If you put it down to a time, a band, an album… The Who’s MY GENERATION is the first punk album ever recorded: With heavy pounding on what had to be the most tortured drum kit at the time (on stage the group would shock audiences by smashing their instruments and demolishing amps and speakers), angry lyrics are screamed and stuttered over guitar feedback and power chords. Even the album’s cover, with the band’s four grim faces set in front of Big Ben rising into an overcast sky, leaves you with the impression that these guys are a cocky group of foul-mouthed wiseasses–especially the stiff-jawed blond one, who looks like he’d rather be shaking down a store owner for protection money, or simply just kicking someone’s teeth out (and, according to more than a few of the band’s biographers, Roger Daltrey often would use his fists to end differences, with Pete Townshend as well as others).
This was 1965 and very few then would’ve had the courage or the foresight to put this kind of sound to wax. Sure, the Kinks also got together with producer Shel Talmy a year before to pioneer a heavier “rock” sound with “You Really Got Me,” but they weren’t taking it any further; it was easy confusing that song with its followup, “All Day and All of the Night,” because they were basically the same thing with different lyrics. And as is always the case, it’s the total package of talent with promotion, image with attitude.
It also took real guts for a rising pop group in 1965 to make an album–let alone a debut album!–where 3/4 of the tracks are original compositions. Except for Dylan and the Beatles, nobody at the time was able to get away with doing this. The original UK album version contains three covers, James Brown’s “I Don’t Mind,” and “Please, Please, Please,” as well as Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man;” the US version dropped “I’m a Man” for the proto-psychedelic “Instant Party (Circles)”–yet another original! Pete Townshend was taking a big gamble with this record.
In addition to the awesome title track, MY GENERATION also includes “The Kids Are Alright.” Somewhat defining the group’s early sound, “The Kids Are Alright” bacame a staple number on the Who’s numerous compilations, and would provide the title to Jeff Stein’s 1979 documentary on the band.
Of the other numbers here, things start off with “Out In the Streets,” a weird hybrid of R&B styles with droning guitar feedback. Meanwhile, both “The Good’s Gone” and “Much Too Much” sound as if Keith Moon is barely able to control himself with the drumsticks as Townshend displays his prowess with power chords. Daltrey, naturally, just seems pissed off.
Two other notable tracks are “La La La Lies” and “The Ox.” The former obviously owing much to Martha Reeves & the Vandellas’ “Heatwave” (a song the Who covered on their next album, A QUICK ONE), while the latter is a sort of group effort instrumental composition, written by Townshend, Moon and Entwistle with famous session man Nicky Hopkins.
A brilliant and exceptionally aggressive album that layed the foundations for most things coming to rock music. —Caeser