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The Who - My Generation CD (album) cover

MY GENERATION

The Who

 

Proto-Prog

2.74 | 108 ratings

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Chicapah
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Don't judge this rough debut album too harshly. When The Who recorded the songs for this LP in late 1965 progressive rock did not exist. Even The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were still writing simple love songs and few bands were granted the privilege of putting out an entire album of their own tunes. The Who had charted in the UK with the singles "I Can't Explain" and "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" so their producer Shel Talmy had gotten the go ahead on the LP from Decca. Pete Townsend, encouraged by the opportunity, wrote more original songs for the record and his tunes replaced many of the covers that were initially tapped to be included from their live stage show. The album wasn't released in the US until April 1966 after it was re-titled as "The Who Sing My Generation" and featured a somewhat grim cover photo of the group frowning in front of Big Ben to associate them with the still-burgeoning British Invasion phenomenon. I have that vinyl disc and it's that version that I will review here.

"Out In The Streets" is, for those innocent times, a stark rocker where Roger Daltrey employs his faux James Brown soul voice and, where there would normally be a guitar lead, Pete just bangs unceremoniously on his axe. It may not seem like much now but back then it was too cool for words. Speaking of the Godfather of Soul, "I Don't Mind" is a JB cover and you get a glimpse of what their nightclub routine must have been like. This is the kind of funky stuff that Roger lived for. On "The Good's Gone" Daltrey abandons that persona, however, and adopts a deeper, more menacing style. This is also where you get your first introduction to the one and only Nicky Hopkins guest-appearing on piano. That talented guy was everywhere in those days. "La La La Lies" is next and it's a catchy pop tune where Keith Moon restricts himself to just using the tom toms on the verse and chorus. Again, that was something no one else was doing then. "Much Too Much" is a pedestrian Townsend song where Roger sings about dumping a girl because she's getting too serious about their relationship. Probably a situation Daltrey was familiar with.

What can I say about "My Generation" that hasn't already been said? I can only relate that, in my case, I was turned on to the tune by a hip drummer friend of mine one day as a na´ve sophomore in high school and I had a devil of a time finding the 45 at the local record shop. I had to special order it. You see, while the track tore up the charts in England (#2) it never even sniffed the charts in the US. But that song changed my whole outlook on life (along with seeing them open for Herman's Hermits in April '67) and my mom swore that I was never the same sweet boy she raised ever again. (She's right, too.) Anyway, the track is so fantastic that they sound like a completely different band performing it and hard rock music was never the same afterward. It defined an alternative attitude that struck a note deep in the soul of many a restless youth.

Keith Moon's charismatic, unorthodox approach to drumming is all over the excellent "The Kids Are Alright." The subject matter of choosing to leave a relationship rather than drag an innocent girl into the brutal world of rock & roll was unusual, as well. Evidently there's a slashing guitar solo that was snipped from the US version that we never got to enjoy. There was a lot of that kind of selective editing going on back then that wasn't fair to either the artist or the consumer. The most embarrassing cut on the album is their over-the-top version of the James Brown classic "Please, Please, Please" where Roger tries much too hard to emote. It's almost laughable. "It's Not True" follows and despite the snotty lyrics it sounds like they were trying to please the record company with a tune that sounded like what the other British groups were putting out. It makes it even more obvious that The Who was destined for much bigger, better things than being a one-hit wonder.

"The Ox" is pure proto prog in that it evokes a noisy, psychedelic aura that no one else had even dreamed up at the time. Moon had always been a surf music enthusiast so the fact that the group-written instrumental resembles "Wipe Out" is no coincidence but John Entwistle's booming yet top-heavy bass and Keith's relentless assault on the drums makes that dinky novelty tune pale in comparison. Pete has said that this song more than any on the LP duplicates the explosive energy they produced on stage and his use of feedback and distortion was groundbreaking. Only The Yardbirds were coming close to making this kind of joyful noise. "A Legal Matter" is about divorce, a touchy subject even then, and Pete sings it probably because Roger was going through the breakup of his marriage at the time and it hit a little too close to home. Nicky Hopkin's sprightly piano work livens things up a bit. Lastly, for the US version of the album we got "Instant Party" (also known as "Circles") instead of "I'm a Man" and I think we got the better end of the deal because Pete's chaotic guitar solo is years ahead of its era and John's odd French horn makes the cut quite eclectic.

Now, don't get me wrong, there's nothing stellar about this record except the earth-shaker that is "My Generation" itself but it does show a group of tough, punkish kids that are making the most of their big break by fearlessly pushing the envelope of what was commonly accepted in those days. Remember that this was recorded before many innovations in studio techniques were being employed and the growing tension between producer Shel Talmy on one side and Townsend and manager Kit Lambert on the other (that resulted in a nasty split soon after) wasn't necessarily conducive to a happy working environment. All in all, however, it did put The Who on the map and set them up to make much, much better records in the near future. 2.5 stars.

Chicapah | 3/5 |

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