Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Song of the Week: The Who (High Numbers) -- Zoot Suit and The Dynamics - Misery

We're back with the overly-hyped day three of our look at a few covers by The Who and their origins. Without further ado, I present to you...

In the earliest days of The Who, the band was largely generic and directionless. The Who's manager at that time, Pete Meaden, was trying to find a hook for The Who and endeavored to make the band "more mod." As a result he changed their name to The High Numbers (a "high number" being a term to refer to a person having a relatively high social rank in the movement) and took Pete Townshend to a mutual friend's house to listen to American soul and blues records to build out the band's repertoire. In the early Summer of 1964 the two Pete's settled on four songs they would lay down for their first recording session: Eddie Holland's Leavin' Here, Bo Diddley's Here 'Tis, Slim Harpo's Got Love If You Want It, and, perhaps the most obscure of these, The Dynamic's Misery. But Pete Meaden really wanted the records to be mod anthems. So, rather unscrupulously, Meaden rewrote the words to two of the songs in an effort to capitalize on the mod lifestyle. Got Love If You Want It became I'm The Face (the highest rank a Mod could achieve) and Misery became Zoot Suit.

Meaden claimed writing credit for both "originals". The record saw a tiny release on July 3, 1964. I believe about only 1000 were pressed on the Fontana label but without a recording contract. Meaden shopped it to record companies and the band sold or gave away the record to the mods who crammed into the Railway Hotel on the weekends to see their boys play. Not much came of it and it hardly sounds anything like the band who would go back into the studio a few months later to record Pete Townshend's first ever original, I Can't Explain.
The little known original song from which this number was pinched, as already noted, was called Misery performed by a Detroit group called The Dynamics. It was released in the US on Big Top records in October of '63. It even saw a release in the UK the next month when London records picked it up.

Back in 2010 we wrote an article on this record. Much to our pleasure, the original guitarist, Chris Bramlett, found the article and left us some nice comments, including information on the equipment he used. Please see that article here for more information. It says more than I need to in this space.

Disclosure note, I picked up the picture of the handwritten High Number's Zoot Suit from White Fang's fan page. A great resource run by one of the mods that inhabited that Railway Hotel in the Summer of '64. Note that the name The Who was crossed out on the label and replaced with The High Numbers!

Until tomorrow, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!

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