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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Album Spotlight - "Who's Next?" by The Who

Hello, everyone!  I hope you're excited for another album spotlight today as we kick off another SUNDAY JUKEBOX entry!

But just who are we putting in the spotlight today?  Who?

Well, I thought that for today's album spotlight, we'd go back in time to the year 1971.  The last couple of album spotlights I've done took place during the 1980s, so I thought I'd give the seventies a try.  And before I reveal who the mystery band is, I thought I'd give you a few clues for you to try and guess who it is, and what the name of the album is.


Clue #1:  The album - released on August 14, 1971 - was the band's fifth studio album.

Clue #2:  Two of the singles released from the album became the theme songs for two long running crime dramas.

Clue #3:  The album was initially meant as a folow-up to a successful rock opera that the band developed two years prior, but instead became a standard studio album.

Clue #4:  It is widely considered the greatest album that the band ever released.

Clue #5:  The band formed in London, England in 1964.

Clue #6:  The album cover shows the band peeing on the side of a concrete piling in the middle of a slag heap.

Yeah, kind of like this.

Yes, we're going to be taking a look at the classic 1971 album by The Who, entitled "Who's Next?".  It sold triple platinum and is ranked at #28 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time.

As mentioned earlier, the album wasn't initially going to be called "Who's Next?".  In fact, it wasn't even really supposed to be a Who album in the first place.  After the success of the band's 1969 album "Tommy", which was made into a rock opera, Pete Townshend decided that he wanted to do a follow-up to "Tommy" with a rock opera project entitled "Lifehouse".  The Lifehouse project never really got off the ground though, as conflicts with Who manager Kit Lambert and the complexity of the project caused it to be somewhat shelved.

Now, the reason I say somewhat is because many of the songs that would eventually appear on "Who's Next?" were recorded especially for the Lifehouse project.  The songs themselves were just reworked in a way so that they fit better for a studio album than a rock opera.

The majority of the album was recorded at Olympic Studios in London (with the exception of one song), and what made this album stand out from the other Who albums was its use of the synthesizer.  The synthesizer really gave the Who's music a much fuller, dramatic sound, and it was a sound that the public loved.

A total of nine tracks were recorded for the album.  Of those nine, three became huge hits in North America.

Let's listen to the three songs, shall we?  Beginning with one that you will probably recognize right off the bat.

Released:  June 25, 1971
Peak Position on the Billboard Charts:  #15

These days, most people usually link this song to David Caruso putting on some sunglasses and saying something thought provoking.  That's because this song was used in the opening credits to the show CSI: Miami during its entire run.

But back in the 1970s, it was the song that was meant to close the now defunct rock opera Lifehouse.  It's a song about revolution, and power.

Now, remember when I told you that most of the album was recorded at Olympic Studios?  Well, this was the lone exception.  The song was originally recorded at New York's Record Plant in March 1971, but because Kit Lambert was unable to mix the final track due to other commitments, the band was forced to start from scratch.  In April 1971, the band met up at Mick Jagger's home, "Stargroves", and with help from Glyn Johns put together the final cut at the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio.

Oh, and although it reached #15 in the USA, it was a Top 10 hit in the UK.

Released:  October 23, 1971
Peak Position on the Billboard Charts:  N/A

You know, I get the feeling that the creators of CSI were really big Who fans.  Every single show underneath the CSI umbrella uses a Who song in the opening credits.  In the case of Baba O'Riley, it was used in the show CSI: NY. 

This song was also meant to be included in the aborted "Lifehouse" project, and the theme of the song basically surrounds the lyric "teenage wasteland".  Sure enough, the song was inspired by the music festival Woodstock, where the crowd turned into drug-induced zombies.  Interestingly enough, while the song was meant to be a song about how drugs can be deadly, actual teenagers decided that the song was celebrating being a teenager, and how living in a teenage wasteland was the grooviest thing ever.  Yeah, I'll let you debate what was better.

A personal funny story about this song while I'm thinking of it.  This is my mom's favourite Who song.  My nearly 70-year-old mother of three, grandmother of four, who loves to bake cookies, brownies, and pies LOVES the teenage wasteland song.  Yeah, I'll leave that with you as we take a look at the final song in the bunch.

Released:  November 6, 1971
Peak Position on the Billboard Charts:  #34

Now while "Baba O'Riley" is my mother's favourite Who song, this one happens to be mine.  I don't know what it is about this song, but I could listen to it over and over again.

The origin for this song dates back to June 9, 1970, after a Who concert in Denver, Colorado.  Townshend was tempted by a female groupie, and almost went all the way with her...but in the end, decided to go back to his room alone, citing the teachings of Townshend's spiritual mentor, Meher Baba - a huge influence in the Lifehouse rock drama that never came to be.

And what makes the song so interesting is that the song is not sung from the perspective of a hero or protagonist.  Instead, it's told from the point of view of the villain - a man who is filled with anger and vitriol because of the temptation that is constantly surrounding him.  Townshend himself stated that the person who the song was about was clearly in the villain role when he really saw himself as the hero.

Interestingly, the song never charted in the UK, as Townshend felt that it sounded too out of place in the world of British music.  But it did well in other parts of Europe, including Belgium and France.

And, here's a piece of trivia for you that is CSI related.  This was the original choice for the theme song for CSI: NY.  I don't know why they chose Baba O'Riley instead, but I have to say - either song would have worked.

So, "Who's Next?" turns 44 years old this week.  How does that make you feel?

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