Monday, November 5, 2012

Song #291 of 9999 - My Generation by The Who

Song #291 of 9999 

Title: My Generation
Artist: The Who
Year: 1965
Album: My Generation

"My Generation" is one of those songs I outgrew a long time ago, but I would be remiss if I didn't spend some time talking about it because it seems so ahead of its time for 1965. Don't get me wrong—there were a lot of progressive things happening in music at the time. But in the race to be the brattiest kids with a band, I think The Who trumped The Kinks, The Zombies, Herman's Hermits, even Van Morrison's Them with this track.

In the face of the (mostly) peaceful civil rights-inspired folk music movement in America, "My Generation" comes off as a call to arms for fed up teens. Pete Townshend was barely out of his teens when he wrote it, finding inspiration in the societal oppression he felt while growing up in England.

There are several elements of the song that defy convention for the time, one of which is the famous electric bass solo by John Entwistle. As a young bass player growing up in the 1980s, I was simultaneously blown away and inspired by this solo, so I can only imagine its impact in 1965 and how unusual it must have seemed. The drum frenzy and feedback that occupies the final minute of the track must have been equally stirring.

But the most unusual aspect, and the most ingenious in my opinion, is the stutter in Roger Daltrey's vocal delivery. There are several theories/stories about what prompted Daltrey to sing the song in this fashion, but frankly, it doesn't really matter why he did it, only that he did. This simple affectation has a remarkable effect on the way we perceive the song. The stutter adds a layer of realism to the song that transforms Daltrey from a pop singer singing about injustice to an actual guy who has experienced some actual injustice. It's a fascinating and effective approach. Keith Moon takes the whole thing a step further by adding a layer of impatience as he begins to cut Daltrey off with his increasingly busy drum fills.


  1. Those early records by the Who are insane, even by today's standards. I heard that Daltrey added the stutter as an in-joke for their hardcore Mod fans who were popping speed - apparently you stutter heaps when you're speeding.

    In terms of intensity, check out a track off the first Who LP (also called "My Generation") called "The Ox" - Keith Moon goes totally mental for almost 4 minutes and never lets up. It's amazing.

  2. Yeah, I read that theory. Another said Daltrey was trying to get the timing down and couldn't hear himself in his monitors. The band liked how it sounded and he kept it. Another said Townshend was influenced by a song called "Stuttering Blues" by John Lee Hooker. Either way, it works on so many levels.

    Listening to "The Ox" now. Now my thing really, but yeah, Moon was a maniac.

  3. Did you know that Moony was the inspiration for Animal on the Muppet Show?