Early in the 21st century, millions of TV viewers came to recognise it as the theme for CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. But on 26 August 1978, ‘Who Are You’ was simply a great new Who song that was making its debut on the Billboard Hot 100. It was on its way to becoming the band’s biggest American hit for eight years.
A clever Pete Townshend song construction with a fuel-injected lead vocal by Roger Daltrey, ‘Who Are You’ is tinged with sadness, as it was the band’s last major hit to feature Keith Moon. The inimitable drummer passed away at the age of just 32 on 7 September, even as the song was climbing the US chart.
‘Who Are You’ entered the American bestsellers as the highest new entry of the week at No. 70. Across the Atlantic, on the same UK chart date, it climbed two places to what became its No. 18 peak. Over the coming weeks, the song gathered sales and airplay in the States and reached No. 14 in November, The Who’s highest singles there ranking since ‘See Me, Feel Me’ hit No. 12 in 1970.
The album of the same name followed soon afterwards and became a substantial success, earning double platinum status in the US, even though The Who didn’t tour to support it. Nevertheless, Daltrey was in optimistic mood when he spoke to Sounds around the release of the ‘Who Are You’ single and album.
“The Who — maybe not as a stage group, but The Who as a feeling, as an idealistic group, which is what we are — is stronger than ever,” he said. “And I don’t think we’ve sold out ever, though I suppose we’re ‘out’ at the moment.
“When you hear people say, oh we’re rich and I’ve got a big house and all that — I can’t hide the fact that I’ve earned a lot of money. What am I supposed to do? Put it all in the bank and live in a bungalow? I don’t know. I make no apologies for being successful.”
‘Who Are You’ is on the album of the same name, which can be bought here.
Follow the official The Who Best Of playlist.