The Who Sings My Generation
Amidst the “British Invasion” that took hold in the mid-60s, The Who is just another group can be spoken in the same breath as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Since its creation, the group has accumulated several awards, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001, induction into the Hall of Fame, the 1988 Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music. So, who are The Who?
The band’s name shifted from “The Detours” to “The High Numbers” before finally becoming the well-known, recognized band that fans have come to adore. Comprised of lead singer Roger Daltrey, drummer Keith Moon, guitarist Pete Townshend, and bassist John Entwistle, The Who released their debut album, The Who Sings My Generation, in 1965. Rolling Stone ranked this album #94 on their “The 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time” list, and the album establishes the “mod movement” sound that quickly became a signature for the group. The album consists of 12 tracks, influenced by pop, rock, and R&B elements.
Considering that The Who started out covering R&B songs, it’s unsurprising that an artist like James Brown served as inspiration for the debut album. “I Don’t Mind” and “Please Please Please” were both modified to better suit The Who’s musical style. “I Don’t Mind incorporates notable guitar playing from Townshend, while not overshadowing the other instruments at play, including the crooning of Daltrey. In “Please Please Please,” Daltrey pleads with the lover he’s addressing, begging her not to leave by utilizing vocals that convey agony and desperation.
On a lighter note, the album’s most well-known song is arguably “My Generation.” The track has come to be an anthem for angsty youths with Daltrey intentionally stuttering throughout. The song begins with a quick tempo and lyrics such as “People try to put us d-down / Just because we get around” and “I hope I die before I get old,” embody the track’s rebellious spirit. The song is seemingly one that puts up a big middle finger at people who criticize and look down upon youths. Yes, the song is repetitive — but does this deplete its significance? Absolutely not. Whether it’s the rhythm of the song or the raw lyrics, “My Generation” is a track that bears significance for any adolescent going through a rebellious stage.
The album can’t be discussed without acknowledging “The Ox”– a nearly four-minute track that requires no lyrics whatsoever. The song puts Moon’s drumming skills on full display, as he opens the song with a quick tempo and minimal accompaniment from a the guitar and piano. As the tempo increases, the piano keys are pressed more rapidly, before focus returns to drum solo that started off the whole thing. Eventually, the song fades out, with only the drums heard in the background.
While The Who can be considered the band that led future groups to smash instruments on stage as part of the antics, their contribution to rock music shouldn’t be discredited. The Who Sings My Generation encompasses the spirit of he group, and serves as an impressive debut album for The Who, who would go on to produce several more studio albums.