Rocktober 23, 2023
Today our song is: Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who
Wikipedia tells us this about the song:
The song was originally intended for a rock opera Townshend had been working on, Lifehouse, which was a multi-media exercise based on his followings of the Indian religious avatar Meher Baba, showing how spiritual enlightenment could be obtained via a combination of band and audience. The song was written for the end of the opera, after the main character, Bobby, is killed and the "universal chord" is sounded. The main characters disappear, leaving behind the government and army, who are left to bully each other. Townshend described the song as one "that screams defiance at those who feel any cause is better than no cause". He later said that the song was not strictly anti-revolution despite the lyric "We'll be fighting in the streets", but stressed that revolution could be unpredictable, adding, "Don't expect to see what you expect to see. Expect nothing and you might gain everything." Bassist John Entwistle later said that the song showed Townshend "saying things that really mattered to him, and saying them for the first time."
The song's message is summarized in the last line "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." Townsend was influenced to write the composition by an incident at Woodstock when he chased Abbie Hoffman off the stage, who had commandeered the microphone during a break in the band's performance. He explained to Creem in 1982, "I wrote 'Won’t Get Fooled Again' as a reaction to all that – ‘Leave me out of it: I don’t think your lot would be any better than the other lot!' All those hippies wandering about thinking the world was going to be different from that day. As a cynical English arsehole, I walked through it all and felt like spitting on the lot of them, and shaking them and trying to make them realise that nothing had changed and nothing was going to change."
Townshend had been reading Universal Sufism founder Inayat Khan's The Mysticism of Sound and Music, which referred to spiritual harmony and the universal chord, which would restore harmony to humanity when sounded. Townshend realised that the newly emerging synthesizers would allow him to communicate these ideas to a mass audience. He had met the BBC Radiophonic Workshop which gave him ideas for capturing human personality within music. Townshend interviewed several people with general practitioner-style questions, and captured their heartbeat, brainwaves and astrological charts, converting the result into a series of audio pulses. For the demo of "Won't Get Fooled Again", he linked a Lowrey organ into an EMS VCS 3 filter that played back the pulse-coded modulations from his experiments. He subsequently upgraded to an ARP 2500. The synthesizer did not play any sounds directly as it was monophonic; instead it modified the block chords on the organ as an input signal. The demo, recorded at a half-time tempo compared to the version by the Who, was completed by Townshend overdubbing drums, bass, electric guitar, vocals and handclaps.
Be sure to stop by tomorrow to see what is next on the list! Feel free to join in the fun. The more the merrier, I say!