Saturday, 17 December 2011

We'll be fighting in the streets with our children at our feet and the morals that they worship will be gone

Songs Everyone Should Know

“Won’t Get Fooled Again” by the Who (1971)

It started as being an extension of the statement made by the hippies. “We Won’t Get Fooled Again”. By What? By Who? Let the entrenchment of the boomers begin. Are the new leaders any better than the old leaders?

It was the loudest band in the world. The thunderous drums of Keith Moon, the driving bass of John Entwhistle, the crashing guitar of Pete Townshend and the instantly recognizable vocals of Rodger Daltrey blended at the time of male-dominated rock and roll. With fellow Brit bands Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones, they were all over the airwaves in the early ‘70’s. The so-called ‘holy trinity’ of British bands (with the Beatles and the Stones) is filled out by the Who.

With a bit of garage band influence a dollop of R&B and some amps that were way to friggin’ loud the Who blended political and moral statement with trailblazing rock and roll to leave a echo heard even now.

Formed in 1964, with the help of ‘pirate radio’ they rose to fame on a series of singles like “My Generation”, “Happy Jack”, “I Can See For Miles” and “The Kids Are Alright”. It sounded melodic, and if you listen to “My Generation” it sounds very much like they were finding their way.  The relationship between Townshend and Daltrey was as uneasy one – Townshend took creative leadership control and left Daltrey to interpret what he was saying – with of course, astounding results.

It was Townshend that decided he wanted more than just singles; an album that was cohesive and hung together to weave a tapestry of themes and feelings. “The Who Sell Out” did just that. With a series of sort of decidedly odd ‘commercials’’; very much going ‘psychedelic’ on us. They sing about beans and girls, tattoos and fluffy things that you start to hear the underpinning of the later albums – musical experimentation with various instruments, vocal harmonies and the guitar style of Townshend developing in the back ground. This culminated in a song that stands starkly superior on the album – “I Can See For Miles”. The experimentation was over and now they would blast out some serious rock and roll!

O.K. and this is where the smashing and blowing stuff up seems to have started. Having learned this back in England, they were destructive at the Monterey Pop Festival where Townshend smashed his guitar and later Moon blew up his drum kit on the variety show “The Smothers Brothers”.

So now Townshend who to me seemed confused with the end of the ‘60’s wrote his ‘rock opera’ “Tommy”. Experimental and tamborini it meanders all over the map: “Pinball Wizard” is furious and fabulous and should always be played load. Lyrically and musically it again finds the power groove. I always sort of liked “I’m Free” although it sounds a bit hippyish now.

It seemed like it was kind of the thing to do as the so-called teachings of India's Meher Baba had a bit of a weird impact on Townshend's song writing, much the way it did on McCartney and Lennon and their Maharishiish journey. I think Tommy was Townshend trying to find his spiritual and moral self, like Tommy, or as Tommy.

In February 1970 the Who performed on the BBC resulting in what some critics call “the best live rock album of all time”: “The Who Live at Leeds”.  In ’71 the album “Who’s Next” saw them in the height of their form with songs like,”Baba O’Reilly” (which many think is called “Teenage Wasteland”), “Going Mobile”, “The Bargain”, the fabulous “Behind Blue Eyes”, and the smash “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.
The pioneering work on synthesiser is seamlessly flawless. The face-melting power guitar strung with lyrics about the revolution of change and the hope for tomorrow is irrepressible.

A mixture of their hits so far culminated on ‘1971’s “Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy” which attempted to capture the U.S. market. It included the very weird “Boris the Spider”; that if you have never heard, should check out as it is just good fun.  

Townshend could not rest and 1973’s second double album offering ‘rock opera’ apple pie shows a maturity and complexity that had become the ‘Who”. In a sort of weird ‘West Side Story’ way, it tells a tale of the clashes between the U.K. ‘Mods’ and the ‘Rockers’ in the 60’s. The band is tight and the music is good. The album charts in the U.S. as number two.

1975’s ‘The Who by Numbers’ produced the classic hit “Squeeze Box” and the Who toured the U.S. in earnest, setting attendance records of largest outdoor concerts. Their concert at Charlton back in England on May 31, 1975 was considered the loudest concert ever performed for many years at over 120 dBs. The concerts were athletic. Daltrey did not stand still, Townshend’s right arm in his now signature windmill, crashed out power chords while Moon hammered the skins. Entwhistle stood still seemingly anchored in a sea of chaos; fingers wildly moving up and down the frets of his bass.

In August 1978 the Who released “Who Are You” but would start on a tragic fall from glory.  As they saw their album sell faster and more than any other album, on September of 1978 Keith Moon would die from an overdose of a drug meant to wean him off alcohol. The musical world was stunned.

The relevance of the Who was being eclipsed by the new generation of punks and then the ‘new wave’.Their contribution was eclectic and varied. Power rock and experimentation. They influenced everyone from Led Zeppelin to U2, Queen, Rush, and even Pearl Jam and the Flaming Lips. The Who’s symbolic rage of instrument smashing caught the sentiment of the punks. The punk movement was really an extension of the Who’s ‘revolution’ – the Ramones and MC5 were also influenced by the Who. This energy of destruction lived. The Who made rock music for the frustrated and disillusioned, and they abounded still.

“Whooo are Yoooou?” said the smoking caterpillar in ‘Alice in Wonderland’. No really, who are you?

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