Song written by Pete Townshend; performed by the Who
Initially, I was intensely fond of every song on Who Are You, especially Guitar and Pen (no surprise there- still something I struggle to live up to). After all, the album came out at the perfect moment for me.
Of course, that meant exposure to all of Who’s Next and all the early hits. I had to believe that Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again were the greatest songs ever for at least a little while. I’m not sure that I trust anyone who heard those songs as a teenager and wasn’t incredibly moved.
Not much later, I found myself in an ice skating rink, taking a break between turns around the ice and listening to the piped music from some local radio station. I felt like the only person to notice that a great song was beginning and I sat there stunned by the passing skaters amid this soundtrack to life.
The Who did not record all that many albums- eight sets of original songs from 1965 to 1978. So, I probably was exposed to most of it earlier than a lot of other music. College and afterwards drove me to their early songs and I developed a fondness for Mary Ann With the Shaky Hands and Pictures of Lily. Needless to say, my sense of humor caught up with the band.
The entire rock opera thing
enters the equation, but it’s strange when you realize that your introduction to Tommy was Elton John having a huge hit with Pinball Wizard. So, it took a little longer to appreciate the music there and I loved it immensely for a decade or more.
I’ve realized that these people have apparently provided the soundtrack for my life. Realistically, the songs don’t comment much on my experience (anymore than I believe the details come from the songwriters’ lives either). That’s probably why the life and beauty of the music comes from the performance and investment put into the music by the band. That attitude of humor and anger and constant movement can carry you pretty far.
So, lately, I’ve been very fond of Early Morning Cold Taxi, which perfectly captures the repetition of life, no matter how good or bad it gets. If you want to be alive, then you’re going to have another lovely dinner and you’re going to attend another funeral.
All this leaves the one song that is one of the great accomplishments that our culture has to offer. Is there anything more cleansing than listening all the way through to A Quick One While He’s Away? Simply put, it captures the attitude that ought to pervade all our judgments about one another. We may not be able to dispose of pain and mistakes and wrongs. However, we ought to be able to turn to one another and grant forgiveness, to ourselves and to one another. Healing is too rare a gift in art to ever be forgotten.
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You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 47 more to go.
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