The Who's 50 Greatest Songs

From power-pop anthems to operatic epics to stadium-size rockers and beyond

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3. "My Generation" ('My Generation', 1965)

Townshend supposedly wrote "My Generation" on his 20th birthday, May 19th, 1965, while riding a train from London to Southampton for a television appearance. The song wasn't intended as a youth-mutiny anthem at first. It was a Jimmy Reed-style blues, reflecting Townshend's fears about the impending strictures of adult life, famously captured in the line "Hope I die before I get old."

"'My Generation' was very much about trying to find a place in society," he told Rolling Stone in 1987. "I was very, very lost. The band was young then. It was believed that its career would be incredibly brief." Instead, "My Generation" became the Who's ticket to legend. Townshend's two-chord assault, Daltrey's stuttering, howling performance, Moon's avalanche drumming, and Townshend and Entwistle's R&B-inspired backing vocals created a mounting anxiety that climaxed with a studio re-creation of the Who's live gear-trashing finales. It became their first British Top Five hit – and a battle cry for young mod rebels all over England.

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