The Who‘s fifth studio album, Who’s Next, considered one of the group’s finest moments, was released 50 years ago this Saturday, August 14.
The follow-up to the legendary British band’s classic 1969 “rock opera” Tommy, Who’s Next was put together from songs that The Who’s main songwriter and songwriter Pete Townshend composed for a multimedia project called Lifehouse that was based around the concept of a future society where music was outlawed.
Townshend’s grand vision for Lifehouse proved impossible to pull off, and the project was abandoned, but some songs and sonic ideas, including the use of synthesizers, were salvaged for Who’s Next.
The album peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200, and was the group’s only release to reach #1 on the U.K. albums chart. It features some of The Who’s most popular and enduring songs, including “Baba O’Riley,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Bargain.”
“Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Behind Blue Eyes” also were released as singles, and both made it into the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #15 and #34, respectively.
“Baba O’Riley,” the album’s lead track, is often incorrectly referred to as “Teenage Wasteland.” Its title was inspired by the names of Townshend’s guru, Meher Baba, and one of Pete’s musical inspirations, minimalist composer Terry Riley.
The album’s iconic cover humorously appears to show the band members having just relieved themselves on a huge concrete monolith. However, only Townshend actually urinated on the structure; rainwater was used to mimic the effect for the group’s other members.
Who’s Next is The Who’s most successful U.S. album, selling over 3 million copies. In 2020, Rolling Stone ranked it at #77 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
Here’s the Who’s Next track list:
“Love Ain’t for Keeping”
“The Song Is Over”
“Getting in Tune”
“Behind Blue Eyes”
“Won’t Get Fooled Again”
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