Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published March 9th 2019
The Who's classic is classic for a reason
Thought I'd try something different with this one. I've looked at some older films, so let's look at a classic album, one from years past.
So my first attempt at this is Who's Next by The Who.
The Who is a band I've mentioned before and have even looked at lead singer Roger Daltrey's 2018 output, book and album. I own a number of Who albums – not all, unfortunately; I was born too late and getting the older albums is difficult – but, by far, my favourite is Who's Next.
The album was borne of an aborted attempt by Pete Townshend to write another rock opera to outdo Tommy. He didn't quite get there until many years later; that was Lifehouse and I bought the 6-CD set Lifehouse Chronicles from the UK for a huge amount of money and it was worth every cent. Anyway, back in 1971, it didn't quite gel. However, a number of the songs were completed and what came out of it was, simply, one of the finest rock albums of the 1970s.
Released in 1971, and with three awesome singles coming from it, it is an album that still holds up now, almost 50 years later. The band were tight as, and the musicianship on show is superb – Townshend on guitar, Moon on drums, Entwistle on bass and Daltrey on vocals – as good as any band at the time, and, yes, I know that includes Led Zeppelin.
In the 1990s they released an extended version with bonus tracks and in 2003 they released a double CD deluxe edition. I own the original on vinyl and cassette, the 1990s version on CD, and the 2003 version also on CD. But for this, I will be looking at the original album, which does, therefore, leave out the frankly brilliant 'Pure & Easy', one of my favourite songs in The Who's canon.
Side One (yes, side one – it's an album) opens with my favourite The Who song – 'Baba O'Riley'. Opening with the synthesiser riff before, suddenly, the band crashes in and the song just hits like a train. "Teenage Wasteland…" rings out and I was hooked from the moment I first heard it as a 16 year old in 1985. In the early 2000s, I wrote a science fiction story based on this song, which was published and yet it still, even now, resonates with me.
Version from The Kids Are All Right, a great rockumentary.
'Bargain' follows next. Starts slow, builds up, and the acoustic guitar work is really good, but that is a hallmark of this entire album. And some of the lyrics are just superb: "To win you I'd stand naked, stoned and stabbed…"
Next is 'Love Ain't For Keeping'. It is a slower song, but definitely not a ballad. The lyrics are full of hope and love – "Lay down beside me / Love ain't for keeping…" – about a couple sharing their love. Quite a decent, lovely song, once again dominated by acoustic guitar.
John Entwistle's 'My Wife' is next up, a song written, unsurprisingly, about his wife. But it's not actually a love song, per se – he's gotten drunk and subsequently arrested, and he's worried about how she's going to react: " I haven't been home since Friday night and now my wife is comin' after me…" This is a John Entwistle song – he sings it, plays piano and the horns (including the horn musical break) and it is his track. And it is a fine one, at that. More importantly, it is different to what surrounds it, and helps make the album as great as it is.
'The Song Is Over' finishes side one. It is a beautiful song, and in the context of Lifehouse it has a slightly different meaning to the way I heard it at first. It feels like a guy loses his love (the song), but the music continues on, and with the contrast in voices between Daltrey and Townshend, it has a great sound and feel.
The second side starts with 'Getting In Tune'. A good song, with constant changes in tempo that gives it a feel that suits the lyrics, about a musician feeling he has to write the songs that go through his head.
'Going Mobile' follows this. Townshend sings it, the guitars are predominantly acoustic (until the solo) and it is about, basically, just getting out and driving. That simple, really. Possibly, in my opinion, the least song on the album, and yet I enjoy it. And who of us can't relate to: " When I'm driving free, the world's my home…"
Then we hit 'Behind Blue Eyes'. What a classic song, and one I related to right from the word go. This song spoke to me. "No-one knows what's like… Behind blue eyes…" It is a superb song. The slow introduction and then "When my fist clenches, crack it open…" and the band is there in full force, before slowing again to finish. This is one of the greatest songs ever written, and the fact it is not even the best song on this album shows the quality of what we're looking at here.
Finally, to finish, we have 'Won't Get Fooled Again'. What a way to finish the album! "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…" Its themes are timeless. But the musicianship is magnificent. And who could ever forget the scream from Daltrey after the build-up drum solo from Moon. This song is so brilliant in its scope and everything about it. Just… words escape me. If it wasn't for 'Baba O'Riley', this would be the best song on the album. For any other band, this would be a pinnacle. The Who are not just any other band.
Version from The Kids Are All Right, clearly one of the greatest rockumentaries.
The Who, Who's Next, classic album. Every song on it is good or better. You just do not get that often enough. When you can put an album on and know you're not going to want to skip any of the tracks, that you can listen to it from go to whoa and enjoy everything, then you know the album is awesome.
This album is awesome.
As I said, this is something a little different. If you like it, please let me know and I'll keep going with other classic albums I like, or even more recent releases that I like. And, otherwise, any comments, questions, etc. are always gratefully received.