[Review] The Who Sell Out (1967)

The band’s brilliant third record has some real gems sandwiched between radio commercials.

Kronomyth 3.0: Jingles all the way, oh what fun it is to ride with The Who.

The Who Sell Out is something else, a kinked-out collection of swell songs wrapped in a radio commercial concept that was, ironically, a pretty uncommercial approach. How do I describe the wonder this album inspires? Let me count the days…

MONDAY: I revel in the acquisition of a cornerstone classic, “I Can See For Miles,” a relentless rocker that won’t quit.

TUESDAY: “Our Love Was, Is” arrives in a torrent of emotion, love’s revelatory powers unleashed.

WEDNESDAY: “Armenia City In The Sky” comes crashing out of the speakers as if Famine, Pestilence and their mates had traded in their old horses for shiny new psychedelic motorbikes.

THURSDAY: And then I suddenly seen “Mary-Anne With The Shaky Hands.” Can’t believe this didn’t floor me on the first go ‘round. Like “Sunset Afternoon,” there’s just no shaking its sunlight.

FRIDAY: The disc that keeps on giving! “Tattoo” is an achingly sweet remembrance of youth, a paean to the impetuous acts of innocents (at least that’s how I’m explaining mine).

SATURDAY: “I Can’t Reach You” finally does, its plea to be loved heard at last.

SUNDAY: I set sail with “Rael” from a warm surf, letting the song bring me home even as half of me lingers on its lost island.

Thus ends the tour of Sell Out’s seven wonders, noting as I write this that there really isn’t a “week” song in the show. The commercials are clever, sometimes fleshed out into actual songs (“Odorono,” “Medac”), sometimes uncredited segues between songs (such as the fake radio ID spots). It’s a remarkably ambitious record in scope and sound, a rare case where The Who embraced the styles of other bands (Pink Floyd, The Beach Boys, The Kinks). A Quick One quickly found itself back on the shelves, but The Who Sell Out remains in regular rotation on my internal radio right along with Who’s Next and Who Are You.

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Original LP Version

A1. Armenia City In The Sky (John Keene) / Heinz Baked Beans (John Entwistle) (4:48)
A2. Mary-Anne With The Shaky Hands (2:33)
A3. Odorono (2:34)
A4. Tattoo (2:53)
A5. Our Love Was, Is (3:24)
A6. I Can See For Miles (4:05)
B1. I Can’t Reach You (3:03)
B2. Medac (John Entwistle) (0:56)
B3. Relax (2:37)
B4. Silas Stingy (John Entwistle) (3:02)
B5. Sunrise (3:02)
B6. Rael (6:00)

All songs written by Pete Townshend unless noted.

CD reissue bonus tracks
13. Rael 2
14. Glittering Girl
15. Melancholia
16. Someone’s Coming
17. Jaguar
18. Early Morning Cold Taxi
19. Hall of the Mountain King
20. Girl’s Eyes
21. Mary-Anne With The Shaky Hands (alternative version)
22. Glow Girl

The Players

Roger Daltrey (lead vocals), John Entwistle (bass, vocals), Keith Moon (drums), Pete Townshend (guitar, vocals). Produced by Kit Lambert; executive produced by Chris Stamp.

The Plastic

Released on mono and stereo elpee on December 16, 1967 in the UK (Track, 612/613 002) and the US (Decca, DL 4950/74950) with poster; reached #13 on the UK charts and #48 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1970 in the UK (Track, 2407 009).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in Greece (Polydor, 2489 153).
  3. Re-packaged with A Quick One on 2-for-1 2LP in December 1974 in the UK (Track, 4067).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1980 in Japan (Polydor, MPX-4019).
  5. Re-issued with A Quick One on 2-for-1 2LP in 1980 in the US (MCA, MCA2-4067).
  6. Re-issued on compact disc in 1988 in the US (MCA, MCAD-31332).
  7. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc and cassette in June 1995 in the UK (Polydor, 527 759) and on June 20, 1995 in the US (MCA, MCAD/MCAC-11268) with 10 bonus tracks.
  8. Re-released on 2LP in France (Triumph, 2676 003).
  9. Re-issued on expanded, remastered compact disc in 1999 in Japan (Polydor, POCP-9195) with 10 bonus tracks.
  10. Re-issued on expanded, remastered compact disc in Japan (Polydor, UICY-2311) with 10 bonus tracks.
  11. Re-released on expanded 180g vinyl elpee in 2004 (Universal) with 10 bonus tracks.
  12. Re-released on mono 200g vinyl elpee in 2005 in the US (Classic Records, LP 612.002) with poster.
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