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Music / Who's Next

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Don't cry
Don't raise your eye
It's only teenage wasteland...
"Apart from Live at Leeds, the Who have never sounded as LOUD and unhinged as they do here, yet that's balanced by ballads, both lovely ("The Song Is Over") and scathing ("Behind Blue Eyes"). That's the key to Who's Next — there's anger and sorrow, humor and regret, passion and tumult, all wrapped up in a blistering package where the rage is as affecting as the heartbreak."
— Excerpt from Allmusic overview

Who's Next is the fifth studio album by The Who, released in 1971. It's widely agreed to be their best album and spawned some of their most popular songs, including "Baba O'Riley", "Behind Blue Eyes" and "Won't Get Fooled Again," along with some equally-beloved deep cuts like "Going Mobile" and "Bargain".

The band had a hard time trying to come up with a follow-up for Tommy; though they released a single, "The Seeker", and Live at Leeds in its aftermath. So began guitarist Pete Townshend's passion project, Lifehouse, intended to be an album, a live recording, and a film, all at the same time. The plot followed the search for the One Note to unite humanity, in the process rebelling against a society where music is illegal, and all entertainment is broadcast by the government through the Grid. Unfortunately for Townshend, the concept proved a bit too ambitious: the script followed a nonlinear, proto-Quentin Tarantino style, his concept of The Grid happened long before the internet was even a gleam in the public's eye and the One Note was deemed too Babaist. The result was his complete inability to explain the idea to anyone else, none the least of which the rest of the band, with Townshend eventually having a nervous breakdown and scrapping the project.

However, the project wasn't completely scrapped. Eight of the songs and "My Wife", a completely unrelated song written by bassist John Entwistle, were compiled to become the end result, Who's Next. The album was massively influential, having major usage of synthesizersnote  on "Bargain", "The Song Is Over", "Going Mobile", and "Won't Get Fooled Again" (but not on "Baba O'Riley", contrary to popular belief), without sacrificing the hard rock edge the band had perfected by then. To say their going back to their roots in the wake of their success paid off would be a quite apt description—the album was an immediate commercial success and was seen as one of the best hard rock albums ever made.

A documentary about the creative process behind the making of this album can be seen in the Classic Albums TV documentary series.


Side One

  1. "Baba O'Riley" (5:08)
  2. "Bargain" (5:34)
  3. "Love Ain't For Keeping" (2:10)
  4. "My Wife" (3:41)
  5. "The Song Is Over" (6:14)

Side Two

  1. "Getting In Tune" (4:50)
  2. "Going Mobile" (3:42)
  3. "Behind Blue Eyes" (3:42)
  4. "Won't Get Fooled Again" (8:32)

Bonus Tracks (1995 Reissue):

  1. "Pure And Easy"
  2. "Baby Don't You Do It"
  3. "Naked Eye (Live)"
  4. "Water (Live)"
  5. "Too Much Of Anything"
  6. "I Don't Even Know Myself"
  7. "Behind Blue Eyes (Alternate Version)"

Principal Members:

  • Roger Daltrey - lead vocals on tracks 1-3, 6, and 8-9, backing vocals on track 5, harmonica
  • John Entwistle - bass, backing vocals, lead vocals on track 4, piano, brass
  • Keith Moon - drums, percussion
  • Pete Townshend - guitar, backing vocals on tracks 1-2, lead vocals on tracks 5, and 7, organ, VCS3, synthesizer, piano

Songs from Who's Next are the Trope Namers for:

I'm just tropin' on my old piano, I'm gettin' in tune to the straight and narrow:

  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy/Mistaken for Cheating/Woman Scorned: John Entwistle's "My Wife" is sung from the perspective of a guy who has gotten drunk and been arrested, and fears that his wife will think he was cheating on her (and that he'll consequently be "murdered in cold blood").
  • Big "YES!": The "YEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!" in "Won't Get Fooled Again".
  • Cover Version: The expanded editions include a version of Marvin Gaye's "Baby Don't You Do It," which was an early Who live staple.
  • Epic Rocking: "The Song Is Over" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" are over 6 minutes long.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Love Ain't for Keeping" fades into "My Wife".
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Baba O'Riley". The fiddle track, already playing at a pretty frantic pace, becomes an almost panicked, discordant mess in the song's final moments. Unnerving if you've never heard it before (or are only familiar with it via CSI: NY and haven't heard it all the way to the end).
  • Longest Song Goes Last: The album closes with "Won't Get Fooled Again" (8:32).
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Won't Get Fooled Again" is an awesome, adrenaline-pumping rock song (widely considered one of the greatest ever) about how frivolous revolution is when the next leader is just as bad as the first.
  • The Monolith: On the album cover. The photo's meant to look like the band members have just pissed on it.
  • New Sound Album: It introduced synthesisers into the band's sound. However, the synthesisers here are used mainly as a background instrument (i.e. on "Bargain" and "Going Mobile") and for effects and processing: the ARP synthesiser is used to process the guitar solo in "Going Mobile", the EMS VCS3 is used as an envelope filter for the organ in "Won't Get Fooled Again" and noisemaker in "The Song Is Over". The famous opening melody of "Baba O'Riley", which every assumes was done on synth, was actually played on Pete Townshend's Lowrey Deluxe organ, a fairly basic home keyboard, using its "marimba repeat" setting, which makes the notes stutter. Synthesisers would assume a more leading role starting with Quadrophenia.
  • Non-Appearing Title: The album title doesn't appear in any of the songs. "Baba O'Riley" qualifies as well.
  • One-Woman Song: "My Wife"
  • One-Word Title: "Bargain"
  • Progressive Instrumentation: "Baba O'Riley" starts with a repetitive organ riff, then a piano riff, then the drums, then the bass, and finally Roger and later Pete.
  • Protest Song: "Won't Get Fooled Again". about a failed revolution. (See the stinger below.)
  • Pun-Based Title/Questioning Title?: The album title.
  • Record Producer: Glyn Johns, with the Who.
  • Self-Demonstrating Song: "Getting in Tune"
  • Self-Titled Album: The album title has the band's name in it.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Baba O'Riley" was named for the guru Meher Baba and the composer Terry Riley.
    • French comic strip artist Gotlib once spoofed the album cover with his Hamster Jovial characters. See it here.
  • Silly Love Songs: "Bargain", "Love Ain't for Keeping"
  • The Something Song: "The Song Is Over"
  • Special Guest: Dave Arbus, Nicky Hopkins, Al Kooper and Leslie West all guest on this album.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: John Entwistle sings "My Wife", Pete Townshend sings all of "Going Mobile" and parts of several other songs on the album note .
  • Villainous Lament/Anti-Villain: "Behind Blue Eyes"
    No one knows what it's like to be the bad man
    To be the sad man
    Behind blue eyes
    No one knows what it's like to be hated
    To be fated
    To telling only lies
  • Wanderlust Song:
    • "Baba O'Riley"
      Sally, take my hand, we'll travel south cross-land
      Put out the fire and don't look past my shoulder
      The exodus is here, the happy ones are near
      Let's get together before we get much older
    • "Going Mobile" sings the praises of a life lived on the road.
      Out in the woods
      Or in the city
      It's all the same to me
      When I'm drivin' free, the world's my home
      When I'm mobile
  • Who's on First?: Following in the tradition of the band's name.