The Who - The Story Of The Who
In the early sixties the so-called British invasion took America by storm. Imagine what it was like living here. Actually, it is hard to do. I was living here then but I was just a kid. What was going on around me, the huge social changes, neither troubled nor concerned me as a kid. I was just unaware of them. Of course I heard music on the radio. I remember listening to a Beatles song while I was living in Preston and I remember, a bit later, a song by the Who. No surprise then that I was introduced to the Who at a relatively early age. Yet, like a lot of sixties bands, by the time I had got into music, I was not in a financial position to go for the Who's entire back catalogue and so decided to go for a compilation of their earlier stuff.
And this was the compilation that I chose. There can be no doubt that this album is one of the finest compilation albums ever put out by any band anywhere. A bold statement, yes, but one I think can be easily justified on the strength of the music here. In spite of the omissions, and let's face it there are bound to be some, given the length of the band's career to this date, the album remains stunning. The first and fourth sides highlight each end of an amazing career. The second side takes you on the path they rode in the sixties and the third is devoted to the unique work that is Tommy.
The enormity of the Who's catalogue and the immense influence it has had on other bands throughout the past forty years is something which is often overlooked. It takes a compilation like this to realise that listening to the Who is standing tall with giants - you just feel so insignificant by comparison. My feelings about the Who are summed up by one track, the incredible "Won't Get Fooled Again." Never mind that this was the testament to the failure of dreams, of revolution of change, it still contains one of the most oft-quoted lyrics of rock ever -
"Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss."
But for a true appreciation, just listen to the drumming. When Keith Moon did play (and there were too many times when he just fucked around) he could do what no other drummer could, and I mean no other drummer. The middle of the track, as the lyrics have finished and before the song slips into that haunting keyboard piece before the finale, is one of the finest pieces of drumming imaginable. Moon lets himself go and thrashes everything available to him, and yet still, amazingly, manages to keep perfect time.
I cannot begin to describe the enormity of this album. Closing with that epic track as described, "Won't Get Fooled Again", after the journey this album has taken you, is an immense achievement. It leaves you physically drained and emotionally elated. Yet before that you would have listened to tracks which, if done by most other bands, would have been the highlight of their career - "Baba O'Riley", "My Generation", "Magic Bus", "Substitute", "Pinball Wizard", "Run Run Run." All these were superb songs which are among the highlights of the album. And here they are all on this one compilation. Come on, this album has got to form the core of anyone's collection.
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