Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Peaked at 15: Won't Get Fooled Again

A few years ago I reconnected on Facebook with Jim Mycyk. We had gone through all 12 years of school together and I hadn’t seen him since running into him at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh in 1978 – five years after we had graduated. During our more recent Facebook reunion, he asked me what band was my all time favorite. I didn’t hesitate and quickly replied “The Who.”

Although I was a colossal Beatles fan and my record collection has numerous examples of other bands, The Who has always spoken to me in a special way. This can be attributed to the songwriting and guitar calisthenics of Pete Townshend, the impeccable vocals of Roger Daltry, the solid bass lines of John Entwistle, and the over-the-top drumming of Keith Moon.

My favorite Who LP has to be their magnum opus, “Who’s Next.” This album, which evolved from Pete Townshend’s “Lifehouse” project, contains gems such as “Bargain,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Going Mobile,” “Baba O’Riley,” and of course “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” It is the latter tune that has made it into our Second Week Special this week, as “Won’t Get Fooled Again” peaked on the American charts at #15.

It was the fourth most popular Who tune in the US being eclipsed by “I Can See for Miles” at #9, “See Me, Feel Me” at #12, and “Who Are You” at #14. Like “Baba O’Riley” and “Who Are You” which became theme songs in the CSI pantheon of TV shows, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” had resurgence in popularity in the last decade as being the theme for “CSI Miami” – my least favorite of the three CSI shows.

Characteristic of this song (as well as “Baba O’Riley”) is Pete Townshend’s use of an EMS VCS3 synthesizer as a key portion of the song’s intro and the glue that holds the song together. While he used the synthesizer/sequencer functions of the VCS3 on “Baba O’Riley,”Townshend utilized this modular synth’s processing for his Lowrey organ.

He pumped the Lowrey through the VCS3's low frequency oscillator and a voltage control feature while playing, as Townshend says, “very simple chords.” It worked very well giving the organ a pulsing effect. Add some reverb and a killer guitar track and a classic was born.

Check out YouTube as there are audio examples of the main instrumentation for this tune that are isolated. It is interesting to listen to the organ, guitar, and drums without the rest of the tune – pure genius.

Single Edit

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