Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Who - 1971 [1995] "Who's Next"

Who's Next is the fifth studio album by English rock band The Who. It developed from the aborted Lifehouse project, a multi-media rock opera written by the group's Pete Townshend as a follow-up to the band's 1969 album Tommy. The project was cancelled due to its complexity and conflicts with Kit Lambert, the band's manager, but Townshend was persuaded to record the songs as a straightforward studio album.

The Who recorded Who's Next with assistance from recording engineer Glyn Johns. After producing the song "Won't Get Fooled Again" in the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, they relocated to Olympic Studios to record and mix most of the album's remaining songs. They made prominent use of the synthesizer on the album, particularly on "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Baba O'Riley", which were both released as singles. The cover photo was shot by Ethan Russell and made reference to the monolith in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, as it featured group members having urinated against a concrete piling protruding from a slag heap.

Who's Next was an immediate success when it was released in August 1971. It has since been viewed by many critics as the Who's best record and one of the greatest albums of all time. It was reissued on CD several times with additional songs originally intended for Lifehouse.

By 1970, the Who had obtained significant critical and commercial success, but they had started to become detached from their original audience. The mod movement had vanished, and the original followers from Shepherd's Bush had grown up and acquired jobs and families. The group had started to drift apart from manager Kit Lambert due to his preoccupation with their label, Track Records. They had been touring since the release of Tommy the previous May, with a set that contained most of that album, but realized that millions had now seen their live performances, and Pete Townshend in particular recognized that they needed to do something new. A single, "The Seeker", and a live album, Live at Leeds were released in 1970, and an EP of new material ("Water", "Naked Eye", "I Don't Even Know Myself", "Postcard" and "Now I'm a Farmer") was recorded, but not released as the band felt it would not be a satisfactory follow-up to Tommy.

The first session for what became Who's Next was at Mick Jagger's house, Stargroves, at the start of April 1971, using the Rolling Stones Mobile. The backing track of "Won't Get Fooled Again" was recorded there before the band decided to relocate recording to Olympic at Johns' suggestion; the first session was on 9 April, attempting a basic take of "Bargain". The bulk of the sessions occurred during May, when the group recorded "Time is Passing", "Pure and Easy", "Love Ain't for Keeping" (which had been reworked from a rock track into an acoustic arrangement), "Behind Blue Eyes", "The Song Is Over", "Let's See Action" and "Baba O'Riley". Nicky Hopkins guested on piano, while Dave Arbus was invited by Moon to play violin on "Baba O'Riley". John Entwistle's "My Wife" was added to the album at the last minute late in the sessions, and was originally intended for a solo album.

The cover artwork shows a photograph, taken at Easington Colliery, of the band apparently having just urinated on a large concrete piling protruding from a slag heap. The decision to shoot the picture came from Entwistle and Moon discussing Stanley Kubrick and the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. According to photographer Ethan Russell, most of the band members were unable to urinate, so rainwater was tipped from an empty film canister to achieve the desired effect. The rear cover showed the band backstage at De Montfort Hall, Leicester, amongst a debris of furniture.  In 2003, the television channel VH1 named Who's Next's cover one of the greatest album covers of all time.

Other suggestions for the cover included the group urinating against a Marshall Stack and an overweight nude woman with the Who's faces in place of her genitalia. An alternative cover featuring Moon dressed in black lingerie and a brown wig, holding a whip, was later used for the inside art for the 1995 and 2003 CD releases. Some of the photographs taken during these sessions were later used as part of Decca's United States promotion of the album.

A mix of old favorites and buried treasures makes this edition of Who's Next a definite must. One of the defining albums of 70s hard rock from one of the 60s most successful bands, the original album includes some of The Who's best-known work, such as the anthemic "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again", the by turns sorrowful and angry "Behind Blue Eyes", and perennial favorite "My Wife". The new tracks on this album are equally worth hearing, including "Pure and Easy" (an alternate edition of which is available on Odds & Sods) and the original version of "Behind Blue Eyes". A hard rock classic, Who's Next is required listening for rock fans of all ages.

Track listing:

1 Baba O'Riley (Remix) 5:08
2 Bargain 5:34
3 Love Ain't For Keeping 2:10
4 My Wife (Original Album Version) 3:41
5 The Song Is Over 6:14
6 Getting In Tune 4:50
7 Going Mobile (Original Album Version) 3:43
8 Behind Blue Eyes 3:42
9 Won't Get Fooled Again (Remix) 8:33
10 Pure And Easy 4:21
11 Baby Don't You Do It [feat. Leslie West] 5:14
12 Naked Eye 5:31
13 Water (The Young Vic Theatre Live Version) 6:25
14 Too Much Of Anything [feat. Nicky Hopkins] 4:25
15 I Don't Even Know Myself 4:56
16 Behind Blue Eyes (Alternate Studio Version) [feat. Al Kooper] 3:28

Personnel:

Roger Daltrey – vocals
Keith Moon – drums, percussion
John Entwistle – bass, brass, vocals, piano on "My Wife"
Pete Townshend – guitar, VCS3, organ, A.R.P. synthesiser, vocals, piano on "Baba O'Riley"

Additional musicians:

Dave Arbus – violin on "Baba O'Riley"
Nicky Hopkins – piano on "The Song Is Over" and "Getting in Tune"
Al Kooper – organ on alternate version of "Behind Blue Eyes"
Leslie West – lead guitar on "Baby, Don't You Do It"

3 comments:

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  2. An undeniable classic. Thanks.

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  3. Thank you, I should have made a lossless copy of one of my (many) copies years ago before I got rid of 'em all! This is one album that needs to be lossless....."The Song Is Over" oh boy, can't wait!!!!

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