"Won't Get Fooled Again" is a song by the English rock band The Who, written by Pete Townshend. It was released as a single in June 1971, reaching the top 10 in the UK, while the full eight-and-a-half-minute version appears as the final track on the band's 1971 album "Who's Next", released that August.
Townshend wrote the song as a closing number of the Lifehouse project, and the lyrics criticise revolution and power. To symbolise the spiritual connection he had found in music via the works of Meher Baba and Inayat Khan, he programmed a mixture of human traits into a synthesizer and used it as the main backing instrument throughout the song. The Who tried recording the song in New York in March 1971, but re-recorded a superior take at Stargroves the next month using the synthesizer from Townshend's original demo. Ultimately, Lifehouse as a project was abandoned in favour of "Who's Next", a straightforward album, where it also became the closing track. The song has been performed as a staple of the band's setlist since 1971, often as the set closer, and was the last track drummer Keith Moon played live with the band.
As well as a hit, the song has achieved critical praise, appearing as one of Rolling Stone's The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It has been covered by several artists, such as Van Halen who took their version to No. 1 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart. It has been used for several TV shows and films, and in some political campaigns.
The song was originally intended for a rock opera Townshend had been working on, Lifehouse, which was a multi-media exercise based on his followings of the Indian religious avatar Meher Baba, showing how spiritual enlightenment could be obtained via a combination of band and audience. The song was written for the end of the opera, after the main character, Bobby, is killed and the "universal chord" is sounded. The main characters disappear, leaving behind the government and army, who are left to bully each other. Townshend described the song as one "that screams defiance at those who feel any cause is better than no cause". He later said that the song was not strictly anti-revolution despite the lyric "We'll be fighting in the streets", but stressed that revolution could be unpredictable, adding, "Don't expect to see what you expect to see. Expect nothing and you might gain everything." Bassist John Entwistle later said that the song showed Townshend "saying things that really mattered to him, and saying them for the first time."
Townshend had been reading Universal Sufism founder Inayat Khan's The Mysticism of Sound and Music, which referred to spiritual harmony and the universal chord, which would restore harmony to humanity when sounded. Townshend realised that the newly emerging synthesizers would allow him to communicate these ideas to a mass audience. He had met the BBC Radiophonic Workshop which gave him ideas for capturing human personality within music. Townshend interviewed several people with general practitioner-style questions, and captured their heartbeat, brainwaves and astrological charts, converting the result into a series of audio pulses. For the demo of "Won't Get Fooled Again", he linked a Lowrey organ into a EMS VCS 3 filter that played back the pulse-coded modulations from his experiments. He subsequently upgraded to an ARP 2500. The synthesizer did not play any sounds directly as it was monophonic; instead it modified the block chords on the organ as an input signal. The demo was completed by Townshend overdubbing drums, bass, electric guitar, vocals and handclaps. Overall, the song ran at a slower pace to the version later recorded by the Who.
The Who's first attempt to record the song was at the Record Plant on W 44 Street, New York City, on 16 March 1971. Manager Kit Lambert had recommended the studio to the group, which led to his producer credit, though the de facto work was done by Felix Pappabirdi. This take featured Pappalardi's Mountain band mate, Leslie West, on lead guitar.
Lambert proved to be unable to mix the track, and a fresh attempt at recording was made at the start of April at Mick Jagger's house, Stargroves, using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. Glyn Jones was invited to help with production, and he decided to re-use the synthesized organ track from Townshend's original demo, as the re-recording of the part in New York was felt to be inferior to the original. Keith Moon had to carefully synchronise his drum playing with the synthesizer, while Townshend and Entwistle played electric guitar and bass. Townshend played a 1959 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins hollow body guitar fed through an Edwards volume pedal to a Fender Bandmaster amp, all of which he had been given by Joe Walsh while in New York. This combination became his main electric guitar recording setup for subsequent albums. Although intended as a demo recording, the end result sounded so good to the band and Johns, they decided to use it as the final take. Overdubs, including an acoustic guitar part played by Townshend, were recorded at Olympic Studios at the end of April. The track was mixed at Island Records by Johns on 28 May. After Lifehouse was abandoned as a project, Johns felt "Won't Get Fooled Again", along with other songs, were so good that they could simply be released as a standalone single album, which became "Who's Next".
"Won't Get Fooled Again" was first released as a single A-side on 25 June 1971, edited down to 3:35. It replaced "Behind Blue Eyes" as the choice of single as the group felt it didn't fit the Who's established musical style. It was released on 17 July in the US. The B-side, "I Don't Even Know Myself" was recorded at Eel Pie Studios in 1970 for a planned EP that was never released. The single reached No. 9 in the UK charts and No. 15 in the US. Initial publicity material showed an abandoned cover of "Who's Next" featuring Moon dressed in drag and brandishing a whip.
The full-length version of the song appeared as the closing track of Who's Next, released on 14 August in the US and 27 August in the UK, where it topped the album charts. "Won't Get Fooled Again" drew strong praise from critics, who were impressed that a synthesizer had managed to be integrated so successfully within a rock song. Who author Dave Marsh described singer Roger Daltrey's scream near the end of the track as "the greatest scream of a career filled with screams". In 2011, the song was ranked number 134 on Rolling Stone's The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
|Canadian RPM Top Singles
|UK Singles Chart
|US Billboard Hot 100
- Rogar Daltrey - lead vocals
- Pete Townshend - acoustic and electric guitars, synthesized organ (ARP 2500, EMS VCS 3) and backing vocals
- John Entwhistle - bass guitar
- Keith Moon - drums
The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again / Don't Know Myself
UK Track 2094 009 (1971).
The vinyl record attains a strong excellent grading, suggesting few plays.
Audio quality is very clear and strong throughout.
Both record centre labels are clean and unmarked.
Both record centre labels are free from tears, stains or stickers.
The records original picture sleeve is in excellent condition, displaying /minor creases/ signs of wear.