On this day, 54 years ago, The Who released the single “My Generation” in the UK.
The song has been said to have “encapsulated the angst of being a teenager,” and has been characterised as a “nod to the Mod counterculture”.
Written by Pete Townshend and sung by Roger Daltrey (lead vocal), “My Generation” was named the 11th greatest song by Rolling Stone on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and 13th on VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Songs of Rock & Roll. It is also part of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and is inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for “historical, artistic and significant” value. In 2009 it was named the 37th Greatest Hard Rock Song by VH1.
“My Generation” has been said to have “encapsulated the angst of being a teenager,” and has been characterised as a “nod to the Mod counterculture”.
Townshend reportedly wrote the song on a train and is said to have been inspired by the Queen Mother, who is alleged to have had Townshend’s 1935 Packard hearse towed off a street in Belgravia because she was offended by the sight of it during her daily drive through the neighbourhood. Townshend has also credited Mose Allison’s “Young Man Blues” as the inspiration for the song, saying “Without Mose I wouldn’t have written ‘My Generation’.” Townshend told Rolling Stone in 1985 that “‘My Generation’ was very much about trying to find a place in society.”
Perhaps the most striking element of the song is the lyrics, considered one of the most distilled statements of youthful rebellion in rock history. The tone of the track alone helped make it an acknowledged forebear of the punk rock movement. One of the most quoted—and patently rewritten—lines in rock history is “I hope I die before I get old,” famously sneered by lead singer Roger Daltrey.
About the statement “I hope I die before I get old” Townshend said that, for him, when he wrote the lyrics, “old” meant “very rich”.
Like much of The Who’s earlier Mod output, the song boasts clear influences of American rhythm and blues, most explicitly in the call and response form of the verses.
The instrumentation of the song duly reflects the lyrics: fast and aggressive. Significantly, “My Generation” also featured one of the first bass solos in rock history.
Some people think this concert could be considered as one of the important days of the birth of punk rock, a massive proto-punk moment, pre-CBGB and Never Mind the Bollocks. While Keith Moon, he’s an absolute machine gun, one of the greatest drummers ever. He was the Jimi Hendrix of the drums.
You can also see in the video the so-called auto-destructive art, a signature of the Who’s live set: Townshend smashed his guitar on stage and followed by Moon kicking his drum kit over.