Song Lyric Sunday: The Who

Today’s SLS theme, set for us by Jim in his post Never Made It, is to play a song by a band who never had a #1. For British readers it may come as a surprise to know that my choice qualifies for this, as the band has been hugely popular here for nearly sixty years and you’d have thought there would be at least one chart topper in their back catalogue, wouldn’t you? They have had a #1 album here – just the one – but as this is about songs I think I’m on safe ground concentrating on the singles chart. The Who have had thirteen top ten hits in the UK but have never got higher than #2, which they have done twice. As it has become such an iconic track over the years I’m playing you the first of those (the other was I’m A Boy). Recognise this?

My Generation was the title track of The Who’s first album, which was released in December 1965 and reached #5 here, though it didn’t make the US chart. The single had been released earlier (October in the UK, November in the US), and peaked at #2 here, whilst also making a chart entry in the US at #74. According to Wikipedia Pete Townshend reportedly wrote the song on a train and is said to have been inspired by the Queen Mother, who is alleged to have had his 1935 Packard hearse towed off a street in Belgravia because she was offended by the sight of it during her daily drive through the neighbourhood. I’ve no way of confirming if that is true but it’s a great story! If the song was written with that inspiration, its lyrics are certainly a strong case of youthful rebellion at the older, privileged upper classes:

People try to put us d-down (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Just because we get around (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (talkin’ ’bout my generation)

This is my generation
This is my generation, baby

Why don’t you all f-fade away (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
Don’t try to dig what we all s-s-s-say (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I’m not trying to ’cause a big s-s-sensation (talkin’ ’bout my generation)
I’m just talkin’ ’bout my g-g-g-generation (talkin’ ’bout my generation)

My generation
This is my generation, baby

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Peter Townshend

The use of the stutter in Roger Daltrey’s singing, ten years before Bachman Turner Overdrive did it too, has been much discussed. Theories include Daltrey being nervous in the recording studio, the introduction of a pause to fool the listener into thinking that an expletive was about to be inflicted on them (“why don’t you all f-f..”), or that the stutter was a device to make the singer sound like a young Mod on amphetamines. Whatever the reason, the ever watchful BBC initially refused to play the track because it didn’t want to offend people who stutter, but it reversed that decision after the song became more popular. Same old Beeb – see a bandwagon, jump on it!

I was 12 when this came out, and the apocryphal line “hope I die before I get old” has stayed with me throughout my life. This has long been a favourite of mine: I was a big fan of the band as I was growing up, and used to annoy my Mum by running round the lounge singing accompaniment to this at the top of my voice, and looking pointedly at her! I’m 68 now, and still wish for it not to become true! (Mum made it to 87, which is a fair innings, I think). And just in case you’re wondering how much life we have left in us, try this video (you’ll need to click the ‘watch on YouTube’ link to see it but believe me, it’s worth it!):

The Zimmers are amazing, and so much fun! There is, I think, something special about a 90 year old singer giving us that line. They make a couple of important points with those cards they hold up, which we should all keep in mind for our elderly relatives, and I just love the lady doing the Pete Townshend arm swirl movement, the mass instrument destruction à la Who, and the guy at the very end. They recorded this at the Abbey Road Studios made famous by The Beatles and yes, it is THAT zebra crossing that they walk across: I used to work near there and know it well. This song, and their subsequent records, came out of a tv documentary intended to highlight the impact of becoming older, and their cover made that point well by reaching #26 in the UK chart in 2007. I think The Who would have been pleased with them and their attitude!

56 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday: The Who

  1. Hi Clive
    Enjoyed learning more about this song
    And untestable that it might have been inspired by that towing of The 1935 Packard hearse …
    Also – the line about “hope I die before I get old” is a bit sinister for me and I think on one hand we can gloss over some song lyrics and like you said – it targets that youthful attitude with this kind of rebel mindset – but on the other hand I think lyrics can negatively impact some people more than others.
    And so while that line stayed with you in a certain way – and while I glossed over it anytime I sang it – I think some folks might be more impressionable and this impacts their mindset – and not with wisdom –
    Because we should teach the youth about generational phases and the beauty of stages – but many youth do not get that teaching and music becomes their main teacher –
    A while back, I heard someone talk about this more in depth – and the dangerous deception of not wanting to age and a shallow mindset the youth can easily have that robs them from unity –/

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. The Zimmers video made my day! Thank you. About the stutter . . . I think it was just one of those things that said “I don’t give a sh*t what you think–this is cool.” Sort of like Oogo Chaka ooga ooga.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They seem to have had that effect for everyone who watched it! I almost didn’t include it because of the limitation, but I’m so glad I did! As for the stutter, I think we’ll never know, but it certainly made for a good talking point to get the song noticed.

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  5. Great job by The Zimmers and The Who. It was delightful to see some older folks having fun. Don’t you find it curious how many people like to reminisce and say that the music was better in earlier eras but then get offended if we disagree on which decade was the best? I can find something I like in any period.

    You might be interested that I had a Jim Borden sighting on my blog this week. He says he’s coming back but in smaller doses. You’ve been doing this longer than me, but I get worried about people when they suddenly drop out of sight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They’re very different but I love both – I just had to include The Zimmers!

      I think that is something to do with when we grew up and were first getting into music, so for me the best period was the 60s and 70s, up to the time punk and disco arrived to spoil it all! As I get older I find much less of the chart music appeals to me but, as you say, there is still good new music to be found. Others will have their preferences but I think it is an age-related thing.

      Great to hear that Jim is still taking an interest, and thank you for the update. It will be wonderful to have him back with us, even if he doesn’t go for the same regularity of posting. He and I were kicking around an idea for complementary posts on a music theme, so it would be good to try that!

      Liked by 1 person

      • He’s as nice as a man as he comes across on his blog. That would be fun for you guys. Somehow, I think Springsteen will make an appearance.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I remember your post when you met up with him, you said as much in that! Funnily enough, without giving the game away, Springsteen would be nowhere near it, if it comes off 😉

        Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been a fan of The Who since the beginning and for me they have made some great records since Tommy too. I just had to include The Zimmers – music is meant to be enjoyed and they sure do!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad to have introduced you to the song, Robbie.

      That’s a real shame about the second one. Does it not even work if you click the link to watch on YouTube? If not, all I can suggest is that you search YouTube for ‘the Zimmers’ to see if there is one available for you. Believe me, it will be worth it!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Clive, I read that after recording two takes of the song normally, Kit Lambert suggested to Daltrey that he should stutter to sound like a British kid on speed. Nice choice for a group that should have had a #1 song.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s one of the theories I mentioned, but those in the know have never confirmed the truth. I guess it suits them better to keep it a mystery. Thanks – they aren’t alone in deserving a #1 but not getting one.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Clive, the stutter to me is unneeded and adds an element that invites criticism. I keep thinking of the movie “The King’s Speech” about Queen Elizabeth’s father who had a terrible stutter and was made fun of by his father the king and his abdicating brother Edward. The Who song is still relevant just reading the words, without the stutter. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • One of the other theories, that I didn’t mention, is that it just came out like that and Shel Talmy, who produced the record, liked its effect and kept it in. It has certainly helped the song get publicity! I agree that mocking a stutter is wrong, and thought The King’s Speech did an excellent job of showing what people go through.

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