By John Curley
Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who, which was directed by Murray Lerner and Paul Crowder and features narration by Crowder, is a two-hour documentary on the British band that was originally released in 2007 on DVD with a companion DVD of additional material that was not included in the feature film, Six Quick Ones. Both the Amazing Journey film and Six Quick Ones are now available for viewing on The Coda Collection via Amazon Prime.
Amazing Journey uses interviews recorded for the project with Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Kenney Jones, Noel Gallagher, The Edge, Eddie Vedder, Sting, Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols, The Who’s manager Bill Curbishley, The Who’s sound man Bob Pridden, Pete Townshend’s guitar tech Alan Rogan, music producer Shel Talmy, John Entwistle’s first wife Alison Wise, author and friend of Townshend’s Richard Barnes, music producer Glyn Johns, Keith Moon’s former assistant and friend Peter “Dougal” Butler, concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith and Moon’s mother Kit Moon as well archive interview clips with Entwistle and Moon.
Unlike 1979’s The Kids Are Alright, which included complete performances of many songs, Amazing Journey uses clips from performances combined with interviews and narration to tell the story of the band. In addition, Amazing Journey covers the post-Moon years of the band.
Of all the clips in the film, the most riveting is the 1964 footage of The Who, then known as The High Numbers, performing at The Railway Hotel in London. The film, shot by the band’s then-managers Kit Lambert (son of composer and founder music director of the Royal Ballet, Constant Lambert) and Chris Stamp (brother of actor Terence Stamp), shows the band performing covers, including a terrific take on Smokey Robinson and The Miracles’ “I Gotta Dance To Keep From Crying,” in front of an audience of Mods who were dancing, chatting, smoking and trying their best to look cool. It’s a fascinating look at the Mod scene in London at the time. In addition, Moon’s massive drumming talents were already evident at the time despite his being only 17 years old.
Amazing Journey covers the lives of the band members from their early days up to the release of the band’s 2006 album Endless Wire. Daltrey describes postwar Britain as being “very spartan.” Entwistle recalls playing in the bombed-out ruins of buildings as a child. Daltrey and Townshend both sing Entwislte’s praises, with Townshend referring to the late bassist as “a great musical ally.” And Townshend states that Daltrey as a young man was one of the most powerful and charismatic people he had ever met.
Despite the two-hour length of the film, Amazing Journey does feel a bit rushed in places as it doesn’t give adequate coverage to certain parts of the band’s history. For example, the 1975 album The Who By Numbers is almost completely glossed over. The be fair, though, there is a lot of history to be covered when it comes to a band like The Who. It would probably take something along the lines of The Beatles Anthology to adequately tell The Who’s story on film. However, for someone new to The Who, Amazing Journey is a good place to start as it does do a great job telling the story of the band’s early years and how getting immersed in American blues music, the Mod culture and pop art were very influential to the four members of the band. And Daltrey’s telling the tale of his short-lived 1965 firing from the band is quite interesting.
Not surprisingly, the Tommy album and the events surrounding it gets a good bit of coverage in the film. Townshend states that Tommy transformed Daltrey as a vocalist and that its success gave Daltrey equal footing with the other members of the band.
Amazing Journey provides an adequate look at the tragic parts of The Who’s history: the deaths of Moon in 1978 and Entwistle in 2002 as well as the crowd crush disaster that took the lives of 11 young fans outside the Cincinnati arena where the band was performing in December 1979.
It is worth sitting through the closing credits of Amazing Journey as clips from different live versions of “My Generation” from over the years are shown as the credits roll.
Six Quick Ones features mini bios of Daltrey, Entwistle, Townshend and Moon as well as the short films Who Art You? and Who’s Back. Who Art You? examines how the pop art that Townshend studied in art school became influential to the band and how pop art got incorporated into the Mod esthetic. Who’s Back, shot by the filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, chronicles the November 2003 recording sessions for the song “Real Good Looking Boy,” The Who’s tribute to Elvis Presley. Emerson, Lake and Palmer bassist Greg Lake played with The Who on the session. Studio discussions between Townshend and Daltrey and Townshend and drummer Zak Starkey are shown as is a live-in-the-studio performance of the song. The finished version of the song, which appeared on the compilation The Who: Then And Now, plays over the credits for Six Quick Ones.
The Coda Collection is available to Amazon Prime Members in the USA for $4.99 per month with a free seven-day trial. Additional information about The Coda Collection can be found at https://codacollection.co/.
The trailer for Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who can be seen below:
The trailer for Six Quick Ones can be seen below: