Guide to British Music of the 1960s

October 2002

CD Review

The Who - My Generation


Why review The Who again so soon after the last review? Quite simply, this is one of the most eagerly awaited CD re-releases since the format was invented. The album had been previously issued on CD in the USA, the subject of an earlier Making Time review, but this is the UK version of the album which does differ slightly. Furthermore, it is a double CD with numerous additional tracks, some of which may not have been released previously in the UK. 

This is an album with a chequered history that arose from a long-running dispute between the Who and Shel Talmy, the album's producer. It is best to know the basics of this to understand why it has been probably the hardest to obtain of any classic album. The short version is as follows. Shel Talmy was the Who's original producer who had already worked with the Kinks on the likes of You Really Got Me. He was impressed when he saw a Who gig in London and looked to capture that live energy in the group's recorded sound. From this point the first classic hits emerged in I Can't Explain and Anyway Anyhow Anywhere

As well as playing numerous gigs, the band spent a lot of time in the studio recording elements of the live act as new Townsend songs. However, a rift developed between the band and Talmy, possibly due to the level of control that the producer seemed to be exerting and the lack of original material in the tracks being recorded. Consequently, the Who wanted to get rid of Talmy. The immediate effect was that the release of Circles/Instant Party Mixture was cancelled. The band started to record without Talmy and arranged the release of Substitute on Reaction Records. Both Circles and Instant Party were recorded and were, at times, b-sides to the new single.  

Shel Talmy's reaction was to take the Who to court as he had a contractual right to record the band that extended as far as a four-year option on future recordings. He also arranged for A Legal Matter / Circles to be released as a spoiler. The Kids are Alright and La La La Lies were also released by Talmy on the Brunswick label. The band remained relatively unaware of the extent of the situation financially until they realised that they were not receiving many royalties, even from Tommy, and that most of the money was heading towards Talmy. Talmy still owned the My Generation recordings and this prevented their release in the UK although there was a release of the album by Virgin some years back. 

So why is this available now? Quite simply, Shel Talmy offered the tapes for auction through eBay. To cut a long story short, this brought the different parties back to the table again and, although his original price request was reduced, the tracks were made available again. 

MCA has made the tracks into a deluxe package that showcases not just the original album but also a myriad of other material including the first two singles, b-sides and unreleased material. The first CD contains the original album. This was remixed for the CD and there have been claims that this has been to its discredit, guitars were lower in the mix, etc. 

Quite a few of the tracks are cover versions but there are some outstanding originals. At the time, the music business was moving away from successful chart artists releasing an album of covers to cash in on a hit single towards artists writing more of their own material. In the UK this was being spearheaded by the Beatles, the Kinks, Rolling Stones and the Who.

Out in the Street remains a powerful opener to any album and sets the tone for what is to follow. Towards the end of the track Townshend's string scraping, pick-up selector switching and arpeggio chords alongside the unique sounds of the exploding drummer are a foretaste of Anyway Anyhow Anywhere. I Don't Mind and Please Please Please are two James Brown standards that benefit from the Who's power. The latter is sung more in a James Brown style with a fairly rare guitar solo. I'm a Man is another standard that was played by many bands including the Yardbirds and the Creation. It was written by Bo Diddley.

The Good's Gone is another Townshend original that opens with a chiming guitar sound. 

La-La-La Lies was later released as a single by Talmy. Much Too Much is a stronger track and arguably one of the best tracks on the album. The title track My Generation really needs no introduction. This is where it all came together. Roger's stuttering lyrics, Pete's powerful chords, John's lead bass lines and the drums to the front meant that the song hits you straight between the eyes and then comes back and hits you again. During the recording of the song John Enwhistle was looking for a specific bass sound and sought out a Danelectro bass guitar. When he managed to break a string (a bass string!) he could not replace it and could only continue by buying another Danelectro bass. That's where the bass sound comes from. Then "Hope I die before I get old" has to be the most famous line ever in rock. My Generation was the Who's biggest hit single in the UK reaching number two. 

The Kids Are Alright was later released as a single. While it was relatively unsuccessful in the charts due to the fact that it was a later Talmy release and the Who did not promote it, it remains a favourite track from its opening power chord à la Hard Day's Night to the now trademark Who pop art break of drum rolls, feedback and Townshend power chords. 

It's Not True is a singalong pop song from Pete Townshend. This features the unique piano playing of the late Nicky Hopkins and a power chord middle eight. A Legal Matter was an ironic track considering the problems between the Who and Shel Talmy. This was released as a single and was the first release that featured Pete Townshend on lead vocals. This one comes across really well on CD. Again, Nicky Hopkins is on piano. 

Keith Moon is at the heart of The Ox. While this song may be associated with Entwhistle, it is a Townshend/Moon/Entwhistle/Hopkins composition. This is a showcase for Moon's drumming above all else. 

Additional tracks on the first CD include the original version of Circles that "caused" the legal rift. While I prefer the Ready Steady Who version of the song, the legal wrangles that prevented its release as a Who single deprived the world of one of the best Who tracks for many years. I Can't Explain gets a CD release and sounds great. The 12-string guitar is clear and powerful. Bald Headed Woman is a Shel Talmy song that was the b-side of I Can't Explain and was also recorded by Talmy protégées the Kinks. This features a harp break by Roger Daltrey. Daddy Rolling Stone is another cover version that was released as a Brunswick single according to the sleeve notes. 

The second disc is a mix of rarities. Eddie Holland's Leaving Here is the opener. This is closer to the original than the Birds' powerful version. Lubie (Come Back Home) is a weaker track that is pleasant but does not play to the Who's strengths. Shout & Shimmy is another James Brown track that was on the b-side of My Generation. The Martha & the Vandellas track Heatwave is a different version to that was available later on A Quick One. This one is a bit more subdued with less use of the cymbals. Heatwave was one of the mainstays of the Who's stage act.

Motoring is another rare track. Anytime You Want Me was planned as a US single. To me this is a very weak Who track and does not do justice to their style which had started to emerge. Anyway Anyhow Anywhere puts the second CD back on course. This is the classic Who pop art single. This version is a rare track that originally appeared on a French EP. Instant Party Mixture is the Who's tribute to Dion & the Belmonts and is little more than a throwaway track. Mono versions of My Generation and A Legal Matter are included for comparison purposes as is an instrumental version of the title track and a vocal-only version of Anytime You Want Me that shows just how good a singer Roger Daltrey is.

While this most rate as one of the most important CD reissues, on reflection it may have worked better as two separate CDs. The first should contain the remastered My Generation album, ensuring that it maintained its integrity as an album in much the same way that none of the Beatles CD reissues have included additional tracks. The effect of adding these tracks, many of which could be viewed as "not as good" has the effect of diluting the original album. The second CD could be used to "catch" the rarities and oddities.

Essential Tracks:

  • My Generation
  • Out in the Street
  • The Good's Gone

Track Listing:

Disc 1
  1. Out In The Street
  2. I Don't Mind
  3. The Good's Gone
  4. La La La Lies
  5. Much Too Much
  6. My Generation (Stereo)
  7. The Kids Are Alright
  8. Please, Please, Please
  9. It's Not True
  10. I'm A Man
  11. A Legal Matter
  12. The Ox
  13. Circles
  14. I Can't Explain
  15. Bald Headed Woman
  16. Daddy Rolling Stone

Disc 2

  1. Leaving Here
  2. Lubie (Come Back Home)
  3. Shout and Shimmy
  4. (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave
  5. Motoring
  6. Anytime You Want Me
  7. Anyhow Anywhere Anyway
  8. Instant Party Mixture
  9. I Don't Mind
  10. The Good's Gone
  11. My Generation (Instr.)
  12. Anytime You Want Me
  13. A Legal Matter
  14. My Generation (Mono)

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