This is Part 1 of a series of very detailed (perhaps too detailed) articles about Decca's Canadian releases of The Who in the 1960s. The Who's recordings in Canada have been long overlooked and this will attempt to remedy that situation. We have a remedy ! Like The Kinks and The Yardbirds, The Who were a great creative group and they deserve special treatment for their Canadian recorded legacy.
The Canadian Who releases differ substantially in label format from their American Decca cousins and we have tried to present them in chronological order based on my years of experience with collecting Canadian pressings.
Canadian teens probably first saw The Who on Television when they appeared on a special edition of CBC's "Take Thirty" filmed in London in late 1966 that featured a story on fashion and pop music in England. CBC interviewers Paul Soles and Adrienne Clarkson travelled to London in October 1966 and did great black and white interviews with Pete Townshend and Keith Moon of The Who, and Paul Jones of Manfred Mann. By the way, this interview was done just as Paul Jones was leaving Manfred Mann to embark on a solo career.
And around the same time, "Take Thirty" also introduced us to great British R&B groups like The Pretty Things and The Cream. I think it is possible that the same CBC show did a short piece on The Yardbirds when they played in Vancouver in 1967. A group profile or at least an interview with singer Keith Relf.
The Who would also appear on our TV screens later on Sunday, September 17th, 1967 when they were seen ... er miming .. in full auto-destruction glory on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour performing I Can See For Miles and My Generation. I was lucky enough to meet Tommy Smothers in Vancouver a few years ago and he is a true 1960s icon... both comically and musically ... he played "the other guitar" on John And Yoko's Give Peace A Chance in Montreal in 1969.
As a kid, I always thought that the first two Who albums that were issued in Canada on the Decca label were always late getting to the record shops in my area. So, for example, by the time the My Generation 45 was long gone from any chart I was aware of, it seemed like it took ages before I ever saw the corresponding album in the stores. and by the time I saw them, they were delete copies with a hole punched in the cover. Perhaps Decca in Canada was not too concerned with them as they had not charted in a major way. By the time of the release of their third album "The Who Sell Out", it was everywhere just a little while after I Can See For Miles was on the radio.
In the 1960s, some of us were Kinks fans before we were Who fans and we noticed that the two groups shared the same producer Shel Talmy. We also noticed early on that some of the songs bore a striking similarity. For example, I Can't Explain sounded too much like a hybrid of the You Really Got Me era Kinks. By the way, both groups recorded Shel Talmy's own song Bald Headed Woman. That song was actually a traditional Negro work song taken from the public domain without copyright. So it seems unethical today that Talmy the producer would make money like that on the backs of the young artists in The Kinks and The Who. Oh well, business is business. Dedicated Kinks fans, and die-hard Who fans, can argue about which group recorded the better version with the same producer.
Side 1 Matrix 115396-A machine stamped
Side 2 Matrix 115397-A machine stamped
Side 1 Matrix 116049-7 machine stamped
Side 2 Matrix 116047-7 machine stamped
Side 1 Matrix 45 116675 6 machine stamped
Side 2 Matrix 45 116042 6 machine stamped
Side 1 Matrix 42-1030-A - P hand written
Side 2 Matrix 42-1030-B- P.D. hand written
Side 1 Matrix 45 116699 5 machine stamped
Side 2 Matrix 45 116787 5 machine stamped
Side 1 Matrix 45 118110 5 machine stamped
Side 2 Matrix 45 118111 5 machine stamped
The first two of the singles above were released in 1965 and featured tracks that were not available on any of the Who albums issued in the 1960s.
My Generation was released in Canada in late 1965 and The Kids Are Alright was issued in the summer of 1966. Both of these third and fourth singles would feature tracks of their first Canadian album.
But in between these two 45s came the Who's very best single "Substitute". Oddly it wasn't played on the radio here in Canada. There was a legal dispute going on between The Who and Decca, and this Who 45 was issued in the USA on the Atco label (Atco 45-6409). Somehow, Substitute was issued in Canada on the Polydor label, which at that time was being distributed by a company called Musimart operating out of Montreal, Quebec. It was issued here in Canada in very small quantities in March 1966. Those initial 1966 pressings show the Musimart reference on the label. Later Polydor pressings are from 1968 and were probably pressed by RCA Victor. The earlier and later pressings have the same matrix runouts, but the later pressings omit the Musimart reference on the label. In any case, either version of the Canadian Polydor Who 45 is very hard to find nowadays. Collectors should note that the B-side of Substitute was called "Waltz For A Pig" and is actually a very good instrumental track by The Graham Bond Organization and features Graham Bond on organ with Dick Heckstall-Smith on sax, Jack Bruce on bass and Ginger Baker on drums. The track was written by Ginger Baker. Bruce and Baker would team up in 1966 with Eric Clapton to form the super-group called Cream.
The first five Who 45s on the black and silver Decca label were pressed in limited quantities and are very hard to find in Canada. Oddly, The Who were not an immediate success in Canada like they were in England. In fact, they really did not see any national chart action in Canada until 1967 with Happy Jack being their first single to chart here in any significant way. Winnipeg liked that 45 for sure. Much like the Kinks, the Who switched away from songs that relied on an early heavy riff-based sound to songs with more emphasis on the lyrics. These lyrics began to offer a higher form of social commentary.
The black and silver Decca labels used in Canada were an older style and these were still being used here until 1967 while the American Decca Who 45s had already migrated to the new multi-coloured label format starting with their very first single. All Canadian Decca 45 promo copies of the 1965-1966 period were just stock copies that were shipped in brown and black Decca bags with the words SAMPLE COPY NOT FOR SALE stamped on the sleeve in dark blue ink.
The title font used on the My Generation and The Kids Are Alright 45s is bolder and thicker and suggests that these two singles were pressed at the brand new Decca / Compo pressing plant in Cornwall, Ontario. The first two 45s were most probably pressed at the older Compo plant in Lachine, Quebec.
There are a number of pressing variations of the very first album by The Who in Canada and here is what I have documented so far: Decca DL 4664 - MONO - Compo press from January 1966 with silver print on a plain black label. The label format used was the same that had been used since the late 1950s for any number of Brenda Lee and Bert Kaempfert albums. But the run outs show that album was pressed in Cornwall, Ontario using metal parts sent from Decca in the USA. It appears that there is only one pressing of the mono version of this album in Canada and the vinyl is nice and thick. It is hard to find this LP in nice condition though as those kids who bought it new played the heck out of it.
Side 1 Matrix - MG 10404 T1 machine stamped
Side 2 Matrix - MG 10405 T1 machine stamped
The front cover of the mono jacket has the text "LITHOGRAPHED IN CANADA" printed vertically at the bottom right beside Keith Moon's head. The inner seams of the jacket are rounded at the top and bottom (Ever Reddy). Decca DL 74664 - STEREO (Simulated) - Compo press from January 1966 with silver print on a plain black label. The words DECCA STEREO are printed in a semi-circle at the top of the label.
Side 1 Matrix - 7 10404 1 machine stamped
Side 2 Matrix - 7 10405 1 machine stamped
The front cover of the stereo jacket has the text "LITHOGRAPHED IN CANADA" printed vertically at the bottom right beside Keith Moon's head. The inner seams of the jacket are straight at the top and bottom (Modern Album).
Given the different jacket construction between the mono and stereo copies pressed by Compo, it is probable that the stereo copies were pressed a few weeks or months after the mono copies.
Decca DL 74664 - STEREO (Simulated) - RCA press from late 1966 or early 1967 with silver print on a plain black label. The words DECCA STEREO are printed in a semi-circle at the top of the label.
Side 1 Matrix - 7-10404 TGZ handwritten
Side 2 Matrix - 7-10405 TGZ handwritten
The front cover of the stereo jacket has the text "Printed In Canada" printed vertically at the bottom right, along with the Ever Reddy printers logo, beside Keith Moon's head. The inner seams of the jacket are rounded at the top and bottom (Ever Reddy).
Decca DL 74664 - STEREO (Simulated) - Second Compo press from late 1967 or early 1968 with the newer multi-coloured Decca label that was used for The Who Sell Out album. The word STEREOPHONIC is printed in a semi-circle at the top of the label.
Side 1 Matrix - 7 10404 1 machine stamped
Side 2 Matrix - 7 10405 1 machine stamped
This uses the same pressing plate as the first Compo stereo pressing from 1966.
The front cover of the stereo jacket has the text "LITHOGRAPHED IN CANADA" printed vertically at the bottom right beside Keith Moon's head. The inner seams of the jacket are straight at the top and bottom (Modern Album). This is the same jacket that was used with the initial Compo stereo edition from 1966.
In the early 1970s, after the huge success of Tommy, large quantities of American Decca late 1960s re-pressings of this album were imported into Canada and could be found at most record retailers for a very low price. Now this was long after any deleted Canadian Decca copies could be found in the delete bins in Canada. Collectors should usually avoid anything that is "simulated" but in the case of The Who ?
The Who were by no means tearing up the charts in Canada during 1965 and 1966, but they had a great sound courtesy of producer Shel Talmy and they were developing a loyal fan base here. Arguably, they made some of their greatest 45s at this time. These 45s and their first album were produced here in limited quantities. The sound quality of the first MONO pressings makes them well worth looking for.
This concludes our look at the Who discs that were released in Canada during 1965 and 1966.
On the back of their top 30 chart hit "Happy Jack" in early 1967, the Who would tour the USA and Canada starting with the Monterey International Pop Festival in June of that year. The Who's first concert in Canada was in Vancouver (July 17). They returned to Canada in August to play Toronto (August 9), Edmonton (August 21), Winnipeg (August 22), and Fort William (August 26). Canada's Centennial Year 1967 would be a break-through year for the group in Canada. In that year they scored two top 30 hits. The first was Happy Jack, and the second was the Autumn 1967 psych-influenced "I Can See For Miles". At that time, "See For Miles" made me a bigger Who fan each time I heard it played on CFRA radio in Ottawa.
Our story will continue with the discs that The Who released in Canada during 1967 and 1968. We will also look at some weekly charts across Canada and some more Canadian Who concert dates. So please keep all fingers and eyes on Capitol6000.com for "The Who In Canada During The 1960s - Part 2".
"The Who", Gary Herman, November Books, London, England, 1971
"The Who", George Tremlett, Futura, London, England, 1975
"The Who Maximum R&B", Richard Barnes, St. Martin's Press, New York, USA, 199
"The Who Concert File", Joe McMichael and Irish Jack Lyons, Omnibus Press, London, England, 1997