I know this is completely coincidental, but this week actually turned out to be a pretty good one to do Whovember, since it marked the release of the Quadrophenia Deluxe Edition reissue, so that’s something. Anyways, The Who are probably my favorite band of all time, so doing a list like this certainly wasn’t easy considering how deep The Who’s discography is in terms of quality. So I kind of just tried not to over think it too much.
10. The Song Is Over
Who’s Next is such an all out powerhouse of an album that it’s easy to take for granted some of the less well-known songs. At least that’s how “The Song Is Over” was for me, since I didn’t really start to feel a real affinity for it until I was listening to Who’s Next for that CAT I did earlier this year. I’m not sure if the phrase “The Song Is Over” is supposed to be any sort of metaphor for the end of the ’60s, but that’s kind of the vibe I get from the song, whether it is or isn’t.
9. We’re Not Gonna Take It
I felt like I should represent Tommy in one form or another, and what better way to do it than with the album’s triumphant finale? The song seems to be a blatant kiss-off to this spiritual togetherness that seemed to bring people together at the tail end of the ’60s, and obviously The Who weren’t a band that were gonna take any of that. Yet the song still manages to end Tommy on an optimistic note with that great sing along that slowly fades into silence.
8. Pictures Of Lily
You can see that from the start Pete Townsend was always interested in telling stories in his songs, which often resulted in these strange little odysseys that focused on frustrated teenage youths such as “Substitute” and “I’m A Boy”. “Pictures Of Lily” takes on the tried and true subject of teenage masturbation, but from listening to the song’s sweet and innocent nature you’d never know.
7. Sea And Sand
For me, Quadrophenia‘s kind of like The Dark Knight of rock albums. It’s long and messy and features a few too many subplots, but I’ll damned if each listen to it doesn’t leave me thoroughly captivated. “Sea And Sand” is a pretty good example of the album’s emotionally charged nature, often going from heartfelt to lound and angry in a matter of seconds without missing a beat.
6. The Kids Are Alright
The Who were certainly known for their loud and raucous nature in their early days, but you can see in a song like this that Pete Townshend has always had a softer side to his songwriting. Yet even though the song does delve into more poppy teritory, you still have to admire the way The Who could just let Townshend ring out the same chord repeatedly while Keith Moon just goes nuts on the drums and somehow it’s really damn compelling.
5. I Can See For Miles
The story goes that Pete Townshend was so discouraged by the modest success of the single “I Can See For Miles” that he turned to making the rock opera Tommy, because he didn’t think he could ever make a better Who single than “I Can See For Miles”. I can kind of see where he was coming from since there aren’t many songs that represent the powerful nature of The Who’s sound so well. I mean just listen to all those different guitar parts, it’s almost like a symphony of wailing six-strings that don’t seem to have any intention of letting up.
4. I Can’t Explain
This really is just kind of a perfect pop record. From that first spikey guitar chord, you can’t help but be hooked in, and then when Moon’s stuttering drum pattern comes in it’s hard to imagine things getting any better. And then somehow they do! Even in this early single you see Townshend’s uncanny ability to see things through the eyes of teenage weirdos and misfits, and I just can’t think of a song that gives you more bang for your buck in a mere 2 minutes.
3. So Sad About Us
So yeah, I really like the jangly pop songs of The Who’s mid-to-late ’60s period, as the band displayed an uncanny ability for soaring melodies and surprisingly affecting vocal harmonies. I guess it’s just nice to hear a band that could rock the fuck out while still sounding as hopelessly romantic as they do on “So Sad About Us”. It’s just too bad John can’t help but feel sick to his stomach every time he hears this song.
2. Baba O’Riley
So I guess this is like the “Over The Hills And Far Away” of Who songs. I, like Sean and John, also happen to be pretty captivated by that intro. I mean when you hear that beautiful synth line juxtaposed against those simple but powerful piano chords, well that’s just some magical shit. Also there’s that sweet Irish jig at the end, which isn’t something you hear in most Who songs, or any for that matter.
1. A Quick One, While He’s Away (Live Version)
If I could define what made The Who a great band, it’d come down to two things: Pete Townshend’s incredible creative vision as a songwriter, and the band’s explosive energy as a live band. So “A Quick One, While He’s Away” pretty much sums up both of those, as it’s this charming little story (sometimes reffered to as “the mini opera”) that’s made up of these smaller little songs that make up this grander thing. I’m fine with the studio version, but this song really turned into something spectacular when the band played it live, and I can’t really decide on a definitive version of the song, as the Live At Leeds version is amazing, but I also have a soft spot for the version from The Rolling Stones’ Rock N’ Roll Circus. Either way it’s a song I love from a band that’s created a lot of songs I love, and will no doubt continue to love for as long as I’m listening to music.
Oh, and John Entwistle is the greatest bass player ever. Forgot to mention that.