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Top 10 the Who Songs of the ’70s

Keystone Hulton Archive, Getty Images
It's no easy feat counting down the 10 Best the Who Songs, so we at least broke it down into decades. As we continue our list of Top Who songs, this batch finds us head long into the '70s. So many to choose from, so little space. As usual, we tried to balance things between the tried and true and the sadly forgotten. Things definitely get a little tougher as this time we're picking from the 'Quadrophenia,' 'Who Are You,' and 'Who's Next' albums among others. We think you'll agree, it's hard to pick just ten! Now on with the show.


Who Are You
10

'Who Are You'

From: 'Who Are You' (1978)
 
 

As legend has it, the lyrics are autobiographical. Pete Townshend met up with Paul Cook and Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols in a bar and proceeded to drink them under the table. His anger boils at the prospect that the old guard is over and done, as he asks Cook and Jones, "Who are you?" Taking this inspiration into the studio, Townshend created the last great Who statement on the last Who album to feature the original band. Keith Moon was found dead less than a month after its release. With its pulsing synth and staggered rhythm, the verse of the song charges along with a kind of uncertain bravado, if there is such a thing. Once they hit that chorus, it's full speed ahead.

 
Quadrophenia
9

'Love Reign O'r Me'

From: 'Quadrophenia' (1973)
 
 

The dramatic closer of 'Quadrophenia,' has to be one of the 10 Best Who Songs of the '70s and is one of the most powerful love songs ever. 'Love Reign O'r Me' is a Roger Daltrey tour de force. The cinematic quality of the song is enhanced by the friction of the orchestral synths battling it out with Moon's over the top drumming as Roger belts out an incredible vocal throughout. Townshend's guitar here serves more as coloring, leaving the full force of the song to Keith and the synths. It's a symphony in under six minutes.

 
The Who by Numbers
8

'Slip Kid'

From: 'The Who by Numbers' (1975)
 
 

Primarily know for it's sole hit of 'Squeeze Box,' the band's seventh album 'The Who by Numbers' is chock full of great songs. The opening song, 'Slip Kid,' chugs out of the gate with an uncharacteristically subtle shuffle. Moonie's laying back on this one and it really works! The varied dynamics of the song win out here, and we get yet another in a never ending series of first class vocals from Roger Daltrey. The origin of the song dates back to the 'Lifehouse' project shelved by Townshend in favor of the more direct approach of 'Who's Next.'

 
The Seeker
7

'The Seeker'

Single, 1970
 
 

A top twenty UK hit for the band in early 1970, 'The Seeker' bridges the gap between 'Tommy' and the soon to be abandoned 'Lifehouse' project, yet contains ideals from both. Questioning his surroundings, Townshend lays the cards on the table. "I'm looking for me, you're looking for you. We're looking in at each other and we don't know what to do." Another killer guitar riff powers the song as the band is firing on all cylinders. Though it didn't even crack the top 40 in the states, it became a radio favorite over the years. In 2004, it was done up by Rush on their album of all cover songs, 'Feedback.'

 
Live At Leeds
6

'Heaven and Hell'

From: 'Live At Leeds' (1970)
 
 

'Heaven and Hell' is one of the best songs in the Who's arsenal despite never appearing on any Who studio album. It was the choice of opening song for many of the band's shows in the early '70s. This John Entwistle composition's only appearance on record was as the b-side of the band's cover of Eddie Cochran's 'Summertime Blues.' Later reissues of the 'Live At Leeds' CD included a blazing live version. Entwistle's lead vocals are aided by Roger joining in. The musical interplay between John, Keith and Pete is jaw dropping at times and the power of Townshend's guitar leaves one speechless.

 
Who's Next
5

'Behind Blue Eyes'

From: 'Who's Next' (1971)
 
 

You can't have a Who best of list without 'Behind Blue Eyes,' one of the most striking songs from the 'Who's Next' LP. The track provides a genuinely honest and moving lyric delivered supremely by Daltrey. It begins with subtle beauty and builds with raucous chaos as the whole bands kicks in just after the two-minute mark. Though not a chart hit upon it's release, the song has become a staple on classic rock radio over the years and still resonates forty-plus years down the road.

 
Quadrophenia
4

'5:15'

From: 'Quadrophenia' (1973)
 
 

"Magically bored on a quiet street corner.'' The band's sixth studio album, 'Quadrophenia,' was a triumph on many levels. The power of its songs hasn't diminished one sliver since its release in 1973. '5:15' continues the tale of Jimmy, the central figure in the story, and his day-to-day struggle with the grind of his life, as the lyrics state, "Leave me alone, nowhere is home." The dynamic horn arrangement perfectly compliments the classic Who rock machine.

 
Who's Next
3

'Baba O'Riley'

From: 'Who's Next' (1971)
 
 

'Baba O'Riley' stands out as one of the best Who songs of the '70s due to the sequenced synthesizer pattern that opens the song. The entire intro lasts over a minute, and the synth loop plays for the duration of the song. Roger steps in with one of his most iconic vocal performances, and the band is off and running on what many consider to be their finest hour. A violin solo at song's end? Why not! The Who broke many rules on 'Who's Next,' and it's lasting appeal over four decades says a lot about the times in which it was created. The song has taken on a life of it's own over the years and no Who show would be complete without it.

 
Quadrophenia
2

'The Real Me'

From: 'Quadrophenia' (1973)
 
 

The supercharged opener to the Who's classic 1973 album 'Quadrophenia,' 'The Real Me' is full of anger, venom, digust, despair and desire. To accompany those sentiments, we have loud guitars, thundering bass, triumphant vocals and an avalanche of drums. Daltrey is in supreme form on this one and you believe every word spit out of his mouth. John Entwistle is simply on his own planet when it comes to his playing on here. This is easily one of the band's most enduring and exciting rockers.

 
Who's Next
1

'Won't Get Fooled Again'

From: 'Who's Next' (1971)
 
 

'Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.' Long before this was the theme song for some TV show, this song was indescribably thrilling. In the aftermath of the '60s dream gone sour, Townshend cuts through the bull---- of the era. "There's nothing in the street looks any different to me, and the slogans are replaced by the by. And the parting on the left is now the parting on the right, and the beards have all grown longer overnight." It's sentiments rang loud in 1971 and guess what, they still do. After all, the hypnotized never lie...do ya?

 

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