On This Day – The High Numbers Turned Down By EMI!

the detoursOn this day in 1964 The High Numbers auditioned for EMI the UK record company, and were turned down.  One of the reasons they were turned down was that the record company wanted them to write more of their own material.

Like many of the beat groups of the time the various members had been in other bands before coming together.  A couple had played in a trad jazz band with the eventual bass player of the High Numbers playing French Horn… They also went through a few names before becoming The High Numbers released their only single “I’m the face/Zoot Suit” which failed to chart.  One of the names that the band had before being The High Numbers was The Who.  The new name did not suit and so they changed it, after the failure of the single and being turned down by EMI, back to The Who and signed to Orbit Music.

1965 saw the band moving forward, a number singles that all made the top 20 including ‘I Can’t Explain’ and ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’.  They also appeared in a number of TV and radio spots including what must have been the highest accolade  a radio appearance on ‘The Joe Loss Pop Show’ (those of you not of a certain age or not from the UK will not recognise the incongruity of Joe Loss presenting a pop show).

It is only speculation, but if you can not speculate about music what can you, what would have happened to The High Numbers if EMI had accepted them in 1964?  With no pressure to write their own stuff and evolve would they have remained that gigging pub band?  How many guitars would have been saved from what became their ritualistic destruction on stage? Would ‘I Can See For Miles’ and ‘My Generation’ (notably, and wondefully covered by the great and glorious Patti Smith) have seen the light of day?

No doubt some executive in EMI was roasted by his bosses for turning them down but perhaps we all owe him a great debt of gratitude.

The Great and Glorious Patti, the best version of this song, ever!

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2 Responses to On This Day – The High Numbers Turned Down By EMI!

  1. Steve T. says:

    I have a letter from EMI Records to Kit Lambert dated 22nd October 1964 in which John Burgess (assistant to Norman Newell A&R manager) turns down the High Numbers.
    It was in the sleeve of a copy of Live at Leeds.
    Can you tell me if this letter is the original, or were copies made for public consumption?

    I also have (it also looks original) the contract between Woodstock and The Who for an appearance on 16th August 1969 (fee $12,500)

    Is this paperwork of any interest / value?

    Hope to hear back.

  2. Steve T. says:

    Sorry for cluttering up your blog with rubbish – just did a basic bit of research and of course there documents were included with every copy of the record!!!