Writer(s): Pete Townshend (see lyrics here)
First Charted: November 4, 1965
Peak: 74 US, 99 CB, 79 HR, 1 CL, 2 UK, 3 CN, 2 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.25 UK, 0.25 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 23.11 video, 222.94 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
“This was punk before its time – but not even the Sex Pistols were as negative as this.” HL This song captured in the studio the “atmosphere of chaos and disorder” TC which the Who brought to the stage with their “gear-trashing finales.” RS500 This was “a good nominee for rock’s most explosive expression of adolescent rebellion.” AMG It was “the ultimate teen anthem in 1965, and it still holds that spot today.” DT
Guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend told Rolling Stone that it “was very much about trying to find a place in society…I was very, very lost.” RS500 His efforts were to capture the fear about “ the impending strictures of adult life, famously captured in the line ‘Hope I die ’fore I get old.’” RS500 Rumor has it that Townsend was on a train from London to Southampton, on his way to a television appearance on his twentieth birthday when he penned the song. RS500 Manager Kit Lambert had urged Townshend “to make a statement” SJ and, as Townsend said in 1967, “’It’s the only really successful social comment I’ve ever made.” SJ
Bob Dylan said, “Pete seems to have a chip on his shoulder in this song. But he’s not totally confident; he’s somewhat back on his heels. There’s a certain defensiveness. He knows people put him down just because he gets around. Perhaps he feels like he will never measure up or he knows they resent his generation’s newly abundant leisure time. He wishes they would just disappear, fade away…We all rail at the previous generation but somehow know it’s only a matter of time until we will become them ourselves.” BD
Musically, the song’s energy matched “the Who’s live gear-trashing finales.” SS The song not only sports “Townshend spewing feedback all over Keith Moon’s avalanche drumming,” RS500 but, thanks to John Entwistle, “the first ever bass solo on a pop record.” TB Of course, what made the song truly iconic was the stuttered vocal of Roger Daltrey. Lambert had suggested the style to “sound like a British kid on speed.” SF The fumbled words starting off with“F” sound like they’ll be obsence TC and end up symbolizing “the barely articulated frustration of youth.” AMG The BBC briefly banned the record because they thought the stammering was covering for bad language. SS
The song began life as a slow-talking blues based on a Jimmy Reed melody. SS It went through months of being reworked RS500 with the band attempting to record it on three different occasions AMG before getting it in two takes on October 13, 1965. RS500
First posted 11/4/2011; last updated 9/5/2023.