The Who arrived at the Monterey Pop Festival, quite possibly one of the most singularly influential festivals of all time, with a degree of unbridled buoyancy. The band had certainly found their sound in the streets of London and now their performances, as charged and confrontational as they were, were beginning to make waves across the pond too.
It meant that the group were one of the undoubted highlights of the event. With Roger Daltrey on vocals, John Entwistle stoic on bass, Keith Moon lunacy on drums and Pete Townshend’s thrashing guitar, the group had carved their own niche. And to do so they had used one of the many fragments of broken guitar that lay across the stage.
It was a situation that Jimi Hendrix had seen happen too many times before to let the group go on before him—sure of their impact and ferocious performance on stage. It was a debate he and Townshend managed to eventually work out but not before some rock and roll posturing backstage.
Arriving at the festival on a wave of good feeling, Townshend had tasked his band with a performance that would “leave a wound” in American music and Hendrix was not prepared to go after that kind of performance without a fight. The story goes that Hendrix and Townshend then took part in a legendary jam session backstage to see who may go first.
But Townshend saw it differently and told Ultimate Classic Rock: “I’ve heard Roger talk about it as a jam session, but it wasn’t a jam session. It was just Jimi on a chair playing at me. Playing at me like ‘Don’t f—k with me, you little sh-t.’” Instead, they would have to settle things the old fashioned way: a coin flip. The Who won the toss and would be given the first opportunity to deliver the most vicious side of rock.
The band’s visceral playing style had everyone blown away, as they closed out their performance there was only one song left that they knew would bring down the house, the anthemic ‘My Generation.’ It’s a song which not only typified the band’s playing ability—crashing through with all the intensity of a locomotive on the run—but also of their upcoming position at the top table of rock.
Of course, most fans will know what happens next. As the final notes of ‘My Generation’ began to roll out, Townshend and the rest of the band turn their attentions to their instruments and plot their imminent destruction. As festival organisers desperately try to save equipment from the British invasion, The Who destroy everything in sight.
The Who were sending a message and by the end of their mawkish scrawl, they most certainly left the desired wound on America. Watch it all undfold below.