Forty-five years ago today, just a few weeks before my 20th birthday, The Who released “Who’s Next.” It’s certainly their finest studio effort, beautifully put together, a powerful blend of angst, anger, yearning, a touch of gritty humor, a moment of deep romantic connection when love begins and the blood sings and another of heartache when it ends, and a Byronic fuck-all defiance. Think of it as rock ‘n’ roll for English majors.
“Who’s Next” rose from the ashes of “Lifehouse,” a rock opera project that was intended to follow “Tommy,” and this phoenix has glorious plumage. “Who Are You?” released almost exactly eight years later, comes close, but “Who’s Next” is still the pinnacle.
It was a late-night disc jockey’s delight when I was building sets around themes or styles. There’s a great segue, for example (do jocks segue anymore?), from “Goin’ Mobile” into “Drivin’ Sister” from Mott the Hoople, a band of Who soul brothers if there ever was one. The Waitresses’ “Redland” is an interesting seg into “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
The fact The Who gave us this on the same day as Bob Gibson threw his no-hitter made August 14, 1971, most memorable.
Too many bands copied the pounding crescendos without paying attention to the substance, the intelligence that are the real power driving this masterpiece. “Baba O’Riely” and “Won’t Be Fooled Again” are the best-known tracks, but listen all the way through. There’s a lot to be mined here.