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My Generation

My Generation


by The Who


A handful of elements combine to distinguish "My Generation" from other songs, musically speaking. A pulsing introduction quickly gives way to a series of call and response vocals. Toward the middle of the song John Entwistle and Pete Townsend engage in their own instrumental call and response on bass and guitar. And at the end of the song Townsend makes liberal use of power chords and feedback to bring it to a thunderous, somewhat chaotic close.

These elements combine to make the song what it is, but they also reflect a great deal about the band. There was a rhythm and blues foundation to The Who's earliest music, and their first album included several R&B covers. That influence is reflected in the call and response vocals drawn from that background. Entwistle's bass was highlighted because he was the band's strongest technical musician. With his distinctive "typewriter" style of play, "Thunderfingers" is considered one of the great rock bassists. Townshend is also a legendary guitarist, but he is recognized more for his innovative use of the power chord and feedback than for his technical mastery. In fact, some have argued that he used feedback and volume to disguise his limited technical skills.

All of this song's elements are relatively simple. The Who and rock and roll would grow more complex in the next few years. But for many punk bands, Who songs like "My Generation" represent the sort of stripped down, no frills rock and roll that rock should never have abandoned. Thematically, the song also resonates with punk in its contempt for age and disdain for tradition without any sort of mitigating or alternative idealism. The song's most famous line—"I hope I die before I get old"—anticipated the more apocalyptic nihilism expressed by the Sex Pistols in their declaration of "no future" in "God Save the Queen."

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