How the Who Lost Their Van … But Gained the First 100-Watt Amp
The Who's journey toward becoming the loudest band in all the land started in the late summer of 1965.
Authors Stafford Hildred and Tim Ewbank retrace those steps in their book Roger Daltrey: The Biography, leading it all back to the "bizarre circumstances" under which the group had its gear stolen on Sept. 4, 1965.
"Fed up with driving everyone in my Volkswagen I'd got the band a van," explained former manager Kit Lambert. "It wasn't very well painted and on sunny days you could see the lettering: 'Billiard Tables Installed on Your Own Premises,' under the words 'the Who.' But we never seemed to be able to get effective locks to lock the stuff up, and it kept getting pinched."
Seeking a solution, Lambert recalled heading out to a dogs' home to buy the band a German shepherd that could keep an eye on their stuff while it was otherwise unattended — but while they were dog shopping, disaster struck again: As Lambert put it, "Someone nicked the van with all the equipment."
From there, says WZLX DJ Matt Dolloff, the Who had to replace their missing gear. They'd previously gone with Vox amps — in fact, they'd been trying to protect their new ones when they decided to get the dog — but, less than satisfied with their performance, the band made a switch and went with Marshall instead.
The company came back to guitarist Pete Townshend "with 100-watt heads and a giant 8×12 speaker cabinet stacked on top of each other, and thus the 'stack' amp was born," writes Alan. "The model proved too unwieldy for roadies, however, and evolved into two 4×12 cabs that he stacked on top of each other. It’s been said that Townshend designed the amp himself, but in actuality he just inspired the concept."
The rest is history. And as Townshend's tinnitus can attest, echoes of that sonic evolution continue to reverberate.