Back in the Sixties, Pete Townshend said he didn’t mind “other guys dancing with my girl.” It was fine because he knew “them all pretty well.” Now in the Teens as a septuagenarian, Townshend doesn’t mind “other guys ripping off my song.” Which he so expertly demonstrates by lifting the melody line from that early Who single and giving it a fiery new incarnation as All This Music Must Fade. It’s still fine now, because “we never really got along.”
The joke is that most music is recycled in some form or another. After all, there are only so many guitar chords. This is a theme The Who have visited many times. On the album Who Are You, Pete lamented that he wrote “the same old song with a few new lines, and everybody wants to cheer it.” On Who By Numbers, the complaint was that he’s “seen magic and pain, now I’m recycling trash.” And on Quadrophenia, he was already doubting his own relevance by declaring –
I have to be careful not to preach
I can’t pretend that I can teach
And yet I lived your future out
By pounding stages like a clown…
Thinking The Who no-longer had a place in music with the onslaught of the punk movement (which ironically was greatly influenced by The Who) in the late Seventies, Townshend issued his most angry challenge through his solo work on Rough Boys –
Don’t walk away
I’m still pretty blissed here…
But back to All This Music Must Fade where Pete updates this feeling of irrelevance by declaring at the end “who gives a fuck?” The answer, or perhaps example, is found in the next song from the forthcoming album – Ball and Chain. The song is about Guantanamo, where men are “still guilty with no charge.” In this, everyone should care, because it remains one of the most egregious human rights violations committed by America. But when was the last time you heard anything about this “breach of promise.” We should all give a fuck.
If the rest of the record is as good as these first two songs, Roger Daltrey is right in claiming it is The Who’s best since Quadrophenia.
Who, due out December 6, 2019.