The Who’s fifth album Who’s Next released on August 14th 1971 is by far their greatest album to date.
The Who is another band from the U.K. that made it big around the time of the British Invasion. They came a bit later than the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, only having made it big in the U.K. in late 1964. By 1970 they had released four albums, performed at Woodstock, and were considered one of the best and most popular live rock bands.Their album Live at Leeds is said to be one of the best live rock albums of all time.
The Who’s Pete Townshend was really into the teachings of Meher Baba, who had inspired Townshend to include his philosophies in the band’s music. It was portrayed greatly in their rock opera Tommy. Their fourth album Tommy had secured their future because of how well it did. This album popularized the idea of concept albums and rock operas. It was about a deaf, dumb and blind boy’s experiences in life and his relationship with his family. They promoted this album through performances like Woodstock.
Townshend wanted to create another rock opera and started to work on one that would represent the relationship between the artist and their audience. It became a project called Lifehouse. This project was going to be a film about a near future society where music gets banned and the population is controlled by government. It was supposed to show the importance of rock music and what the audience can do. Unfortunately the rest of the band did not understand it and so the project fell through. The failure of the project led to Townshend having a nervous breakdown, but much of the project was used to create an album, Who’s Next. Abandoning Lifehouse and making it into an album instead gave the band more freedom to work on each song individually.
The opening song is one of the band’s most well-known songs, “Baba O Riley,” which had featured the synthesizer process that is heard throughout the album. The song was an ode to Meher Baba, who’s philosophies and words are also heard in many songs on this album.
One of the greatest songs on the album is “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” This song ends the album and criticizes revolution and power.It spoke of revolution being so unpredictable. It is in the Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and has been covered by many artists, such as Van Halen.
They recorded this album at the Record Plant in New York City, but because of their manager Kit Lambert’s addiction to drugs he was unable to produce. They then worked with Glyn Johns and restarted. When the album released it reached number one in the U.S. and the U.K. This album shows early examples of synthesizer use in rock as well as keyboard sounds generated by a lowrey organ; they were greatly seen in “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
The album was critically and commercially successful and went on to go 3x platinum. It got listed as 28th of the 500 greatest albums of all time, 15th on 100 best records of the 70s, was listed in a book called 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, was chosen by Time as one of the 100 best albums of all time, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Who’s Next is jam packed with eight amazingly written songs by Townshend and one by past member John Entwistle. It is a clearcut hit and definitely the best The Who album.