After a run of monster albums that included “Tommy”, “Who’s Next” and “Quadrophenia”, The Who finally took a bit of a breather, at least in my eyes, on their 1975 album “The Who By Numbers”, which features connect-the-dots sketches of the band on the album cover, drawn by bassist John Entwistle. I have listened to this album before, and my recollection was that there were two songs on it that I really liked, and the rest of the record was relatively uninteresting. Nothing has significantly changed my opinion after this most recent encounter.
The album opens with the funky beats of “Slip Kid”, which is a great, if relatively less celebrated song by the band. The next song is “However Much I Booze”, and as was the pattern with The Who, whenever a song was too close to being autobiographical, Roger Daltrey would insist Pete Townshend would sing the song. The song is oddly happy and up-tempo, given the topic. The other really strong track of the album, “Squeeze Box” comes next. “Mama’s got a squeeze box she wears on her chest…” one of the more unusual double-entendres from the band, but a great song.
The rest of the album isn’t as memorable, but I do like the ballad “Imagine A Man”, which sounds like an extension of “Quadrophenia”, and “Success Story” is a really good rocker I don’t recall from before. This song is written by John Entwistle, and it is one of his best. Like many of the classic bands of the 1960s and 1970s, the middle of the decade was not a high point for the band, as many of the band members, particularly Townshend and drummer Keith Moon were sinking further into their respective struggles with alcohol and other substance abuse challenges. That said, the sheer talent of the group helped them keep this album on track, even during a low point and as noted, there are some definite keepers on this record, not just as many as fans had become accustomed to by then.