The Bottom Line: The one album I ALWAYS keep near me to play.
It came from the ashes that was a movie project called Lighthouse. This story by Pete Townshend was a futuristic look at a place where pollution had taken it's toll. Everyone had to travel in sealed garments or vehicles. All living quarters and public buildings were self contained bio domes. One of these domes was called the Lighthouse. This place played rock and roll 24/7. The owner was in search of what he called "The Perfect Note." Well, it might have not been the perfect Hollywood project, but it might have produced the perfect rock and roll album!!
I guess we should start with the album cover. It is a pic of the four band members leaving their "mark" on a stone monolith.
Townsend said that this is a dig at Stanley Kubrick. Pete had tried to get him to do the movie version of Tommy. He refused. So, when the band saw this stone structure that resembled the monolith from Kubrick's 2001, Pete decided to show him just what the band thought of him!!
But that is just a side bar to what this album contains. This album, more than any other, captures the spirit of 70's rock and roll. Just as The Who left an exclamation point on the 60's with Tommy, they seemed to be determined to define what the upcoming decade was going to be in music with this disc.
There is many versions as to how the into to "Baba O'Riley" was made. Some say Pete Townshend did it with a Lawrey organ. It has been said that he did it by putting the vital statistics of his mentor Meher Baba into a computer then playing that through a synthesizer. No matter how he did it, Townshend had laid down the introduction to 70's rock and roll.
Can any one forget when they first heard that strange organ/synthesizer, followed by 3 of the most famous notes in rock and roll? For me, the intro took hold when that piano stuck those 3 little chords. At that point, you knew that these guys really meant business! It was as if Pete was the pied piper leading us down a new path. He was, but we didn't know it at the time. Along the way, he was to gather his forces and take us into new territory with this tune.
He picks up Keith Moon next. Moon kicks you right between the big toes with his slashing drum that helps push this song to further heights.
Then this pair find the last two pieces to the puzzle. John Entwistle and Roger Daltry join the parade almost simultaneously. John with the driving bass line that is the backbone to this anthem and Roger with the voice to all this madness!
Then as the group assault you with all their combined forces, the effects are devastating. This hard working, blue collar band was taking a slap at what they called "The Woodstock Generation," and in the process they defined everything that was good about rock and roll!
This song also shows the maturity of the band at this point. The guitar work of Townshend showed that it did not have to be complicated to be phenomenal. The fiddle ending, arranged and produced by Moon, was a work of genius. The overall effect, one of the best songs of the 70's and one that will live forever.
The next song on this disc, "Bargain" is one of their most misunderstood songs. Everyone thinks that it is a love song about a guy telling his girl what he would give up for her. Well, according to Townshend, this is not the case. It is a song about shedding your ego. This is one of the principals that he learned through the teaching of Meher Baba. As Pete puts it "Wouldn't it be a bargain to lose everything to become one with God?"
This song also shows the musical talent of these guys. Townshend tackles some of his best guitar work using a vintage axe given to him by Joe Walsh. This guitar work is accented by the acoustic line that he has layered behind the main melody. He also uses the ARP to perfection as both a solo instrument and as a backing to his guitar solo. This song is one of the their underrated gems. There is a style and a dynamics to this tune that was not present on anything that they had done up to this point. Maybe it is the way that it floats from acoustic piece to hard rocker and back and forth...but whatever the reason it is a song that exemplifies where this band is going.
If you had ever seen The Who live, you would have to wonder where the studio version of this song came from. "Love Ain't For Keeping was originally a hard rocker and remains so in the live show. On this disc, it was turned into an acoustic piece that still holds that hard edge thanks to the absolutely brilliant work of Pete. His finger picking on this song should put to rest any ideas that he is only a power chord guitarist.
John Entwistle shines with his lone writing and singing contribution called "My Wife." His voice, though not of the caliber of Daltry, is very good and would have been better if not overwhelmed by the music in this song. (Some say that Pete did that intentionally out of jealousy!) This rocker is also a very witty piece that he wrote after having a fight with his wife. Any married man can relate to the lyrics that he sings here:
" Gonna buy a tank and an aeroplane When she catches up with me Won't be no time to explain She thinks I've been with another woman And that's enough to send her half insane Gonna buy a fast car Put on my lead boots And take a long, long drive I may end up spending all my money But I'll still be alive."
John said that his wife enjoyed this song and even offered to do a cameo on stage chasing him with a rolling pin. He declined, but said that later on, it wasn't his wife who came after him, it was her lawyers!!
The next song was destined to be the grand finale to Pete's Lighthouse project. "The Song Is Over" starts out with a beautiful piano played by Nicky Hopkins. It is punctuated by a minimal guitar touch by Townshend. Then Pete takes the vocals for the first verse. His tender and high pitched vocals are perfect for the message that he is trying to convey. But just as you are lulled in by the quiet tones of Pete, Keith Moon accentuates the chorus and Roger blast off into a vocal display that reminds me very much of the finale of "See Me, Feel Me" from the Tommy album. A powerful larger than life feel that makes you take notice. As the chorus winds down, Townsend once again takes over to bring this song down to a more sedated tone and the classy piano of Hopkins highlights the outro. This is one of my many favorite songs by this band. That is the trouble with them, it is impossible to pick out a real true favorite. It all depends on the mood.
A gem that the 10 or 12 people who do not own this album might have never heard is "Gettin' In Tune." Once again starting out with a tender piano melody by Nicky Hopkins, this one also lulls you as Roger pours as much emotion into a song as I have ever heard a singer do before this. Just listen to how he sings the refrain "I'm gonna 'chune right in on you." His voice is an amazing instrument on this piece.
But he does not do it alone. Nicky Hopkins kind of steals the show with his piano work but Pete adds a very energetic guitar and Entwistle's bass lends a stability to this song just as it starts to spin out of control! This is a song that deserved better than it has received!!
In the plot of the Lighthouse project, there is a part where the main character takes his hermetically sealed motor home on a trip. This is the basis for the next song "Goin' Mobile." Pete takes over the vocals and he also uses an acoustic guitar to give this the feel of a fast trip down the highway and the six string is the steering wheel. This might be the case but it is Keith Moon, playing a very frantic drum that is the gas pedal and Entwistle must be the transmission, keeping everything running fine!!
"Behind Blue Eyes" was said to be conceived one night in Denver Colorado. Pete had just come off stage and was assaulted by a groupie. He tore away from her and went back to his hotel and wrote the line, "When my fist clenches, crack it open." From that he came up with this magnificent bit of rock and roll.
This is Roger's shinning moment. He displays a touch that only he could pull off. His feel for the dramatic has never been better than here. Just listen to the emphasis that he puts on certain phrasing throughout this song. Like the way he spits out the word "Vengeance."
But this classic song is still so much more. From the guitar work, both acoustic and electric by Townshend, to the falsetto backing vocals this song exemplifies the new direction of the band. But they also remember their roots as this tune hits the chorus. Some of the most dynamic rock and roll you will hear! Another song that is destined to be a mainstay for any classic rock radio station.
Now we get the closing number to this album. The song that Pete describes as his "anti-anti establishment song. Many think that "Won't Get Fooled Again" was a protest song, when it was really talking about the people doing the protesting!
"We'll be fighting in the streets With our children at our feet And the morals that they worship will be gone And the men who spurred us on Sit in judgement of all wrong They decide and the shotgun sings the song."
Instead of real change, all we get is new people in power making the decisions for us all. Same sh*t, different day! But he takes it even further.
"I'll tip my hat to the new constitution Take a bow for the new revolution Smile and grin at the change all around Pick up my guitar and play Just like yesterday Then I'll get on my knees and pray We don't get fooled again No, no!"
Nothing has changed, it is the same as yesterday, maybe next time we will not listen to the crap that is being spewed by these "revolutionaries."
He even tells everyone the same thing again as the song ends. "Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss." The more things change, the more they stay the same!!
Not only does Townshend convey a message lyrically, the whole band gives us a clout on the head musically! This is the song that everyone hears over and over. From the great synthesizer/organ work at the beginning, to the chilling, thunderous guitar chords that make this song blast off, this is anthem rock in it's purest form. Wicked rock and roll where the whole band figures into the picture. This has some of the best work I have ever heard. Entwistle is just magnificent. Moon fills in every possible hole with his dynamic percussion. This is The Who at their thunderous best! A great way to end a classic album to say the least!!
The Who are official members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and this album alone would have put them their. It is a pioneering album that explores so much territory I could go on and on about it. Just the use of the ARP and synthesizers on this album revolutionized the way these instruments were played.
It is good to know that this was just a turning point. The band still had a lot of surprises in store for us. This album is a glimpse of them at their creative best and should be cherished.
There's an old saying that advises us to aim for the stars at all times. The idea is that by doing so, even a failure might land you on the moon, at least. Here's an example of that idea in action - "Who's Next" is without a doubt one of the most magnificent records in the magnificent career of the Who, and yet it's really just the debris of a Pete Townshend project that collapsed under its own weight. Fans of this band already know that in the years after "Tommy", Townshend … more
Why is The Who's 'Who's Next' one of the most perennially played CD selections on FM radio? Surely it has retained the richness of sound that hasn't dated the music for over thirty years. With intricate music, spare, yet memorable lyrics, and powerful vocals and guitars, it has all the elements of a worthy classic rock album. 'Who's Next' may or may not be a concept album, but it doesn't really meander ever really. It seems to make a post-sixties statement about the meaning of power and what's essential … more
Originally intended to be a sci-fi rock opera titled "Lifehouse", WHO'S NEXT is a classic that ranks amongst the finest rock albums ever recorded. It's also the greatest album from The Who - and that's saying something. This is due in part to the variety of emotions on this album, ranging from scathing anger on the classic "Behind Blue Eyes" to free-spirited love on "The Song is Over". "Baba O'Reilly", as grand a song as The Who ever recorded, opens the album. There's very little time between that … more
This is one winner of a recording. These songs just dominated FM radio throughout the 70's and I have fond memories growing up to classics like Baba O'Reilly, Bargain, and Won't Get Fooled Gain. Even the lesser tracks like Love Aint For Keeping and My Wife have alot of hidden beauty. And the Bonus Tracks such as Naked Eye, Water, and I Don't Even Know Myself blow away the best recordings of Def Leopard and Whitesnake with the upmost ease.
A mix of old favorites and buried treasures makes this edition ofWho's Nexta definite must. One of the defining albums of 70s hard rock from one of the 60s most successful bands, the original album includes some of The Who's best-known work, such as the anthemic "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again", the by turns sorrowful and angry "Behind Blue Eyes", and perennial favorite "My Wife". The new tracks on this album are equally worth hearing, including "Pure and Easy" (an alternate edition of which is available onOdds & Sods) and the original version of "Behind Blue Eyes". A hard rock classic,Who's Nextis required listening for rock fans of all ages.--Genevieve Williams