The Great The Who Debates...Settled!
The Who or Led Zeppelin?
People have told me, "You can like The Who, you can like Led Zeppelin, but you're always going to like one of them more." Well, the winner here is The Who. Just listening to the wonderful The Who box set, Thirty Years of Maximum R&B, we can hear just how diverse their music is, ranging from furious energy to thoughful artistry, surging basslines to three part harmonies. Zeppelin, while popular, shouldn't even qualify as the same league as The Who. But don't take my word for it, what does Pete Townshend, The Who guitarist and main songwriter, have to say about the Zeppelin/Who rivalry? "I haven't liked a single thing that they've done. I hate the fact that I'm ever even slightly compared to them. I've just never, ever liked them. It's a real problem for me, because I think as people, they're all really really great guys... I've never liked them." (quoted from The History of Rock 'n' Roll. Disc 4.)
Tommy or Quadrophenia?
Townshend wrote two stunning rock opera with The Who, and it seems like Tommy, being The Who's first rock opera--not to mention their major breakthrough record--receives the lion's share of praise. But on Quadrophenia, the band's crowning acheivement, everything clicks. Whereas Tommy benefits from a consistent musical theme as well as very beautiful harmonies and an interesting (albeit odd) story, Quadrophenia's much clearer "libretto" hits closer to home for The Who (it's about growing up a Mod in '60s England, in a nutshell) and the album features probably the best use of the synthesizers ever. If you compare the individual songs off of Quadrophenia ("5:15," "The Real Me," and "Love, Reign O'er Me,") they are in a completely different rock stratum than its predecessor, which really has no stand-out numbers ("Pinball Wizard" might have been a hit, but is no better or worse than anything else on Tommy.)
Keith Moon or John Bonham?
Similar to The Who v. Led Zeppelin, this debate compares the respective drummers of the bands and yields a similar victor: the Who drummer, Keith Moon. Two drummers, both out of control on the skins, both drunks, both dead before their time from drinking. People can quibble all day about the drumming of the two, fawning over Bonham's solos or praising Moon's consistency, but the fact is, I've never heard Bonham sing the high harmony to Barbara Ann, but Keith Moon can, and he sounds like an angel--check out the film The Kids Are Alright for a clip. On a side note, Keith Moon isn't the greatest drummer ever, and, for my money, the greatest drum solo in rock music is Ringo's solo in "The End" off of Abbey Road.
Keith Moon or Kenney Jones?
...I won't even dignify this with a response.