The Who by Numbers

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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 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]

The Who by Numbers
The who by numbers cover.jpg
Studio album by
Released25 October 1975 (US)
3 October 1975 (UK)
RecordedApril – 12 June 1975
StudioShepperton Studios' soundstage (Shepperton, Surrey, England) using Ronnie Lane's Mobile Studio
LabelPolydor, MCA
ProducerGlyn Johns
The Who chronology
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


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 was losing its 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:

[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 supported it with a tour, 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. 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:

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 coverEdit

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. My cover cost £32."[4]

Release and receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [5]
Christgau's Record GuideB+[6]
MusicHound Rock4/5[7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [8]
Rolling Stone(favourable)[9]
New York Times(favourable)[10]

The Who by Numbers peaked at the number 7 on the UK Albums 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."[9]

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. Daltrey referred to the album as his favourite in his memoir.[11]

Remasters and reissuesEdit

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 listingEdit

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

Sales chart performanceEdit

Year Chart Position
1975 Billboard Pop Albums 8[12]
UK Pop Albums 7[13]
New Zealand Pop Albums 29[14]
Year Single Chart Position
1976 "Squeeze Box" US Billboard Pop Singles 16[15]
UK Pop Singles 10[13]
New Zealand Pop Singles 26[16]

Sales certificationsEdit

Country Award
UK (BPI) Gold[17]
US (RIAA) Platinum[18]


The Who
  • Roger Daltrey – lead vocals
  • Pete Townshend – guitar, banjo, 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
  • Chris Charlesworth – executive producer
  • Bill Curbishley – executive producer
  • Richard Evans – design
  • Doug Sax - mastering
  • Bob Ludwig – remastering
  • Robert Rosenberg – executive producer
  • John Entwistle – album cover art
  • John Swenson – liner notes
  • Chris Walter – photography


  1. ^ Christgau, Robert (29 December 1975). "Pazz & Jop 1975: Critics Poll". Village Voice.
  2. ^ "The Who by Numbers liner notes". Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  3. ^ a b c Grantley, S. & Parker, A.G. (2010). The Who by Numbers. Helter Skelter. pp. 138–150. ISBN 9781905139262.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 21 October 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ Thomas Erlewine, Stephen. "The Who: The Who by Numbers". AllMusic.
  6. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: W". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved 9 March 2019 – via
  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. ^ "The Who: Album Guide". Archived from the original on 6 February 2011. Retrieved 2 September 2015.
  9. ^ a b Marsh, Dave (20 November 1975). "The Who By Numbers". Rolling Stone.
  10. ^ Rockwell, John (3 October 1975). "The Pop Life". New York Times.
  11. ^ Roger Daltrey, 2018. Thanks A Lot Mr Kibblewhite: My Story, Blink Publishing; Henry Holt & Co ISBN 978-1-788700-28-3
  12. ^ "The Who: The Who by Numbers (Billboard 200)". Billboard.
  13. ^ a b "The Who". Official Charts.
  14. ^ "The Who: The Who by Numbers". RIANZ.
  15. ^ "The Who: Squeeze Box (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  16. ^ "The Who: Squeeze Box". RIANZ.
  17. ^ "The Who: The Who by Numbers". BPI.
  18. ^ "The Who: The Who by Numbers". RIAA.