Who is Next?
Sometimes you can’t go when you need to. That’s what photographer Ethan Russell found out when he shot the cover for Who’s Next.
Turning away from a concrete piling, located in an old English mining town called Easington Colliery, the band appear to have just left their urine signatures on the stone. But Russell recalled discreetly, “Most of the members were unable to go, so rainwater was tipped from an empty film canister to achieve the desired effect.
In 2003, VH1 named Who’s Next the second greatest album cover of all time.
And what about the music inside?
Who fans are already well-versed in the birth of Who’s Next, but – in a nutshell – the follow-up to Tommy was originally supposed to be another song cycle, titled Lifehouse, based around a storyline that nobody other than maybe Pete Townshend really understood. His band mates even had a tough time grasping the theme.
According to Townsend, “The essence of the story-line was a kind a futuristic scene…It’s a fantasy set at a time when rock ’n’ roll didn’t exist. The world was completely collapsing and the only experience that anybody ever had was through test tubes. In a way they lived as if they were in television programs. Everything was programmed. The enemies were people who gave us entertainment intravenously, and the heroes were savages who’d kept rock ‘n’ roll as a primitive force and had gone to live with it in the woods. The story was about these two sides coming together and having a brief battle.”
Townshend eventually cracked under the pressure, and the scaled-back, narrative-free Who’s Next was the result.
To his credit, “Lifehouse” easily could have been The who’s equivalent to Brian Wilson’s ‘Smile”. The greatest record never made. But Townsend somehow pulled it together.
And what a result. It’s The Who’s crowning achievement. Maybe freeing himself from a storyline relaxed the band enough just to make what was not only their most epic record, but quite possibly the most epic record in history.
It starts huge. Baba O’Riley with it’s signature synthesizer percussive sound. What could be more monumental than that song.
Well, it ends with “Won’t get Fooled again”. That’s what could be more monumental.
So it has these huge bookends. But what about the in between…filler.
Think again. “Behind Blue eyes”, “Getting in Tune”, “Going Mobile”, and “bargain” would have been nice bookends for any other album.
One of THE most classic albums in history.
Thanks Pete for forging on. And kudos to Roger Daltrey for singing like he seriously never had before, John Entwistle for holding it all together as usual, and Keith Moon…well for just being Keith Moon.
“Pick Up My Guitar And Play
Just Like Yesterday
Then I’ll Get On My Knees And Pray
We Don’t Get Fooled Again”