Amazing Journey: The Story Of The Who (DVD)

The Who

Universal, 2007

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


Whatever else you might care to say about the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, you could never say that they haven’t gotten their due.  They are two of the most influential, and successful, and widely praised bands in the history of rock and roll.

And on any given day, I’d just as soon listen to the Who.

In the same way, I’ve enjoyed bits and pieces of biographical profiles of the Stones and the Beatles (notable the overlong Anthology series) -- but Amazing Journey establishes a new standard for the genre.  As frenetic and compelling and incisive as the band whose forty-year career it chronicles, this is a truly essential piece of rock and roll filmmaking.

To pull this sort of thing off correctly, you need several things to come together.  You need to have unlimited access to the band’s own archives (check), you need new interviews and newly unearthed footage to supplement the material fans are already familiar with (check), you need attention to detail that is affectionate without becoming overwhelming (check), you need direction and editing astute enough to sustain a strong narrative drive (check), and you need a band whose music and lives are significant and dramatic enough to be worthy of such care (check).

There are sharp insights to be found here even for longtime fans.  Bassist John Entwhistle, the forgotten man of the original quartet, emerges as perhaps its greatest musical innovator and in ways both figurative and literal, the rock around which the other three more mercurial personalities in the band orbited.  Singer Roger Daltrey is bravely portrayed as a sort of stricken golden boy, the charismatic bandleader who invited the others in, only to discover he was now the least talented and least essential member of his own group.  Pete Townshend -- the group’s guitarist and chief songwriter -- is revealed as the proverbial tortured genius, a solitary man filled with a rage he could only truly release onstage. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The film traces the band’s early history in the detail only an authorized biography could ever provide, but nothing is whitewashed and surviving members Townshend and Daltrey show great maturity and insight in looking back on the band’s ups and downs.  Equally as fascinating are the observations offered by admirers including Sting, the Edge, Noel Gallagher of Oasis and Eddie Vedder, all fans who truly understand and appreciate what made the Who great -- emotion.  Explosive outbursts, instrumentally and vocally and lyrically, of emotion.

The companion DVD this package offers (Amazing Journey: Six Quick Ones) is nearly as wonderful as the two-hour film itself, containing six featurettes focusing on the individual band members, the Who’s cultural handmaidens the mods, and the band’s return the studio after more than 20 years to work on new material after Entwhistle’s death. 

One favorite moment came on the companion disc.  Keith Moon, in addition to being a certifiable maniac whose partying exploits are legendary, was one of the greatest and most unique drummers in rock history.  You get a hint of what made him so unique early on in the film when the group’s manager observes that all four band members played lead -- lead vocals, lead guitar, lead bass and lead drums.  Keith would have been a disaster in any other band, he says.  But as drummer Rob Ladd explains in the “Keith” featurette, dissecting the group’s very first hit “I Can’t Explain,” “when they played it live, you got into uncharted territory.  It’s as if you had a 106-piece orchestra onstage, and Keith was 102 of the pieces.  He was covering all the bases.”  Or you could just leave it to Noel Gallagher, who gets in the last word: “Well, he’s the Jimi Hendrix of the drum kit, innt he?”

Amazing Journey is a fantastic piece of filmmaking and one that makes a thorough case -- without ever boasting -- for the Who as one of the great acts in the history of rock and roll.  If you’re a fan already, you need this -- and if you’re not, one time through this DVD and you will be.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2007 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Universal, and is used for informational purposes only.