Forget about their immeasurable contributions to the sound of modern rock for a moment and just consider the sheer visual impact The Who had in the ’70s. The windmill strum, the Marshall stack, the guitar smash: these universally acknowledged emblems introduced big arena rock as a force of nature. And all three sprang from the minds of this restlessly inventive group of British musicians, now commonly named among the world’s greatest rock bands.
It was only a matter of time before this flamboyant visual sensibility found its way to the big screen. At a time when their music was growing to encompass the influence of grand opera, pop, and the most cutting-edge electronic sounds, The Who brought its ambition to a small but adventurous filmography. In the pre-MTV era, fans could flock to the theaters to see rare concert and documentary footage as compiled in The Kids Are Alright; a brooding realist rendering of the double album Quadrophenia; or—in one of The Who’s audacious collaborations with enfant terrible Ken Russell—Roger Daltrey strumming a harp while riding a gigantic penis in Lisztomania.
Decades later, The Who is still everywhere: on television, at major sports events, and (thanks to Pete Townshend’s new autobiography) on bookshelves. This month, in anticipation of their concert at Barclays Center, we celebrate the band's Mod aggression and exhilarating energy with a BAMcinématek series. Below we’ve gathered some clips that demonstrate just how completely they have permeated pop culture.
The Who’s “Who Are You” serves as theme music for CSI:
“Pinball Wizard” gets a Glee makeover:
The Who performs a medley at the closing ceremony of the London Olympics (at 5:38):
Tommy on Broadway:
“Love Reign O’er Me” kicks off this year's World Series:
“A Quick One, While He’s Away” in Rushmore: