Who’s Next, released in 1971, followed close on the heels on Tommy (1969) and Live At Leeds (1970) to comprise one of the great three-album runs in rock history. If you add the compilation album, Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy (1971), as well as Quadrophenia (1973), you have a spectacular group of albums issued in a short span of time that pushed The Who toward the top of the rock pantheon. The respective quality and musical visions of each of these works maintain an important legacy.
Pete Townshend ultimately decided to abandon his Lifehouse project, which was his original narrative for what evolved into Who's Next. Still, out of failure sometimes comes genius and some of the Lifehouse songs were resurrected for inclusion on this traditional studio release, helping to form a truly memorable album.
Who’s Next finds The Who and specifically Pete Townshend moving in a new direction. The sound is a little slicker and more polished than the band's previous releases as Townshend adds keyboards, particularly the synthesizer, to his approach. He places this instrument's versatility in the midst of The Who’s elemental three-instrument attack and moves everything over to something fresh and exciting.
Songs such as “Baba O’ Riley,” “Bargain,” “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” have been radio staples for over 35 years. “Baba O’Riley” is some of the best hard rock of the era. “Behind Blue Eyes” is a rock anthem that shows the flexibility of Roger Daltrey’s voice.
“Won’t Get Fooled Again” is eight plus minutes of some of the best, most powerful music ever recorded. As Pete Townshend’s guitar thunders and Daltrey’s voice soars, Keith Moon maintains a frenetic pace on drums. John Entwistle’s sedate and solid bass provides the foundation for the song. It is essential listening for any fan of rock music.
I think that this is The Who album that I have actually played the most during my lifetime. It finds them at the height of their creative powers as they leave behind a musical statement that not only rings, but roars through rock history.