The Who’s first album is an oddity, because it doesn’t capture the breathless pace of the band’s development through 1965.
It excluded I Can’t Explain and Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere, their thrilling debut and its light-years-jump of a follow-up – as well as Substitute, which came out in 1966, even as My Generation was still being plundered for singles. This successor to 2002’s deluxe edition (which restores the original mix ditched from that version) offers plenty of developmental context – mono and stereo editions of the album, mono and stereo versions of bonus tracks, and a disc of Pete Townshend demos (though no Substitute).
Some of the most thrilling music of British rock’s golden age is in there, but you do have to plough through some less-thrilling stuff to find it – it feels as if there are a great many more than five versions of Daddy Rolling Stone here. But there is buried treasure: the demos of My Generation show, in one case, that every aspect of the song, right down to the speed-blocked stutter, had been worked out by Townshend; and in another that he could make even that most aggressive of songs sound like an outtake from the Beach Boys’s Smile. Incredible, too, is the demo of The Good’s Gone that turns it into a foreboding drone. It’s not one for the casual fan, but completists will be in heaven.
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