The music you grow up with is the music that influences the rest of your music taste. Growing up with my parent’s liking of The Beatles, Elvis Presley and The Who definitely gave me an array of different sounds and styles that so importantly influenced the music world. While Elvis Presley and The Beatles are easily some of the first music groups someone may think of as influential, the impact The Who has had on music of the past and the music of today can sometimes be neglected. Being a rock group, The Who calls upon a totally different audience of listeners. Gathering a dedicated fanbase with their first four albums, The Who had no problem with presenting new ideas in their fifth, arguably most popular album, Who’s Next in 1971.
Keeping their signature British rock and roll sound, The Who brought up new ideas in Who’s Next. The first song on Who’s Next, “Baba O’Riley,” starts the album off on a high point. Maybe one of their most recognizable songs, the song begins with its famous electronic arpeggios and turn-arounds to be mixed with recognizable chords on the piano. Although overall musically likeable, the meaning of “Baba O’Riley” is routinely debated. The lyrics may hint at the idea of war, which would have been a controversial topic at the time of the album’s release. In an overlooking perspective, the song vocalizes the hard times of life and how those hard times pay off in the end with “happy ones” afterward. No matter the meaning of the song, “Baba O’Riley” sets the precedent for the rest of the album and no one is let down with the result. Many songs that follow the remarkable album opener, like “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Pure and Easy”, easily uphold the high ranking of Who’s Next.
Music of the 70’s was experimental, pushing for new sounds and new trends for the evolution of music; The Who definitely played their part with Who’s Next. Although Who’s Next is considered a classic rock n’ roll album, The Who did take part in the musical experimentation of its time. While electronic sound does not dominate the album, so much that it could be overbearing, when electronic instruments are introduced in specific songs, those new sounds easily intertwine with The Who’s definite instrumentation, vocalization and style. While the electronic introduction throughout the album is not drastic, The Who easily combine what they knew their fans wanted to hear with their new ideas. This gentle combination of traditional styles and new ideas was just enough to be revolutionary. For its time, Who’s Next is considered to be futuristic rock n’ roll, which is easily an agreeable point based on the influence the album has had with the albums of the twenty-first century.
Who’s Next is a throwback for some, but for others it is the underlying cause for some of the popular albums of the 2000’s. Although the album calls upon a different group of listeners, Who’s Next is an album that everyone should be familiar with during their lifetime. If “Baba O’Riley” does not capture a listener’s attention enough to continue through with the rest of the album, they must not understand the importance this one album holds in itself. As the album goes on, the subtle musical experimentation continues and wins over every fan. The value and influence construed in Who’s Next seems to be unending, molding albums of the present and future to round out everyone’s music collection.
Songs to listen to: “Baba O’Riley”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Behind Blue Eyes”
RIYL: The Rolling Stones, The Smiths, George Harrison