The ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Circus’ was a wild moment in the annual of musical history. The Rolling Stones were nearing the peak of their powers in 1968 and London was positively pulsating with musical talent. One such band brimming with swagger was The Who.
The group had been tearing up stages and leaving audiences agog for a few years now but had recently begun to hone their talent, unlike any other musician. When The Rolling Stones invited them to be an opening act on the momentous event they couldn’t have imagined how easily they’d been upstaged.
The Rolling Stones invited every noteworthy musician with a one Thunder mile radius when comprising the setlist for their huge event. The group would welcome a series of acts including some big names like The Beatles’ own John Lennon and his friend Eric Clapton and some smaller acts like Taj Mahal and The Who. With the Stones set to headline the event the pecking order was written in black and white.
But those in attendance that night (and the night before) should’ve paid close attention to The Who’s set at Monterey Pop Festival. It was there that the group proved they wouldn’t lie down and be opening act cannon fodder for anybody. It was there that Pete Townshend, the band’s leader, would ask his group to “leave a wound” on the audience that day.
They rattled through their set and destroyed their instruments, enraging purists and enthralling kids alike. They would have been the only band that mattered that weekend had Jimi Hendrix taken a sick day. It was a moment in the band’s history that would only be cemented with an explosive performance on Smothers Brothers that same year.
By 1968, they knew what they had to do when provided such a lucrative stage. So in December of that year the group took to their allocated slot and were ready when Keith Richards wearing an eye-patch introduced the group, “Dig The Who!” The band provide a touch of the past with their sea-shanty pose and start to their song ‘A Quikc One, WHile He’s Away’.
Originally written in 1966 by Townshend the band give a rollicking performance of the song in the footage below. Townshend is on windmilling good form, the Ox stares steadfast and unmoving while Keith Moon is every bit the awe-inducing animal his legend says he was. Meanwhile, Roger Daltrey delivers one of his finer moments too. All together it made following the band a very hard proposition to come to terms with.
By the time The Rolling Stones were given their orders to go on stage the party had been going on for nearly 36 hours and the effects were starting to wear on the group. Richards looks out of it (more so than usual) and the group lack a certain power that usually their show demands. It may have been the reason the group neglected to share the video for such a long time.
But the video is here now and it’s easy to see that with their performance of ‘A Quick One, While He’s Away’ The Who upstaged The Rolling Stones at their very own party.