Understanding the true meanings behind The Who's lyrics.

The Who are one of the most iconic and influential bands in rock music history, famous for their powerful lyrics and often destructive live performances.

Lead guitarist Pete Townshend is the lyrical mastermind behind the band's backcatalogue of classic tracks. But have you ever wondered what Toweshend's lyrics are truly about?

In this blog post, we'll dive into the music of The Who and uncover the hidden meanings in their lyrics.

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The inspiration behind the lyrics

The band's original lineup consisted of lead vocalist Roger Daltrey, guitarist Pete Townshend, bassist John Entwistle, and drummer Keith Moon. Having all come from working-class backgrounds, their lyrics tap into themes of social realism, youth culture, and rebellion.

One of the most notable influences on The Who's sound is the '60s Mod movement. The youth subculture started in London in the early part of the decade, born out of a passion for fashion, music, and scooters.

The Who's music and lyrics were greatly influenced by the Mod subculture, and songs, such as "My Generation," reflect the attitudes and frustrations of young people at the time.

In regards to their music style, the band were inspired by rock and soul kingpins like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and James Brown. Guitarist Townshend also drew influences from instrumental rockers such as The Ventures and Link Wray.

The Who were famous for creating the 'rock opera' with their concept albums 'Qaudrophenia' and 'Tommy'.  Regarded as some of their most ambitious work to date, these records had a significant impact on the band's writing style.

Townshend turned storylines into songs that were meant to be experienced as a whole. His abstract lyrics were cleverly left open to interpretation, leaving listeners searching for deeper meanings to be discovered.

Iconic Songs of The Who

Won't Get Fooled Again

Released in 1971, 'Won't Get Fooled Again', is one of The Who's most popular tracks, widely recognised for its commanding lyrics and heavy guitar riff.

The song discusses themes of disillusionment and the desire for change. The lyrics speak to the frustrations of a generation that felt they were being ignored.

According to Songfacts.com, Townshend 'wrote this song about a revolution'. The lyrics "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" alludes to the idea that power can be overthrown, but in the end, 'the new regime becomes like the old one'.

In Townshend's biography, he explained the song is about 'antiestablishment' but admitted that he felt as though "revolution is not going to change anything in the long run, and people are going to get hurt."

Baba O'Riley

Another classic 'Who track is 'Baba O'Riley' known for its iconic opening synth riff and the famous line, "teenage wasteland".

Townshend wrote the song based on his experiences at Woodstock festival. An article on Americansongwriter.com explains that 'after the band played their 1969 concert, the field was covered in trash from fans, which inspired the line: "teenage wasteland."

In an interview, Townshend said the song was inspired by “the absolute desolation of teenagers at Woodstock, where audience members were strung out on acid and 20 people had brain damage. The irony was that some listeners took the song to be a teenage celebration.”

My Generation

'My Generation' is, without doubt, most famous The Who's most famous song, and its lyrics are often seen as a statement of the band's attitude and views.

The song was an anthem for a generation of frustrated youths, and naturally, parents detested it. As Shoomp explains, 'To parents, the song was all about contempt for traditional values, disrespect for life, and mockery of the experience and wisdom that come with age.'

Although Townshend was only 20 when he penned the track, lines like "I hope I die before I get old," perfectly articulated 'the alienation felt by young mods, their demand for a voice, and [his] own sense of displacement.'

The Who's lyrics are known for their powerful themes and articulate storytelling. From the Mod subculture to concept albums, the band's music and lyrics have been heavily influenced by their personal experiences.

The Who will be heading out on tour for the first time in 6 years in 2023. Check out our blog 'Will The Who tour in 2023?' for the latest tour news.

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