Release Date: November 6, 2007
Featuring: Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, Keith Moon
Written by: Mark Monroe
Directed by: Murray Lerner and Paul Crowder
“Things they sure do look awful c-c-cold.
Hope I die before I get old...”
Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who is a two-disc documentary on the life and times of the influential rock band headlined by Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend since the early 60’s. It’s an affectionate look at the band, with a few candid observations sprinkled in throughout to keep the piece from becoming too reverential. Current interviews with Daltrey and Townshend (and others) are intercut with archival footage of the band over the years, as well as the obligatory clips from Ken Russell’s film of Tommy. The piece uses the interviews as narration in many places, and appropriately uses several Who songs as a musical score. The documentary spans the time from the bandmembers’ childhoods up to the current relationship between surviving members Daltrey and Townshend. Given the 40 plus years of material, the film moves pretty quickly through its two hours, but never really delves too deeply into the various issues, whether that be the rough relationships between the band members or the recent internet controversy surrounding Townshend. We see the band begin as an energetic blues/rock cover band and gradually transform to the creators of the rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia before subsiding in the 80’s and eventually reuniting in the new century. It’s fascinating to watch Daltrey and Townshend age from angry young rebels to elder statesmen. The film doesn’t really touch on their solo material, and makes no mention of the hearing problems suffered by Townshend as a direct result of the legendary loud concerts the band played. On the other hand, the film does offer an explanation for the band’s infamous destruction of its guitars and amps during concerts (Auto-Destructive Art, anyone?). And there is a candid admission that the band members took years to get along with each other, much less become the close friends that Daltrey and Townshend are today. Overall, this is an engaging piece that provides at least a surface look at a complicated band. Fans of The Who will enjoy the footage and the new interviews, but may find themselves wanting a little more substance.
A second disc is also included in the package, containing almost another two hours of featurettes, some more rewarding than others. There’s nothing particularly earth-shattering there, but we do get more material, including an 8 minute archival film of The Who playing a gig in 1964 under their interim name, The High Numbers. There is also a “scrapbook” containing five additional interview segments, which each contain some gems.
VIDEO QUALITY: 3/5
Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who is presented in a an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer. The picture quality is fine, but the original source material varies as we see various black and white or color archival films and videos of the band over time. Some of the archival materials are in better condition than others, but that’s to be expected. This was not a restoration project – just an archival one, and on that basis, the film looks fine. I’m personally just happy that it is presented in anamorphic format.
AUDIO QUALITY: 3/5
Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English only. As you might expect, it really doesn’t use the surround channels for anything other than music. The song score comes across very nicely, including a little use of the subwoofer for John Entwistle’s bass contributions. If anything, I would just warn you that the interviews tend to be quieter, but the music coming in right after the voices tends to be louder. For myself, I wound up raising the volume a few times to hear the interviews more clearly, and then quickly lowering it to not blast myself out of my chair with the music.
SPECIAL FEATURES: 3/5
Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who has no special features on the first disc, but has a second disc loaded with them. All the features are anamorphic and are presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1.
On the second disc, we find:
Amazing Journey: Six Quick Ones– This is another mini-documentary in itself, consisting of six featurettes of varying lengths. There are four featurettes, each of which focuses on one member of the band. So there’s a segment on Roger Daltrey (16:02), one on John Entwistle (7:39), one on Pete Townshend (18:30) and one on Keith Moon (9:52). As before, these don’t delve too deeply – it’s just some additional interview material and a little more archival footage. I believe this is simply material that didn’t make it into the main documentary. I also thought I saw a couple of overlaps between the main documentary and these featurettes, but I can’t say for certain. Once again, there really isn’t anything about the solo work done by the band members, even though you might expect that in their individual featurettes. On the other hand, the Townshend featurette includes some great clips of Townshend’s signature guitar flourishes, along with admiring testimony by U2’s The Edge. (But again, there is no discussion about how the extremely loud music and feedback eventually damaged Townshend’s hearing to the point that he mostly plays acoustic these days) The next featurette, Who Art You? is a quick (9:24) look at The Who’s origins in art school, with another discussion of guitar destruction onstage as Pop Art. The final featurette, Who’s Back (26:55) is a candid backstage look at the 2003 recording session for “Real Good Looking Boy” with Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer sitting in on the bass. Nothing major happens, but it’s fun to be a fly on the wall as Townshend and Daltrey work their way through the material.
The High Numbers at the Railway Hotel 1964 – (7:53) - This is an archival film of The Who performing under their interim name. It is, as the DVD packaging says, the earliest performance footage that exists of The Who. Even in their earliest, rawest form, you can feel the anger and the energy bursting off the stage.
The Scrapbook - This is a series of brief interview pieces, each touching on a specific issue that didn’t get the full treatment in the main documentary. The first, Dinner with Moon (4:35) is the retelling of the intersection of John Entwistle’s quiet dinner and a Keith Moon loaded with 18 margaritas. The results are pretty funny to hear now, but must have been horrifying at the time. (It’s no wonder The Who got banned from all Holiday Inn hotels for life after Moon’s mayhem. On the other hand, perhaps they really DID want a car in their swimming pool...) The second featurette, A Legal Matter (4:34) covers The Who’s legal battle to get out of their initial contract when they realized it wasn’t particularly good for them. Glyn Johns recounts how he wound up on the outs with the band because he sided with their opponent and told the truth in court. The third piece, Won’t Get Fooled Again (2:37) is actually just Pete Townshend’s explanation of what that song title actually means. He didn’t mean it as an anti-authority song. He meant it as a riposte to everyone with a cause who tried to get him to blindly follow. As an example, he cites the hippies who would come to his door to beg for food, and eventually for his car. He initially gave them food, but when they kept showing up, he soured on the situation and said no. The fourth piece, Cincinatti: The Whole Story (7:05) is a discussion of the tragedy that happened at a Cincinatti concert where fans got trampled to death. The final piece, Royal Albert Hall 2000 (2:25) is an interview snippet with Noel Gallagher of Oasis, regarding his rehearsal of "Won’t Get Fooled Again" for that event. Apparently, Townshend told Gallagher to play the solo, and then watched Gallagher muff it in the rehearsal. Gallagher repeats Townshend’s withering response “I thought you said you knew it. You know? I thought you said you knew it.”
Subtitles are available only in English on both discs. A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference. There are no previews, but the menus are laid out quite well.
IN THE END...
Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who is a good first look at the history of the band, with some great archival concert and backstage material included in a fine anamorphic presentation. Casual fans of the band should be very happy with this package. More hardcore Who fans will likely enjoy the extensive archival materials, especially the 1964 High Numbers clip on the second disc.
November 3, 2007.