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The Who by Numbers is the seventh studio album by the English rock band The Who, released on 3 October 1975 in the United Kingdom through Polydor Records, and on 25 October 1975 in the United States by MCA Records. It was named the tenth-best album of the year in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll.[1]


Pete Townshend has claimed that the band recorded practically every song he had written for The Who by Numbers, partially due to a writer's block that he was experiencing at the time.[2] The songs on the album were, for the most part, more introspective and personal than many other songs that the band had released. Townshend had his 30th birthday in May 1975 and was struggling with the idea of being too old to play rock-and-roll and that the band were losing their relevance.[3] He began to feel disenchanted with the music industry, a feeling that he carried into his songs. He said of the songs on the album:

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[The songs] were written with me stoned out of my brain in my living room, crying my eyes out... detached from my own work and from the whole project... I felt empty.[3]

After concluding the album tour for Quadrophenia in June 1974, The Who took an extended hiatus and did not perform live for more than a year. John Entwistle kept himself occupied by playing solo gigs. In addition, the band spent this time filming a movie based on the Tommy rock opera.


This was their first album on Polydor. The sessions for The Who by Numbers began in April 1975 and lasted through early June. The album was released in October and the band began touring it, which spanned some 70 concerts before concluding in the fall of 1976.

For the album's recording, the band recruited producer Glyn Johns. The band had previously worked with Johns during the 1971 album Who's Next. Compared to previous Who albums, The Who By Numbers took an unusually long time to complete (as noted above, nearly three months) and was marred by numerous breaks and interruptions due to the band members' growing boredom and lack of interest.

As an illustration of the band's lack of confidence in the material, only four of the ten songs on The Who By Numbers were performed live, two of which ("Squeeze Box" and "Dreaming From The Waist") became concert staples. Townshend said of the album's recording sessions:

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I felt partly responsible because the Who recording schedule had, as usual, dragged on and on, sweeping all individuals and their needs aside. Glyn worked harder on The Who by Numbers than I've ever seen him. He had to, not because the tracks were weak or the music poor but because the group was so useless. We played cricket between takes or went to the pub. I personally had never done that before. I felt detached from my own songs, from the whole record. Recording the album seemed to take me nowhere. Roger [Daltrey] was angry with the world at the time. Keith [Moon] seemed as impetuous as ever, on the wagon one minute, off the next. John [Entwistle] was obviously gathering strength throughout the whole period; the great thing about it was he seemed to know we were going to need him more than ever before in the coming year.[3]

Album cover[]

The album cover was drawn by John Entwistle. In 1996, when asked about the cover, he replied: "The first [piece of artwork] release[d] is The Who By Numbers cover, which I never got paid for, so now I'm going to get paid. (laughs) We were taking it in turns to do the covers. It was Pete's turn before me and we did the Quadrophenia cover, which cost about the same as a small house back then, about 16,000 pounds. My cover cost 32 pounds."[4]

Release and reception[]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg[5]
Robert ChristgauTemplate:Rating-Christgau[6]
Rolling Stone(highly favourable)[8]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg[9]

The Who by Numbers peaked at the number 7 on the UK album chart and number 8 on the Billboard 200 album chart in the US. "Squeeze Box" was also a Top 20 hit in both Britain and America, although the US follow-up, "Slip Kid," failed to chart.

The Rolling Stone review of The Who by Numbers stated: "They may have made their greatest album in the face of [their personal problems]. But only time will tell."

In an interview from Thirty Years of Maximum R&B, Townshend declared "Dreaming from the Waist" and "Sister Disco" (from Who Are You) as his least favorite songs to play on stage. In contrast, Entwistle declared in the same series of interviews that "Dreaming from the Waist" was one of his favorite songs to perform live.

Remasters and reissues[]

The 1996 remaster was remixed by Jon Astley. On the remaster, the end of "They Are All in Love" is cross-faded with "Blue, Red and Grey." The original album did not feature this cross-fade.

On 24 December 2011 the album was remastered and reissued in Japan using the original mix. The live bonus tracks from the previous edition were included on the reissue. The packaging replicated the original vinyl release of the album.

Track listing[]

All songs written by Pete Townshend, except where noted.

Side One
1."Slip Kid"4:29
2."However Much I Booze"5:03
3."Squeeze Box"2:41
4."Dreaming from the Waist"4:08
5."Imagine a Man"4:00
Side Two
6."Success Story" (John Entwistle)3:20
7."They Are All in Love"3:00
8."Blue, Red and Grey"2:47
9."How Many Friends"4:06
10."In a Hand or a Face"3:25
1996 reissue bonus tracks
11."Squeeze Box (Live at Swansea Football Ground, Swansea, Wales on 12 June 1976)"4:13
12."Behind Blue Eyes (Live at Swansea Football Ground, Swansea, Wales on 12 June 1976)"3:41
13."Dreaming from the Waist (Live at Swansea Football Ground, Swansea, Wales on 12 June 1976)"4:52

Sales chart performance[]

Year Chart Position
1975 Billboard Pop Albums 8[10]
1975 UK Albums Chart 7[11]
Year Single Chart Position
1976 "Squeeze Box" Billboard Pop Singles 16[12]
1976 "Squeeze Box" UK Singles Chart 10[11]

Sales certifications[]

Organization Level Date
RIAA – US Gold 10 December 1975[13]
RIAA – US Platinum 8 February 1993[13]


The Who
  • Roger Daltreylead vocals, percussion
  • Pete Townshendguitars, keyboards, ukulele, accordion, banjo, percussion, backing vocals, lead vocals on "However Much I Booze" and "Blue, Red and Grey"
  • John Entwistlebass guitar (four and eight-string), brass, backing vocals, joint lead vocal on "Success Story", album cover art
  • Keith Moondrums, percussion
Additional musicians
  • Nicky Hopkins – piano on "Slip Kid", "Imagine a Man", "Success Story", "They Are All in Love", "How Many Friends", and "In a Hand or a Face"
  • Jon Astley – remixing
  • Chris Charlesworth – executive producer
  • Bill Curbishley – executive producer
  • Richard Evans – remaster album art direction, design
  • Glyn Johns – production
  • Doug Sax - mastering
  • Bob Ludwig – remastering
  • Robert Rosenberg – executive producer
  • John Swenson – liner notes
  • Chris Walter – photography


  1. "Pazz & Jop 1975: Critics Poll". Robert Christgau. 29 December 1975. Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  2. "The Who by Numbers liner notes". Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Grantley, S.; Parker, A.G. (2010). The Who by Numbers. Helter Skelter. pp. 138–150. ISBN 9781905139262. Unknown parameter |lastauthoramp= ignored (|name-list-style= suggested) (help)
  6. [1]
  7. Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 1227. ISBN 1-57859-061-2.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  8. [2]
  9. "The Who: Album Guide". Archived from the original on 6 February 2011. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  10. "Artist Chart History – The Who". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "The Who at". Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 15 May 2011. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  12. "The Who Official Band Website – Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon , , The Who By Numbers". Retrieved 15 May 2011.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Gold and Platinum Database Search". Retrieved 29 November 2009.

External links[]

Template:The Who by Numbers Template:The Who