I recall that at the beginning of this process, I had some explaining to do after listening to “A Quick One” by The Who. Overall, it wasn’t very good, and I had to offer some reassurances that this band I loved had much more to offer down the road. Well, if you haven’t been fully convinced by “Tommy” or “Live at Leeds”, surely today’s selection will do the trick. In 1971, The Who released their classic rock hit factory, “Who’s Next”. Rated number 77 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, this album contains five songs any rock music fan will instantly recognize, and several other excellent “deeper cuts”.
The album opens with the frenzied keyboard of “Baba O’Riley”, known to many people incorrectly as “Teenage Wasteland”. One of two legendary Who rockers that open and close this album, this song is virtually overflowing with Keith Moon drum fills and Pete Townshend power chords. Another thing I love about this song, and this album and band as a whole, is the way they selectively use Pete Townshend’s voice as a second singer and contrast to lead vocalist Roger Daltrey. Next comes “Bargain”, another powerhouse guitar rock hit, and another favorite of mine featuring both Roger and Pete on vocals. The rest of side one is less familiar to many, but very strong. “Love Ain’t For Keeping” and “The Song Is Over”, featuring their frequent session keyboard player Nicky Hopkins, are wrapped around the hilarious John Entwistle song “My Wife”, which is an interesting tribute to her “affection” for John and to fun-loving husbands everywhere.
Hopkins appears again to open side two with a beautiful ballad, “Getting In Tune”, which I recall to be a favorite of one of my most faithful readers. The rest of side two brings us back to familiar grounds with three more legendary songs. First comes “Going Mobile”, sung completely by Townshend. An up-tempo ode to living life at a fast and urgent pace, it feels like a bit of a soundtrack to my life these days. In addition to Pete’s great singing and guitar backing, Keith Moon is remarkable on this song. Next we have “Behind Blue Eyes”. Borrowing from Led Zeppelin’s concept of “light and shade”, we have a really pretty and emotional ballad that bursts halfway through with intense emotion and urgency, fighting back hard at the pains of life, sadness and isolation.
To close the album, the band rocks at maximum fury, or perhaps “Maximum R&B”, a favorite catch-phrase of the band. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is a perfect mix of anger-filled lyrics, championing the highs and lows of exploding political unrest and change, with more Townshend power chords, Entwistle’s frenetic bass lines, and Keith Moon just out of control, being Keith Moon. I once remember hearing this song at a concert as we waited for the band to come on, watching 17,000 eager rock fans air-drum in unison to Keith’s solo leading into Roger’s powerful scream-filled song ending. Any rock fan has probably heard this song one too many times, and Roger himself has told us he would be fine if he never had to sing this song again, but stepping back and just taking it in, it is truly the Who at their finest, just as this entire album represents a band taking it to a intellectual and musical level rarely approached by any act.
“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…”