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Released 14 August 1971 (and now 45 years old), Who’s Next is widely considered The Who’s most quintessential album. It’s one of the most ideal starting places for a new fan or someone interested in getting to know the band beyond the 5–10 tracks in rotation on most classic rock stations. This is one of those things which deserves the massive amounts of hype, instead of being more hype than substance.
WN started life as Pete’s very ambitious magnum opus Lifehouse, a rock opera which he’s kept coming back to over all these years. So many songs and themes from Lifehouse have been recycled or resurrected in both his solo and band albums. Though Lifehouse itself has never properly been completed, its story is familiar to longtime fans thanks to songs and dialogues Pete used in other projects.
WN came into my life on Halloween 2000 (the same day I bought The White Album), at an Amherst music store which I don’t think is in business anymore (or else moved). I only went to that store every so often, since they had a lot more CDs than vinyl, and typically charged more than Newbury Comics and Mystery Train Records.
Though The Who were always best as a live band, this album shows they could be just as good in the studio. It’s awesome hard rock, showcasing them at their prime. There’s a reason so many folks recommend this album above all others to potential new fans, because it contains everything awesome about The Who. It’s that quintessentially perfect album against which all others in their catalogue are judged, for better or worse.
Track listing, with stars by bonus tracks:
“Love Ain’t for Keeping”
“My Wife” (one of John’s signature songs)
“The Song Is Over” (so lush and beautiful)
“Getting in Tune”
“Going Mobile” (a song I didn’t really like or appreciate till I finally had a car and knew how to drive!)
“Behind Blue Eyes” (super overplayed!)
“Won’t Get Fooled Again” (also very overplayed, but never gets old)
“Pure and Easy”*
“Baby Don’t You Do It”*
“Naked Eye”* (live at the Young Vic Theatre)
“Water”* (Live at Young Vic)
“Too Much of Anything”*
“I Don’t Even Know Myself”*
“Behind Blue Eyes”* (original version)
In 2003, a 2-disc deluxe edition was released, though I haven’t bought it yet. The first disc contains the original first nine tracks, plus six outtakes. The second disc is a 26 April 1971 show from the Young Vic.
I love playing this album in the car stereo when it’s boiling hot outside. It’s such a perfect hot weather album, just like Live at Leeds, and begging to be cranked up. It’s also one of those albums where every time is like the first time all over again, taking me back to those special moments when I first heard each of the songs.