Thursday, May 26, 2022

The Who, The Who Sings My Generation (1966)

I can't abide this lo-hi hackwork. It's rock for folk who can't handle rock. There's no gravity to Roger Daltrey's voice, and the lyrics are sing-songy crap (see "The Good's Gone"). This My Generation album sounds like a cross between bad Beatles and ballless Stones. Sure, Townshend's guitar is wicked, but I don't mind slighting the man by way of slighting his band, because by all news accounts the man himself is wicked. (I'm sure you already know about the stuff police confiscated off his computer about ten or so years ago, and if you don't know, you can probably guess.)

I listened to one other album by The Who over the last couple months, Who's Next (1971). I can't recall loving one bit of that. I see on my so-called great album lists several other albums by The Who, and I'm not looking forward to any of them. I don't care a wit about the fact that Tommy "sure can play a mean pinball."

All right, obviously I've got a gut-level prejudice against their sound, but here's something positive. The title song on My Generation—"My Generation," that is—is actually pretty fun, and I don't remotely feel embarrassed bopping around to it.

The Who has been in the ether since the beginning of time, so their music was unavoidable in our youth. But I didn't listen to them deliberately until one day I was passing by a Pay-Per-View of the band. They were, as old men, playing a new live show. (They were old men then, and then I was in middle school.) I was able to watch this Pay-Per-View for free, because you'll recall my father, God rest his soul, did illegal Dish Network and DirectTV stuff, so our household had access to all the movie channels and all the movies that had just been released from theater to Pay-Per-View. Thanks to my father's ingenuity, I was able to see plenty of Pay-Per-View concerts, which would have cost quite a princely sum, I suppose, including one delightful, two-hour show of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones where, in addition to playing, the band took requests and did some casual Q and A with the crowd. But back to The Who.

Watching The Who's live performance on Pay-Per-View energized my adolescent self. I had so much fun taking in the performance, and I remember even standing up on my bed and mimicking Townshend's long showy strum on his guitar. I had this idea like, "Wow, this is what grown-up music is really like," and I pictured myself being maybe about my age now and coolly telling younger folk, "What, you haven't heard of The Who? They're one of the greats." I pictured myself owning all their albums on cassette (I was dreaming small). Then a week went by and I forgot all about the fantasy.

My grown-up self wants to preserve his integrity and say that the difference between adolescent me enjoying The Who and grown-up me despising them is the discernment that comes with a refined taste. But honestly that's probably not true. My so-called taste in other matters belies the fact. I think the greatest sci-fi film series is The Matrix. I think the best horror movie films are Scream, Scream 2, and Scream 3. If I stand apart in these areas, how could I be so sure that my musical taste is really any better?

To tell the truth, though, I don't care too much about what I am supposed to like. I'm open to the possibility that I can learn to appreciate art I don't currently like, but that's probably about it. I figure as we get older, it's harder and harder to shake ourselves out of our art prejudices. This whole time I've been writing this, I've been playing The Who's My Generation. Ever since the title song passed, I've wanted to turn it off. What's keeping me?

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