I think the first song I heard off this record was Boris The Spider, selected as the b-side to a mid-‘90s re-release of My Generation – used on a TV ad for ice cream if I remember correctly. That single led me to buy a CD compilation, which was more than enough Who for me at the time.
I’ve never been into bands where the vocalist isn’t the songwriter. I’m not sure why – it just feels a little bit fake. Strangely though, I don’t really notice it for some bands. Take the Kaiser Chiefs for example. As far as I know, original drummer Nick Hodgson was the primary lyricist for the band – yet I don’t really think anything less of them.
This album has two highlights for me – the studio version of A Quick One, While He’s Away, gloriously performed on the Live At Leeds album, and the band’s stunning cover of Heat Wave. I like to think that if I was in a band in the ‘60s, I would have pushed to do a cover of Heat Wave – it’s such a great song, with an eternally cool groove.
The quintessential single-disc live album, Live At Leeds needs no introduction. I first heard about it through a comedy show – Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s first series on the BBC (The Smell Of Reeves & Mortimer) – where it was featured in a novelty song: The Who, Live At Leeds / A Packet Of Seeds / And a top hat full of gloy, gloy, gloy. Once you start buying rock music though, you quickly learn about the high watermark this record is held up as.
There’s just something infinitely more attractive about a live set on just one record. Short, sharp and to the point. AC/DC’s If You Want Blood – You’ve Got It is another great example of capturing something so energetic in such a small timeframe. The antithesis would probably be something like Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive album, about as far away from the immediacy of the Who as you could imagine.
There are just six songs on this record, mainly taken up by the fifteen minute extended medley of My Generation and the eight minutes of Magic Bus. Looking at the full set list from the Leeds gig, it’s a wonder how they managed to reduce it down to just two sides of music – a staggering thirty three songs played on the night would have provided enough material for three or four discs.
I like The Who, but I like to keep them at arm’s distance. I’m always suspicious of bands where the vast majority of material is written by somebody other than the lead singer, and I guess The Who are one of the best examples of that dynamic. I also regard Pete Townshend as a little too full of himself. If I had seen The Who play back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, it would have been Keith Moon I’d have been going to see
When I bought The Who’s greatest hits, on CD in the mid-‘90s, I really liked some of their singles but others (I’m A Boy, Pictures Of Lily) I just found soft and weak, which is surprising given that they’re supposed to be this hell-raising rock band. Those songs turned me off taking a further look at their studio albums, but I seem to doing more and more of that these last few years. I’ve always liked this album – it rocks big time – but I’ve developed a new-found respect for Tommy, A Quick One and Live At Leeds recently. Who’s Next seems to catch the band at their peak, with their most consistent album – probably because the album is neighboured on both sides by their weightier ‘rock operas’.
Who’s Next has been plundered by the producers of the CSI television series, with two of its tracks (Won’t Get Fooled Again and Baba O’Riley) appearing as the theme music to and CSI: Miami and CSI: New York respectively. I’m still waiting for Boris The Spider to be used as the theme to CSI: Scranton.