The Who FAQ: All That's Left to Know About Fifty Years of Maximum R&B by Mike Segretto Book Review

Mike Segretto's Who FAQ book truly does explore "All That's Left to Know About Fifty Years of Maximum R&B."
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The history of The Who is one of the most unlikely stories in music history. Like so many of their peers, the band are nearing their 50-year golden anniversary, and it might seem as if everything there is to say about them has already been said. But this is where the FAQ series from Backbeat Books comes in. The title of the new book by Mike Segretto speaks for itself: The Who FAQ: All That's Left to Know About Fifty Years of Maximum R&B.

As an avid rock-book reader, I have become very familiar with the FAQ series, and have always found something intriguing in the biographies. Each writer brings a little something different, but as the title implies, one of the goals is to illuminate the lesser-known aspects of the artists. With a band like The Who, there is quite a bit.

Segretto begins with the early days, introducing us to Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon. He recounts their early years as the band of the Mods, as well as their troubles with managers, and the crazed world of English pop in the Sixties.

After laying out the basic, fairly well-known facts, the fun begins. Chapters such as "Wish You Were Here: An International Discography," "Do It Alone: The Essential Solo Albums," and "The Simple Secret: A Dozen Underrated Songs of the Seventies" are what bring me back to these FAQ books every time. These are the types of things that "straight" biographies rarely get into, and exactly what makes the FAQ books so interesting.

Take the solo albums for instance.  Townshend's solo albums have gotten a lot of attention, and rightly so in the case of something like Empty Glass. But what about John Entwistle's Smash Your Head Against the Wall, Keith Moon's Two Sides of the Moon, or Roger Daltrey's McVicar soundtrack? Although I am a fan of The Who, I have to admit that I have never paid much attention to any of those albums. Segretto's essays about each have piqued my interest, and I may have to go back and give them another try.

The same holds true for the underrated songs chapter. The author lists some definite obscurities, including "Water," "Naked Eye," "Doctor Jimmy," and "Dreaming From the Waist," which again caught my eye. There are also a couple of surprises in his list. "The Song is Over" is one of my all-time favorite Who songs, and I quite like "Going Mobile" as well. I would have put in "Pure and Easy" from Odds & Sods myself, as it is kind of a "sister" to "Song is Over."

But that is an example of why I enjoyed Segretto's book so much. I am sure that every Who fan has their own dozen underrated songs, and they may be completely different than those of the author. The same holds true with such chapters as "Ultimate Collections: The Essential Compilations," and "Hit the Stage: A Dozen Milestone Concerts."

One of the biggest mysteries for fans is all of the "lost" music that exists in various forms. What a quagmire! The Who released Tommy in 1969, Who's Next in 1971, and Quadrophenia in 1973, plus the Live at Leeds set in 1970. But they recorded and abandoned tons of stuff during those peak four years, including Townshend's Lifehouse project.

Segretto tries to bring some order to the chaos to those years (and other material), with "The Good's Gone: Abandoned Projects," "Who's Missing: Unrecorded Songs and Lost Tapes," and "All Mixed Up: Variations in Mixes and Edits."

In all, The Who FAQ contains 35 chapters that truly do explore "All That's Left to Know About Fifty Years of Maximum R&B." Much like Glen Boyd's Neil Young FAQ, and Tony Sclafani's Grateful Dead FAQ, Mike Segretto really gets it all down with his book. The Who FAQ is an indispensable addition to every Who fan's library.