I have been skirting around doing My Generation for a long time because of its precarious placement in the lower end of the list. However, with my most recent post of the 1001 songs list reaching 1969 it’s become a bit odd having some of these older albums still to do, especially those that still so highly thought of.
When I started listening to My Generation I found it shocking that this was The Who’s first album. If you listen back to the debut releases of The Beatles, Elvis Presley and The Rolling Stones you find albums that are littered with covers and only offer a hint of what was to come.
Whilst My Generation does feature some covers, they feel like they are a more cohesive part of the album that something stuck on there either at the last minute or to pander to the crowd. In fact the covers are interesting in themselves as they take on R&B songs from 10 years previous, which are then updated to fit in on the album.
Well I say fit in. As cohesive as this album is The Who still veer between genres. There are influences from R&B and classic rock and roll, as you would expect, but rather than just playing to those My Generation is taking these genres forward.
Tracks like ‘My Generation’ and ‘The Kids Are Alright’ are prime examples of the new rock genres that were starting to develop – genres that would properly evolve into hard rock, punk rock and metal. These aren’t quite yet at the proto-punk levels of music that comes out soon afterwards, but these are steps in the same direction.
Whilst not as prevalent on all songs, there are hints of this same purposeful roughness throughout the album. There are discordant harmonies, raging drums and (not quite, but almost) shredding guitars. This really does feel like a band brimming with confidence – and this album was a rush job to capitalise on successful singles.
Maybe the fact that this was a rush job ultimately helped the album out. The great thing about this album overall is that it feels natural and not overthought. Overthinking can help with some albums (otherwise we wouldn’t have beautifully produced tracks like ‘God Only Knows’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby’ – but sometimes overthinking ends up giving us ‘Chelsea Girls’. Gross.