Roger Daltrey sang the lead vocals with a stutter, which was very unusual. After recording two takes of the song normally, their manager Kit Lambert suggested to Daltrey that he stutter to sound like a British kid on speed. Daltrey recalled to Uncut magazine October 2001: "I have got a stutter. I control it much better now but not in those days. When we were in the studio doing 'My Generation', Kit Lambert came up to me and said 'STUTTER!' I said 'What?' He said 'Stutter the words – it makes it sound like you're pilled' And I said, 'Oh… like I am!' And that's how it happened. It was always in there, it was always suggested with the 'f-f-fade' but the rest of it was improvised."
Pete Townshend wrote this on a train ride from London to Southampton on May 19, 1965 – his 20th birthday. In a 1987 Rolling Stone magazine interview, Townshend explained: "'My Generation' was very much about trying to find a place in society. I was very, very lost. The band was young then. It was believed that its career would be incredibly brief." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Townshend wrote this for rebellious British youths known as "Mods." It expressed their feeling that older people just don't get it.
Back in 1967, Pete Townshend called this song "The only really successful social comment I've ever made." Talking about the meaning, he explained it as "some pilled-up mod dancing around, trying to explain to you why he's such a groovy guy, but he can't because he's so stoned he can hardly talk."
This contains the famous line, "I hope I die before I get old." The Who drummer Keith Moon did, dying of a drug overdose in 1978 at age 32.
A Singapore magazine called BigO is named for the famous line in this song - it's an acronym for "Before I Get Old."
In 1993, the publication interviewed a then-48-year-old Pete Townshend and immediately asked if the line still resonated with him. "I think it does," Townshend replied. "The line actually came from a time when I was living in a really wealthy district of London, just by accident. I didn't really understand quite where I was living at the time. And I was treated very strangely on the street, in an imperious way by a lot of people, and it was that that I didn't like. I didn't like being confronted with money and the class system and power. I didn't like being in a corner shop in Belgravia and some woman in a fur coat pushing me out of the way because she was richer. And I didn't know how to deal with that. I could've, I suppose, insisted on my rights and not written the song. But I was a tucked-up little kid and so I wrote the song."
This song went through various stages as they tried to perfect it. It began as a slow song with a blues feel, and at one point had hand claps and multiple key changes. The final product was at a much faster tempo than the song was conceived; it was Kit Lambert's idea to speed it up.
This is the highest charting Who song in the UK, but it never cracked the Top 40 in America, where they were less known. In the UK the album was also called My Generation, but in America it was titled The Who Sing My Generation.
This features one of the first bass solos in rock history. John Entwistle used a new-on-the-market Danelectro bass to play it, but he kept breaking strings trying to record it. A bit of a bummer that replacement strings weren't available, as he had to go out and buy an entire new bass.
Entwistle was the least visible member of the band, and his bass solos on this song threw off directors when The Who would perform the song on TV shows. When it got to his part, the cameras would often go to Pete Townshend, and his fingers wouldn't be moving. Entwistle played the solos using a pick, since their manager Kit Lambert didn't think fingers recorded well. Most of Entwistle's next recordings were done with fingers.
The BBC refused to play this at first because they did not want to offend people with stutters. When it became a huge hit, they played it.
In 1965, Roger Daltrey stood by this song's lyric and claimed he would kill himself before reaching 30 because he didn't want to get old. When he did get older, he answered the inevitable questions about the "hope I die before I get old" line by explaining that it is about an attitude, not a physical age.
On September 17, 1967, The Who performed this song on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Keith Moon set his drums to explode after the performance, but the technical crew had already done so. The resulting explosion burned Pete Townshend's hair and permanently damaged his hearing.
Also of note during this performance was Moon's total disregard for the illusion of live performance. The band was playing along to a recorded track (common practice on the show), and while his bandmates synched their movements to the music, Moon made no effort to keep time, even knocking his cymbal over at one point.
Shel Talmy, who produced this track, was fired the next year. Talmy filed a lawsuit and won extensive royalties from future albums.
The ending of this song is electric mayhem, with Keith Moon pounding anything he can find on his drum kit and Townshend flipping his pickups on an off, something he also did on the album opener "Out in the Street." Townshend and Daltrey go back and forth on the vocals, intentionally stomping on each other to add to the chaos.
This was covered by Iron Maiden, who was usually the Who's polar opposite both musically and lyrically. One connection they share is the BBC-TV series Top of the Pops. Performances on the show were customarily lip-synched, but The Who performed live on the show in 1972. In 1980, Iron Maiden also performed live, and was the first band to do so since The Who. Maiden put their version of "My Generation" on the B-side to the single for "Lord of the Flies." (thanks, Brett - Edmonton, Canada)
Green Day recorded this for their 1992 album Kerplunk!. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
When teen pop singer Hilary Duff covered this as a B-side for her 2005 single "Someone's Watching Over Me," she made the curious decision to rewrite some of the lyrics. "I hope I don't die before I get old," doesn't really have the same rock 'n' roll attitude as Townshend's original words, and her rendition caused some consternation among Who fans.