Vinyl of the Week: Who's Next by The Who

The last vinyl pick of 2016 is a pure classic by one of the greatest bands of all time.

Full disclosure, I was never a big fan of The Who. My friends always told me I was crazy, and that I should really give the band a fair chance. All of that changed a few years ago. Around that time, I decided to delve into bands who served as major influences to some of my favorite bands. The two I really fell in love with were Neil Young and The Who.

Neil Young blew me away in concert and hooked me ever since. The Who, while I’ve never seen them live, grabbed me with what I believe to be their best album, Who’s Next. 

Who’s Next was the band’s first straightforward album after the rock opera, Tommy. Originally conceived as a multimedia rock opera called Lifehouse, the band scrapped the idea but held onto many of the core concepts, such as the use of synthesizers. As a result, many of the songs on Who’s Next got their start as Lifehouse tracks.

The album has a life all its own, and has gone down as one of the greatest albums of all time. And for me, there's no better way to listen to Who's Next than the way it was originally released... on vinyl.

Opener Baba O’Riley is one of the greatest album openers ever. It even made my list of top album openers a few weeks back. Here’s what I wrote about it then:

“The song grabs you right away with its opening riff. Pete Townshend has gone on record stating that the song is about the desolation of teenagers at Woodstock who wound up messed up on bad acid. Baba O’Riley can be found on a lot of “best of” lists and has had a second life as a constant cover by Pearl Jam at their live shows. This song in its entirety is almost like a mini rock opera in the vein of Tommy and Quadrophenia.”

Bargain follows. This song is incredible, and is definitely one of the greatest tracks Pete Townshend ever penned. At its core, Bargain is a love song. However, the love is not for a woman, but for God. Keith Moon’s drum beat here shows why he was one of the best of all time. What I enjoy about Bargain is that it isn’t a love song ballad. Instead, it’s a true rocker at heart.

Love Ain’t For Keeping went through many versions during the album’s recording process. Originally written as a hard rock song, this stripped version is a classic. The band shows restraint in all areas, from Moon’s drumming, to Townshend strumming along on the acoustic guitar.

My Wife is a change of pace, as it was the only song on the album written by bassist John Entwistle (he provided the vocals as well). The song is different from the rest of the album, especially considering how the arrangement was built around Entwistle's bass and not Townshend's guitar. Overall, it has a big band feel to it all while presenting a refreshing change of direction on an album full of rockers and ballads.

The Song is Over is one of my favorites on the album hands-down. In what would best be called a duet, both Townshend and Roger Daltrey really bring it here. One of the things I’ve grown to love about The Who is the intricate setups their songs feature. Every piece is so layered and textured from Keith Moon’s amazing drumming, to the memorable vocal performances, all the way down to the guitar and synthesizer work. The Song is Over has everything. On top of that, it’s downright beautiful.

Side two kicks off with Getting in Tune. The song takes what is now a classic staple and builds it up, starting softly and rising to a roaring boom of sound. So many bands have built careers off of this song structure, and The Who are one of the originators. The full blast ending is incredible, as everyone just goes wild and rocks out.

Going Mobile is all Pete Townshend, who handles the vocals and synthesizers, along with his guitar tracks. It’s totally different from anything else on the album. Going Mobile has a fun feel to it, and the major use of synthesizers went on to become a precursor to the electronic style that’s so incredibly popular today.

Behind Blue Eyes is a pure classic. The song starts off as a ballad before evolving into a powerhouse rock track. Originally written for the main villain to sing about the pressure and temptation he feels on the Lifehouse project, Behind Blue Eyes has grown into something more unique, and has been covered by countless other artists. Once again, the song's arrangement and build-up have come to inspire countless musicians following its release. Behind Blue Eyes shows what a big influence not only The Who are, but this album as well.

Similar to the way the album kicks off, with one of the best openers of all time, it ends with one of the best album closers of all time. Won’t Get Fooled Again is rock and roll at its best. Originally written for the Lifehouse project like so many other songs on this album, you totally get a rock opera vibe here. Won’t Get Fooled Again is The Who at their best, as every instrument, voice, and synthesizer all come together into an epic closer.

Wow, what a ride! Who’s Next has so much going for it, it’s no wonder the album is cited as one of the greatest albums of all time. For a band that changed the game as part of the British invasion, they change it again with this album. Just about every song is a classic, showcasing a band that was untouchable at the time. The fact that this album still sounds fresh 45 years after it was recorded is a testament to one of the greatest bands of all time.

The fact that this album still sounds fresh 45 years after it was recorded is a testament to one of the greatest bands of all time. Who's Next is amazing from start to finish, and a must-have for any vinyl collection.

For another classic must-have vinyl, learn why Let it Bleed by The Rolling Stones is nothing short of amazing. If you're looking for some more recent rock, be sure to grab Wasting Light by the Foo Fighters on vinyl!