Until this year, if you wanted The Who's debut album on CD, you had to settle for the American version (The Who Sings My Generation) released on MCA with the typically mediocre presentation their CDs had in the 1980s (poorly reproduced cover art, generic back cover design, ads for other fine MCA compact discs, etc). The original British release of the album has remained missing in action thanks to legal problems over ownership since the 1960s. The mildly bizarre spectacle of producer Shel Talmy trying to auction the master tapes on eBay a couple of years ago suggested the situation might be about to change, and at last it has, with My Generation becoming part of MCA/Universal's Deluxe Edition series.
What we now have is a 13-track album (conflating the UK and US versions, each of which had a different 12th song) plus a swag of additional tracks from the period. Just how successful the enterprise is, of course, is hard to say. It goes without saying that the original album is a fantastic piece of work, for all that the band themselves soon came to despise it. However, as the new CD's notes explain, the album that emerged in December 1965 was not the album the band set out to record. Early sessions for the album were held in March and April 1965, for release in July; however, when music columnist John Emery heard a tape of those sessions, he expressed disappointment that the band had relied on so many covers, and suggested they write more of their own stuff.
The advice was duly taken to heart and Pete Townsend started producing more originals. Four songs from the earlier sessions were retained and added to eight new tracks from new recording sessions in October to finally produce My Generation. The remaining tracks from the earlier sessions later saw release on 7" singles and the rarities compilation Who's Missing (the legal problems that followed the album's release gave Decca the right to release and re-release a total of 24 songs, album tracks, single sides and others, from those sessions), and now form part of the bonus material on the second disc. Which is, in a way, where the problems with the new deluxe edition begin for me.