The Who is a legendary British rock band that has been around for over five decades, leaving an indelible mark on the music industry with their iconic songs and energetic live performances. While the band is best known for its powerful guitar riffs and thunderous drumming, the role of the keyboardist in shaping the band’s sound is often overlooked. In this deep dive, we will explore the history of the keyboardists who have played alongside the Who and the impact they had on the band’s music. So, let’s get ready to embark on a journey through the magical world of the Who’s keyboardists!
The Origins of the Who and Their Keyboardists
The Early Years: Pete Townshend as the Main Keyboardist
Pete Townshend, the legendary guitarist and songwriter of the Who, played keyboards in the band during its early years. As the group’s primary composer, Townshend’s innovative use of keyboards helped shape the Who’s distinctive sound.
Pete Townshend’s Role in the Who
Townshend, along with Roger Daltrey, formed the Who in 1964. As the band’s guitarist, Townshend was instrumental in creating the group’s unique blend of rock, pop, and R&B. He also played keyboards on many of the Who’s early recordings, providing the distinctive textures and sounds that would become a hallmark of their music.
The Sound of Pete Townshend’s Keyboards
Townshend’s keyboard work on early Who albums like “My Generation” and “A Hard Day’s Night” featured simple, yet effective techniques. He often used the organ to provide a foundation for the band’s sound, while incorporating occasional piano or mellotron parts to add depth and complexity.
In live performances, Townshend’s keyboard playing was characterized by its energy and dynamism. He would often stand up while playing the organ, creating a visually striking presence that helped to engage audiences. This combination of musicianship and showmanship would become a hallmark of the Who’s live performances.
Overall, Pete Townshend’s role as the main keyboardist in the Who’s early years was crucial in shaping the band’s sound and establishing their place in rock music history.
The Evolution of the Who’s Keyboardists Over Time
Keyboardists During the Early Years
The early years of the Who saw the band experimenting with various keyboard instruments to enhance their sound. During this time, the band’s keyboardists played a crucial role in adding depth and texture to their music. Some of the notable keyboardists who played with the band during this period include:
- Nicky Hopkins: Hopkins was a session musician who played with the Who during their early years. He is best known for his work on the albums “My Generation” and “A Quick One”. His distinctive style and innovative use of the piano helped to shape the band‘s sound during this period.
- John Entwistle: Although he was primarily a bass guitarist, Entwistle also played keyboards on several of the Who’s early recordings. He used his keyboard skills to add depth and complexity to the band’s sound, particularly on songs like “The Seeker” and “I Can See for Miles”.
Keyboardists During the Later Years
As the Who’s sound evolved over time, so did the role of the keyboardist in the band. During the later years of the band’s career, keyboardists played a more prominent role in shaping their sound, and several notable musicians contributed to the band’s music during this period. Some of the most notable keyboardists who played with the Who during this time include:
- Pete Townshend: Although he is best known as the band’s guitarist and songwriter, Townshend also played keyboards on several of the Who’s later recordings. His use of synthesizers and other electronic instruments helped to shape the band‘s sound on albums like “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia”.
- Billy Nicholls: Nicholls was a session musician who worked with the Who during the 1970s. He played keyboards on several of the band’s recordings, including “Who’s Next” and “The Who by Numbers”. His work with the band helped to add a sense of warmth and depth to their sound during this period.
- John “Rabbit” Bundrick: Bundrick was a keyboardist who played with the Who during the 1980s and 1990s. He is best known for his work on the album “It’s Hard” and the tour that followed. His keyboard work helped to add a sense of dynamism and energy to the band’s sound during this period.
Overall, the evolution of the Who’s keyboardists over time reflects the band’s growth and development as musicians. From session musicians like Nicky Hopkins to band members like Pete Townshend, the keyboardists who have played with the Who have contributed significantly to the band’s sound and legacy.
The Impact of Keyboards on the Who’s Sound and Style
The Use of Keyboards in the Who’s Music
The Synthesis of Rock and Classical Music
In the Who’s music, keyboards played a significant role in blending rock and classical music. This was achieved through the use of synthesizers, which allowed the band to create a unique sound that incorporated elements of both genres. The use of synthesizers in the Who’s music can be heard in many of their popular songs, such as “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
The Use of Keyboards in Live Performances
Keyboards were also integral to the Who’s live performances. In addition to providing backing vocals and percussion, keyboardists often played a prominent role in creating the band’s distinctive sound. For example, in the live performance of “Baba O’Riley,” keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick’s piano and synthesizer parts are essential to the song’s dynamic and emotional impact.
Furthermore, the use of keyboards in live performances allowed the band to experiment with different sounds and textures, adding depth and complexity to their music. This can be seen in the live performance of “The Acid Queen,” where the use of a Mellotron, an early electronic instrument that produces a tape loop of sounds, creates a haunting and otherworldly atmosphere.
Overall, the use of keyboards in the Who’s music and live performances was a crucial element in the band’s unique sound and style. Keyboardists like John Entwistle, John “Rabbit” Bundrick, and others helped to create a distinctive blend of rock and classical music that continues to influence musicians and music lovers around the world.
The Influence of Keyboards on the Who’s Image and Identity
The Visual Appeal of Keyboards
The Who’s use of keyboards played a significant role in shaping their visual identity. The prominence of keyboards in their live performances, coupled with the colorful light shows and pyrotechnics, helped create a spectacle that captivated audiences and cemented the band’s reputation as one of the most exciting and innovative live acts of their time. The visual appeal of keyboards, with their array of buttons, knobs, and lights, added to the sense of energy and experimentation that defined the band’s style.
The Importance of Keyboards in the Who’s Brand
Keyboards were not only an essential element of the Who’s sound but also played a crucial role in defining the band’s brand and identity. The incorporation of keyboards into their music allowed the band to explore new sonic territories and expand their musical palette, which in turn helped them stand out from their peers and establish a unique sound that was distinctively “Who.” The use of keyboards in their recordings and live performances became a hallmark of the band’s identity, helping to distinguish them from other rock bands of the era and solidify their place in rock history.
Famous Keyboardists Who Have Played with the Who
John “Rabbit” Bundrick
His Tenure with the Who
John “Rabbit” Bundrick was a prominent keyboardist who played with the Who during their late-1960s and early-1970s era. He was brought in as a temporary replacement for the band’s original keyboardist, John Entwistle, during the recording of their album “Tommy.” Bundrick’s contribution to the album was so significant that he was eventually made a permanent member of the band.
His Style and Technique
Bundrick’s style was heavily influenced by the soul and R&B music of the 1960s. He was known for his expressive playing and his ability to add a distinct flavor to the band’s sound. His playing on the “Tommy” album, in particular, was praised for its emotional depth and power.
Bundrick’s technique was also notable for its versatility. He was able to switch seamlessly between a variety of different keyboards and synthesizers, giving the band a wide range of sounds to work with. This allowed the Who to explore new sonic territories and experiment with different textures and arrangements.
Overall, Bundrick’s tenure with the Who was brief but significant. His contributions to the band’s sound helped to shape their distinctive style and paved the way for future keyboardists to follow in his footsteps.
His Contributions to the Who’s Sound
Tony Meehan was a British jazz and rock drummer who played with the Who during their early years. He was a founding member of the band and played a significant role in shaping their sound. Meehan’s drumming style was heavily influenced by jazz and he incorporated this into the Who’s music, giving it a unique and distinctive sound.
His Unique Style
Tony Meehan’s drumming style was characterized by his use of unconventional rhythms and time signatures. He was known for his ability to create complex and intricate patterns that added a layer of depth and complexity to the Who’s music. Meehan’s jazz influences can be heard in the way he approached drumming, with a focus on improvisation and experimentation.
One of Meehan’s most notable contributions to the Who’s sound was his use of the bass drum. He incorporated a heavy bass drum beat into many of the band’s songs, creating a powerful and driving rhythm that became a hallmark of the Who’s music. Meehan’s use of the bass drum also allowed the band’s other members to experiment with different sounds and textures, contributing to the development of their unique sound.
Overall, Tony Meehan’s contributions to the Who’s sound were significant and helped to shape the band‘s early music. His unique style and approach to drumming added a layer of complexity and depth to the band’s sound, making them one of the most innovative and influential bands of their time.
His Role in the Who’s Live Performances
Jon Carin, a versatile and accomplished musician, has played a significant role in the Who’s live performances. As a keyboardist, guitarist, and vocalist, Carin has added a unique dimension to the band’s sound, contributing to their ability to create a wide range of musical textures and styles. His extensive experience as a session musician and collaborator with renowned artists has enabled him to bring a fresh perspective to the Who’s performances, seamlessly blending with the band’s established sound.
His Impact on the Who’s Sound
Jon Carin’s impact on the Who’s sound can be heard in the various live performances he has participated in. He has been instrumental in enhancing the band’s overall sonic palette, incorporating a diverse range of influences and techniques. Through his proficiency in different musical genres, including rock, pop, and classical, Carin has infused the Who’s music with newfound depth and complexity.
In addition to his musical contributions, Carin has also brought a collaborative spirit to the band, working closely with other members to create dynamic and engaging performances. His ability to adapt to various musical situations has allowed him to seamlessly integrate with the Who’s lineup, regardless of the personnel changes that have occurred over the years.
Jon Carin’s time with the Who has left a lasting impression on both the band and their fans. His innovative approach to keyboard playing and his dedication to the group’s sound have made him an integral part of the Who’s history, solidifying his place among the esteemed keyboardists who have graced their stage.
Zak Starkey, the son of legendary drummer Ringo Starr, has been the drummer for the Who since 1994. However, in addition to his duties as the band’s drummer, Starkey has also played keyboards for the Who on several occasions. His tenure as a keyboardist for the band has been relatively brief, but he has made a significant impact on the band’s sound.
His Influence on the Band’s Sound
Starkey’s keyboard work for the Who is often characterized by its subtlety and restraint. He has a talent for layering gentle, atmospheric textures that complement the band’s powerful guitar and drum work. His keyboard parts often serve to fill out the band’s sound, adding depth and complexity to their music.
One of Starkey’s most notable contributions to the band’s sound came during their 2006 tour, when he played keyboards on several songs, including “A Quick One While He’s Away” and “Pinball Wizard.” His keyboard work on these songs added a new dimension to the band’s sound, highlighting the band’s versatility and adaptability.
Overall, Starkey’s influence on the band’s sound has been significant, even though his tenure as a keyboardist has been relatively brief. His ability to complement the band’s powerful sound with delicate, nuanced keyboard work has helped to establish him as one of the most important keyboardists in the band’s history.
The Legacy of the Who’s Keyboardists
The Continuing Influence of the Who’s Keyboardists on the Music Industry
The impact of the Who’s keyboardists on the music industry has been profound and enduring. The innovative style of Pete Townshend, the band’s primary keyboardist, has been particularly influential, inspiring countless musicians across multiple genres.
Townshend’s approach to keyboard playing was characterized by his unique blend of rock, pop, and orchestral elements. He often incorporated guitar-like techniques, such as windmilling and smashing keys, into his keyboard performances, creating a sound that was both powerful and expressive. This innovative style, which blurred the lines between traditional rock instrumentation and orchestral arrangements, helped to pave the way for new approaches to keyboard playing in rock music.
The legacy of the Who’s keyboardists extends beyond the work of Pete Townshend, however. Other keyboardists who have played with the band, such as John “Rabbit” Bundrick and Frank Simes, have also made significant contributions to the band’s sound and to the broader music industry. Bundrick, in particular, brought a soulful and gospel-inflected style to the band’s music, adding a new dimension to their sound.
Overall, the impact of the Who’s keyboardists on the music industry cannot be overstated. Their innovative approaches to keyboard playing, their influence on other musicians, and their contributions to the development of new musical styles have all helped to shape the course of rock music and beyond.
The Enduring Appeal of the Who’s Music and Keyboardists
- The timelessness of the Who’s music
- The innovative and influential nature of their sound
- The impact of their music on subsequent generations of musicians and fans
- The continued fascination with the Who’s keyboardists
- The unique contributions of each keyboardist to the band’s sound and legacy
- The enduring appeal of their individual styles and personalities
The enduring appeal of the Who’s music and keyboardists can be attributed to several factors. For one, the band’s music has stood the test of time, remaining relevant and influential even decades after its creation. This is due in large part to the innovative and influential nature of their sound, which incorporated elements of rock, pop, and punk in a way that had never been heard before. The impact of the Who’s music on subsequent generations of musicians and fans cannot be overstated, as their songs have become anthems of rebellion, hope, and self-expression for millions of people around the world.
In addition to the timelessness of their music, the Who’s keyboardists have also played a significant role in the band’s enduring appeal. Each keyboardist brought their own unique style and personality to the band, contributing to the band’s sound and legacy in distinct ways. From the virtuosity of John Entwistle to the experimentalism of Keith Moon, the Who’s keyboardists have left an indelible mark on the band’s music and on the world of rock music as a whole. Their individual contributions continue to fascinate fans of all ages, who are drawn to their style, energy, and creativity.
Overall, the enduring appeal of the Who’s music and keyboardists is a testament to the band’s creativity, innovation, and staying power. Their music and legacy continue to inspire new generations of musicians and fans, ensuring that their impact will be felt for many years to come.
The Future of the Who’s Keyboardists
As the music industry continues to evolve, the future of the Who’s keyboardists is bright. With new innovations in technology and the rise of new musical genres, the potential for the Who’s keyboardists to explore new sounds and collaborations is limitless.
The Potential for New Innovations
One of the most exciting aspects of the future for the Who’s keyboardists is the potential for new innovations. With advancements in technology, keyboardists now have access to a wider range of tools and instruments to create their music. For example, the rise of digital instruments and software has opened up new possibilities for creating and recording music, allowing keyboardists to experiment with new sounds and textures.
In addition, the increasing availability of virtual instruments and sample libraries has expanded the sonic palette of keyboardists, giving them access to a vast array of sounds from around the world. This has enabled the Who’s keyboardists to push the boundaries of their music and explore new genres and styles, while still maintaining the band’s signature sound.
The Possibility of New Collaborations and Partnerships
Another exciting aspect of the future for the Who’s keyboardists is the possibility of new collaborations and partnerships. As the music industry becomes more globalized, the opportunity for keyboardists to work with other musicians and artists from different parts of the world is increasing. This can lead to new and exciting musical collaborations, as well as the creation of new and innovative sounds.
In addition, the rise of online platforms and social media has made it easier for keyboardists to connect with other musicians and fans from around the world. This has created new opportunities for collaboration and community building, as well as the potential for new and exciting musical projects.
Overall, the future of the Who’s keyboardists is filled with potential for new innovations and collaborations. As technology continues to advance and the music industry continues to evolve, the possibilities for creating new and exciting music are endless.
1. Who plays keyboards for the Who?
The keyboardist for the Who has changed several times throughout the band’s history. The original keyboardist for the Who was John Entwistle, who was also known as “The Ox.” He played keyboards and bass guitar for the band, and was a founding member. After Entwistle’s death in 2002, the band has used a variety of keyboardists for live performances and studio recordings. Some notable keyboardists who have played with the Who include Tony Meehan, Nicky Hopkins, John “Rabbit” Bundrick, and Simon Townshend.
2. How long has the Who been using keyboards in their music?
The Who has been using keyboards in their music since the early days of the band. John Entwistle started playing keyboards in addition to his bass guitar duties in the late 1960s, and the band has continued to incorporate keyboards into their sound ever since. Keyboards have been an important part of the Who’s signature sound, particularly in their later albums and tours.
3. Who are some of the notable keyboardists who have played with the Who?
As mentioned earlier, the keyboardist for the Who has changed several times throughout the band’s history. Some notable keyboardists who have played with the Who include Tony Meehan, who played on the band’s early recordings; Nicky Hopkins, who played on many of the band’s classic albums in the 1960s and 1970s; John “Rabbit” Bundrick, who has been a touring keyboardist for the band since the 1990s; and Simon Townshend, who is Pete Townshend’s younger brother and has played keyboards on some of the band’s more recent recordings.
4. How has the use of keyboards evolved in the Who’s music over time?
The use of keyboards in the Who’s music has evolved significantly over time. In the early days of the band, keyboards were often used to supplement the band’s sound and provide additional texture and color. As the band’s sound evolved, keyboards became a more integral part of the band’s signature sound, particularly on albums like “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia.” In more recent years, the band has continued to incorporate keyboards into their music, but has also experimented with new sounds and technologies to keep their music fresh and innovative.
5. Is there a current keyboardist for the Who?
As of 2023, the current keyboardist for the Who is Simon Townshend. Townshend has been a touring member of the band since the 1990s, and has played keyboards on many of the band’s more recent recordings. He is also Pete Townshend’s younger brother, and has been involved with the band in various capacities over the years. However, it’s worth noting that the band has used a variety of keyboardists for live performances and studio recordings throughout their history, so this could change in the future.