Dear Dr. Del Rye,
As The Who will be the featured artists at next month's Super Bowl, I would like to know what helmets they are wearing in this famous album cover. Thank you.
Phil G., Lynbrook, N.Y.
Your question is interesting and a bit different. First, we may wish to establish a time frame for the production of the album and its cover photo. For those HELMET HUT readers not familiar with the rock and roll groupThe Who or their album “Odds And Sods,” they first hit the music scene in 1965 and had gained great popularity by 1967. They have maintained their worldwide popularity since. From England, they arrived for their first U.S. tour in the summer of 1967 and captured the imagination of many with an energetic stage performance that included the flailing destruction of their instruments and often, some of the stage construction. This specific album is named for a British term that refers to “miscellaneous” items. Inside information from the band indicated that the album title is actually a play on words, as the collection of songs is a "bunch of odds and ends.” They reportedly threw in the word "sods" because it rhymed with "odds." An American translation of sod would be akin to "throwaway" or "discard" and the album is a compilation of materials from various sources that were recorded between 1967 and 1973.
One of the motivating initiatives for this album was to offer fans of The Who an alternative to the numerous bootleg copies of their concerts, giving them instead many previously unreleased studio tracks. As band members drummer Keith Moon, vocalist Roger Daltrey, and guitarist Pete Townshend were more involved with the movie “Tommy” it was left to bass player John Entwistle and other production staff to sift through materials to form this popular recording. The cover photo was shot on November 29, 1973 by photographer Graham Hughes, Daltrey’s cousin, prior to their performance in Chicago. Before playing the Windy City, the tour had taken the group through San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, and St. Louis. Supposedly it was Daltrey’s idea to do a photo that included football helmets. Thus, we are left with the possibility that the MacGregor helmets with OPO face masks in this well-known photograph were purchased in or around any of the noted cities including Chicago, and that the purchase was made while on tour rather than prior to the beginning of the tour. It isn’t clear what decal or numeral is on the side(s) of the helmets though it is most likely the number "1." The numeral appears to be centered over the earhole where visible and if the trouble was taken to letter the helmets to form the word "ROCK," adding the number 1 would have been a natural for a rock band that saw itself as the best in the world. It is of course enjoyable to perhaps propose that it is the letter “I” on the side of the headgear and then imagine it in play for a college or high school whose name began with the letter. Did these helmets have striping of any kind that had been removed, or were they solid colored shells? Were these shells a scarlet, crimson, or maroon, the exact color somewhat distorted perhaps by the available lighting? Were the helmets in fact silver or white with Graham ordering them to be spray painted prior to the photo shoot in order to get the effect he was seeking? Did these gladiatorial accessories protect the health of collegiate players in front of 50,000 fans the season before, or were they high school rejects from three seasons prior? All are and perhaps will remain questions without definitive answers. What is known is that Pete Townshend did not like the finished product and in frustration, the original photo was torn up by Graham. It was salvaged with the thought that “this really might be okay” and because piecing it together with adhesive tape very much matched the conglomerate of songs that the album itself represented, was used in its damaged state. The word “R-O-C-K” as spelled out on the four helmets was obviously not a part of any team’s official uniform but the end product is a piece of rock and roll nostalgia that includes HELMET HUT’s favorite piece of uniform gear, and now adds to the trivia of Super Bowl lore.
Thank you very much for this entertaining question.
Dr. Del Rye
Dr. Del Rye;
With the Super Bowl coming up, I have been entertained by the many Super Bowl special shows on the sports channels. I was also motivated to look at some of my old football books and I noticed something about one of my favorite players, Len Dawson. I sent a picture to you showing his helmet and the difference from others of his day. Dawson does not have the nose protector that other helmets show, was this done specially for him? Thank you for your interesting information.
Pete W, Blue Springs, MO
Thank you for the photo shown below:
This photo shows the great Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson on the sideline in the inaugural Super Bowl game against the Packers and as is obvious, the rubber nose snubber that Riddell provided as standard issue on its RK and TK helmets for the 1966 season is indeed absent. In the spirit of fairness and to provide “parity” note another photo from Super Bowl I, this of Packers receiver Carroll Dale whose helmet is also missing its rubber nose snubber.
For those who played organized football in the 1950’s through the early-1960’s, one physical feature made it obvious while walking around campus or on the street that one was in fact, a participant. Because the front of the suspension helmets would “ride down” when contact was made, many players suffered cuts to the bridge of the nose, thus marking the individual as a football player and certainly adding a ruggedness to one’s appearance. That bow to “manliness” unfortunately also came with a constantly bleeding or scabbed appendage that was unsightly and in danger of infection. To counter this discomfort, Riddell introduced the rubber nose snubber at the front of the helmet in order to provide some protection. At the professional level, photographic evidence indicates that a few players wore a nose snubber during the 1959 season but they were on most helmets by 1960. For collegiate players, almost none are seen prior to the 1960 season but in that one year, most suspension helmets displayed the new protective device. Even after the snubbers were introduced and their improved facial safety confirmed, many quarterbacks and receivers would have the equipment personnel remove them as they believed that their vision was impaired or distracted by the small piece of rubber. Keeping with our Super Bowl theme, here is a photo of Baltimore Colts great John Unitas and back-up Earl Morral prior to Super Bowl V and it is obvious that Unitas has had his nose snubber removed.
This practice continued for years in accordance with player preference and consistently, it was the quarterbacks and/or receivers that removed the snubber. In the late 1960’s the frontal sweatband or “Wildcat,” so-called because it was developed by the equipment staff at Northwestern University, was introduced. This was a piece of leather with two soft foam pads glued to the back side. This sweat band extended from and bolted in above the front ridge of the helmet and was then wrapped around the internal suspension. This not only added extra protection for the player but the leather added as extra grip to the forehead to keep the helmet from slipping.
When the Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann appeared in Super Bowl XVII his usual practice of removing the padded sweatband and replacing it with adhesive tape was evident and once again the proposed explanation was related to having improved vision of the field.