Fifty-five years ago today, The Who released “My Generation” in the United States, thus endearing themselves to a myriad of young people all around the world. Written at a time when the “counterculture” was in full swing, the message and powerful drive of the song remains as strong and fervent today as it was over 50 years ago.
In a 1987 Rolling Stone interview with legendary Who guitarist Pete Townshend, who coincidentally wrote “My Generation” on his 20th birthday on a train ride from London to Southampton, Townshend notes, “My Generation’ was very much about trying to find a place in society. I was very, very lost. The band was young then. It was believed that its career would be incredibly brief.” Thankfully, this assessment couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Who – “My Generation”
[Video: The Best Of – Home Of Classic Music]
Townshend said just two short years after writing the tune that it was “The only really successful social comment I’ve ever made.” As for it’s meaning, he explained it as “some pilled-up mod [British youths] dancing around, trying to explain to you why he’s such a groovy guy, but he can’t because he’s so stoned he can hardly talk.”
Even for how acclaimed the song has become today, it received some unwanted attention due to singer Roger Daltrey’s delivery of the lyrics with a stutter. The BBC went so far as to not even play the tune on the radio for a time in order to not offend anyone with a stutter. Said Daltrey to Uncut magazine in 2001, “I have got a stutter. I control it much better now but not in those days. When we were in the studio doing ‘My Generation’, Kit Lambert came up to me and said ‘STUTTER!’ I said ‘What?’ He said ‘Stutter the words – it makes it sound like you’re pilled’ And I said, ‘Oh… like I am!’ And that’s how it happened. It was always in there, it was always suggested with the ‘f-f-fade’ but the rest of it was improvised.”
Also of note, “My Generation” featured one of the very first bass solos in rock history. John Entwistle used a brand new Danelectro bass to play it, but unfortunately kept breaking strings trying to record it. Nevertheless, we still have one of the most cherished recordings in rock history to be thankful for. Check out The Who absolutely drilling a 14-minute “My Generation” from their seminal live album, Live at Leeds, below.
The Who – “My Generation” (Live)
[Originally published 11/5/18]