Argh, the ‘80s! The cover of this record is a bit confused. Roger Daltrey looks like a real estate agent. Pete Townshend looks like a pre-op transsexual. John Entwistle looks bizarrely like Ringo Starr in a pinstripe suit. Kenney Jones looks like a waxwork. All four of them are facing away from a young boy playing a Space Invaders machine, his back to the camera, in a darkened room. Aside from the allusions to Pinball Wizard, I don’t know what this all means, but it feels dodgy. Don’t worry though; Townshend was just doing research, right?
Thankfully the album doesn’t sound as unnaturally ‘80s as they were trying to make themselves look on the cover. There’s a fair bit of synth on the album – but no more than say, Quadrophenia, and that always jarred slightly on that album anyway.
The reason I’ll put this album on will always be the last track on the first side – Eminence Front, with lead vocals by Townshend himself. I know the song from the soundtrack of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, so hearing its slow burn always reminds me of driving around Los Santos, San Fierro and Las Venturas, knocking over pedestrians and doing drive-bys.
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.