The Who by Numbers

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The Who by Numbers
Studio album by
Released3 October 1975 (1975-10-03)
RecordedApril – 12 June 1975
StudioShepperton Studios' soundstage (Shepperton, Surrey, England) using Ronnie Lane's Mobile Studio
LabelPolydor, MCA
ProducerGlyn Johns
The Who chronology
Tommy (Soundtrack)
The Who by Numbers
The Story of The Who
Singles from The Who by Numbers
  1. "Squeeze Box"/"Success Story"
    Released: October 1975
  2. "Slip Kid"/"Dreaming from the Waist"
    Released: 7 August 1976

The Who by Numbers is the seventh studio album by English rock band the Who, released on 3 October 1975 in the United Kingdom through Polydor Records, and on 6 October 1975 in the United States by MCA Records.[1] It was named the tenth-best album of the year in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll.[2]


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.[3] The songs on the album were, for the most part, more introspective and personal than many other songs that the band had released. Townshend's 30th birthday occurred in May 1975; he was troubled with thoughts of being too old to play rock and roll and that the band was losing its relevance.[4] 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:

[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.[4]

After concluding the tour for the Quadrophenia album 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.[5] In addition, the band spent this time filming Tommy, based on their rock opera of the same title.

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 supported it with a tour, which spanned some 70 concerts before concluding in the autumn of 1976.

For the album's recording, the band recruited producer Glyn Johns. The band had previously worked with Johns on 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. Only the songs on the first side of The Who by Numbers were performed live, and only "Squeeze Box" became a concert staple. "Imagine a Man" was performed live for the first time by the band in May 2019,[6][7] nearly 44 years after its release. Roger Daltrey had featured the song in a solo concert in February 1994.[8] Townshend said of the album's recording sessions:

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.[4]

Album cover[edit]

The album cover, in which the band members' bodies are made up of connect the dots puzzles, 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. My cover cost £32."[9]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Record GuideB+[11]
The Encyclopedia of Popular Music[12]
MusicHound Rock4/5[13]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[14]
Tom HullB[15]

The Who by Numbers peaked at number 7 on the UK Albums Chart and number 8 on the Billboard Top LPs & Tape 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."[16]

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 favourite songs to play on stage. In contrast, Entwistle declared in the same series of interviews that "Dreaming from the Waist" was one of his favourite songs to perform live. Daltrey referred to the album as his favourite in his memoir.[17]

Remasters and reissues[edit]

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[edit]

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
Total length:20:21
Side two
1."Success Story"John Entwistle3:20
2."They Are All in Love" 3:00
3."Blue Red and Grey" 2:47
4."How Many Friends" 4:06
5."In a Hand or a Face" 3:25
Total length:16:38
1996 reissue bonus tracks
11."Squeeze Box" (Live at the Vetch Field, Swansea, Wales on 12 June 1976)4:13
12."Behind Blue Eyes" (Live at the Vetch Field, Swansea, Wales on 12 June 1976)3:41
13."Dreaming from the Waist" (Live at the Vetch Field, Swansea, Wales on 12 June 1976)4:52
Total length:12:46


The Who

  • Roger Daltrey – lead vocals
  • Pete Townshend – guitar, keyboards, banjo, accordion, ukulele, backing vocals, lead vocals on "However Much I Booze" and "Blue, Red And Grey"
  • John Entwistle – bass, French horn, trumpet, backing vocals, 2nd lead vocal on "Success Story"
  • Keith Moon – drums

Additional musicians


  • Glyn Johns – producer, engineer, mixing
  • Jon Astley – remixing (1996 reissue)
  • Chris Charlesworth – executive producer
  • Bill Curbishley – executive producer
  • Richard Evans – design of 1996 reissue
  • Doug Sax - mastering
  • Bob Ludwig – remastering
  • Robert Rosenberg – executive producer
  • John Entwistle – album cover art
  • John Swenson – liner notes
  • Chris Walter – photography


Chart performance for The Who by Numbers
Chart (1975–1976) Peak
Australian Albums (Kent Music Report)[18] 29
Canada Top Albums/CDs (RPM)[19] 9
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[20] 29
UK Albums (OCC)[21] 7
US Billboard 200[22] 8


Certifications for The Who by Numbers
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[23] Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[24] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[25] Platinum 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ "RIAA". Recording Industry Association of America.
  2. ^ Christgau, Robert (29 December 1975). "Pazz & Jop 1975: Critics Poll". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 15 October 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2007.
  3. ^ "The Who by Numbers liner notes". Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Grantley, S. & Parker, A.G. (2010). The Who by Numbers. Helter Skelter. pp. 138–150. ISBN 9781905139262.
  5. ^ "John Entwistle Tour Archive 1974". Archived from the original on 29 August 2021. Retrieved 29 August 2021.
  6. ^ On May 7, 2019 at Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI, USA, first date of the Moving On! Tour.
  7. ^ > The Who Setlist - May 7, 2019 at Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI, USA
  8. ^ "Roger Daltrey live in New York, NY, Thursday, 24. February 1994". Archived from the original on 29 August 2021. Retrieved 29 August 2021.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Who: The Who by Numbers". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 28 July 2018. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  11. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: W". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Archived from the original on 10 May 2020. Retrieved 9 March 2019 – via
  12. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195313734.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "The Who: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 6 February 2011. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  15. ^ Hull, Tom (n.d.). "Rock (1960s)". Archived from the original on 2 July 2020. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  16. ^ Marsh, Dave (20 November 1975). "The Who By Numbers". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 20 June 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
  17. ^ Roger Daltrey, 2018. Thanks A Lot Mr Kibblewhite: My Story, Blink Publishing; Henry Holt & Co ISBN 978-1-788700-28-3
  18. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  19. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 4082a". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 6 December 2022.
  20. ^ " – The Who – The Who by Numbers". Hung Medien. Retrieved 6 December 2022.
  21. ^ "The Who | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 6 December 2022.
  22. ^ "The Who Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 6 December 2022.
  23. ^ "Canadian album certifications – The Who – The Who by Numbers". Music Canada.
  24. ^ "British album certifications – The Who – The Who by Numbers". British Phonographic Industry.
  25. ^ "American album certifications – The Who – The Who by Numbers". Recording Industry Association of America.

External links[edit]