The precise location of The Who's mysterious concrete monolith from the cover of Who's Next has finally been pinpointed

The cover of Who's Next
(Image credit: Track Records)

It's one of rock's most iconic cover photographs: The four members of The Who, carefully adjusting their clothing after apparently urinating on a mysterious concrete monolith. 

For years, the precise location of the Who's Next cover shoot has remained a mystery, but a report in the Derbyshire Times reveals that the band's historic pee stop took place near Temple Normanton, a township two and a half miles south-east of Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

Let's rewind. On May 14, 1971, American photographer Ethan Russell photographed the The Who pretending to destroy their dressing room at the University of Liverpool, the shot that was used on the back cover of Who’s Next. The following morning, as the group headed back to London, Russell spotted a slag heap dotted by several concrete pilings, like abandoned props from 2001: A Space Odyssey

“I was thinking about that scene,” Russell told Classic Rock in 2022, “so I had the band sort of behaving the way the apes and humans do in the movie, reacting to it in fear.”

Mission accomplished, the band elected to have some fun, which is how the cover image came about. For years, people have argued about the location, but it was only pinpointed recently when an American TV crew making a documentary about Russell visited Chesterfield and spoke to local man John Hirst.

“Back when the album came out I was working for Clay Cross council, and someone in the office was a big Who fan said he knew where the photo had been taken," Hirst told the Times. "He used to drive past it every day on his way from Mansfield.

“I kept a little camera in my car, so three of us went up there and I took photo of him standing with it. I got married and moved nearby soon after and over the next couple of years I took more photos as the land was filled in around it, until the thing disappeared.

“I sat on these photos for years and years, and every now and then I’d hear about Who fans who said it was somewhere completely different. It’s all over the internet that it’s somewhere near Easington [a village 130 miles north of Temple Normanton, in County Durham]. If I’d changed it on Wikipedia, someone would have just changed it back."

Today only the top of the monolith is still visible, but Who fans wishing to make a pilgrimage to the site, perhaps to pee on the historic concrete, should be aware that it's now situated on private farmland and permission from the landowner should definitely be sought. 


Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.