The Who – Who’s Next: #705 of best 1,000 albums ever!

The Who - Who's Next

Why is The Who’s Who’s Next on my best 1,000 albums ever list?

Take a bow for the new revolution.

What does The Who’s Who’s Next mean to me? What does it make me feel? Why is it exciting or compelling?

It’s kind of strange and hilarious that “Baba O’Riley” later became something of a staple at live sporting events, but that perhaps only embellishes its reputation in some ways.

The arpeggiating keyboard at the start of the song is staggering, and the way the piano chords build into Roger Daltry’s vocals — who has never sounded better — is simply tremendous. And there are very few songs that connect with the disaffection and alienation of growing up than an invocation of a “teenage wasteland.”

Another all time song opening goes to the guitar notes (with flanger effect, if my knowledge of guitar effects holds) kick in on “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” This song and “Baba” are big songs, big in sound and emotion, built to lift a stadium full of fans into a frenzy.

“Behind Blue Eyes” is a slower yet powerful and even angry song, yet it’s also beautiful and a little bit haunting. This is a band who had recently released Tommy (#398 of best 1,000 albums ever), a masterclass of a concept album. Which is to say they know a thing or two about musical dynamics and changing things up for full effect.

While I enjoy songs like “Bargain” and most of the rest of Who’s Next just fine, nothing gets close to the level of the three songs I note above — which is why the album did not land higher than the fully legit in its own right #705 of best 1,000 albums ever slot.

Pop culture stuff that’s somehow related to The Who’s Who’s Next  

This entry kind of has a running theme of strangeness and strange asides (much more on theme below!), so here’s another: “Baba O’Riley” brings to mind The Howard Stern Show, and particularly the era of the Stern show when Artie Lange was a regular. Those years – eight or nine, I believe – represent the iconic radio show’s all-time peak in my view.

Artie, both a huge New York Yankees fan and an expert imitator who does a pretty convincing job of rapping out Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” (especially as an Italian American from Jersey!), would always light up whenever an opportunity to sing along to “Baba O’Riley” came along.

Those who know, know: the Artie days on Stern were an absolutely amazing run.

Personal stuff that’s somehow related to The Who’s Who’s Next  

When Adam came to join Nirav and I during the post-collegiate period when we lived in England (Rochester, Kent to be specific), the timing was optimal in many ways. Nirav and I had slogged through a few months of heavy UK winter (including New Year’s Eve, when my body had the temerity to get nice and sick on me, so we missed out on the alleged lure that we could go to Piccadilly Circus in London whereupon celebrating young ladies would choose to snog with the likes of us come midnight).

Adam was much more outgoing than us, too, in those days which helped up our collective social game. But most of all, as I’ve mentioned once or twice, we discovered our “scene” as we liked to say back then, which was the art college crowded who frequented the Nag’s Head pub. I don’t remember a lot about the people we met these days, but I do recall that it was a fairly large, eclectic, and collectively friendly scene to these three American interlopers who, at 22 or 23 years old, were just slightly older than the crowd at large.

The ”Baba O’Riley” song title brings to my recollection that we were friendly with three different English gals named Rachel. Two of the Rachels in particular we became close with, and one we referred to Rachel Riley and the other as Rachel Rue. I do believe, if memory serves, that the “other” Rachel became “Rachel 3”… not that cool, looking back.

One of my flat mates (let’s call him Mr. X) would snog (read = hook up with) one of the Rachels casually from time to time, as was his way in those days. I also recall that Mr. X was dating a high school student for a while (let’s hope that she was 18 but I honestly don’t recall), prompting me at one point to catch a picture of them together for posterity’s sake. And I had fun relentlessly taunting Mr. X about how his girlfriend needed to get home early to study for her social studies test and such.

Another flat mate and I wound up snogging one of the Rachels as well right before we left for our European travels and then back to the U.S. Yes, the same one that Mr. X had. Looking back these many years later, it was truly a strange time, young and single and living in Europe. But of course things seemed perfectly normal at the time.

Some stats & info about The Who – Who’s Next  

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? British Bands, Hard Rock, Rock Music, Classic Rock, Album Rock
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – #77
  • All Music’s rating5 out of 5 stars
  • When was Who’s Next released? 1971
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #705 out of 1,000

The Who’s Who’s Next on Spotify

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.