July 28, 2021

My Generation

From the "My Generation" liner notes by Brian Cady.

Recorded October 13th, 1965 at IBC Studio A, London.

From the My Generation liner notes by Brian Cady:

Recorded October 13th, 1965 at IBC Studio A, London.

"The guy who’s singing is supposed to be blocked. It’s reminiscent in a way because Mods don’t get blocked anymore. They get drunk or other things. Pills was a phase…No, he’s not blocked. He just can’t form his words. [Manager] Chris Stamp was all for it, but the others kept wanting to put their own bits in. The ending is a natural progression of what’s come before. It’s the way it happens on stage. It was meant to get back more to the general theme at the end, but it doesn’t."

–Pete Townshend (1965)

This was The Who’s fourth (or fifth?) attempt at recording this song over a period of two months. Most evidence points towards it having been written on May 19th as Pete rode a train to Southampton to appear on a television show. Matt Kent and Andy Neill report that the song may have been inspired by the Queen Mum who reportedly had Pete’s 1935 Packard hearse towed off a street in Belgravia because the sight of it offended her on her daily drive through the neighborhood. The original was a slow "talking" blues without a stutter. Pete reworked it into its present form with the help of manager Chris Stamp. According to Pete in a 2002 message, the "stutter" was inspired by John Lee Hooker’s "Stuttering Blues." As to claims that the stutter was meant to represent the speech pattern of a Mod taking speed pills, Pete called it "an unconscious reference." "My Generation" was released as a single in the U.K. on October 29, 1965 and reached #2. The U.S. single release was November 20, 1965 where it peaked at #74 in the Billboard charts and #99 in the Cash Box charts.

A live version of the song without the stutter and with the background sung as "talkin…talkin." was filmed Aug. 3, 1965 for the U.S. show Shindig. There have been other studio versions of "My Generation", one of which was recorded in 1966 and surfaced on the 1995 A Quick One remaster and another in 1967 for use on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Live versions can be found on The Monterey Pop boxset, Live At Leeds, Live at The Isle Of Wight 1970, Who’s Last and The Blues To The Bush. The stereo version on My Generation: Deluxe Edition is missing the original’s lead guitar.  An instrumental version also appears on My Generation: Deluxe Edition.

From the Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy liner notes by Brian Cady:

Produced by Shel Talmy at IBC Studios, London October 13, 1965.

"The hymn. The patriotic song they sing at Who football matches. I could say a lot about this. I suppose I should say what hasn’t been said, but a lot of what has been said is so hilarious. I wrote it as a throwaway naturally. It was a talking blues thing of the ‘Talking New York’ ilk. I had written the lines of ‘My Generation’ without thinking, hurrying them, scribbling on a piece of paper in the back of a car. For years, I’ve had to live by them, waiting for the day someone says, ‘I thought you hoped you’d die before you got old. Well, you are old. What now?’ Of course most people are too polite to say that sort of thing to a dying pop star. I say it often to myself."
–Pete Townshend

Released as Brunswick 05944 with the B-side "Shout and Shimmy" on October 29, 1965. It reached #2 on the British charts.It charted there again in 1988 (#68) and 1996 (#31).

Released in the U.S. as Decca 31877 with B-side "Out In The Streets" on November 20, 1965 reaching #74 on the Billboard charts and #99 on the Cash Box charts.


The set closer for most of their Sixties career where it would be climaxed with an instrument smashup.

Track #3 on My Generation – The Very Best Of The Who. A stereo and an instrumental version is available on My Generation: Deluxe Edition.

From the Live at Leeds liner notes by Chris Charlesworth with additions by Brian Cady:

If ‘My Generation’ was the only record The Who ever recorded, they would still deserve an honourable mention in any history of rock. Their third single, the Mod anthem of 1965, is still the best known song in their entire catalogue. Pete Townshend has since regretted penning the memorable lines "Hope I die before I get old" but ‘My Generation’ remains the hardest hitting single released by any U.K. pop group in 1965. The Beatles and The Stones, remember, were still writing love songs when ‘My Generation’ was first released.

‘My Generation’ went through many transformations over the course of The Who’s career. Often it became a slow blues that gradually speeded up but here, on what must be one of the longest versions of the song that The Who ever performed, it starts traditionally before meandering off after the bass solo into sections from Tommy, including a whipped-up verse of ‘See Me Feel Me,’ some unsecured blues and R&B hollering, and some excellent soloing by Pete who appears to play against his own echo bouncing off the back of the hall. There are many false endings where Pete silences the band, only to restart and accelerate again.

This version of ‘My Generation’ is as good an example as any of the way in which The Who could play off each other when they were in the mood. By now, they’d been playing on stage together for six years, and there’s no substitute for the intuition that such training generates. Listen for Keith’s repeated sixth-sense count-ins, all pre-empted by a Pete line that’s familiar only to him and John and – as ever – listen to John working overtime as he zooms up and down the longest bass fretboard in rock. The original recording was produced by Shel Talmy at Pye Studios, London on October 13, 1965, and released as a single three weeks later. It reached #2 in the U.K. charts, the highest position any Who single would ever achieve. [except for "I’m A Boy" which also reached #2 in the same chart] Due to lack of promotion in the U.S. it just scraped in at #74.


Here’s Pete’s explanation for this track from his introduction at Leeds: "We do a number now which is kind of a little bit of everything. Mainly, it’s mostly The Who. It’s mostly The Who of about three years ago and mixed in are little bits of The Who today. This is something which is more or less our hymn. The reason we reprise ‘Tommy’ in it, in other words we repeat a bit of it, is to mix all the bits of our history together in a one great, huge deafening din."

On the Canadian version of Live at Leeds this track is broken down into the following songs: 1a. My Generation (Townshend), b. See Me, Feel Me (We’re Not Gonna Take It) (Townshend), c. Higher (Townshend, Entwistle, Daltrey, Moon), d. Overbridge (Townshend, Entwistle, Daltrey, Moon), e. Coming Out To Get You (Townshend, Entwistle, Daltrey, Moon), f. Underture (Townshend), g. Driving Four (Townshend, Entwistle, Daltrey, Moon).

On the original LP this was the first track on side 2 and was 14’27. On the 1995 CD it is track 13, on the 2001 CD disc one – track 12, and is 14’45 on both CD’s. The uncut original is 15’03.

Other live versions of "My Generation" can be found on the Who’s Better, Who’s Best video (1967), the Monterey Pop boxset and movie (1967), The Kids Are Alright movie (1967), Live At The Isle Of Wight 1970, Who’s Next Deluxe Edition (1971), the Thirty Years Of Maximum R&B video (1972), Who’s Last (1982), The Blues To The Bush (1999) and The Who & Special Guests Live at the Royal Albert Hall video (2000).