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My Generation

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"My Generation"
Swedish release
Single by the Who
from the album My Generation
  • 29 October 1965 (UK)
  • 20 November 1965 (US)[1]
Recorded13 October 1965[1][2]
StudioIBC, London
Songwriter(s)Pete Townshend
Producer(s)Shel Talmy
The Who singles chronology
"Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere"
"My Generation"
Audio sample

"My Generation" is a song by the English rock band the Who, written by guitarist and primary songwriter Pete Townshend. One of the band's most recognizable songs, it was placed number 11 by Rolling Stone on its list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” in 2004 and 2010, re-ranked number 232 in the 2021 edition. It became part of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and is inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for "historical, artistic and significant" value. It is considered one of the band's signature songs.[7]

“My Generation” was released as a single on 29 October 1965, reaching No. 2 in the United Kingdom (The Who's highest-charting single in their home country along with 1966's "I'm a Boy") and No. 74 in the United States. The song also appeared on The Who's 1965 debut album, My Generation (The Who Sings My Generation in the United States), and in greatly extended form on their live album Live at Leeds (1970).



Townshend reportedly wrote the song on a train and is said to have been inspired by the Queen Mother, who is alleged to have had Townshend's 1935 Packard hearse towed off a street in Belgravia because she was offended by the sight of it during her daily drive through the neighbourhood.[8] Townshend has also credited Mose Allison's "Young Man Blues" as the inspiration for the song, saying "Without Mose I wouldn't have written 'My Generation'."[9] Townshend told Rolling Stone in 1985 that "'My Generation' was very much about trying to find a place in society."[10]

On a later interview for Good Morning America, in 1989, the band was discussing the upcoming 1989 tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Tommy, and Townshend talked about the famous line "I hope I die before I get old." He said that, for him, when he wrote the lyrics, "old" meant "very rich".



The song's lyrics comprise a distilled statement of youthful rebellion. The's song's melody and composition is considered a forebear to punk rock. One of the most quoted—and patently rewritten—lines in rock history is "I hope I die before I get old," famously sneered by lead singer Roger Daltrey.

Like much of The Who's earlier Mod output, the song showcases influences of American rhythm and blues, most explicitly in the call and response form of the verses. Daltrey would sing a line, and the backing vocalists, Pete Townshend (low harmony) and John Entwistle (high harmony), would respond with the refrain "Talkin' 'bout my generation":

"My Generation" vocal melody with call and response. Play

People try to put us d-down (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Just because we g-g-get around (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
Things they do look awful c-c-cold (Talkin' 'bout my generation)
I hope I die before I get old (Talkin' 'bout my generation)

The vocal melody of "My Generation" is an example of the shout-and-fall modal frame. This call and response is mirrored in the instrumental break with solo emphasis passing from Townshend's guitar to Entwistle's bass and back again several times.

Roger Daltrey's famous lyrical approach in "My Generation" was inspired by bluesman John Lee Hooker

Another salient aspect of "My Generation" is Daltrey's delivery: an angry and frustrated stutter. Various stories exist as to the reason for this distinct delivery. One is that the song began as a slow talking blues number without the stutter (in the 1970s it was sometimes performed as such, but with the stutter, as "My Generation Blues"), but after being inspired by John Lee Hooker's "Stuttering Blues", Townshend reworked the song into its present form. Another reason is that it was suggested to Daltrey that he stutter[11] to sound like a British mod on speed (amphetamines). It is also proposed, albeit less frequently, that the stutter was introduced to give the group a framework for implying an expletive in the lyrics: "Why don't you all fff ... fade away!" However, producer Shel Talmy insisted it was simply "one of those happy accidents" that he thought they should keep. Roger Daltrey has also commented that he had not rehearsed the song prior to the recording, was nervous, and he was unable to hear his own voice through the monitors. The stutter came about as he tried to fit the lyrics to the music, and Talmy decided it worked well enough to keep.[12] The BBC initially refused to play "My Generation" because it did not want to offend people who stutter, but it reversed its decision after the song became more popular.[13]

The instrumental elements of the song are fast and aggressive. Significantly, "My Generation" also featured one of the first bass solos in rock history.[14] This was played by Entwistle on his Fender Jazz Bass,[15] rather than the Danelectro bass he wanted to use; after buying three Danelectros with rare thin strings that kept breaking easily (and were not available separately), a frustrated Entwistle used his Fender strung with nylon tapewound strings and was forced to simplify the solo. The song's coda features drumming from Keith Moon, as well, whereupon the song breaks down in spurts of guitar feedback from Townshend's Rickenbacker, rather than fading out or ending cleanly on the tonic. There are two guitar parts. The basic instrumental track (as reflected on the instrumental version on the My Generation Deluxe edition) followed by Townshend's overdubs including the furious feedback on the coda. Similarly to The Kinks's "You Really Got Me" (also produced by Shel Talmy), the song modulates from its opening key of G up to C via the keys of A and B. Townshend's guitars were tuned down a whole step for the recording.

For the band the song was the basis for an extended medley or improvisation, going on as long as fifteen minutes, as evinced by the version appearing on Live at Leeds. Live recordings from 1969 to 1970 include snippets of music from Tommy as well as parts of what would become "Naked Eye".

Townshend's demo version of the song (together with a demo of "Pinball Wizard") appeared on a flexi disc included in the original edition of the book The Who: Maximum R&B by Richard Barnes.[16]

The Who re-recorded the song for the Ready Steady Who EP in 1966; ultimately it was not included, and remained unissued until the 1995 remaster of A Quick One. The main difference between this version and the original is that it is heavily abridged and instead of the hail of feedback which closes the original, the band play a chaotic rendition of Edward Elgar's "Land of Hope and Glory". In the album's liner notes the song is thus credited to both Pete Townshend and Elgar.



Personnel per Pete Townshend.[17]


Billboard advertisement, November 20, 1965

In 2012, Paste ranked the song number six on their list of the 20 greatest The Who songs,[18] and in 2022, Rolling Stone ranked the song number three on their list of the 50 greatest The Who songs.[19] Rolling Stone named the song the eleventh greatest song on its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list in 2004 and 2011,[20] re-ranked to number 232 in the 2021 edition. In 2009, VH1 named it the thirty-seventh Greatest Hard Rock Song.[4] It is also part of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll[21] and is inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for "historical, artistic and significant" value.[12]

The song has been said by NME to have "encapsulated the angst of being a teenager", and has been characterized as a "nod to the Mod counterculture".[22] NME journalist Larry Bartleet in 2015 rated the Who's recording ten points out of ten.[23] Cash Box described it as a "rollicking, blues-drenched handclapper which sez that today's kids have more rights than their elders think."[24] Record World said that "The young generation will find that this generates good times."[25]

Chart performance


The song was released as a single on 29 October 1965, reaching No. 2 in the UK, The Who's highest-charting single in their home country[26] and No. 74 in America.[27]


Chart (1965–1966) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[28] 2
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[29] 9
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[30] 3
Ireland (IRMA)[31] 7
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[32] 5
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[33] 7
UK Singles (OCC)[34] 2
US Billboard Hot 100[27] 74
US Cash Box Top 100[35] 99
West Germany (Official German Charts)[36] 6
Chart (1988) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[28] 88


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[37] Gold 400,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also



  1. ^ a b My Generation (Deluxe Edition) (liner notes). The Who. MCA. 2002. 088 112 926-2. Retrieved 1 March 2021.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  2. ^ Daltrey, Roger (2018). Thanks a Lot Mr Kibblewhite: Roger Daltrey: My Story. Henry Holt and Company. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-250-29603-0.
  3. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "My Generation – Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  4. ^ a b Winistorfer, Andrew (5 January 2009). "VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs list only slightly less annoying than their hip-hop list". Prefix Magazine. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  5. ^ Spice, Anton (31 August 2016). "Proto-punk: 10 records that paved the way for '76". The Vinyl Factory. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  6. ^ Kitts, Jeff; Tolinski, Brad (2002). Guitar World Presents the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time: From the Pages of Guitar World Magazine. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 21. ISBN 0-634-04619-5.
  7. ^ "The Who's 10 Greatest Songs". Rolling Stone. 17 October 2012.
  8. ^ "Amazing Journey: The Life of Pete Townshend – Chapter 2". Archived from the original on 2 December 2007.
  9. ^ Bernays, Paul (1 December 2005). "Mose Allison – Director's Statement". BBC Four. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009.
  10. ^ "My Generation – The Who". Rolling Stone. 9 December 2004. Archived from the original on 9 April 2010.
  11. ^ "The Who's 20 best songs, chosen by Roger Daltrey". Uncut. 24 February 2015. p. 3. Retrieved 25 May 2019.
  12. ^ a b "My Generation – Why Don't You All F-Fade Away". This Day in Music. 17 August 2018. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  13. ^ Allen, Jeremy (26 October 2017). "8 songs banned by the BBC for the strangest of reasons". BBC Music. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  14. ^ Drabløs, Per Elias (2016). The Quest for the Melodic Electric Bass: From Jamerson to Spenner. Routledge. p. 40. ISBN 978-1-4724-3482-1.
  15. ^ "Jazz bass (serial no. L89716)". Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  16. ^ Barnes, Richard (1982). The Who: Maximum R&B. Medford, New Jersey, USA: Plexus Publishing. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-85965-351-0.
  17. ^ Townshend, Pete (2012). Who I Am: A Memoir. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 85.
  18. ^ Tremml, Brian (7 November 2012). "The 20 Best Songs by The Who". Paste. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  19. ^ "The Who's 50 Greatest Songs". Rolling Stone. 30 June 2022. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  20. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (1–500)". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 23 October 2006.
  21. ^ "Experience The Music: One Hit Wonders and The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 4 June 2016.
  22. ^ "100 Best Songs of the 1960s > 26: The Who – My Generation". NME. Archived from the original on 26 February 2015.
  23. ^ Bartleet, Larry (3 December 2015). "The Who's 'My Generation' Album at 50 – The Best and Worst Covers of Its Era-Defining Single, Starring Oasis, Green Day and More". NME. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  24. ^ "Record Reviews > Pick of the Week" (PDF). Cash Box. Vol. XXVII, no. 18. 20 November 1965. p. 14. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  25. ^ "Singles Reviews" (PDF). Record World. 20 November 1965. p. 6. Retrieved 19 July 2023.
  26. ^ "Who". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  27. ^ a b "The Who – Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  28. ^ a b "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  29. ^ "The Who – My Generation" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  30. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 5647." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  31. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – My Generation". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  32. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 4, 1966" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  33. ^ "The Who – My Generation" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  34. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  35. ^ "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending DECEMBER 18, 1965". Cash Box. Archived from the original on 5 October 2012.
  36. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – The Who – My Generation" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 15 March 2019. To see peak chart position, click "TITEL VON The Who"
  37. ^ "British single certifications – Who – My Generation". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 8 January 2021.