Who's Next

Music review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Who's Next Music Poster Image
Possibly The Who's best album; essential to the rock canon.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this music.

Positive Messages

Messages abound; it depends on what you consider positive. There are examples of riotous rock 'n' roll lifestyle to give parents pause (consider John Entwistle's comic "My Wife," in which the hapless bassist is fleeing his spouse in terror -- she's sure he's been with another woman when he's only been out all night on a bender). But there's also "Won't Get Fooled Again," which may encourage kids to think critically about politics and be wary of politicians.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some of the characters here are more positive than others; the narrator in "Baba O'Riley" spurns the "teenage wasteland" for a more meaningful way of living; "Mobile" and "Gettin' in Tune" are happy and all's-right-with-the-world. "Behind Blue Eyes" is a good deal darker, asking the listener to see things from the perspective of someone who's just doomed to be bad.


"Won't Get Fooled Again" alludes to street fighting; "Naked Eye," one of the bonus tracks, to carrying a gun and being wounded. "My Wife" finds the narrator in fear of his life from his armed-to-the-teeth spouse's (comic) jealous rage.


The most explicit references come in bonus track "Naked Eye": "Find me a woman and lay down on the ground / Her pleasure comes falling down like rain"; "You can cover up your guts but when you cover up your nuts / You're admitting that there must be something wrong."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The Who were famous for their hard-partying lifestyle, which eventually carried off two of its members -- one of whom, John Entwistle, clearly has a jolly relationship with the booze in "My Wife." But aside from that comic song, direct references don't come up much, and not with great approval, in Pete Townshend's songs here -- "Naked Eye" starts out, "Take a little dope / And walk out in the air / The stars are all connected to the brain," but quickly devolves to a much uglier picture.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Who's Next ranks as one of The Who's top achievements. Offering all-time great rock anthems ("Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again"), stellar singing by legendary lead singer Roger Daltrey, as well as some of the most distinctive guitar riffs in the history of the instrument, it also shows Pete Townshend's versatility as a songwriter, from the catchy "Mobile" to the tender "The Song Is Over." This remastered version, released in 1995 (the original came out in 1971), includes extra tracks, one of which, "Naked Eye," contains mature strong language. Other songs contain references, usually mild, to violence and sex.

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What's the story?

Encompassing a full range of moods -- rage, tenderness, humor, bitterness, cynicism, and more -- WHO'S NEXT was the first studio album after the band's rock opera Tommy (the live album Live at Leeds was in-between). And what it lacks in rock-opera pretensions it makes up for in pure emotion and musical virtuosity. Some of The Who's best work, and the best work in the history of rock, is on this album.

Is it any good?

The Who are considered one of the best rock bands of all time, and its remnants have continued to perform through the new millennium. The four original members, who appear on Who's Next -- songwriter-guitarist Pete Townshend, lead singer Roger Daltry, drummer Keith Moon, and bassist John Entwistle -- are widely regarded among the best at their respective instruments.

If you only get one Who album, you could do a lot worse than this one. Containing the enduring phrases "teenage wasteland" to "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss," Who's Next is one of the most definitive examples of rock 'n' roll -- and rock 'n' roll attitude -- ever recorded. Classic-rock staples and mainstays of every self-respecting garage band to turn it up to 11 are here, along with the sympathy-for-the-bad-man ballad "Behind Blue Eyes."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the political cynicism of "Won't Get Fooled Again." Is it really true that the new boss is, pretty much, the same as the old boss?

  • What do you think of the bad man in "Behind Blue Eyes"? Do you feel as sorry for him as he wants you to?

  • What do you think "teenage wasteland" meant to Pete Townshend in 1971 -- and what did it come to mean in pop culture over the years?

Music details

  • Artist: The Who
  • Release date: August 25, 1971
  • Type: Album
  • Label: MCA
  • Genre: Rock
  • Parental advisory: No
  • Edited version available: No
  • Last updated: November 11, 2020

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