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–“Won’t Get Fooled Again”
In the 1960’s, the British Invasion of Rock was in full swing. Bands like the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and The Who changed the landscape. The Who even paved the way for punk rock, according to frontmen for The Ramones and The Clash, two of the most influential bands of the genre. For this edition of Jason’s Jukebox, I am focusing on this pivotal band.
The members are:
- Roger Daltry– lead vocals, guitar
- Pete Townshend–lead guitar, backing vocals
- John Entwhistele–bass, piano (deceased, 2002)
- Keith Moon–drums (deceased, 1978)
My Generation (1965) ***1/2
Singles: “My Generation”, “The Kids Are All Right”
The Who’s debut is a strong start. It’s not as polished as their later albums (especially their 5th and 6th albums), but what it lacks in production it makes up for in energy. The title track blasts its defiance in a mood that would be echoed by punk rockers everywhere. The harmonies of Daltry and Townshend are on point.
Best tracks: “I Don’t Mind”, “My Generation”, “The Kids Are All Right”
A Quick One (1966) **1/2
Singles: “Happy Jack”, “Boris the Spider”
This album is aptly named, as it’s the shortest one in the discography. It’s the odd one out, as Pete Townshend’s songwriting is the least prominent on this album. It’s got a decent cover of “Heat Wave”. The nine-minute closing song, “A Quick One, While He’s Away” could be considered foreshadowing of Tommy.
Best Tracks: “Boris the Spider”, “Heat Wave”, “A Quick One, While He’s Away”
The Who Sell Out (1966) *****
Singles: “I Can See For Miles”, “Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand”
This is the first of three concept albums by the Who. The idea behind the album is that they’ve taken over a radio station to broadcast the album. Even the album cover evokes the “sell-out” theme, with each member hocking a different product. Roger Daltry advertises Heinz Baked Beans, Pete Townshend sells Odorono deordant, Keith Moon sells sports cream, and John Entwhistle parodies Charles Atlas’s exercise program. There are even commercial breaks and songs that could be jingles.
Best Tracks: “Armenia City in the Sky”, “Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand”, “Odorono”, “I Can See For Miles”, “I Can’t Reach You”
Tommy (1969) *****
Singles: “Pinball Wizard”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It/See Me, Feel Me”
Of the three concept albums The Who recorded, Tommy is the most legendary. It does seem a bit pretentious by some, but I enjoy it. It paved the way for many other bands to create concept albums of their own, such as Pink Floyd, Genesis, and Green Day.
Best Tracks: “Pinball Wizard”, “I’m Free”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “Smash the Mirror”
Who’s Next (1971) *****
Singles: “Bargain”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Baba O’Reilly”
Pete Townshend considers this The Who’s best album. For me, it’s a toss-up between this and Tommy. It’s just straight-up rock, and contains many of their most famous songs. “Baba O’Reilly” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” may be a bit overplayed these days (especially considering how the latter has become a meme), but that doesn’t diminish their impact. Glynn John’s production is excellent.
Best Tracks: “Bargain”, “Getting in Tune”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”
Quadrophenia (1975) ***1/2
Single: “Love, Reign Over Me”, “The Real Me”
Quadrophenia is The Who’s final concept album. While I like both albums, I feel Tommy is the stronger album. That’s not to say Quadrophenia is bad. In fact, Pete considers it their last great album.
Best Tracks: “The Real Me”, “Love, Reign Over Me”, “5.15”
The Who By Numbers (1975)
Single: “Squeeze Box”
This was The Who’s last album prior to the death of Keith Moon. His alcoholism had been a problem since the band started, but by now it had fully taken its toll, destroying him just as much as he and his cohorts loved to destroy their instruments. With the exception of “Squeeze Box”, this album feels rather bland.
Best Tracks: “Squeeze Box”, “Imagine a Man”
Who Are You (1978) ***1/2
Single: “Who Are You”
Yep, the other CSI theme is on this album. It does seem to lack the energy that Keith Moon provided, but it’s not bad. For me, this is the band’s last great album. They never really got past Moon’s death, and it would really show on the next two albums.
Best Tracks: “Trick of the Light”, “Guitar and Pen”, “Who Are You”
Face Dances (1981) *
Single: “You’d Better, You Bet”
The Who entered the 80’s coughing and sputtering. While “You Better You Bet” was one of the first videos MTV ever played (you know, back when they lived up to their name), the album isn’t all that worthwhile.
Best Track: “You’d Better, You’d Bet”
It’s Hard (1982)*1/2
Single: “Eminence Front”
This is The Who’s last gasp, as far as I’m concerned. Only a few songs stand out, and it’s only slightly better than its predecessor.
Best Tracks: “Dangerous”, “Eminence Front” “I’ve Known No War”
Endless Wire (2011) **
Tragedy had hit again by the time this album was released, as now John Entwhistle had died. I can’t like this album because without John and Keith, it doesn’t feel at all like The Who. It’s not a bad album to go out on, however.
Best Tracks: “It’s Not Enough”, “Wire and Glass”
And now for the ranking:
- Who’s Next
- The Who Sell Out
- My Generation
- A Quick One
- Who Are You
- Endless Wire
- It’s Hard
- Face Dances
- The Who By Numbers
Next time, we take a look at one of the most underrated bands of the 80’s and early 90’s, Soul Asylum, including their latest album, released last year, Change of Fortune.