It’s difficult to accurately gauge the impact of The Who when they burst onto the scene in 1965 from 55 years down the road in 2020. Before the British group made their name, there was simply nobody as energetic, frenetic and ferocious as Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon and John Entwistle. Though the band would breakthrough over a series of years and releases, their debut album My Generation landed with a sincere and searing thud on the music scene.
Buoyed by the success of bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, Pete Townshend was determined to make The Who a success. However, where those bands had relied on the music of the past to lean heavily on when making their debuts, Townshend knew that The Who had to be as original as can be, least of all because the aforementioned groups had now changed the music scene and writing one’s own songs was imperative to success. But mostly because, as the title of the album suggests, the group were a part of a new generation of kids and they weren’t about to follow any blueprints laid out in front of them.
Released on 3rd December in 1965, My Generation is most notable for its title track, but the album has a lot more to offer than many suggest. Though the group were dissatisfied with the LP when it was first released, the record has gone on to be one of the definitive albums of the decade and quickly thrust the group under the nose of every teenager in the western world. In truth, it was an album that Townshend had been composing for some years.
The guitarist and band’s principal songwriter, Townshend grew up within a musical family and his desire to be in a band was something he had always wanted. Meeting Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle in grammar school and later linked up with Keith Moon to form The Who as we know it. The band swiftly set about trying to achieve the fame and fortune that had befallen other bands of the decade—but they did it a slightly different way.
The group decided to align themselves with the youth movements of the day, most notably with The Mods. They encapsulated the R&B ideals of the past and provoked them further by mirroring the ferocity of bands like The Kinks. Soon enough, they had a sound they were proud of and was starting to grab the attention of kids across the country. An album was then in the offing and the group set about creating one of the decade’s most pivotal LPs.
It really is hard to look past ‘My Generation’ as the standout moment on the album, largely because it is, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the album isn’t full of gems too. Opener ‘Out in the Street’ is one gritty rock song that deserves higher praise than it currently receives. Another equally overlooked number is ‘The Good’s Gone’ which sees Townshend’s unique guitar style come to the fore. ‘The Kids Are Alright’ is arguably one of the band’s best while ‘Please, Please, Please’ is another barnstormer. ‘The Ox’, a song the band sign off with, is a genuine piece of brilliance too as a jam session between the four highly qualified musicians.
Simply put, My Generation does exactly what it says on the tin, defining an entire generation of kids. A new crop of music lovers who had been swayed by the R&B of old but were now desperate for their own sound, their own style, their own generation. Luckily enough, The Who were there to give it to them.