Night Music: The Who, “The Song Is Over”

This is the worst song on Who’s Next, the Who’s fifth studio album and the one they were touring behind when I saw them live the only time, in Forest Hills at the tennis stadium on July 29, 1971, about a month before the album was released. The opening band that night was Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles. Voules voux avec moi!

I bring it up because I heard Baba O’Reilly today, and was reminded just how perfect this elpee was. The Soong is Over is the worst of it, by a long shot. I can live with that, something has to come last.

9 thoughts on “Night Music: The Who, “The Song Is Over”

  1. This is an album that I really liked when it came out but has not sustained except for a few songs. I always thought Goin Mobile was a great song that could have been better executed. Baba O’Relly, Bargain and Won’t Get Fooled Again are played out. The one that I still love and sounds better than ever is the non-Townsend song:

  2. I don’t like The Who, hardly at all. I know that’s downright blasphemous and is an entire subject unto itself. In a nutshell, Townsend acts like a power guitarist, but his sound simply isn’t powerful (you know I’m a Gibson/Marshall man myself and Townsend is miles from that territory). As well, I can’t stand Moon’s drumming. Pitty-pat, pitty-pat, all over the place instead of the whap-whap-whap that I like.

    Songs here and there work for me (“My Generation” for example), but lots of the “classic” stuff doesn’t.

  3. I’ll give you overplayed/overheard and the thinness of Townsend’s guitar, that’s why they have roaring synths, plus these guys didn’t age well. Townsend has always seemed joyless and Daltrey bombastic, but Moon’s drumming is way more Whapitty-whap-whap than Pitty pat, and this collection of songs got overheard because it manages to balance and render invisible nearly all this band’s flaws. Classic for a reason.

    And Entwhistle was always the palate cleanser.

  4. Moon pays way too little attention to the mighty snare drum. Who would be impressed by roaring synths? (A lion, maybe?)

  5. The concept of the rhythm guitar holding down the fort allows for the busier Moon/Entwhistle combo. Many times it works, especially on the early stuff like “I Can See For Miles.” By the time of Quadrophenia they had almost completely run out of gas. I could never tell the difference between a Marshall and a Hiwatt myself, and Townsend was playing mostly Les Pauls by the end of the 60s. BTW, when Hendrix was starting out he consulted Townsend on what equipment he should use, The Who being the loudest band in the world at that time. But I think Steve is right that the Rickenbacker sounds thin in light of the crunch to come. Talk about blasphemous, my favorite Who song is The Kids Are Alright – a garage tryst between the Kinks and the Beach Boys.

    • My Family Feud answer for favorite Who song is Substitute, but Kids are All Right, My Generation and I Can See For Miles all register, as does the ludicrous but gorgeous Love Reign O’er Me.

      According to Wikipedia, Joe Walsh gave Townsend a Gretsch Chet Atkins guitar which is what he played all over Who’s Next.

  6. Fuck all of you (and have a happy holiday!)

    I too saw the Who during that ’71 tour, though in the fall, right after the album came out.

    And, I make no secret that with the Kinks, the Who are my favorite band, in fact if you asked me which is my all-time fave band, “The Who” comes out of my mouth first.

    “The Song is Over” was part of a Townshend envisioned work called “Lifehouse” that was well, as I remember, “aborted.”

    However, the best of the “Lifehouse” tunes worked their way into “Who’s Next,” which opens with the song “Pure and Easy.” And, the opening words to “Pure and Easy” are “There once was a note, pure and easy, playing so free like a breath, rippling by.”

    The last cut of “Who’s Next” is “The Song is Over,” which ends with Daltrey singing, “Saving one noted, pure and easy….”

    True, Townshend could be grandiose. True, Keith Moon was not a metronome. In fact there are numerous clips of Townshend bemoaning the fact that he just wanted that: a tick tock timekeeper, as Steve sort of suggests.

    But, there is no denying what a great sum of the parts the Who really were, especially considering what the band consisted of (killer bass, all over the place drums, and mostly a lot of chordal shapes).

    Great they were, and Townshend deserves full credit for simply trying shit. I mean, “The Who Sell Out” was so much more full of humor than either of its contemporary theme albums, “Sgt. Pepper” or “Their Satanic Majesty’s Request” (and I still love both of those discs, too) but nothing in any of those two discs comes close to “I Can See for Miles” (“Good Morning” comes close, but is not epic).

    I actually find “Who Are You” (save the great Entwhitsle cut, “905” to be the one that I can really not tolerate (I hate “Eminence Front” mostly from a combo of overplay and somehow being more highly regarded than Substitute,” or “The Kids are Alright” or even “Pictures of Lily.”

    But, well, the Who were as powerful, and equally important creative and smart as any of them, and Townshend led the way.

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