The What on The Who

“Live and let live.”

That’s an idea I can get behind.

But “let kids be kids”? Kids don’t want to be kids.

They want to be adults.

Which is why I could never understand Roger Daltrey’s stuttering snarl, “Hope I die before I get old.”

I couldn’t wait to grow up. Being a kid was like permanently wearing a cloak of invisibility.

While other kids were into the Stones, Led Zep, the Beatles, all of which had songs that were favorites of mine, too, The Who spoke to me in a way that other bands didn’t. They weren’t always going on about love gone wrong (though they could write about that too) or dark, murky, otherworldly stuff that didn’t speak to the head and the heart, what I perceived as reality, the interconnectedness of a band to their listeners.

That’s what The Who was all about: connection.

The Who is also probably rock music’s tightest quartet. Every instrument is a recognizable voice: John Entwistle’s roiling basslines, the growl and chop of Pete Townshend’s guitar, Keith Moon’s lightning-quick change-ups, and Roger Daltrey—that soaring, lion-roaring voice.


So when the LP Who’s Next hit our local record shop (for those who remember it, Third Stone [from the Sun], in Navarre, on Lake Minnetonka), “Won’t Get Fooled Again” quickly became the anthem of my youth. And it goes without saying that it has the most spectacular scream in rock and roll history. There, I said it.

Scraping together the money I made bussing dishes at the Lafayette Club, I popped for the hefty double LP price on Quadrophenia, and pored lovingly over the glorious black and white photo insert and story text (by Pete Townshend). It was breathtaking—a beautiful, beautiful thing.

During junior and senior years in high school I wrote a column that someone (I forget who) dubbed “Moppin Up.” I went along with it, since it had immediate name recognition. Can’t recall what moved me to write for the paper in the first place, but the previous editor in chief convinced me that I had things to say and that if I wrote, they’d publish.

In December 1977 I wrote a column on Quadrophenia that instantly brought on the ire of my teachers, principal, and exasperated parents. The folks thought I was endorsing suicide and drugs, and the principal objected to my use of “goddamn.” The co-editor and I argued First Amendment rights to our put-upon English teacher (and the paper’s advisor), then sent the issue to the printer anyway, probably without his final approval. Oops.

Looking back at the column now, it strikes me as being all over the place. Many of the “problems” it talks about: the insecurities of youth, the aforementioned invisibility, the divisions of power among the cool kids (the Mods) and the outcasts (the Rockers) will probably be around as long as there are teenagers.

And now my generation is in the White House.

I’d say that’s cause for wonder, make of it what you will.

~ by completelyinthedark on March 27, 2011.

4 Responses to “The What on The Who”

  1. Mike,

    If you don’t have it, you should probably pick up this:

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love The Who, in fact, I love Rock & Roll. I think there’s an interesting perspective that gets painted by Daltrey’s, “Hope I die before I get old” lyric. I am of the opinion that they saw things like the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war as the result of the “old” ideologies. I think the idea was more to keep the young spirit of the time of “love and peace” alive and not grow into the “war and hate” they associated with the earlier generation.

    I also think there’s a bit of an omminence as well. Whereas most people associate that era with the peace and love flower power movement, I think that some of those ideas stemmed from a realization of “our” own mortality. Live for the day because tomorrow you may not be. Look what happened no more than three years later to Jimmy, Jim, and Janis. Whereas their passing “shocked” a generation, I don’t think there was any real surprise.

    Just my thoughts on the matter. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • What’s interesting is the “myopia” of every generation. The young think the old are the problem. The old get impatient with the young. I mean, this has been a cycle since time immemorial.

      My philosophy is no “OLD” thinking. Every day is new. The “carryover” is just a psychological trick humans play to think they’re on top of “reality.”

      Make yourself an absolute beginner in everything, and you have a shot at really living your life to the fullest. Thanks for commenting, Keane!


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