The Who – Who Are You

Great song by The Who on their last album with Keith Moon. Keith was not in the best shape by this time but his drumming on this is still fantastic. The song is about real events that happened to Pete Townshend down to being passed out drunk at night and asking a policeman that knew Pete’s name, Who the F**k are you? You can still hear Daltrey sing the expletive on classic radio stations.

The song peaked at #14 in the Billboard 100 and #18 in the UK in 1978.

From Songfacts.

This song is based on a day in the life of Pete Townshend. It began with a very long meeting dealing with royalties for his songs: “Eleven hours in the Tin Pan, God, there’s got to be another way.” The “Tin Pan” he is referring to is “Tin Pan Alley” which is the name given to the collection of New York City-centered music publishers and songwriters who dominated the popular music of the United States. After this excruciating meeting he received a large check for royalties, left and went to a bar and got completely drunk. In that bar he encountered Paul Cook and Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols, who thought very highly of Pete for paving the way for Punk rock music. Townshend was conflicted because he feared The Who had sold out, and seeing The Sex Pistols, who were icons of rebellion, exasperated him even more. Pete left that bar and passed out in a random doorway in Soho (a part of New York). A policeman recognized him (“A policeman knew my name”) and being kind, woke him and and told him, “You can go sleep at home tonight (instead of a jail cell), if you can get up and walk away.” Pete’s response: “Who the f–k are you?”

According to the 1985 Pete Townshend “My Generation” radio special, the song came out different than intended when Roger Daltrey sang it. Townshend said the song became a prayer from a destitute man. The man is on the street, looking up to the sky and asking God, “Who are you?”

The cover picture on the album features the band with drummer Keith Moon sitting on a chair that has the words “Not to be taken away” on the back of it. Moon passed away weeks after the photo was taken, and this was his last album. >>

Daltrey says the F-word twice in this song: “Who the f–k are you.” It can still be heard today with the expletive in it on many Classic Rock stations. >>

This is the theme song for the CBS TV series CSI, which went on the air in 2000 (although when the huge “YEAAAHHH!!!!” is heard it’s actually from “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” also by the Who, which was is spliced in). The song is an appropriate choice, as the crime scene investigators try to determine “who” the victims are and “who” killed them. Fans of the The Who also fit the demographics of the show, which is targeted to baby boomers.

The Who and CBS have gotten along quite well, as the shows enjoyed stellar ratings and the group has profited from the use of the songs.

The documentary The Kids Are Alright shows The Who in a studio recording this song. John, Keith, and Pete do the clapping part, but John comes in early, which leads the rest of the group to laugh hysterically. John also amuses Keith by twirling his hands between claps. Pete mocks Keith fixing his hair, and at the end holds his hand out for a high five, and you can hear a smack and him screaming, “OW!”

Townshend has only vague memories of writing this song, as he composed it with a hangover. He explained: “I’d like to think that where the song came from wasn’t the feet that I was drunk when I did the demo, but the fact that I was f–king angry with [manager] Allen Klein, and that the song was an outlet for that anger.”

Roger Daltrey recalled to Uncut magazine: “We were getting incredible accolades from some of the new Punk bands. They were saying how much they loved The Who, that we were the only band they’d leave alive after they’d taken out the rest of the establishment! But I felt very threatened by the Punk thing at first. To me it was like, ‘Well, they think they’re f—ing tough, but we’re f—ing tougher.’ It unsettled me in my vocals. When I listen back to ‘Who Are You?’ I can hear that it made me incredibly aggressive. But that’s what that song was about. Being pissed and aggressive and a c—!”

Who Are You

Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?
Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?
Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?
Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?

I woke up in a Soho doorway
A policeman knew my name
He said “You can go sleep at home tonight
If you can get up and walk away”

I staggered back to the underground
And the breeze blew back my hair
I remember throwin’ punches around
And preachin’ from my chair

Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really want to know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
‘Cause I really want to know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

I took the tube back out of town
Back to the Rollin’ Pin
I felt a little like a dying clown
With a streak of Rin Tin Tin

I stretched back and I hiccupped
And looked back on my busy day
Eleven hours in the Tin Pan
God, there’s got to be another way

Who are you?
Ooh wa ooh wa ooh wa ooh wa

Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?
Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?
Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?
Who are you?
Who, who, who, who?

Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really want to know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
‘Cause I really want to know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

I know there’s a place you walked
Where love falls from the trees
My heart is like a broken cup
I only feel right on my knees

I spit out like a sewer hole
Yet still receive your kiss
How can I measure up to anyone now
After such a love as this?

Well, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
I really want to know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
Tell me, who are you? (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)
‘Cause I really want to know (Who are you? Who, who, who, who?)

 

Author: badfinger20

Guitar, Bass, song writer,

11 thoughts on “The Who – Who Are You”

  1. A great one, no doubt–although for me, anyway, it has been overplayed to death on classic rock radio. A victim of it’s own success, if you will. Fascinating back story on the song. Initially I rolled my eyes at the CSI into, but it really was too perfect. How could they pass it up if Townsend was willing to sell them the rights? It helped that those first two years or so of the original CSI were really good.

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    1. It has been driven in the ground but unlike Stairway or some of the others that are played over and over…I still turn this one up…also Won’t Get Fooled Again and Baba O’Riley… I should be sick of them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s an interesting story about how it came about! I always think ‘Grissom & Sara’ when I hear it. I wonder how much CSI paid for use of The Who songs,and if the band tried to quantify if it boosted sales of their music

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t think much of this song back when it came out, but now I really appreciate it. The real-life story helps with that, I think. I didn’t know the bit about Allen Klein, and Roger’s reaction to punk rockers. Enlightening stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the drums in it…of course… The story behind it is interesting.

      Oh I saw something today that you might have seen or not but you might like. We were talking about the Queen movie thats out now and the Daltrey book… Roger Daltrey singing with Queen…”I Want It All”… He starts singing around a minute in.

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      1. It was just surreal seeing him front Queen…really I get the same feeling watching anyone front Queen besides Freddy.

        Like

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