The Who Sings My Generation
MCA Records, 1965
REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/13/2006
I have this friend, see? He is probably one of the biggest Who fans out there; over the years he and I have engaged in countless debates over who was better, Led Zeppelin or The Who. Right when I started to really get into The Who, he kept pummeling me into listening to this album, which he called one of the best debut albums ever. Given his enthusiasm, and the fact that if I didn’t acquiesce the man wouldn’t stop, The Who’s debut album rolled its way across the iPod.
Back in December, the Vault featured a Dynamic Debuts retrospective, a solid list that did not feature this record, which make sense. One cannot escape what The Who would accomplish after the success of this record, and this disc really doesn’t provide many glimpses of what Townshend and company would create in just a few years.
That being said, one cannot question the abilities of the band upon first listen. Daltrey doesn’t reach the levels of bravado he would come to on Who’s Next, and Townshend certainly would evolve as a guitarist, but these aren’t incompetents strutting around trying to rock as loud as they can. Keith Moon is at his most unrestrained and explosive; the final 30 seconds of “My Generation” feature a flailing Moon at his best.
That song really broke The Who through to the mainstream and it still is one of their best. I love Daltrey’s stuttering vocals; they are just brimming with confidence and arrogance. Entwhistle’s bass is brought to the forefront, further demonstrating his underrated skills. There’s Mooney of course, going bonkers left and right, but you can’t help but get caught up in his performance. And of course, Townshend gets the credit for writing the strongest melody on the record.
My friend would kill me if he ever reads this, but to be honest I hear a lot of The Beatles on this record. That really isn’t a shocker given the historical context, and The Who perform here with much more energy than the Fab Four could ever muster, but sonically it’s the same pop/rock mold. One grand exception is “The Ox,” a dynamite 4-minute instrumental that once again proves why Moon was one of the all-time greats. The speed at which he plays is astounding; add on to that the fact he never really loses sense of the overall purpose for the song.
Yes, Virginia, there is more to like on this record than what I’ve mentioned so far. The harmonies were much better than I expected; I really dug the Beach Boys vibe on “La La La Lies.” The brooding intensity of “The Good’s Gone” probably feature some of Daltrey’s best work on the album, while “Instant Party (Circles)” in my opinion is the first germ of Tommy.
It is the scattershot nature of The Who Sings My Generation that weakens it. There was many a moment when I found myself liking this, but the entire package just doesn't add up to a complete whole. However, there is no question that The Who could play with the big boys, a statement that only grew truer in the following years.