - Kenny Rogers
The Who poster 1 Sep 1979

On the 1st, The Who take a day trip to Germany to play a festival at the Olympic Stadium in Nuremburg. Other acts performing that day are Cheap Trick, Zanki & Band, Steve Gibbons Band, The Scorpions, Miram Makeba and AC/DC.

On the 7th, BBC's Talking Pictures airs a special on the making of Quadrophenia featuring interviews with Sting, Roger and John.

The Who ticket 10 Sep 1979

On the 10th, the new Who with Kenney Jones on drums and John "Rabbit" Bundrick on keyboards and a horn section, makes its U.S. debut at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey. This show features the live premiere of John's "Trick of the Light". Another show follows there the next night.

The Who Madison Square Garden Sep 1979

Having prepped the show for Manhattan, The Who move to Madison Square Garden for a five night stand on the 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th and 18th. On the second night The Who are awarded the Gold Ticket for selling over 100,000 tickets at the venue.

Who-Succhi Quadrophenia launch

While the Who are on tour, their corporate arm launches a new clothing line, "Quadrophenia", in partnership with Succhi fashion. No members attend the launch party held at the Lyceum in London.

The 16th sees the premiere of another Pete song destined for a solo release, "Dance It Away". This show is later bootlegged as The Keith Moon Memorial Concert and The Who (with the Time Magazine cover).

On the 17th, Pete cuts his hand on his guitar and leaves the stage. Roger straps a guitar on and begins a jam until Pete can get bandaged up and return. On the final night a fight breaks out in the audience and Roger leaps in to sort it out. Pete, meanwhile, debuts another solo song, "I Am an Animal", singing a few verses. At the end a table of pies is wheeled out on stage and the show ends with a pie fight.

On the 24th, in The Village Voice, Frank Rose says he's not impressed with The Who's added horn section, but believes The Who have enough energy to impress young fans. Article name: "Pete Townshend gets old before he dies".

October 1979

New music releases: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 - Rod Stewart; Damn the Torpedoes - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers; Tusk - Fleetwood Mac; Bee Gees Greatest - The Bee Gees
The Legacy poster

Roger's third movie, the horror flick The Legacy, opens in the U.S.

Quadrophenia Soundtrack

The Quadrophenia Soundtrack is released in the U.K. on the 5th, in the U.S. on the 6th. It features new remixes of half the original album, three new Who songs and a side of favorite Mod songs of the early 1960s. It peaks at #23 in Britain, #46 in the U.S. Simultaneously with it is the soundtrack mixes of "5:15" backed with "I'm One" released as a single. It does not chart in the U.K. but reaches #45 in Billboard, #53 in Cash Box.

Also on the 5th, The Kids Are Alright soundtrack album is certified platinum by the RIAA in the U.S.

On the 30th, Roger and Kenney attend a party for the opening of the film Quadrophenia at the Mudd Club in New York.

November 1979

New music releases: The Wall - Pink Floyd; "Rock With You" - Michael Jackson; ELO's Greatest Hits - Electric Light Orchestra; "Another Brick in The Wall" - Pink Floyd
The Who Brighton Nov. 1979
Photo: Barry Plummer

On the 10th and 11th, The Who kick off their tour promoting the Quadrophenia movie by playing the Conference Centre in Brighton. Chris Bohn of Melody Maker later says these concerts were spoiled by long jam sessions and a lack of spontaneity (!?!).

On the 13th, Roger and John discuss current and upcoming Who film projects in The New York Times. John and Roger both say they were dissatisfied with Jeff Stein's work on The Kids Are Alright.

17 Nov 1979 ticket

The tour continues on the 16th and 17th with shows in Stafford at New Bingley Hall.

On the 19th, Pete performs with Raphael Rudd at the Meher Baba Oceanic Centre. The concert is recorded and released in 2001 as Pete Townshend and Raphael Rudd - The Oceanic Concerts.

Also on the 19th, Pete begins recording the first solo album for his new contract with Atlantic Records with producer Chris Thomas.

On the 21st, Pete and John "Rabbit" Bundrick attend a party at the home of Mike and Sue Vickers. Pete invites Sue and her daughter Jackie to accompany The Who on the upcoming U.S. tour. They agree. Sue will ultimately leave her husband to marry Rabbit, a marriage that will last until her death in 2007. Pete, keeping it all in the family, begins an affair with the daughter that runs through the next year and inspires the song "You Better You Bet".

On the 30th, The Who return for a concert tour of the U.S. at the Masonic Temple Auditorium in Detroit. "I Can See for Miles" is reintroduced to the live set for the first time since early 1968. The encore begins with a "Dancing In The Streets"/"Dance It Away" medley.

Lesley Duncan and guests

Also on the 30th, Lesley Duncan releases a single in the U.K. for UNICEF entitled "Sing Children Sing". Pete is on the single along with Kate Bush and Phil Lynott.

December 1979

New music releases: Christopher Cross - Christopher Cross; Gold & Platinum - Lynyrd Skynyrd; The Rose - Bette Midler; London Calling - The Clash
1979 Pittsburgh poster

The Who's 1979 North American tour continues on the 2nd at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.

Who Cincinnati ticket

On the 3rd, The Who arrive at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati around 6pm and begin a sound check. Outside the thousands of people that make up the general admission audience have been outside for hours in the freezing cold packed against the few doors that are scheduled to be opened at 7pm. When some members of the crowd hear The Who's soundcheck they begin to push harder and harder on the crowd yelling "One, two, three, push!" The pressure grows to a level that some in the crowd can no longer take in air. Anyone who falls has the crowd forced over them, crushing them underfoot. Those few who know what is happening and can escape run to the hired security guards only to be rebuffed.

The leader of the security guard requests that the doors be opened to relieve the pressure but the promoter refuses because the sound check isn't over and there aren't enough ticket takers. At 7:15, four doors are opened but most of the time two of the doors are blocked by security guards. The pushing grows even stronger into the tight bottleneck as the tickets are slowly gathered and the crowd races into the arena. The first body is found at 7:54pm.

Cincinnati paramedics treat victims
Photo: Jack Klumpe

Ambulances and firetrucks are brought in. As there are few marks on the bodies, the medical crews incorrectly suspect drug overdoses. It is almost an hour before news filters backstage to The Who's manager Bill Curbishley about the tragedy outside. The fire marshal wants the concert stopped but Curbishley refuses fearing that a cancellation would spark a riot or send the crowd rushing back over the plaza where the wounded are being treated.

The Who leave Cincinnati
Photo: Nick Allen

The Who go on, unaware of what has occured outside. By the end of the show Curbishley has been told that eleven fans have died. He tells The Who that something serious has happened and to hurry the encore. When they come backstage again Curbishley breaks the news to them. Roger begins to cry, the rest are silent and stunned.

11 Die In Rock Frenzy

The next morning The Who hold a short press conference before heading to their next show. Roger does most of the speaking. Fighting back tears, he defends The Who against charges that their stage show is violent and denies that The Who had anything to do with security and the opening of too few doors that he blames for the tragedy. By late that evening and the next day, video of the carnage is airing on news around the world. While Variety magazine blames the tragedy on the large number of unreserved seats, Cincinnati's local television station, with no evidence, calls it a "stampede" by a drug-crazed mob fueled by rock music and this is reported as fact by Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News and by The New York Times.

At the next night's show at Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, the security staff is doubled and doors are opened three hours before the concert. Roger says from the stage "You all know what happened yesterday. There's nothing we can do. We feel totally shattered but life goes on. We lost a lot of family yesterday and this show's for them." Pete later reports that it was at the Buffalo show that he first met and made friends with then rock promoters and future movie moguls Bob and Harvey Weinstein.

On the 6th, the day of the next show at the Richfield, Ohio Coliseum, The Christian Science Monitor reports that Boston city officials have decided to allow The Who's concert of the 16th to take place. The governments of each city where the tour is headed hold meetings to decide whether The Who should be allowed to play. Ultimately only the show in Providence, Rhode Island is canceled.

1979 Philadelphia button

On the 7th, The Who return to the Pontiac Silverdome, then go on the 8th to the Chicago International Amphitheatre where, due to ticket demand, the concert is shown on closed-circuit in local theaters. The videotape of the show is released on DVD in 2007 as a bonus to the Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who DVD. The 10th and 11th is spent at the Philadelphia Spectrum. Both shows are again shown live on closed-circuit television in local theaters and are professionally recorded. These recordings were to have made up the bulk of Who's Last before that version is rejected by MCA. The only release from this show to date is a 1988 issue of "Dancing In The Street/Dance It Away".

On the 10th, The Who are informed that the readers of Rolling Stone have voted them the best band of 1979.

On the 12th, the initial report of the Cincinnati inquiry is released. It blames the late opening of too few doors, inadequate security and the festival seating format.

On the 13th The Who play the Capital Center outside Washington, D.C., the New Haven Coliseum on the 15th (seventy concert goers are arrested during the show), the Boston Garden on the 16th, and back to the Capital Center on the 17th, a show added to make up for the cancellation of the Providence show.

Secret Policeman's Ball UK LP

The Secret Policeman's Ball (The Music) LP is released in Britain on the 14th with live acoustic guitar performances by Pete of "Pinball Wizard", "Drowned" and with classical guitarist John Williams, "Won't Get Fooled Again". It does not make the charts. The accompanying movie premieres on ITV television in the U.K. on the 22nd.

Dave Worrall in Movie Maker magazine tells of a previous movie of Quadrophenia, a feature-length 8mm film called "For A Moment" in 1974 that used the original album as the soundtrack. It later won several film contest awards.

Having returned to England and now living on his own in his Eel Pie studio offices, Pete records the song "Dirty Water" on cassette. It is released on the B-side to "Bargain" in 1983 and later on Scoop 3.

Who Time cover

On the 17th, The Who make their one appearance on the cover of Time magazine. The article deals more with The Who's place in rock than the Cincinnati tragedy. Author Jay Cocks says "no other group has ever pushed rock so far, or asked so much from it."

On the 19th the survivors of the Cincinnati tragedy file a $27 million dollar lawsuit against the Electric Factory who were the concert's promoters, the city of Cincinnati and The Who.

Who Kampuchea
Photo: Ross Halfin

The Who re-emerge on the 28th to headline the third night of the Concerts For Kampuchea benefit at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. Pete bangs his guitar at the beginning of "Baba O'Riley" and is completely out of tune for the entire song. Oddly, it is later chosen to be the lead track of the 1981 Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea album. The show is also filmed and parts of it are shown in a television special. "Behind Blue Eyes" is later released on the 30 Years Of Maximum R&B video. The entire performance is also released on bootlegs.

79-12-28 Townshend McCartney

The next day Pete is required to show up for the end of the last night's concert as part of Paul McCartney's Rockestra. He gets there way too early and ends up spending the day in a pub. By evening he is completely sloshed and refuses to put on the silver lamé jacket everyone else in Paul's Rockestra is asked to wear.

Won't Get Fooled Again, a 45-minute profile of The Who airs on select ITV stations in Britain.

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