Who’s Next – The Who

I think I’ve purchased this album three times in my life, so screw you music industry. But you know what, when I hit play and the distinctive electric piano thing at the beginning of Baba O’Riley starts, I don’t care. It’s worth it now, it was worth it before. I actually think I’ve owned this three times. I had it on cassette in the 80s. I had it on CD in the 90s. Now I have it digitally, in the cloud, so I never, ever have to worry about repurchasing it. Amazon is going to keep it backed up forever. And it was on sale for $5. That’s crazy. Just crazy.

Kids these days will recognize two of the tracks because Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again are the theme songs for two of the three CSI shows (New York, Miami). But for my money, Going Mobile is the best song on the album. I’ve always had a bias for Pete Townshend in the role of  lead vocalist. I love his voice and am especially partial to his solo stuff. It’s also a great running song (or driving, if you’re into that). But if someone were to argue and say Won’t Get Fooled Again is the best, I couldn’t disagree too much.

Heck, who am I kidding? Every single song on this album is great. It’s just a joy to listen to. Period. It’s one of the great listening experiences in life. Clear Top 5 of all time for me. This is especially true when you throw in the bonus tracks tossed in for the 1995 reissue.

It has some slow stuff, some bluesy stuff, and some hard rock. It has plenty of guitars and drums, but Townshend throws in a fair amount of keyboards, including electric ones (synthesizer is a keyboard, right?). Daltrey mixes in pure, clear vocals with throaty, rough sounding ones. Townshend pitches in on the vocals for a bunch of songs besides Going Mobile. There are so many great things about this album.

Behind Blue Eyes captures a lot of this different stuff. It starts slow with Daltrey’s crisp vocals, mostly acoustic guitar, and some choir-like background voices. And then with a minute and a half left, Daltrey’s voice changes and the guitars and drums fire up. Everything gets more aggressive for about a minute. The finish backs off. It is a beautiful song.

The original album finishes with eight plus minutes of Won’t Get Fooled Again. It’s strong. The long guitar riff and electric keyboard start things out, the guitars and drums enter, and Daltrey begins with what feels like political commentary. The chorus is this:

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around me
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again
No, no!

And the song finishes with:

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

It seems a relevant commentary. The political wheel keeps spinning with different parties and different promises, but nothing really changes. What can you do? You smile, get on with your life, and hope that eventually the collective can see through the lies. It’s tough because they’re all telling lies – the leaders, the followers, the detractors, the strong, the weak, the rich, the disenfranchised, the majority, the minority, the activists, the conformers. You can’t sort through it all.  Just take care of your family. Hey, that’s what it sounds like to me.

There are two instrumental, solo-like sections during the eight and a half minutes. The first is mostly guitars and the second with all instruments but highlighting the keyboards. Daltrey’s patent scream doesn’t come until the end of the second one, at about the 7:45 mark.

We should all own this album and listen to it at least a few times a year.