The Who remains one of rock’s most influential bands. Founded in London in 1964, the band’s classic lineup featured Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon.

The final album from the band’s classic lineup was Who Are You, which was released on August 21, 1978. Sadly, Moon died just three weeks after the album’s release from an accidental overdose.

The Who’s entire catalog is full of absolute gems. Most of the band’s music was written by Townshend. He touched on rock’s most iconic themes and feelings in a way few did or really have sense. That aspect was touched on in the 2000 film Almost Famous. Jeff Bebe (Jason Lee) says at one point in the movie, “Some people have a hard time explaining rock and roll, really explain rock and roll. Maybe Pete Townshend, but that’s okay.”

To pay tribute, we’re taking a look at some of The Who’s most iconic lyrics in their catalog. Sit back and enjoy one wild ride!

What’s Next for The Who?

We can’t help but, obviously, think of The Who and the future of the band. Perhaps, the optimal question is whether there actually is a future at all.

In January 2024, Daltrey gave an interview to The Times. In the interview, the legendary singer was asked about the future of The Who. He said he couldn’t give a definitive answer because he’s not the one who writes the songs. (As we all know, Pete Townshend does that.) However, he did say, “[Pete and I] need to sit down and have a meeting, but at the moment, I’m happy saying that part of my life is over.”

In December 2023, Townshend made similar remarks to Record Collector. He said, “I think it’s time for Roger and I to go to lunch and have a chat about what happens next.”

Townshend then added, “Because [the final summer tour stop] shouldn’t feel like the end of anything, but it feels like the end of an era.”

As far as performing and touring goes, Townshend stressed that it all depends on a few factors. Among them is whether an idea would be doable and profitable. Perhaps the most important factor is whether an idea would even be fun to do. Believe it or not, Townshend said he’s had a lot of fun on the road lately, even though he’s said in the past he’s not super fond of touring.

  • “Don’t Cry, don’t raise your eye/It’s only teenage wasteland”

    Townshend has always packed a lot of wryness in his lyrics and general demeanor. A great example can be found on “Baba O’Riley.” The “teenage wasteland” refrain wasn’t celebratory; it was more a cautionary tale of young people and their overuse of acid and other drugs, which was inspired by what he saw when The Who played Woodstock.

  • “Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss”

    One of the best debates could be whether Townshend was a cynic or a realist. Perhaps it’s a little of column A and B. Like “Baba O’Riley,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and its closing line (“Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss”) was inspired by what Townshend saw at Woodstock. He later told Creem in 1982, “All those hippies wandering about thinking the world was going to be different from that day. As a cynical English arsehole, I walked through it all and felt like spitting on the lot of them, and shaking them and trying to make them realise that nothing had changed and nothing was going to change.”

  • “Oh, who the f*ck are you?”

    “Who Are You” came to be after Townshend tied one on with the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones and Paul Cook in New York City. The guitarist got so drunk, he was found passed out by a cop. The officer recognized Townshend and let him go if he could “get up and walk away.” Of course, that still didn’t stop Townshend from asking the cop, “Who the f*ck are you?” when he was awoken from his drunken slumber.

  • “Things they do look awful c-c-cold/I hope I die before I get old”

    As long as more people are born, “My Generation” and its angst will resonate. Long after every member of The Who has left this mortal plane, young people will find this song, and it’ll hit as hard as it did for the Mods of the ’60s.

  • “I’d gladly lose me to find you/Gladly give up all I got/To catch you, I’m gonna run and never stop”

    On the surface, “Bargain” seems like a love song. However, there’s a far greater depth than is expected. Townshend once said of the track, ” … This song expresses how much of a bargain it would be to lose everything in order to be at one with God.”

  • “Listening to you, I get the music/Gazing at you, I get the heat/Following you, I climb the mountain/I get excitement at your feet”

    Closing out Tommy was “See Me, Feel Me.” These lyrics acknowledge the overall theme of senses in relation to the rock opera’s titular character.

  • “I got your body right now on my mind/But I drunk myself blind to the sound of old T. Rex”

    To begin with, drinking while listening to T. Rex is just fun and highly recommended. Also, while The Who’s catalog is incredibly angsty, it’s nice to just hear an upbeat love song.

  • “I’m happy when life’s good, and when it’s bad, I cry/I got values, but I don’t know how or why”

    “The Seeker” embraces the destructiveness of trying to find yourself in an increasingly dark world. Townshend told Rolling Stone in 1970, “Quite loosely, ‘The Seeker’ was just a thing about what I call Divine Desperation, or just Desperation. And what it does to people.”

  • “I know if I go, things would be a lot better for her/I had things planned, but her folks wouldn’t let her”

    Another tribute to youth, but it’s a little more optimistic about drinking and drug use. Townshend said during the recording of The Who’s 2000 live album Live at the Royal Albert Hall, “When I wrote this song I was nothing but a kid, trying to work out right and wrong through all the things I did … There was almost nothing that I didn’t try to use, and somehow I’m alright.”

  • “Long live rock, I need it every night”

    An autobiographical tale, “Long Live Rock” is one of The Who’s best anthems. Anyone that loves rock music and the joy of a raucous live performance can relate to this track on a very primal level.

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