For the golden anniversary of Who’s Next by The Who, ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as the #28 rock album of all time, this August 1971 absolute musical masterpiece is mated with an incredibly illuminating classic rock interview with its composer, Pete Townshend, here In the Studio featuring the songs “Baba O’Riley”,”Bargain”,”Behind Blue Eyes”,”Goin’ Mobile”,”Gettin’ in Tune”, and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.In August 1971 when I first heard The Who “Won’t Get Fooled Again” from Who’s Next blasting out of a portable AM radio around midnight, it was in the commercial kitchen of a large chain restaurant where I was the all-night janitor. Though I had missed the Woodstock Festival two summers earlier because I was too young, this Summer 1971 was my first time as an emancipated adult, and I thoroughly bought into the ” peace, love, social change without violence ” ideals of the Woodstock Nation and the American civil rights movement. The power and fury of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” from Who’s Next by The Who were exhilarating, but the cynicism in some of the lyrical sentiments in Pete Townshend’s song were unsettling to me, even then. According to author Richie Unterberger‘s Won’t Get Fooled Again: the Who from Lifehouse to Quadrophenia, apparently I was not the only one.
“Revolutionary change, the song wryly observes, might be exciting and necessary, but the differences between the revolutionaries and the despots they toppled weren’t as big as either side might have you believe”, writes Unterberger. “The very nature of power, Townshend suggested, corrupts and makes the prospect of real change dubious, if not hopeless .”
( Standing L-R: drummer Keith Moon, bass player John Entwistle; seated L-R Pete Townshend, singer Roger Daltrey )
Just prior to the August 1971 release of Who’s Next , Pete Townshend was known primarily for two things: famous for being the composer of Tommy , the first successful rock opera, and notorious for ending live performances by violently smashing hundreds of thousands of dollars of electric guitars into the stage like an axe, thrusting the neck through his HiWatt amplifier, or at the Woodstock Festival, using his Gibson SG guitar to club activist Abbie Hoffman’s head when he made the ill-advised attempt to hijack Pete’s microphone during the Who’s set. I asked Townshend what the source of this anger was.
“This is deep therapy,” Pete replied. “I have no idea…I think it was not always real anger, by any means. I think it was performance art…You know, I don’t think it was anger so much as passion.”
Regardless of your hopes and fears in these bizarre 21st century times, my guest Pete Townshend reveals great insights into the ageless musical triumph on Who’s Next, including the songs “Baba O’Riley”,”Bargain”,”Going Mobile”,”Behind Blue Eyes”,”Getting in Tune”, and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. –Redbeard