Out today (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” — 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.”
Pete Townshend recalled that the constant need for the Who to prove themselves on the singles charts wore thin for him around the time of The Who Sell Out: “Everything that we put out seemed to, like, go out at, like, Number Eight, Number 10, Number 12 — something like that. And then we’d get a brief, kind of, period of, like, successful touring in Britain and Europe, and the it would slide back out and again, and then you’d have the same mountain to climb again, and I got really sick of it.”
Despite the Who scoring a solid American Top 10 hit with “I Can See For Miles,” its relative chart failure back in England pushed Pete Townshend into thinking well beyond the three-minute pop hit as the Who’s primary outlet: “I kept ‘I Can See For Miles’ back for quite a long time as a kind of ace in the hole, I think for about 18 months, two years. And stuck that out thinking that’s the Who’s first real Number One record — and it didn’t do very well at all. And I was bitterly disappointed and most disillusioned. And I just decided to go for broke and do something completely mad, and started work at that period on Tommy.”
Frontman Roger Daltrey told us that it isn’t hard for fans to figure out his creative contributions to Pete Townshend’s songs: “You listen to the demos and you listen to the final record, and you can do that by listening to (Townshend’s) Scoop albums. There is a creative input, but I don’t analyze it. It’s something that happens. I always try to find the center of the song and that involves taking the song inwards for the expression and that brings out a mood, which will ultimately shape the mood of the record. That’s the creative process. That’s all it is; something that happens naturally.”