The Who were still a work in progress when they recorded their debut LP in 1965. Caught between Motown pop, tough-nut R&B and the kind of pill-popping white soul that had made them symbols of British mod culture, My Generation is the sound of four young upstarts in search of an identity. A passable I Don’t Mind (one of two James Brown covers) is offset by an awkward rendition of Bo Diddley’s I’m A Man, Roger Daltrey seemingly unsure how to approach it. It’s an uneasy compromise that also bleeds into Pete Townshend originals like La-La-La-Lies or the Beach Boys-ish Much Too Much.
Sometimes all this raging testosterone is funnelled into flashes of pure brilliance, most notably on the volcanic title track and the anthemic The Kids Are Alright. Plus there’s The Ox, a furious instrumental with guest Nicky Hopkins yammering away on piano.
The latest in a long line of expanded editions sees the album’s original running time of 36 minutes padded out to just short of four hours, courtesy of alternative takes, a deluge of bonus tracks and various mono and stereo mixes. Rather than some overloaded folly, however, it instead affords us the chance to see Townshend’s songwriting in tentative gestation. Nowhere is this more explicit than on disc five, comprised of recently unearthed demos from his archive, including three tunes – The Girls I Could Have Had, As Children We Grew and My Own Love – which have never been heard before.
Flawed, certainly, but still endlessly fascinating.