The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’

I’m officially leaving the political blog world and returning to “where it all began,” music. I’ve even changed my “image.”

                          Then:  Chasing Pirates logo  Now: cropped-cropped-cropped-cropped-cropped-cropped-il_340x270-421633873_i32y122.jpg

I guess you could say I’m retreating to my safe place after a very contentious two-year period of political strife. My person didn’t win, but I had my doubts about her as well. Anyway, “goodbyes” are always hard for me, so this post will be transitional. I blame it on Pussy Riot. Yes, that Pussy Riot — the Russian, feminist protest band.

The story begins with me setting out on a mission to find a perfect protest song for this “passing from one key to another” and finding there were many noteworthy ones to choose from. “Revolution” (The Beatles) and “Fortunate Son” (Creedence Clearwater Revival), to name a couple. I breezed by “Blowin’ in the Wind” (Bob Dylan) and “For What It’s Worth” (Buffalo Springfield) because — honestly — they’re too sleepy to be protest songs. I was too young to be a flower-child of the ’60s. I came of age in the ’70s, so I was looking for something that would epitomize my grand, historical protest experience, when I marched on Washington, D.C. January 21, 2017 with over 500,000 other energized activists … many of us wearing the infamous pink pussyhat.

Now, THAT, my friends, WAS a phenomenal pussy “riot” (minus the violence; there was not even one arrest!), but how I arrived here, with The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” is because I Googled for Russia’s Pussy Riot band, thinking it would be fun to profile them. You see, I was connecting the dots, so to speak: The band had been arrested and sent to jail after performing an obscene song in a Moscow cathedral, in protest of the orthodox church’s support for President Vladimir Putin. And, here in the good ole U.S. of A., the Women’s March was initially organized in protest of “pussy-grabbing” President Donald Trump. And, on top of that, there’s this Russian connection thing/Trump’s bromance with Putin, which adds a whole ‘nother layer of connectivity and controversy.  See how easily it all comes together?

Anyway, during my research, I found a YouTube video of Pussy Riot singing an abbreviated version (radio cut) of “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” which led to …

The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

Released in 1971, on the album “Who’s Next,” this original version is over eight minutes long; the single, shortened for radio, is about three and half minutes. Its theme is about power and revolution:

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
No, no!

I’ll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?

There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again
No, no!

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

It could be a song about what Townshend was living when he wrote it, and it’s easy enough — I think — to relate it to our recent populist revolution and the new command of power. But, after some (very casual) investigative journalism, here’s what I’ve learned …  Turns out it’s not your typical protest song after all. Pete Townshend was not writing about what was happening to governments and social institutions in the late ’60s/early ’70s. He was writing about a futuristic world. The “Lifehouse” project — eventually becoming the album, “Who’s Next” — was originally conceived to be a science fiction rock opera/follow-up to The Who’s 1969 rock opera “Tommy.”  And, Townshend’s ultimate goal was to create and achieve spiritual enlightenment — for the band and its audience — via a multi-media experience of other-worldly communication with words, electronic instruments and dancing.

About the “Lifehouse” concept, Townshend said, ‘The essence of the story-line was a kinda futuristic scene. … It’s a fantasy set at a time when rock ’n’ roll didn’t exist. The world was completely collapsing and the only experience that anybody ever had was through test tubes. In a way, they lived as if they were in television programmes. Everything was programmed. The enemies were people who gave us entertainment intravenously, and the heroes were savages who’d kept rock ‘n’ roll as a primitive force and had gone to live with it in the woods. The story was about these two sides coming together and having a brief battle.’

Hmmmm … Life as a surreal Reality TV show. Eerily familiar, right? Our leader is a former Reality TV show host and … Russian puppet? Who knows!

Townshend — heavily influenced by Indian philosophers (Meher Baba and Inayat Khan), one of them a mystic Sufi musician (Khan) — said he was inspired to create “Lifehouse” from the “Tommy” tour: ‘I’ve seen moments in Who gigs where the vibrations were becoming so pure that I thought the whole world was just going to stop, the whole thing was just becoming so unified.’ He believed that the vibrations could become so pure that the audience would ‘dance themselves into oblivion.’ Their souls would leave their bodies and they would be in a type of heaven; a permanent state of ecstasy. 

Like the kind of ecstasy some of us feel when we’re laughing out loud at Alec Baldwin as Trump and Melissa McCarthy as his press secretary, Sean Spicer?! Whoa! Wait a minute … Maybe that IS reality, and THEY are the REAL “show runners”!?

What Townshend was aiming to achieve in ‘Lifehouse’ was to write music that could be adapted to reflect the personalities of the audience. To do this he wanted to adapt his newly acquired hardware — VCS3 and ARP synthesisers and a quadraphonic PA — to create a machine capable of generating and combining personal music themes written from computerised biographical data. Ultimately, these thematic components would merge to form a ‘universal chord.’ To help this process, the Who would encourage individuals to emerge from the audience and find a role in the music. 

Seriously weird, right? Like the so-called reality we’re living in right now kinda-weird. By the way, if you really want “weird reality,” Google for that BuzzFeed 35-page British spy dossier about Team Trump’s Russian connections, then watch some MSNBC or CNN. It’ll make your head spin. After that, watch some FOX, and your head will become like a whirling dervish and fly off into outer space and disappear into a black hole … also known as WH-AR . (Think about it.)

According to Songfacts.com, Townshend wrote “Won’t Get Fooled Again” about revolution, but he felt “revolution was pointless, because whoever takes over is destined to become corrupt. … that revolution is not going to change anything in the long run, and people are going to get hurt.” Townshend relied on the synthesizer to represent the revolution. “It builds at the beginning when the uprising starts, and comes back at the end when a new revolution is brewing.” (I really don’t want to become cynical, but — as “they” say — history repeats itself.)

Another interesting Songfacts.com tidbit: Roger Daltrey’s scream — that Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! at the end of the song — “is considered one of the best on any rock song. It was quite a convincing wail — so convincing that the rest of the band, lunching nearby, thought Daltrey was brawling with the engineer.”

The “Lifehouse” project was eventually cancelled because of its complex nature and conflicts with the band’s manager, Kit Lambert. Townshend agreed to record the songs as a less demanding studio album: “Who’s Next,” which begins with another heavy-synthesizer song, “Baba O’Riley,” and ends with “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Both were released as singles. The album was an immediate success when it was released in August 1971 and is considered to be The Who’s best and one of the greatest albums of all time.

The cover photo (seen above; originally, of course, without the pink pussyhats) was shot by Ethan Russell, known as the only rock photographer to have photographed album covers for The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who. There are questions, however, about the cover’s meaning. It would be easy to connect it to the monolith in the futuristic 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” And, the band members “pissing on the obelisk,” as Townshend has described it, could be a show of protest, right? Turns out to be a much more interesting story, and all the watermarks are not urine.

Whatever. It may be a popular cover shot, but it’s a dreary scene in need of a little color. So, I — in a show of fun and pride regarding my historic March — couldn’t resist making my own mark with the iconic pink hat. (Hope that’s OK with you, Mr. Townshend.) In the end, we girls just wanna have fun. And, learn something in the process.

OK, so my “perfect protest song” isn’t about protest so much as it is about enlightenment. Or, is it? What is truth? What is reality? Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who’s pulling the strings? Per the very last lines of “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” is this “new boss same as the old boss”? Do we ever really know what time it is? (Oh wait, that’s another song, for another day. And, for the record, I don’t believe the “old boss” is anything like this “new boss.”)

As I said in the beginning, I’m stepping off the political stage (here in the blog world, anyway). Currently, there are too many question marks, as reality is beginning to read too much like a spy novel, and connecting the dots on this story is not as simple as my Pussy Riot – The Who story. No, this one — for the time being — is like a bunch of quarks and photons and dissonance flying around, so I’m just gonna transport myself to another realm with some good music and “dance myself into oblivion” until it begins to take shape. Peace out, Brothers & Sisters.

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I’ll tip my (pussy)hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution


img_3951
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my (keyboard) and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
No, no!

7 thoughts on “The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’

  1. Nicely done, Nicki. That album was an anthem to me when I first heard it in the early 70’s, and remains one of my top 5 favorite albums to this day. (My favorite cut– ‘The Song is Over.’) And even though Daltrey’s primal scream woke us up, Townsends lyrics warned us of the futility of change. We thought the world had shifted on its axis when Trump won, but really, isn’t he just a new boss, same as the old boss? Sure, not as intelligent, capable, caring, any of another dozen descriptions, but fundamentally almost the same. (As Douglas Adams’ character, President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox famously said in ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,’ “the purpose of the president is not to wield power, but to draw attention away from it.” Trump is certainly doing that.) The problems we, and the world, are addressing today are the same problems we have been confronted with for decades, centuries, millennia, from the beginning. They are rooted in economic factors, and sociological and religious factors. But mostly fear. And guess what we fear the most— of course, change. I think until we are confronted with a truly global catastrophe, we will continue to walk blindly to the brink of destruction, thinking we actually have choices. That’s why I look to the heavens waiting for the alien overmasters to arrive.
    Can’t wait to hear THAT shotgun sing its song. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Donnie! I had fun w/this post, and that – along w/a little learnin’ – was my goal. You are such a good wordsmith, Mr. Smith! Let me know if you ever want to write something, about a favorite tune/band. You won’t see any of my posts on FB for the time being, not until after Easter. I wouldn’t mind you sharing it on FB, however. Just don’t tag me cuz I won’t be “there.” Hugs to you and your Sweetie 😍

      Like

  2. I liked your comments. in other news, Erik and Allison are expecting in July

    On Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 3:56 PM, Chasing Pirates wrote:

    > Nicola Kelley Hyser posted: “I’m officially leaving the political blog > world and returning to “where it all began,” music. I’ve even changed my > “image.” Then: Now: I guess you could say I’m > retreating to my safe place after a very contentious two-year ” >

    Like

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