Who's Next

The Who

MCA Records, 1971


REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


[Adapted from a review that originally appeared in On The Town Magazine on 3/19/96]

From the hypnotic opening riff of "Baba O'Riley" (a.k.a. "Teenage Wasteland") to the crashing closing bars of "Won't Get Fooled Again," this album is, quite simply, a rock and roll masterpiece.

You can argue for Tommy or Quadrophenia as ground-breaking art forms, but Who's Next was truly the Who's seminal album, with Roger Daltrey, John Entwhistle, Keith Moon and Pete Townshend all in peak form, playing and singing some of the most powerful songs Townshend has ever composed, from the above two classics to nuggets like "Bargain," "Gettin' in Tune" and "Behind Blue Eyes." (The irony is, the songs that comprise my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Who's Next were originally intended to be part of a larger rock opera project to be called Lifehouse. When the concept didn't quite pan out, the best elements were distilled down to this album.)

Twenty-five years after it was recorded, three elements in particular elevate Who's Next to landmark status. First is Townshend's introduction of the synthesizer as a rock instrument -- we take it for granted today, but in 1971, synthesizers were a brand-new technology, and planting one in the middle of a pounding rock song was unheard of. Some musical historians believe "Baba O'Riley" was in fact the first ever use of a sequenced synthesizer in a popular recording.

Second is the drumming. If you think it takes no talent to be a rock drummer, take a long, hard listen to Keith Moon's jaw-dropping performance on this album ( in particular on "Won't Get Fooled Again"). There is no other word for it but awesome. The beauty is, Townshend and Entwistle's work on guitar and bass is so rhythmic that it gives Moon the freedom to go wild on the kit, pounding out massive rolls and fills where others would keep to a simple pattern -- and it all still fits together like magic.

The third landmark element is the album-ending opus that is "Won't Get Fooled Again." A thundering eight-and-a-half-minute indictment of both establishment oppression and starry-eyed idealism, it is both Townshend's most overtly political statement and one of the most powerful rock anthems ever recorded. The closing minute, all windmilling Townshend power chords and crashing Moon drum fills, punctuated by a nerve-shattering Daltrey scream, is one of the great goosebump moments in rock history.

As if all that isn't enough, in 2003 MCA re-released Who's Next in a Deluxe Edition, complete with rare alternate takes and live versions of these songs, several unreleased tracks from the Who's Next/Lifehouse sessions, and liner notes about the project from Townshend himself. It's a fitting tribute to one of the landmark albums in rock history.

Rating: A

User Rating: A


This is one of rock's most assured records, even at its most vulnerable, and surely one of the genre's shining moments.

© 2005 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of MCA Records, and is used for informational purposes only.