One of the most important bands of the British Invasion, the Who had a remarkable voice for expressing generational rage and an explosive performance style to match it. While neither the Beatles nor the Rolling Stones appeared at either of the most iconic 1960s music festivals—Monterey Pop in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969—the Who delivered signature performances at both. Through their songs, which expressed the visceral frustrations of adolescence and young adulthood, and their concerts, which set standards for a new kind of showmanship, the Who established a reputation as one of the toughest, most articulate, most influential bands in Rock and Roll.
This lesson centers on the Who’s 1965 song “My Generation.” The band’s second hit single (after “I Can’t Explain”), it has become perhaps its best-known record, an anthem for the youth of the 1960s that still resonates today. “My Generation” captures the spirit of the Who as well as, if not better than, anything the group recorded over its long career: confrontational lyrics that are simultaneously full of angst and defiance, stuttering vocals that evoke frustration and confusion, and a performance that at times feels on the edge of collapse.
In this lesson, students will evaluate live performances of “My Generation,” focusing on the one from the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, and analyze the lyrics and sonic character of the song. Finally, they will examine their own generational identity, and, following the Who’s lead, compose new lyrics for a new generation.