My Favorite Songs By The Who
The Who actually suffer from multiple personality disorder. They were, at first, a pop band riding the wave of the British Invasion with the Beatles. They were the creators of mild pop singles while acting like a tough rocker band destroying their instruments at the end of their shows. I don’t think they were happy with their image or their critical success. The Beatles put out Sgt. Pepper’s and it was a critical and artistic success being hailed as a “concept” album. The Who tried their hand at this and came up with Tommy, a rock opera. It was critically acclaimed in some circles. I personally felt that the concept of a deaf dumb and blind boy becoming a pinball wizard was strange. I could not identify with it. When this concept had songs like “See Me, Feel Me” and “Fiddle About”, this strangeness became weird and creepy.
When I was about ready to write The Who off, one of my friends bought his first car. It came with an eight track cassette player and two tapes. One was The Who, Live at Leeds. This version of The Who were not playing two minute pop singles, or creepy Tommy songs; they were a hard driving hard rock band that played with abandon with surging bass runs, fierce drumming and guitar heroics. The “Live at Leeds” version of The Who didn’t last long. They were replaced by the synthesizer keyboard dominant FM oriented “Who’s Next” and beyond Who. This version of The Who, albeit, fine in their own right, was a step down in quality for me.
Here’s my Top Ten Who songs in reverse order.
10. Shakin’ All Over – This song hit no. 1 on the British charts in 1960 for the Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, a British rock & roll band. It’s most played today version comes from the hard core of the great The Who, Live at Leeds album. This is just a great hard rocking Who song that I can listen to over and over again.
9. I Can See For Miles - This was one of The Who’s pop singles featuring great drumming, vocals and a bit of psychedelia.
8. Won’t Get Fooled Again - This was the big keyboard oriented single from their great Who’s Next album It was heavily played on the radio and we were all hypnotized into liking it.
7. Who Are You - This was the title track to their last album with Keith Moon. This was another heavily played on the radio track that was seared into my brain. It was based on a true event in Pete Townsend’s life. I still enjoy hearing this one.
6. Magic Bus - This one has passed the test of time and has grown in my appreciation. I have heard other bands play this song and it still sounds great. The percussion hooks you and it just doesn’t quit.
5. Substitute - This was the first Who single I ever heard. It wasn’t a big seller, but the lyrics are clever and meaningful. It had a second life being included in the Live at Leeds album.
4. Summertime Blues – This song had been a hit for Eddie Cochran and later Blue Cheer. This Live at Leeds version is a killer. Was there ever a greater rock performance than this?
3. I Can’t Explain – The follow up single to Substitute. Great intro and a nice rocker that isn’t long enough, clocking in at a measly 2:04. It was the inspiration to Todd Rundgren’s great Nazz single “Open My Eyes”.
2. Young Man Blues – This song leads off the great Who, Live at Leeds album with a bang. For any other band, this would be their greatest hit. The internal parts of this song are stellar.
1. My Generation – It is an anthem for the ages. It pokes fun at the British drug scene. It contains the single greatest rock lyric of all time in “I hope I die before I get old.” Great song!