#750: Pictures of Lily by The Who

Peak Month: August 1967
7 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG chart
Peak Position #5
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #51
1 week Hitbound
YouTube.com Link: “Pictures Of Lily
“Pictures Of Lily” lyrics

The Who are an English band who emerged in 1964 with singer Roger Daltry, guitarist Pete Townshend, bassist John Entwistle, and drummer Keith Moon. The band enjoyed popular singles, such as “I Can See For Miles,” “Pinball Wizard” and  “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” In Vancouver the band had eleven Top Ten hits, while in the UK they charted fourteen singles into the Top Ten, but in America they only charted one single, “I Can See For Miles,” into the Billboard Hot 100. The band were innovators of new genres in rock n’ roll with their rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia. The Who early on were known for outlandish antics on stage. At the Railway Hotel in Wealdstone, England, in June, 1964, Peter Townshend destroyed his guitar on stage and smashed it into other instruments. The Who stand alongside The Beatles and The Rollings Stones as among the most influential rock bands from Britain. They had their first Top Ten single in the UK and in Vancouver in 1965 titled “I Can’t Explain,” which peaked at #8 in the UK and #2 in Vancouver.

Roger Daltry was born in East Acton, a suburb of London, in 1944. He learned how to play guitar and became the lead singer and lead guitarist for a skiffle band called The Detours, in 1959. He worked as a sheet metal worker by day and musician by night. After their first hit single Daltry’s bandmates in The Who kicked him out of the band after he beat up Who drummer Keith Moon for providing drugs to Pete Townshend and John Entwistle. Daltry had to assess his strategy for dealing with conflict with others. Seven days later, Daltrey was allowed to return to the band, but he had to be put on probation. Daltry swore that he wouldn’t be physically violent anymore. He later reflected, “I thought if I lost the band I was dead. If I didn’t stick with The Who, I would be a sheet metal worker for the rest of my life.”

Peter Townsend was born in West London in 1945. Born into a musical family, Townshend learned to play guitar at the age of eleven. He and a schoolmate, John Entwistle, formed a traditional jazz group called the Confederates where Townshend played banjo and Entwistle played horn. John Entwistle joined Roger Daltry’s band, The Detours, in 1961. And soon after suggested Pete Townsend join the band. In 1964 there was another regional band named The Detours and so Daltry’s band came up with a new name, The Who.

John Entwistle was born in Cheswick, a suburb of London. From the age of seven be began to learn piano and then went on to learn the trumpet, French horn and guitar. He played with Pete Townsend in the Confederates and later joined Roger Daltry’s band, The Detours, in 1961.

Keith Moon was born in 1946 in Central Middlesex and grew up in the Greater London suburb of Wembley. He initially learned the bugle while in Sea Cadets at the age of twelve, but soon moved on to learn the drums. He was part of a band in the early 60s called The Escorts, but by the end of 1962 Moon had moved on to join the instrumental band, The Beachcombers. At age seventeen he auditioned for and got the position as drummer for The Who.

The Who were one of a number of classic rock ‘n roll bands from the UK who were part of the British Invasion. Others who were part of that wave include The Yardbirds, The Kinks, Cream, The HolliesThe Troggs, Manfred Mann and the Small Faces.

In early 1966 The Who charted “My Generation” to #2 in the UK, #18 in Vancouver, but only #74 on the BillboardHot 100 in the USA. Several more singles that did well in the UK failed to make a dent on the Vancouver charts until the release of “I’m A Boy.” The song had been released in the UK in July 1966 and climbed to #2 on the British charts. In Vancouver the song managed to peak at #4. This was unique in both Canada and the USA, as it failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 and its charting on the Canadian RPM singles chart to #23 was due largely to its performance on the Vancouver charts.

“I’m A Boy” was the first of four Top Ten hits in Vancouver for The Who in 1967. The second Top Ten hit was “Happy Jack.” The third was “Pictures Of Lily.”

Pictures of Lily by The Who

Numbers of the hits by The Who in 1966-67 dealt with issues concerning the younger generation. In “My Generation,” the singer laments “I hope I die before I get old.” In “The Kids Are Alright” the lyrics concern the need for time apart in a relationship, “If I don’t leave I’ll go out of my mind.” “Substitute” was about a young man who feels like a fraud, while “I’m A Boy,” was about a boy dressed as a girl. “Happy Jack” was about a mentally disturbed young man and “Pictures of Lily” was about a young man fixated on a late 19th Century pin-up poster of a woman given to him by his father. The early singles, all written by Townshend, addressed the themes of sexual tension and teenage angst.

In “Pictures Of Lily” the boy is becoming an adolescent and experiencing a sexual awakening. Perhaps Pete Townsend had to refer  to what was going on as “childhood problems.” However, the boy in the song is aroused when he sees pictures of Lily on his bedroom wall. He’s so obsessed with her, he asks his dad where he can find Lily. But he learns from his dad that Lily died in 1929.

Pictures of Lily by The Who

Emilie Charlotte Langtry was born on the Island of Jersey in 1853. She became an actress and was known as the Jersey Lily. In 1874 she got married to a landowner in Jersey and they moved to London in 1876. She became a socialite and was the talk of the town as a woman of great beauty. She garnered the kind of attention that modern pop stars do today. She was called Lillie (or Lily). . So well known was she for her complexion that she was approached by Pears Soap to help promote its hygienic qualities. In doing so she became the first woman to recommend a commercial good to the general public. Founded in 1807, Pears soap did well having Lily Langtry promoting their soap and many women hoped to have a fair complexion like the actress.

In 1877, she became the mistress of Prince Edward (later Edward VII). Queen Victoria and Princess Alexandra of Denmark both put up with Prince Edward’s philandering. Princess Alexandra eventually developed a respectful and affectionate relationship with Lily. Langtry’s relationship with Prince Edward lasted until 1880. Simultaneously, Lily Langtry had an affair with the Earl of Shrewsbury in 1879 and the two planned to run away together. She also had a brief affair in 1879 with Prince Louis of Battenberg. In 1889, she met George Alexander Baird at a horse race. He was eight years younger than she was, and they soon formed a relationship. This lasted until March 1893, when he died at the age of 31 from pneumonia. Soon after, she met William Gladstone when she was posing for a portrait at a photo studio. Gladstone was Prime Minister and 83 years of age when they met. Langtry was 40. Lily Langtry moved to California in 1897 and got divorced from her husband, Edward Langtry. In 1899, Lily Langtry married 28-year-old Hugo Gerald de Bathe. He was heir to an baronetcy. The day of their marriage, her horse, Merman, won the Goodwood Cup. After Hugo’s father died in 1907, Lily Langtry’s official title was Lady de Bathe. Langtry had an acting career and played leading roles in She Stoops To Conquer and As You Like It. In her golden years she lived mostly in Monaco and died in 1929.

The Who went on to chart another 14 singles into the Top 20  in Vancouver into the 1980’s. Drummer, Keith Moon, died in 1978 and was replaced by Kenny Jones through to 1988. The Who have released eleven studio albums, their last in 2006. They continue to perform in concert and came to the Rogers’ Arena in Vancouver on May 13, 2016.

May 7, 2018
Ray McGinnis

References:
The Story of The Who, The Who.com
Andy Greene, The Who Bio, Rolling Stone.com
Bates, Laura. Lily Langtry: Manners, Masks and Morals. Vintage, 1999.

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