The Who Sell Out is the third album by the English rock band The Who, released in 1967. It is a concept album, formatted as a collection of unrelated songs interspersed with faux commercials and public service announcements. The album purports to be a broadcast by pirate radio station Radio London. Part of the intended irony of the title was that The Who were actually making commercials during that period of their career, some of which are included as bonus tracks on the remastered CD.
The album's release was reportedly followed by a bevy of lawsuits due to the mention of real-world commercial interests in the faux commercials and on the album covers, and by the makers of the real jingles (Radio London jingles), who claimed The Who used them without permission. (The jingles were produced by PAMS Productions of Dallas, Texas, which created thousands of station ID jingles in the 1960s and 1970s.)
Rock critic Dave Marsh asserts in Before I Get Old (a history of The Who) that this was the first pop album ever to not list the song titles on its cover. Marsh's claim, however, is incorrect: Moby Grape's eponymous debut LP -- released just six months earlier, in June 1967 -- is actually the first pop album not to list songs on its cover.
"I Can See for Miles" was released as a single and peaked at #10 in the UK. Townshend, who had written the song, was sure it would have been a #1 hit and was disappointed with the success of the single, casting him into self-doubt about his abilities to write concise pop singles; consequently, he decided to focus his energies on writing thematic albums instead, resulting in Tommy:
"To me it was the ultimate Who record yet it didn't sell. I spat on the British record buyer." - Pete Townshend
"Rael" is an excerpt from one of Pete Townshend's early attempts at rock opera. The plot is not clear from the excerpt, but it apparently involves a heroic "Captain" who is betrayed by his crew during a clandestine attempt to save Rael from a looming invasion by the Red Chins. The dramatic instrumental section in the second half of the song shows up as a dreamy sequence in both "Sparks" and "Underture" of the later rock opera Tommy. Another element of Tommy can be heard in the nineties reissue bonus track "Glow Girl" with its chorus of "It's a girl, Mrs. Walker it's a girl." Like early pressings of The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Sell Out ends with an audio oddity that repeats into a locked groove — in this case, an a cappella jingle for Track Records.
This album is also notable in Who discography for not featuring Roger Daltrey as the sole lead singer on most of the songs; he provides lead vocals to only three songs: "Tattoo", "I Can See for Miles" and "Rael". "Armenia City in the Sky" features a co-lead vocal from Daltrey and John Keen. "Heinz Baked Beans", "Medac" and "Silas Stingy" are sung by John Entwistle; "Odorono", "Our Love Was", "I Can't Reach You" and "Sunrise" by Pete Townshend; on the remaining songs -- "Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand" and "Relax" -- Daltrey and Townshend share lead vocals.
|1968||Billboard Pop Albums||48|
|1967||UK Chart Albums||13|
|1967||"I Can See for Miles"||Billboard Pop Singles||9|
|1967||"I Can See for Miles"||UK Singles Charts||10|
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