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Flint’s Classic Rock – 103.9 The Fox

  • Writer: Pete Townshend
  • Producer: The Who with Glyn Johns
  • Recorded: 1971, Stargroves, Berkshire, England
  • Released: June 25, 1971
  • Players:
    Roger Daltrey — vocals
    Keith Moon — drums
    John Entwistle — bass
    Pete Townshend — guitars, synthesizer, vocals, organ
  • Album: Who’s Next (MCA, 1971)
  • Also On:
    The Kids Are Alright (MCA, 1979)
    The Secret Policeman’s Ball (Island, 1980)
    Hooligans (MCA, 1981)
    Who’s Greatest Hits (MCA, 1983)
    Who’s Last (MCA, 1984)
    Who’s Better, Who’s Best (MCA, 1988)
    Join Together (MCA, 1990)
    The Who: Thirty Years Of Maximum R&B (MCA, 1994)
    My Generation: The Very Best Of The Who (MCA, 1996)
    20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best Of The Who (MCA, 1999)
    The Concert For New York City (Columbia, 2001)
    The Ultimate Collection (Universal, 2002)
  • “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was written for Lifehouse, which was planned as a major rock opera spiritually uniting band and fans. Instead, it gave singer-guitarist Pete Townshend a nervous breakdown. Songs from the aborted project became Who’s Next.
  • The single, cut in half for radio airplay, hit Number Nine in the U.K. and Number 10 in the U.S.
  • Who’s Next made it to Number Four on the Billboard 200, and hit Number One in England.
  • It was the first Who song to use a synthesizer. At Mick Jagger‘s country house Stargroves, where the Who recorded Who’s Next, Townshend unveiled a backing track he’d created with the then-new ARP 2600 synthesizer and a guitar “envelope follower.” “This definitive classic ’70s rock song actually came from an indulgent experiment in electronic music,” Townshend told biographer Geoffrey Giuliano.
  • “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is less a call for revolution than a disillusioned behind-the-scenes critique of uprising. The closing line, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” sums up Townshend’s point, which is that the new leaders may have longer beards and different-colored flags, but nothing ever changes.
  • “Won’t Get Fooled Again” served as the Who‘s standard concert finale (before the encore), even as late as the band’s 1982, 1989, and 1996 tours. The group usually used the original synthesizer tape in concert.
  • Roger Daltrey’s extended scream in the song is one of the high points of the band’s performances.
  • Townshend, in Giuliano’s 1996 biography Behind Blue Eyes, says, “The hero of the piece warns, ‘Don’t be fooled, don’t be taken in.’ It’s interesting it’s been taken up in an anthemic sense when in fact it’s such a cautionary piece.”
  • Townshend, in a mid-’70s interview, said, “The first verse sounds like a revolution song and the second like somebody getting tired of it. It’s an anti-anti song.”
  • In the late ’80s, Townshend told interviewers he hated the song. “It was the dumbest song I’ve ever written,” he told Giuliano. “It was dumb to deny the political role of the individual. Burning your draft card is a purely political act. Throwing your vote away is an apolitical act, and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ was an apolitical song. Luckily, people didn’t listen to the verses… It was an irresponsible song. It was quite clear during that period that rock had the ear of the people, and people were saying, ‘Pete, you’ve got to use the Who. You’ve got to get the message across.’”
  • Townshend, lead singer Roger Daltrey, and bassist John Entwistle played it as an acoustic encore during the 1996 Quadrophenia shows.
  • The live version on The Kids Are Alright soundtrack is one of the last Who songs drummer Keith Moon played on before he died. Always an unpredictable player, Moon sounded out of shape on the recording. After Daltrey’s famous scream, Moon comes in a couple of awkward moments too late.


  • Drummer Keith Moon died in the fall of 1978. He was replaced by former Faces drummer Kenney Jones. Jones was forced out a decade later and was replaced first by Simon Phillips in 1989, then Zak Starkey in 1996.
  • The Who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
  • Van Halen covered “Won’t Get Fooled Again” on their 1994 live set Live: Right Here, Right Now.
  • “Won’t Get Fooled Again” has been used as the theme to CSI: Miami.
  • An article in the conservative magazine National Review listed “Won’t Get Fooled Again” as Number One in a list of conservative rock songs, saying “The conservative movement is full of disillusioned revolutionaries; this could be their theme song.”
  • In 2002, bassist John Entwistle suffered a heart attack and died in his hotel room at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, the day before the Who were to start a North American tour. Townshend and Daltrey decided to play the tour in Entwistle’s memory, and they brought in British session player Pino Palladino for the dates. Palladino has remained with the band ever since.
  • The band released an album in 2007 called Endless Wire, and launched a world tour in support of it.
  • The band’s current status is uncertain. Pete Townshend has said he is not sure if he is writing material for the Who or for his solo career, and plans for a tour of Asia are also up in the air.
  • VH1 Rock Honors: The Who will be taped on July 12th, at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, and will feature the Who performing, as well as tribute performances by Pearl Jam, Incubus, Foo Fighters, and Flaming Lips. It will air on VH1 on July 17th.