The “Listen Again” series went over well enough here in the Los Angeles area that your favorite rockin’ record reviewer decided to follow the lead of some L.A. TV execs and do a spin-off. In this series we once more examine previously-released albums but the platters we shall peruse in this particular series will be (Rolling Stone magazine) five-star albums. In this edition we examine The Who’s The Who Sings My Generation.
But for those not up on their rock music history, The Who is a Brit band established in 1964 by lead singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist/vocalist Pete Townshend, the late John Entwistle on bass and backing vocals and the late Keith Moon on drums and percussion. They became well known for their energy-filled live concerts which often included the destruction of their own instruments. They have sold over 100 million records, had 27 top forty singles in the US and the UK and 17 top ten albums. On The Who Sings My Generation the band was sometimes backed by pianist Nicky Hopkins.
Recorded immediately after their first singles charted, side one of their 12-track premiere platter opens on “Out in the Street”. Townshend plays chords similar to the chords on the band’s second single “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere”. His guitar is actually tuned down a step on this track.
The second selection is “I Don’t Mind”. Here The Who covers a James Brown bit. It contains an odd chord progression that some critics initially considered to be “musically wrong”.
The next number is “The Good’s Gone”. The Guitar Tab confirms that the tune starts with Townshend playing “the highest notes of the Bm7 chord.” Then the verses “ have that chord played, followed by three consecutive A5 chords and another Bm7 chord”. The “choruses have A5 played twice followed by B5”. Townshend liked this one even though years after the release of the recording the band would generally dismiss the overall album as a rush job.
“La-La-La-Lies” follows. This would include double-tracked vocals on the original recording. “Much Too Much” is also included here and was the first original composition here not to be part of a single. It’s reminiscent of Barry McGuire.
The side ends on “My Generation”. This titular track is immediately artistic and would eventually go on to be historical, significant and one of the band’s most recognizable tunes. Townshend’s feedback technique made this one a sonic marvel of the era and actually presaged both the punk rock and heavy metal music genres.
The flip side leads off with the edited UK single version of “The Kids Are Alright”. This somewhat sophisticated pop piece, along with the previous cut, would quickly become anthems for the Mods in the UK. They would initially go almost unnoticed in the US.
“Please, Please, Please” is another R&B cover made famous by James Brown. It was Brown’s first single and his first hit. So it’s fitting that it appears on The Who’s debut disc.
“It’s Not True” comes next. This was another Townshend tune. He hates it but admits everyone else appears to like it.
It is, perhaps, somewhat overshadowed by its predecessor and the song that follows it titled “The Ox”. This was composed by the entire band. This instrumental, named for Entwistle, is highlighted by adds a dash of subtlety to the musical mayhem as Moon cascades his roll through the piece at breakneck speed.
“A Legal Matter” is about teenage divorce and is noteworthy because it includes Townshend’s first take singing lead vocals. Many believe this was done because the tune “was too close to home for Daltrey” who was actually in the midst of divorcing his then wife.
The closing cut is “Instant Party (Circles)”. The band’s cover of Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man” was bumped off this US release due to sexual content and replaced by this song. It provides listeners with one more example of Townshend’s early writing ability.
In the UK it had been put out as simply My Generation. In the US, however, Decca Records released it in April of 1966 with a different cover and the title The Who Sings My Generation. The almost 37 minute LP was actually a forerunner to the later power pop genre and birthed multiple singles including
“My Generation”, “A Legal Matter”, “La-La-La Lies”, and “The Kids Are Alright”. “My Generation” was the most successful as the band didn’t really promote the other singles personally.
Despite any critical praise, the group would later agree that this one didn’t “accurately represent” their live performances of the time. Still, the album would not be forgotten. In 2002 the album was remixed into stereo and remastered for a Deluxe edition with bonus tracks and clearer stereo versions of the mono tracks although unfortunately many overdubs are omitted on this edition.
2003 would witness the work being slotted in at number 236 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The following year the titular tune would climb to number 11 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. More recently, Allmusic gave it a five-star rating. The Who’s The Who Sings My Generation/MCA 2-4068 remains one of the most influential rock albums to ever be released. In spite of Daltrey’s then crude vocals and the sometimes wanting original recording quality, this platter’s energy is undeniable. An entire generation of punk rockers took its cue from this essential album.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.