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The Who

The Simpsons 25th Anniversary
by yo go re

The big divide when it comes to 1960s rock music has always been between those who prefer The Beatles and those who prefer The Rolling Stones. But me, my favorite is The Who.

Rock Gods Pete Townshend, Roger Daltry and John Entwistle almost got fooled again in Season 12's "A Tale of Two Springfields," when Homer tricked them into playing a concert in the 939 area-coded New Springfield. When the enraged citizens of Olde Springfield almost caused a riot, The Who ended the crisis and brought down the wall of garbage with a power chord set to "Whu-oh!"

These figures are sold individually, but they all have the same text on the back of the card, so we'll just review them all at once, going in the order the bio names them - meaning we start with Pete Townsend.

Though best known for being the guitarist for The Who, Pete Townshend is also their primary songwriter, has released many solo albums, and is self-taught on the bass guitar, banjo, ukelele, violin, mandolin, piano, accordion, drums, and harmonica. He's also an author and editor, with published articles, reviews, essays, books, and scripts, has been a lyricst and composer for numerous other musicians, and pretty much invented the concept of the "rock opera" - including one based on Ted Hughes' novel The Iron Man (no relation), which was turned into a stage play in 1993, and was so well received that Warner Brothers optioned it for a film and kept Townshend as a producer on the project - you've probably heard of it.

Pete Townsend has a rather large nose, so his Simpsons design ends up looking quite a bit like an adult Milhouse. In the actual episode, Pete didn't provide his own voice: he thought it would be like Yellow Submarine, and someone else would do it; "someone else" turned out to be his brother, Paul Townsend, and no one was any the wiser!

He's dressed simply, wearing a black T-shirt, blue jeans, and grey shoes. He did wear this outfit on the show, but we never saw his feet. Instead of his customized Les Paul gold top 1976 (which was seen in the cartoon, but probably would have required licensing for the toy to carry), he just has a generically "guitarish" guitar slung over his shoulder. But who cares? His articulation is enough to allow him to windmill, and that's all that matters.

Pete Townshend may have written most of The Who's songs, but it was Roger Daltrey who brought them to life. He's got a powerful vocal range (YEEEAAAHHH!), and was a hell of a capitvating front-man - energetic and charismatic, he could give Mick Jagger a run for his money when it came to cocky strutting. Plus, the way he swung the microphone around by its cord became a hallmark of the band's shows. And yet for all that I love the band today, the first time I ever saw him was when he played Duncan's buddy Hugh Fitzcairn on Highlander.

Roger's dressed in green shoes, blue jeans, and a tight red and white striped T-shirt that makes him look like a crewmember on a Russian submarine. The figure moves at the Springfield Four - the neck, waist and shoulders - so he can't quite strut around your toy shelf the way he could on stage, but it's sufficient.

In having The Who appear on The Simpsons, the show's creators wanted them to be a rather timeless version - witness the fact that their drummer was clearly Keith Moon, despite the fact that he died in 1978. That's why Daltrey is wearing a tight T-shirt and has long, curly hair, when he'd changed his hairstyle in the mid-80s. It's more iconic this way.

The figure does include a mic, but it has no cord, so he can't swing it - on the plus side, that means he can't accidentally bean Marge in the face with it during their concert. We're two series in, and this is already the third microphone NECA's made: Kid Rock and James Brown in series 1 both came with one.

Pete Townshend is known for windmilling and dancing around. Roger Daltrey is known for swinging his mic like Go Go Yubari. Our third figure, bassist John Entwistle, is known for standing perfectly still and staring sleepily into the middle distance. The world could blow up around him, and he'd still just stand there, unflinching, with his thousand-yard stare. We know, we've seen it happen!

These figures are based on the way The Who appeared in their hotel room, not at the concert, so John's not wearing his famous skeleton suit - rather, he has non-descript black shoes, green pants, a brown vest, grayish tan shirt, and a ruddy jacket. He also shouldn't have his bass strapped to his chest, since it was just sitting in its stand during that scene, but who's going to complain about that? (We will complain about the placement, though: John typically wore his bass higher up on his chest, not down by his waist.)

Since this is a classic mid-70s Who, John Entwistle still has dark hair, and is also sporting a beard and mustache. Those are two different bits of facial hair, by the way: he has a beard, and he has a mustache, but they don't connect. How very odd. His eyes seem a bit too focused, like he could actually be looking at something in front of him. Where's the vacant stare?! The figure only has four points of articulation, but that still allows you to show more likely movements than the man himself ever displayed.

Originally known as "The Hillbilly Bugger Boys," The Who are, in their own way, more influential than either the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Even if all you know them for is writing the themesong for every CSI spinoff, they basically invented the major tropes of rock and roll: Keith Moon destroyed hotel rooms (and did all the drugs), Pete Townshend smashed guitars at the end of the show (directly inspiring Jimi Hendrix to famously light his on fire), John Entwistle was the first to stack Marshall amps (so he could hear himself over the drums), and Roger Daltrey made the transition from music to acting; all those are things you can expect rockers to do today, but The Who did them first. Drug rehab, wacky religions, popular "unplugged" televised performances... The Who, The Who, The Who. Well, technically "Townshend, Townshend, Townshend," but you get the idea. The Who is what every rock group wants to be whether they know it or not, and the fact that they made it into NECA's Simpsons line is simply the best.

-- 05/25/14

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