25.6.15

THE WHO – Won’t Get Fooled Again

Because Universal probably won’t appreciate me posting the notes to too many of The Who’s Track singles in their forthcoming box set, here’s the last one for now, another song they’ll no doubt be playing in Hyde Park and at Glastonbury.



A: Won’t Get Fooled Again
Written by Pete Townshend. © 1971 Fabulous Music Ltd.
Produced by The Who, associate producer Glyn Johns.

B: Don’t Know Myself
Written by Pete Townshend. © 1971 Fabulous Music Ltd.
Produced by The Who, associate producer Glyn Johns.

Originally released as Track 2094 009 on 25 June 1971, it reached Number 9 in the British charts.

Now a cornerstone of The Who’s repertoire, ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ was the key song on Who’s Next, a lengthy call to arms that became the traditional show closer at Who concerts in 1975/76. This single version is a fairly drastic edit of the eight-and-a-half-minute album track, losing the lengthy synthesiser break and drum barrage which set up Roger’s blood-curdling scream before the apocalyptic final verse about the new boss being the same as the old one. Recorded in April on the Rolling Stones’ 16-track mobile studio at Stargroves, Mick Jagger’s Victorian country mansion near Newbury in Berkshire, the song is based around a clattering synthesizer riff that locks the group into a tight, rhythmic performance, classic mid-period Who at their towering best; Roger singing his heart out, Pete’s block chords firmly in place, John swooping up and down his bass and Keith an almighty presence on drums, albeit slightly more disciplined than usual in view of the song’s inflexible structure.
With lyrics that address the futility of revolution when the conqueror is likely to become as corrupt as the conquered, the song inspired many a clenched fist, especially when Roger came careering in at the end of that lengthy instrumental passage, declaiming the ‘bosses’ and inciting the kind of scenes that left the Bastille in ruins. That scream before the final verse is one of the most volatile vocal eruptions ever recorded and, on stage, triggered an Olympian leap from Pete that saw him slide across the stage on his knees to end up in front of John.
              Many of the songs on Who’s Next, notably its opening flourish ‘Baba O’Riley’, featured prominent synthesisers but unlike many of his less imaginative peers Pete didn’t use this en vogue contraption simply as a solo keyboard that could make funny noises. In his hands it conjured up a rotating musical loop that underpinned melodies and, in the case of ‘Fooled Again’, added a sharp bite to the rhythm track. It is true to say that Pete and Stevie Wonder, on his trilogy of ground breaking albums that commenced in 1972 with Music Of My Mind, were the first musicians of their generation to make proper creative use of this new and subsequently much abused electronic toy. In fact, the synthesizer style on Who’s Next is the first appearance on a rock record of the repetitive electronic sequencing so beloved of Kraftwerk and which would dominate modern dance music in the nineties.
              Pete: “It’s really a bit of a weird song. The first verse sounds like a revolution song and the second like somebody getting tired of it. It’s an angry anti-establishment song. It’s anti people who are negative. A song against the revolution because the revolution is only a revolution and a revolution is not going to change anything at all in the long run, and a lot of people are going to get hurt.”
              ‘Don’t Know Myself’ was recorded during the spring of 1970 at Pete’s home studio close to Eel Pie Island on the Thames at the south western tip of London. It was part of a planned EP project but appeared instead as the flip of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. A Lifehouse reject which wasn’t quite up to the standard of the other songs Pete was writing in 1970, the song blends a fierce verse and chorus with a strange, country and western style middle eight that features Keith tapping a wooden block. Often played live in 1970/71, it was dropped when Who’s Next provided the band with better stage material. 

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