The Who: Who's Next (1971)

So I've been working on a book.  Of course I have; every frustrated lawyer likes to think they can write a book.  But I didn't want to go with the cliched legal thriller... and frankly, a career spent investigating and litigating securities fraud matters, while providing some colorful stories I'd be happy to share, is just not something I felt like writing about.

Presumably unsurprisingly, it's about music.  And based on my Twitter feed and this blog, I'm assuming there will be a market of maybe 2-3 readers (unless maybe the RNC ponies up a few $$$ as they did for Don Jr.'s book) but, hey, it's a fun way to spend a few hours each day.  Indeed, the reason I started up this little album-per-day online writing project is just to get my brain and my fingers going each morning.

And a primary theme is how an ordinary fan of rock music (albeit one leaning to the obsessive side) happens to relate to the albums that changed his life.

I'm not going to say much about Who's Next here; it's in the book.  And at this point I have to assume you know all you need to know about Who's Next (an album I still consider to be one of the greatest albums ever recorded, albeit one which I also rarely listen to these days, having spent way too much time with it as a teenager, preferring to cue up Quadrophenia or The Who Sell Out when I'm in a Who mood.)

But I did want to pontificate for a moment about what it means for an album to change your life.  I try to use the term sparingly; as should be obvious, there are dozens, hundreds, of records which touch me deeply, which have provided endless entertainment and emotional richness to me over the decades.  But you don't want to say every great album changes your life, or it becomes just another piece of tired hyperbole.

But Who's Next, that one did change my life.  It was the jumping off point where a kid back in the 70s, riveted by his AM transistor radio and the Top 40 hits of the day, discovered that rock music was more than just fun but fluffy 3-minute pop hits, but rather a deep well of incredible, diverse music built to endure more than just a few weeks on Casey Kasem's American Top 40. Discovering Who's Next as a sixth grader is the reason that, some 40 years later, I still insist on owning the album rather than just streaming the songs I like, setting aside the time for a 42-minute immersive listening experience..  To give the music room to breathe, to take in the artist's long-form vision, the sequencing and dynamics, warts and all.  The whole tactile experience of possessing and consuming the music.

It was Who's Next that pushed me to start checking out every classic rock album from the local library, to spend a lot less time with my transistor radio and Casey Kasem, a lot more time turning the clock back on all the legendary music I'd been too young to discover on the first go-round.

A few albums have likewise changed my life in the decades since -- Genesis' Nursery Cryme setting off a brief prog flirtation, showing how the boundaries could be pushed beyond the classic rock paradigm; The Velvet Underground & Nico showing me the transgressive power of rock music to make you uncomfortable and take you out of your comfort zone; Squeeze's East SIde Story and R.E.M.'s Murmur opening me up to a vibrant rock underground wholly untouched by popular radio; Pavement's Slanted & Enchanted ensuring me that even as an adult I could still find joy in discovering new and innovative music, etc.

Anyway, here's "Baba O'Riley" from The Kids Are Alright documentary, which I watched religiously back in junior high; the first time I heard that opening keyboard loop is a moment that permanently changed how I relate to rock music:
...and here's "Won't Get Fooled Again" from that same performance:


  1. That was such a classic time for rock music. Great album! Kids today need to kick it up a notch and play more rock and less rap, hip hop, and computer generated pop music.


Post a Comment