May 9, 2021

Who Are You

From the "Who Are You" liner notes by Matt Resnicoff with additions by Brian Cady.

From the Who Are You liner notes by Matt Resnicoff with additions by Brian Cady:

Demo’d by Pete at his Goring studio in June and recorded by The Who at Ramport in October 1977. It is based on a 1971 synthesizer instrumental by Pete called "Meher Baba M4 (Signal Box)" which was later released on Pete’s solo album Psychoderelict. Pete’s demo version with lyrics was released on his 1999 solo album Lifehouse Chronicles. On The Who’s version Rod Argent and Pete play keyboards and Andy Fairweather-Low contributed background vocals.

An edited version of ‘Who Are You’ was released as a single in July, 1978. It reached #18 in the U.K. charts and #14 in the U.S.

The film footage of the band apparently recording this song was filmed at Ramport Studios in June, 1978.

‘Who Are You’ was written about meeting Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols after an awful 13-hour encounter with Allan Klein who, in my personal opinion, is the awesome rock leech-godfather. In one sense the song is more about the demands of new friendship than blood-letting challenge. Roger’s aggressive reading of my nihilistic lyric redirected its function by the simple act of singing "Who the fuck are you…" when I had written "Who, who, who are you…"Steve and Paul became real ‘mates’ of mine in the English sense. We socialized a few times. Got drunk (well, I did) and I have to say to their credit, for a couple of figure-head anarchists, they seemed sincerely concerned about my decaying condition at the time.

I still had the full-size barn studio that I built for mixing Quadrophenia and, while working on the demo for this track, nearly blew my own brains out developing the backing track for the song. The weird background guitar sound on this was created with a top-secret ARP 2600 patch I invented, but the sawing guitar sound at its heart was generated with an ‘E-Bow.’ Andy Fairweather-Low sang and Rod Argent played piano on this cut. But I can’t remember them doing so at all. I can’t remember playing that effortless acoustic in the break either — can’t do that any more. I don’t much care. Do you? You do? Well who the fuck are you?"

The events described in the first verse of this song occurred during the last week of January 1977. "Who Are You" was released in the U.K. as a single ahead of the album July 14, 1978. It was edited down to 5’05 and reached #18. In the U.S., a completely different edit of 3’22 was used with "hell" in place of "fuck". It hit the charts on August 26, 1978 and went to #14 in Billboard and #9 in Cash Box. A radio edit of the song at 6’11, also with the above word substitution, appeared on U.S. promo copies of the album. The backing track was later used in Pete’s quasi-revival of Lifehouse on his 1993 album Psychoderelict.

A hint of this song appeared during the "My Generation" jam at The Who’s last paid-attendance concert with Keith Moon in Toronto October 21, 1976. The only time The Who performed a fairly complete live version with Keith on drums was during the filmed performance at Gaumont State Theatre, Kilburn December 15, 1977. The video showing Keith and the rest performing "Who Are You" in the studio was filmed July 1978. With the revival of The Who in 1979, "Who Are You" entered their standard live repertory. Live versions appear on the Who Rocks America video (1982), Who’s Last (1982), the Who/Live featuring the rock opera ‘Tommy’ video(1989) and The Who & Special Guests Live at the Royal Albert Hall video (2000). There is also a live-in-studio version with Kenney Jones on drums on the 30 Years of Maximum R&B video. According to R. Rowley, the background sequence is Pete playing an overdriven electric guitar through a rather complicated synthesizer setup. Click here for more information.]

The "Lost verse mix" was recorded at Ramport in April 1978. This version of the song features lyrics in the second verse which were different from the released version. After consideration, Pete re-wrote that verse. Previously unreleased.