Who’s Next by The Who Review
The iconic album cover for the Who’s Next was taken on their way back from a Sunderland gig, so it says in the liner cover. It shows four blokes looking pleased with themselves for apparently having just relieved themselves against a large concrete block. Or maybe their expressions were satisfaction at the accomplishment of completing a career-defining album?
The fact that Who’s Next is a splendid piece of work can’t be denied. It features excellent song writing and performances throughout. Roger Daltrey’s sings as well on this record as at any point during his career and John Entwhistle’s bass is just extraordinary. It features three big hitters in Baba O’Riley, Behind Blue Eyes and Won’t get fooled again and marks the point where The Who turned into a hard rock act.
Baba O’Riley’s synthesiser provides the introduction to the album before the famous descending thee-note riff takes over. Pete Townshend then takes us on a journey through teenage wasteland via an edgy fiddle solo before crashing to a halt.
Bargain and Love Ain’t for Keeping are two medium-paced rockers before the John Entwhistle-penned My Wife brings some humour to the music. The latter reminds us that there was more than just one songwriter in The Who and the brass section at the end adds some variety to Who’s Next.
Who’s Next showcases Pete Townshend’s ability to to craft ballads and the first of these; The Song is Over is a piano-led affair with Townshend starting on lead vocals before being joined by Daltrey and the rest of the band. After the pop/blues of Going Mobile we get the second ballad Behind Blue Eyes. To label this a ballad is perhaps to do the song an injustice as even the gentle beginnings with Daltrey and acoustic guitar is as blistering as it is subtle before the band and Daltrey let rip. It’s the angriest ballad you’ve ever heard and an absolute classic.
Won’t Get Fooled again rounds off Who’s Next and this is the band at it’s absolute best. An eight-minute epic where Townshend’s riffing is set to protest lyrics. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” indeed. Over forty years since it was recorded the song rings true and sounds as fresh and exciting as ever.
Who’s Next isn’t quite my favourite Who album, this honour goes to the sprawling Who Sell Out. If there’s one criticism, it sounds a little dry in places. Just a little, mind and it’s still a great record. We’ve already mentioned that Daltrey has never sung better, we know that Pete Townshend is a great songwriter and can rattle a guitar and that Keith Moon was a brilliant idiosyncratic drummer. All of these come to the fore on this album. Something that is perhaps not noticed as much is John Entwhistle’s bass guitar. He pumps out manic bass lines all over this album and is especially brilliant on Won’t Get Fooled Again. Just listen to his bass on that song and how he drives it along.
Overall then, Who’s Next has deservedly achieved something of a revered status in classic rock albums. Rated Sound gives Who’s Next a score of 9/10.
Who’s Next (1971) Track Listing
1. Baba O’Riley (Remix)
3. Love Ain’t For Keeping
4. My Wife (Remix)
5. The Song Is Over
6. Getting In Tune
7. Going Mobile (Remix)
8. Behind Blue Eyes
9. Won’t Get Fooled Again (Remix)
10. Pure And Easy
11. Baby Don’t You Do It [feat. Leslie West]
12. Naked Eye (The Young Vic Theatre Live Version)
13. Water (The Young Vic Theatre Live Version)
14. Too Much Of Anything [feat. Nicky Hopkins]
15. I Don’t Even Know Myself
16. Behind Blue Eyes (Alternate Studio Version) [feat. Al Kooper]