My Love Affair With #2: THE WHO
See here for my Love Affair with THE RAMONES
So after my initial burst of love for 70s punk bands, I was eager to find more music. But naturally I couldn’t like modern music, oh no, modern bands were trendy or hip or too cool for me. No Franz Ferdinand or Arctic Monkeys fan I.
The Who have been covered by Sex Pistols (Substitute) and as soon as you read about Joey Ramone, you discovered his love for 60s rock bands (The Ramones also covered Substitute). York 70s punk band Cyanide covered I’m A Boy. When Steve Jones and Paul Cool met Pete Townsend on the night out which would inspire The Who’s 1978 song Who Are You?. Not only that, I was a huge fan of The Jam, so wanted to retrace the roots of mod. So what was it about The Who which the punks of the late 70s liked so much?
For me, The Who were a rebellious band that weren’t necessarily a punk band. Proof you didn’t need to wear leather jackets, be dirty, spike your hair and never shower to still be angry. I’ll probably repeat these arguments for The Jam when I come to them, but at the time I was still quite into being smart, or at least I wasn’t up for spikes and grubbiness.
Fusing my love for The Who and The Jam, I set out to become my own style of mod. When I made my myspace page, it was covered in the mod target symbol and ska song quotes (you might still be able to find it with a google search, but I’m not going to link you to it!). All the York punks knew me as Mod Henry. I loved visiting Carnaby Street. But I never bothered with a scooter or dressing mod every day. For me it was about the music, and my parka proudly adorned band patches and badges rather than Vespa and scooter images. They also helped cement my faith in British bands (it would be a while before I gave American acts a chance).
I never quite got into the psychedelic side to The Who, their albums like The Who Sell Out are a little twee and odd, not a staunch offering of music. Tommy I found dull and long when I watched it. Their 70s rock singles are classics, but their albums don’t do much for me. It’s their cool roots in 1960s mod culture which really appeals. They are the Kings of Mod, the Kings of Cool. They are Mod. The Mod Band. When The Mighty Boosh’s Noel Fielding claimed to be The King of The Mods in series 2, he was far off the mark. He could never be the King of The Mods. The Who were. End of debate.
Musically, The Who appeal in their high energy smash-it-up rawness (5.15), early bluesy rock (I Can’t Explain), their story-telling (Happy Jack) a taste for the slightly off kilter (Magic Bus). But, as Kings of Mod, they said it best in their first album. MY GENERATION. What a shake-up-call-to-arms of pure fire. The Kids Are Alright, a cool groove. We’re cool. We’re OK. And I felt cool, because I’d discovered music, philosophy, politics and friendship. I felt comfortable with a cool band. I could find cool beyond the skinny jeans and NME-fetish of the kids at college and BOTB nights out. I guess that was the appeal of kids in the 60s. We’re not scum. We’re hip. We’re mods. We’re here, and we’re not going away.
Essential album: The Who s/t debut
Essential track: My Generation and We Won’t Get Fooled Again bookmark The Who. About youth, rebellion and standing up tall. But if I had to choose…WHY DON’T YOU ALL JUST FADE AWAY?!
Essential rock moment: I saw The Who at O2 Festival along with The Eels and The Zutons. I got really really close to the front, then a hot potato played havoc with me and I was sick in the crowd. Daltry said before their encore: “here’s the bullshit moment, we go offstage, you wait, we come back with a cup of tea.” And he did!