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Who's Next is the fifth album by the English rock band The Who. It was released on 31 July 1971 by Decca and MCA in the United States and 25 August 1971 in the United Kingdom through Track and Polydor. The album has origins in a rock opera conceived by Pete Townshend called Lifehouse. The ambitious, complex project did not come to fruition at the time and instead, many of the songs written for the project were compiled onto Who's Next as a collection of unrelated songs. Who's Next was a critical and commercial success when it was released, and has been certified 3x platinum by the RIAA.

The Lifehouse project

The album has its roots in the Lifehouse project, which Who leader Pete Townshend has variously described as intended to be a futuristic rock opera, a live-recorded concept album and as the music for a scripted film project. The project proved to be intractable on several levels and caused stress within the band as well as a major falling out between Townshend and The Who's producer Kit Lambert. Years later, in the liner notes to the remastered Who's Next CD, Townshend wrote that the failure of the project led him to the verge of a suicidal nervous breakdown.

After giving up on recording some of the Lifehouse tracks in New York, The Who went back into the studio with new producer Glyn Johns and started over. Although the Lifehouse concept was abandoned, scraps of the project remained present in the final album. The introductory line to "Pure and Easy"—which Townshend has described as "the central pivot of Lifehouse"—shows up in the closing bars of "The Song Is Over". An early concept for Lifehouse featured the feeding of personal data from audience members into the controller of an early analog synthesizer to create musical tracks. It was widely believed that inputting the vital statistics of Meher Baba into a synthesizer generated the backing track on "Baba O'Riley", but in actuality it was Townshend playing a Lowrey organ. A primary result of the abandonment of the original project, however, was a newfound freedom; the very absence of an overriding musical theme or storyline (which had been the basis of several previous Who projects) allowed the band to concentrate on maximizing the impact of individual tracks.

Although he gave up his original intentions for the Lifehouse project, Townshend continued to develop the concepts, revisiting them in later albums. In 2006 he opened a website called The Lifehouse Method to accept personal input from applicants which would be turned into musical portraits.

Arrangement and songs

The album was immediately recognized for its dynamic and unique sound. The album fortuitously fell at a time when great advances had been made in sound engineering over the previous decade, and also shortly after the widespread availability of music synthesizers. The result was a sound that was absolutely stunning at the time, and rather unprecedented in rock music (although disliked by some traditional Who fans of the time). However, as full and brash as the sound is on most of the album there are contrasts with finger-picked acoustic guitar, and Roger Daltrey's swaggering vocals alternate with quieter introspective moments.

Townshend used the early synthesizers and modified keyboard sounds in several modes: as a drone effect on several songs, notably "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again", and as a playful noisemaker, sounding almost like a teakettle whistle on "The Song Is Over". Townshend also used an envelope follower to modulate the spectrum of his guitar on "Going Mobile", giving it a distinctive squawking sound that degenerates into a bubbling noise at the end of the song.

The album opened with the innovative "Baba O'Riley", featuring piano by Townshend and a violin solo by Dave Arbus. The song's title pays homage to Townshend's guru Meher Baba and influential minimalist composer Terry Riley (and is informally known by the line "Teenage Wasteland"). Other signature tracks include the ballad "Behind Blue Eyes", and the album's closing song, the epic "Won't Get Fooled Again", but others such as "Bargain", "My Wife" and "Going Mobile" remain fan favourites.

Cover art

The album cover shows a photograph, taken at Easington Collierymarker, of the band apparently having just urinated on a large concrete piling protruding from a slag heap. According to photographer Ethan A. Russell, most of the members were unable to urinate, so rainwater was tipped from an empty film canister to achieve the desired effect. The photograph is often seen to be a reference to the monolith discovered on the moon in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which had been released only about three years earlier. Director Stanley Kubrick had declined to direct the The Who's Tommy (1975) film version of Tommy. It was ultimately directed by Ken Russell. In 2003, the United States cable television channel VH1 named Who's Next's front cover the second greatest album cover of all time.

An earlier cover design had featured photographs of obese nude females and has been published elsewhere, but never actually appeared on the album. An alternate cover featured drummer Keith Moon dressed in black lingerie, holding a rope whip, and wearing a brown wig. Some of the photographs taken during these sessions were later used as part of Decca's United States promotion of the album.

Recording sessions

  • 1970/71 – Demo sessions at the home studios of Pete Townshend and John Entwistle that produced two reels of songs.
  • January–March 1971 – Live recordings at the Young Vicmarker (mobile Studio).
  • March 1971 – New York sessions at the Record Plant, Lifehouse songs recorded with Kit Lambert and Jack Adams at the desk. These sessions were abandoned, along with the Lifehouse concept.
  • 26 April 1971 – Final Lifehouse concert which was recorded and later released (in part) on disc 2 of the Deluxe Edition of Who's Next
  • May 1971 – Recording at Stargrovesmarker Studio London, the sessions were abandoned.
  • May–June 1971 – Olympic Studiosmarker in Barnes produced by The Who with associate producer Glyn Johns. The Olympic sessions were used for the original vinyl LP album.

The album has now been re-issued in many countries and remastered several times using tapes from different sessions. The master tapes for the Olympic sessions are believed to be lost or destroyed. Video game publisher Harmonix had previously announced that Who's Next would be released as downloadable, playable content for the music video game series Rock Band. However, this never came to fruition, since it was discovered that much of the master tapes to the album were missing, as confirmed by Townshend. Instead, a compilation of Who songs dubbed "The Best of The Who," which includes three of the album's songs ("Behind Blue Eyes", "Baba O'Riley", and "Going Mobile"), was released as downloadable content, in lieu of the earlier-promised Who's Next album.


Who's Next has been named one of the best albums of all time by VH1 (#13) and Rolling Stone (#28). Upon its release it was named the best album of the year in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll. It was also ranked #3 in Guitar World's Greatest Classic Rock Albums list. Many of its nine tracks are perennial favourites on classic rock radio, especially "Baba O'Riley", "Bargain", "Behind Blue Eyes", and the closing track "Won't Get Fooled Again". The album appeared at number 15 on Pitchfork's top 100 albums of the 1970s. The album is also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In 2006, the album was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best albums of all time. In 2007 it was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for "historical, artistic and significant" value. In 1999 it was the subject of a Classic Albums documentary produced by Eagle Rock Entertainment which has aired on VH1 and BBC among others.

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Pete Townshend, except where noted.

Side one
  1. "Baba O'Riley" – 5:11
  2. "Bargain" – 5:33
  3. "Love Ain't for Keeping" – 2:12
  4. "My Wife" (Entwistle) – 3:41
  5. "The Song Is Over" – 6:16

Side two
  1. "Getting in Tune" – 4:50
  2. "Going Mobile" – 3:42
  3. "Behind Blue Eyes" – 3:42
  4. "Won't Get Fooled Again" – 8:32

1995 reissue bonus tracks
  1. "Pure and Easy" (Original version) – 4:22
    • Previously unreleased.
  2. "Baby Don't You Do It" (Holland-Dozier-Holland) – 5:14
    • Previously unreleased. Marvin Gaye cover.
  3. "Naked Eye" (Live) – 5:31
    • Recorded live at the Young Vic on April 26, 1971.
  4. "Water" (Live) – 6:25
    • Previously unreleased. Recorded live at the Young Vic on April 26, 1971.
  5. "Too Much of Anything" – 4:25
  6. "I Don't Even Know Myself" – 4:56
  7. "Behind Blue Eyes" (Original version) – 3:28
    • Previously unreleased.

Deluxe Edition

Disc one
The first disc of the Deluxe Edition contains the nine tracks from the original album, followed by six outtakes, of which "Getting in Tune" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" were previously unreleased. Each of the six outtakes were recorded during sessions at the Record Plant in New York in March of 1971; the group abandoned this material and re-recorded five of the six tracks again in England later in the year.

  1. "Baba O'Riley" – 5:01
  2. "Bargain" – 5:33
  3. "Love Ain't for Keeping" – 2:10
  4. "My Wife" – 3:35
  5. "The Song Is Over" – 6:17
  6. "Getting in Tune" – 4:49
  7. "Going Mobile" – 3:43
  8. "Behind Blue Eyes" – 3:42
  9. "Won't Get Fooled Again" – 8:35
  10. "Baby Don't You Do It" – 8:21
    • Same version featured on the 1995 CD, but longer.
  11. "Getting in Tune" – 6:36
  12. "Pure and Easy" – 4:33
    • Same as the 1995 CD, albeit in an alternative mix.
  13. "Love Ain't for Keeping" – 4:06
    • Electric version previously featured on the 1998 reissue of Odds & Sods.
  14. "Behind Blue Eyes" (Alternate version) – 3:30
  15. "Won't Get Fooled Again" – 8:48
    • Original New York sessions version.

Disc two
The tracks on the second disc were recorded live at the Young Vicmarker Theatre, London, on 26 April 1971. All of the tracks were previously unreleased except for "Water" and "Naked Eye". Songs played but not included are "Pinball Wizard", "Bony Moronie", "See Me Feel Me/Listening to You" and "Baby Don't You Do It".

  1. "Love Ain't For Keeping" – 2:57
  2. "Pure and Easy" – 6:00
  3. "Young Man Blues" – 4:47
  4. "Time Is Passing" – 3:59
  5. "Behind Blue Eyes" – 4:49
  6. "I Don't Even Know Myself" – 5:42
  7. "Too Much of Anything" – 4:20
  8. "Getting in Tune" – 6:42
  9. "Bargain" – 5:46
  10. "Water" – 8:19
  11. "My Generation" – 2:58
  12. "Road Runner" – 3:14
  13. "Naked Eye" – 6:21
  14. "Won't Get Fooled Again" – 8:50


The Who
  • Roger Daltrey — Lead vocals on tracks 1, 2, 3, 6, 8 and 9, co-Lead vocal on track 5, harmonica on "I Don't Even Know Myself"
  • Pete Townshend — Guitar, organ, VCS3 and ARP synthesizer, vocals, and piano on 'Baba O'Riley', Lead vocal on "Going Mobile" and Co-Lead vocal on track 5
  • John Entwistle — Bass guitar, brass, vocals and piano on "My Wife"
  • Keith Moon — drums, percussion

Additional musicians

Sales chart performance

Year Chart Position Notes
1971 Billboard Pop Albums 4  
1971 UK Chart Album 1  
2003 Billboard's Pop Catalog (North America) 5 Deluxe Edition

Year Single Chart Position
1971 "Behind Blue Eyes" Billboard Pop Singles 34
1971 "Won't Get Fooled Again" Billboard Pop Singles 15
1971 "Won't Get Fooled Again" UK Singles Chart 9

Sales certifications

Organization Level Date
RIAA – U.S. Gold 16 September 1971
RIAA – U.S. Platinum 8 February 1993
RIAA – U.S. 3xPlatinum 8 February 1993


  1. Pete's Equipment, Lowrey Berkshire Deluxe TBO-1
  2. Who's Next 1995 remastered CD's liner notes
  3. Van Dam, Rob: "Who’s Next on Rock Band? Not The Who...", GotGame, (14 June 2008).
  4. Transcribed by forum member bomber: "Face The Face: The Pete Townshend Interview", The, (1 February 2008).
  5. Cavalli, Earnest: "Who's Next Replaced by Compilation for Rock Band", Wired News, (1 July 2008).
  6. Robert Christgau: Pazz & Jop 1971: Critics Poll
  7. Outline Page
  8. The All-TIME 100 Albums
  9. The Who Concert Guide
  10. The Who at

External links

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