Sunday, April 25, 2021

Won't Get Fooled Again

Pete Townshend was brimming with ideas as the '60s went '70s. The Who were coming off Tommy and the massive tour that followed. An entire generation was sparked by the "rock opera," which eventually generated a movie, a Broadway musical, and countless imitators. Tommy was a cultural milestone, which left Townshend reeling and in "what's next?" mode. ("I see what you’re doing there.")

For the band's guitarist and chief songwriter, the answer was another extended work. Townshend started piecing together the concept for the band's fifth LP, Lifehouse. The initial idea stemmed from the Who's enormous popularity over the past several months as the band moved further and further away from its fan base – figuratively and literally.
In the dystopian Lifehouse future, rock music is banned, though kids have found a way to recreate the experience through a form of virtual reality where they gather to listen and commune – a house where the music takes on a religious quality.
Townshend said he suffered a nervous breakdown when he couldn't assemble the complexities of the piece in a cohesive way but liked several of the new songs enough that he continued to work on and refine them. He scrapped the Lifehouse concept and assembled the remnants into a straight-edged rock 'n' roll record. The result, Who's Next, was released on Aug. 14, 1971, for many, the Who's finest album, a filler-free explosion of power riffs, generation-sparking lyrics, and larynx-shredding anthems, including the greatest scream in rock 'n' roll. 50 years ago.
In April, The Who teamed with Glyn Johns in the producer's chair instead of Kit Lambert. Their first session took place at Stargroves, Mick Jagger's Victorian mansion in Newbury, Berkshire, using The Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. In a hallway, Johns recorded a blistering version of "Won't Get Fooled Again, parts of which were used for the final take. "Going Mobile" was recorded in the same session.
Having had such success with his first try, Johns easily talks The Who into continuing recording at his home studio, Olympic Sound in Barnes, South West London. Sessions run from the 9th through the 12th and in that short session, "Too Much Of Anything," with Nicky Hopkins on piano, "Time Is Passing" and the first version of "Bargain" were recorded, though none of the takes would make the final album release.
On May 11, The Who completed recording "Song Is Over" at Olympic Studios and before mid-June they would complete "Baba O'Riley," "Love Ain't For Keeping," "My Wife," "Behind Blue Eyes," "Let's See Action," "When I Was a Boy," and "Pure And Easy." Time for the iconic cover shoot.
Ethan Russell, the American photographer who took the album’s cover shot said, "The band had virtually finished Who’s Next, but still didn’t have a clue about what to do about the cover." It was at this point that fate smiled benevolently. "We were driving back through County Durham from a gig one night, doing about 110 miles per hour down the motorway – which freaked me out. Pete was driving, and he asked me whether I had any ideas for the sleeve. Then suddenly, we passed these three or four pillars on the landscape." Bam. One of rock's greatest achievements - done.
A funny aside: In June, Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys put his hand through a window severing several tendons. Unable to tour, The Beach Boys offered a temporary gig to Keith Moon, but the completion of Who's Next kept Moony from his dream job, touring with The Beach Boys.

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