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Time Tunnel: Great Albums of 1971. Mike Turnbull on Who’s Next

Mike Turnbull released Two Kingdom’s earlier this year (our review here). We invited Mike to take part in our Why I Love feature, which he duly obliged in doing about Neil Finn (read here). Following that he wanted to write more! He decided to help us take a look back at the glory of 1971 and his love for a genuine rock classic from The Who in the form of Who’s Next.

The Who 1971 | Rock music, Greatest rock bands, Rock and roll

Mod or Rocker?

Well, neither really, although I was introduced to the Who whilst at school and a little confused too!  During a brief Mod phase with a diet of The Selecter, The Beat, The Specials, Madness and even The Police, someone told me, “That’s not real Mod music!  The Who is real Mod music.”

A curious visit to a record shop saw me buying a vinyl record. 

The Who.  Who’s Next.

Who's Next Album Cover | The Who | Pure Music

I didn’t pay much attention to the year on the sleeve, I just liked the four guys having just pissed on a half constructed concrete bridge support!  I did later learn that The Who was indeed the epitome of the sixties Mod era.  

This album though?  1971, boy! What an introduction to a band and a masterpiece of an album!

The opening bars of that Arp Synthesiser (groundbreaking at the time – and still iconic today) of Baba O’Riley hypnotises  from the get go.  The Piano chords take command before Keith Moon rolls in on drums before Roger Daltrey’s vocal delivers the rasping “Out here in the fields…” with John’s bass and you’re at the start of a musical journey.

Pete Townshend had pioneered the longer style song from ‘67 with conceptual content rather than the 3:30 song format.  This led to the rock opera Tommy in ‘69.  After the success of Tommy, Who’s Next was actually born from Pete’s Lifehouse project.  He abandoned the idea in favour of good old classic songs.  I guess that’s why the whole album has a coherent feel which does take you on a journey.

After the soaring, jig-like and frantic violin outro of Baba O’Riley, there’s the gentle intro to Bargain with it’s early synthesiser sound and acoustic guitar combo.  It’s a false sense of security before Pete’s trademark power chords and Keith’s drums take over.  At the middle eight beneath Pete’s melodic vocal sits John Entwhistle’s lovely and equally melodic bass.  I remember listening to this on headphones – loud – and being in wonder at the sound of the string squeaks beneath his fingers as the recording picks up the intricate detail. Heavenly!  Then Keith’s double drum break in the outro is mind blowing and hypnotic until the gentle acoustic takes the song to it’s conclusion.

Love Ain’t For Keepin’ has a kick ass country feel with plenty of harmonies – short and snappy with a great rock feel.   John Entwhistle’s contribution is My Wife, his usual black comedic offering!  On this song he’s let loose on his first love, the French Horn.  Layered dramatically thru the song & on the outro.

Song is Over is an epic opera-like soundscape full of beautiful melody and rousing vocals from Pete & Roger. It features the line “Searching for note pure and easy, playing so free like a breath rippling by” from a previous song Pete had written, Pure & Easy which features on a later Pete solo album Who Came First 1972 and Odds & Sods from 1974.

I was always intrigued by Gettin’ in Tune as it starts with two chords and the fitting line about singing a note that fits in well with chords being played.  The song evolves into an almost evangelical frenzy. 

Another Pete-lead vocal on Goin’ Mobile provides a great acoustic, bass & drum rocker with an unexpected wha wha guitar solo & outro.

Now, Behind Blue Eyes.  I was totally obsessed with this song.  It’s layout from acoustic ballad to rip roaring rock anthem is genius.  I coaxed my music teacher at school to let us play it in a music competition.  I played acoustic guitar and then girlfriend played flute, whilst a reluctant choir sang. Nobody was convinced but I insisted we do it. We did indeed win it though! 

Then there’s The Who’s iconic anthem Won’t Get Fooled Again.  A song which has always been their set list favourite from that time and until today. Its power chords begin and don’t abate until the very last chord it seems.  Again the Arp synthesiser drives the whole song.  It was suggested to Pete that he try recording all the lead guitar before any other guitar parts.  That’s why you get this driven and riff fuelled performance.  The song was actually recorded at Mick Jagger’s mansion at the time, Stargroves.  Once you hear that ARP in pre outro it’s a sound never forgotten.  Of course it’s punctuated by Keith’s iconic drum solo sections before the outro comes in proper with those Guitar stabs punching the song, and album to a climactic close. 

A true classic album which probably inspired me more than I realise.  It’s ingrained I’m sure and must lurk in my subconscious creative mind …and fingers.  I’m sure that comes out in Runaway Corpse from my new album Two Kingdoms with it’s riffs, energy and violin outro.

Read our other articles celebrating 1971 here. You can read about The Beatles, Cat Stevens, Don McLean, Uriah Heap, Gene Clark, and more…

Mike Turnbull online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp

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