The Who - The Who By Numbers

The Who - The Who By Numbers

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The Who - The Who By Numbers
The who by numbers cover.jpg
Studio album by The Who
Released 3 October 1975
Recorded April – 12 June 1975
Studio Shepperton Studios' soundstage using Ronnie Lane's Mobile Studio
Genre Rock
Length 37:19
Label Polydor, MCA
Producer Glyn 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


  "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. It was named the tenth-best album of the year in The Village Voice Pazz and Jop critics poll.



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. 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. 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.

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:

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.

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."

Release and reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars
Robert Christgau B+
MosicHound 4/5
Rolling Stone (highly favourable)
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3/5 stars

"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.


Track listing


All songs written by Pete Townshend, except where noted.

Side One
No. Title Length
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
No. Title Length
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

Sales chart performance

Year Chart Position
1975 Billboard 200 Pop Albums 8
1975 UK Albums Chart 7
Year Single Chart Position
1976 "Squeeze Box" Billboard Pop Singles 16
1976 "Squeeze Box" UK Singles Chart 10

Sales certifications

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



The Who
  • Roger Daltrey – lead vocals, percussion
  • Pete Townshend – guitars, keyboards, ukulele, accordion, banjo, percussion, backing vocals, lead vocals on "However Much I Booze" and "Blue, Red and Grey"
  • John Entwistle – bass guitar (four and eight-string), brass, backing vocals, joint lead vocal on "Success Story", album cover art
  • Keith Moon – drums, 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



The Who - The Who By Numbers

Polydor 2490 129 stereo (1975).

Album manufactured in Holland.

Album produced by Glyn John.

The vinyl record has remained in excellent condition.

Audio quality is very clear and strong throughout.

Both record centre labels are clean and unmarked.

The album cover is in excellent condition, displaying only minor signs of wear.

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