1967: The Who and The Beatles
by David Soulsby, author of the novel, "Somewhere in the Distance"
IF YOU were looking for an electrifying ‘top of their game’ live
act in 1967, you didn’t have to cast your sights any further than The Who. They were a four-some to be reckoned
with: full of bombastic attitude and ambition and showmanship…but more than that, they were exceedingly fine
musicians to boot. They sprung on stage and performed raw, mean, thunderous rock ‘n’ roll that could not be
The Beatles had the clever, toe-tapping, delightfully-melodic
songs, the Stones had the pulsating, animalistic, howling songs, but it was The Who that had the chest-pounding,
lung-searing, ear-deafening songs, songs that rocketed and roared, slapping against the audiences’ faces like
sharp tentacles hurling from the stage, the thunderous roar of the guitars and drums reverberating through their
bodies from the bottom of their feet to the top of their heads, a truly awesome visceral and cerebral
The band’s chemistry was what gave it its musical majesty: the
tough, no-nonsense vocals of Roger Daltrey; the incisive, scorching guitar work of Pete Townshend; the restless,
manic drumming of Keith Moon; and the effortlessly easy blast of bass from John Entwhistle.
Enthralled crowds at nine New York concerts in March witnessed
the grandeur, knowing they had been privileged to experience performances of pure, perfect, passionate, pounding
rock. And by the end of June, with a groundbreaking appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival under their belt,
the group’s US standing was set to soar into the stratosphere.
And so it was that, by the end of the summer of 1967 (the Summer
of Love), the south Londoners finally made it big in America. It was no surprise to the British fans who loved
them, though, like me, they were more than just a little puzzled that the lads hadn’t made the massive
transatlantic breakthrough earlier…but like most good things, it was better late than never. And after that,
there was no looking back.
It just got better and better and by the end of the year the
classic The Who Sell Out album cemented their greatness. And, of course, there was much more to come…
It’s strange how seeing one of your favourite groups gain
immense fame and adulation can work like a two-edged sword. There’s a piece of you that wants your favourite
band to break away from its humble roots and soar skywards, while there’s an equally strong emotion that makes
you sad that the group is no longer simply yours. Looking back, that’s how I felt. Selfish, I know, but only
SHAFTS of bright sunlight perform a jerky dance on the pavement
as they pierce through the gently rustling trees, while sheets of discarded newspaper swirl and dart between the
traffic on the shimmering tarmac. Some vehicles slow momentarily as their curious drivers glance at the
colourful, chattering crowd lined up in an orderly fashion outside a record store.
It’s the first day of June and what will become the most iconic
rock album of all time is about to be eagerly snatched up by fans impatient to own a copy on the first day of
sale. The buzz going round the expectant throng is that something very special is about to happen…
The Beatles’ classic Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
heralds a new era in music making: albums can now be concepts, dabble with ideas and themes that would have been
thought non-goers only a few years earlier; cover designs can encapsulate art in experimental and dynamic ways;
lyrics can be surreal and challenging; and musicians can take off in whatever direction they want, free to mix
all forms of music into rich palettes of seemingly infinite variety. It’s not the first time that they’ve been
able to do these things, but the door is now well and truly open.
I have to confess, with a slightly red face, that Sgt Pepper was
the first Beatles album I owned. Of course, I listened to their music from the very start but never got round to
buying any of their records (not even singles). I didn’t think I needed to. There sound was everywhere, on the
radio, on TV, whirring in your head. I was too busy with the likes of The Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, The
Searchers and Jefferson Airplane to give the Fab Four too much of my attention. The Liverpool lads were massive
and all conquering that’s for sure, but I didn’t consider myself an out-and-out fan. How preserve was
But Sgt Pepper changed all that. It was a vinyl album that got
played and played throughout that summer, and beyond.
Later that month I was one of the estimated 400-million viewers
who watched The Beatles and a host of personalities sing All You Need Is Love on the first international
satellite show on TV. It was fun and it brought the world together in unison, if only for a short
time! Of course, the Vietnam War was still raging and civil unrest
was becoming an increasing part of daily life all over the world, but the song’s sentiment was a worthy one.
Perhaps a bit too simplistic but The Beatles hearts were in the right place.
David Soulsby lives in Romford, Essex, England, and is now retired after 46 years as a journalist. During his
career, he worked on local and national newspapers and magazines, and in the Sixties met many of his musical
heroes, including Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Sonny Boy Williamson, James Brown and Mel
Torme. He’s now freelancing as a writer and proof-reader, working from home. He’s the author of
Somewhere In The Distance, a novel about four friends growing up in the
Purchase David's book "Somewhere in the Distance"