The Who - Who's Next (1971)
Released in the UK in August 1971, ironically the album now recognised most widely as their greatest was the one that nearly brought The Who to its knees. Its roots lay in the disastrous Lifehouse project which Pete Townshend saw as the ideal follow-up to Tommy, two years before. Unlike Tommy, however, with its more easily grasped concept, Lifehouse was a complicated proposal intended as part futuristic rock opera, part live recording, part film soundtrack, and concerned a world where everyone was somehow ‘connected’ by computers – a most bizarre idea in the pre-internet world of the early ’70s. So much so that, ultimately, no one other than Townshend really seemed to grasp what the story behind the intended album was actually about. Even the rest of the band was nonplussed. Years later, Townshend admitted in the liner notes for the remastered version of Who’s Next that his failure to get the Lifehouse concept across led him to a near-suicidal mental breakdown. Finally, at the urging of producer Glyn Johns, Lifehouse was abandoned and work restarted to make a more conventional song-based album.
The result was Who’s Next, one of the greatest rock albums of the 1970s, or indeed any era.
While scraps of the original work remained - the closing bars of ‘Song Is Over’ (which contain the opening line from a Lifehouse number called ‘Pure And Easy’), and the way Townshend used the vital statistics of his spiritual guru Meher Baba to generate a synthesised backing track to ‘Baba O’Riley’, amongst others - the sudden absence of an overriding theme freed the band to make the most of the individual tracks. Not least on two of the album’s most phenomenal tracks: the explosive ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ and the achingly beautiful ‘Behind Blue Eyes’.
Baba O'Riley / Bargain / Love Ain't for Keeping / My Wife / The Song Is Over / Getting in Tune / Going Mobile / Behind Blue Eyes / Won't Get Fooled Again
- The cover photo was taken at Easington Colliery and it's thought to be a nod to the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Incidentally there were two other covers considered for the album; one featured obese naked women and the other Keith Moon in drag.
- Leslie West and Al Kooper both recorded parts for the album, but their contributions were consigned to alternate takes and tracks and that didn't make the final album
- The original mast tapes recorded at Olympic Studios are thought to be lost - most recent remasters have been put together using tapes from other sessions.
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