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William C. Altreuter
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Friday, May 29, 2015

Here's a good essay on the evolution of American music, hidden under a stupid headline: For Your (Re)Consideration: Is The Who Better Than The Beatles?.

I suppose there are different metrics to make this sort of evaluation; and I question whether it should be "are" instead of "is" (or for that matter, whether the question should be put in the past tense.) For the time being I will say only this: it seems to me that there are about as many meh Beatles songs as there are really great Who songs. (Oh, "Blue Jay Way". How useful you are in discussions of this sort.) It seems to me that there are about twice as many great Beatles albums as there are great Who albums, and I think I am being generous there. (Who's Next is indisputably great, a record that stands with anyone's music. After that I suppose Sell Out-- perhaps The Who's Magical Mystery Tour. And Live At Leeds is pretty great.)

Think of it this way: The Beatles are in all post-Beatles rock and roll DNA. The Who were likewise influential, but their influence was more pernicious. The Who brought us the rock opera and its attendant bloat. I don't know if I will ever get over The Who ruining The Kinks. The only real difference between The Who and The Kinks is that Tommy and Quadrophenia  are better records than Schoolboys in Disgrace or Preservation Acts One and Two. In fact, I'd put it to you that The Kinks win in a head-to-head evaluation with The Who-- except maybe but for Who's Next. I don't think there is anything in The Kink's catalog that can match Who's Next.

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