On the 1 December 1964, The Who played the first of 22 consecutive Tuesday night gigs at The Marquee Club in London. The band were paid £50 for each gig.
During this period, The Who were appearing anywhere they could; they weren't on the toilet circuit, but they weren't that far from it. They were playing in back rooms in pubs and small clubs in and around the London area.
Keith Moon once said The Marquee was the only place that had any influence, where managers and promoters and the press could see you. They had a very discerning audience; Moon admitted that playing at the marquee helped The Who develop their musical ideas. The Marquee helped The Who (and many other bands) find their feet. "Maximum R&B" said the poster for these Who gigs - and it was.
In the same week The Who had released their debut album My Generation in the UK (it didn't hit the shops in the US until the following year). The members of The Who later dismissed their debut as something of a rush job that did not accurately represent their stage performance of the time - but nothing could. Already The Who live were loud, violent, and chaotic. The album saw the British group covering songs by James Brown and Bo Diddley as well as performing their own compositions. Future Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page played on the album; you can hear his lead guitar on Bald Headed Woman.
The Who went on to make some of the best rock and pop records ever, have sold over 100 million records, and have charted over 25 Top 40 singles. The classic lineup of Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon can stand next to any other great British band, including Zeppelin, The Stones, The Kinks, and The Beatles. Not only were they a great live act, The Who made belting singles.
Their fourth album Tommy telling a loose story about a "deaf, dumb and blind kid", was the first musical work to be billed overtly as a rock opera. Released in 1969, the album was mostly composed by Pete Townshend. In 1998, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for "historical, artistic and significant value". It has sold over 20 million copies worldwide.
Pete Townshend's inspiration for the album came from the teachings of the Meher Baba and other writings and expressing the enlightenment he believed that he had received. Despite being banned by the BBC and certain US radio stations the album became a commercial success, as did The Who's frequent live performances of the rock opera in the following years.
Now almost 45 years later Universal have released a brand new iPad digital box set application, where fans can download the app for free and if already have Tommy in their iTunes music collection, they can play tracks on their tablets along with the visuals/extra that accompany the App. The app has a nice digital pinball game, book-length sleeve-notes by legendary Who chronicler Richard Barnes and five filmed performances from the 14 December 1969 show at the London Coliseum, where the group played the Tommy album in full.
See it here: http://smarturl.it/tommyapp
I'm sure even in their wildest dreams when Pete, Roger, Keith and John were paying those early gigs at the Marquee back in 1964 they wouldn't of believed their legacy would be alive and well in 2013!
Follow Neil Cossar on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Thisdayinmusic