With renewed attention going to The Who Sell Out due to the new “super deluxe” edition of the 1967 classic, Pete Townshend shed light on how the album was constructed.
Townshend gave a long and in-depth interview to Apple Music and shared the backstory on the use of commercials on the band’s groundbreaking third album: “When we gathered all this stuff together, I said to our manager and our record producer, ‘Let’s sell commercials between the tracks. Let’s make commercial songs. Let’s make songs about products.’ I’d done two songs for the American Cancer Society to discourage people from smoking, which was a bit hypocritical, because I smoked.”
Townshend went on to explain that the two “concept albums” that inspired him most wouldn’t really be considered to be so by current standards: “I think it was in May of ’67; we were on the road — Sgt. Pepper(‘s Lonely Hearts Club Band) came out. Before that, at the end of ’66, in America, Pet Sounds came out by the Beach Boys. And although neither of them were narrative concepts, they were definitely poetic stories. They were gatherings of images and ideas that added up to a new way of putting songs together. And from that moment on, I think the message was out there: ‘If that’s what you wanna do — do it.’”