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YouTube Gold: Can’t Explain

In their early days, The Who easily matched the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.

Photo of WHO
UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 12: CHELSEA BARRACKS Photo of The Who, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, Pete Townshend & Keith Moon - group shot, filming performance for US TV show, showing Marshall amplifiers
Photo by Chris Morphet/Redferns

During the British Invasion, The Rolling Stones and the Beatles got most of the attention but there were lots of other bands that turned up in the states: The Animals, the Hollies, the Kinks, Dusty Springfield, the Zombies and the Yardbirds.

None were quite like The Who.

Paul McCartney has called The Rolling Stones a blues covers band and his own Beatles had influences from an amazing number of sources. The Who just set out to play great rock and roll and did it as well as anyone

Their early songs like My Generation, Magic Bus, The Kids Are Alright and Can’t Explain were sort of the natural development of what Buddy Holly was doing in the late ‘50s: a very small, tight group just playing great, great music.

This video of Can’t Explain catches a lot of what made the young Who so magnetic. Guitarist Pete Townsend, bass player John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon were as skilled as anyone.

The early sound was great and their influence on punk, among other things, was profound.

Later, fame and decadence led to much less compelling stuff, but early Who is as good as anything anyone ever did and did a lot to define what rock music, at its best, could be.