The Who – ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’
  • Writer: Pete Townshend
  • Producer: Kit Lambert
  • Recorded: Early 1969 at IBC Studios in London, England
  • Released: May 1969
  • Players:
    Roger Daltrey — vocals
    Pete Townshend — guitar, vocals
    John Entwistle — bass, vocals
    Keith Moon — drums
  • Album: Tommy (Decca, 1969)
  • Also On:
    The Story Of The Who (Polydor, 1976)
    Join Together (MCA, 1990)
    Thirty Years Of Maximum R&B (MCA, 1994)
    Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970 (Columbia/Legacy, 1996)
    Live At Leeds — Deluxe Edition (MCA, 2001)
  • The closing number of the Who‘s rock opera Tommy is actually three songs in one: the opening segment, then a mid-song reprise of “See Me, Feel Me,” and the “listening to you” chorale that closes the album on a hopeful note.
  • “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was one of the earliest songs completed for the album.
  • “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is partly a salute to Pete Townshend‘s spiritual guru, Meher Baba, particularly the “listening to you” portion, which praises the rewards of devotion (“following you, I climb the mountain/I get excitement at your feet”).
  • Townshend was actually critical of the song’s closing lines — “It’s meant to be extremely serious and plaintive, but words fail so miserably to represent emotions unless you skirt around the outside, and I didn’t do it enough there… This one fails because it actually comes out and says it.”
  • The opening portion of the song, however, chronicles the revolt by Tommy’s disciples when they decide they don’t want to adhere to the rules at his “holiday camp” retreat — particularly when he tells them they shouldn’t drink or smoke pot.
  • Tommy‘s working titles included Deaf, Dumb And Blind Boy, Amazing Journey, Journey Into Space, The Brain Opera, and Omnibus.
  • Though not the first rock opera (that was the Pretty ThingsS.F. Sorrow) nor the Who’s first conceptual piece (the band had already recorded “Rael” and “A Quick One While He’s Away”), Tommy is regarded as one of rock’s landmark albums, one that helped the young art form gain greater respectability from other cultural circles.
  • Tommy peaked at Number Four on the Billboard 200, where it stayed for 47 weeks — far longer than any other Who album to that point.
  • Some of the legendary performances of the entire opera were at the Woodstock festival in 1969 and at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera in 1970.

FAST FORWARD:

  • In 1972, Tommy was the basis for an all-star orchestral production (featuring Rod Stewart and Ringo Starr) by the London Symphony Orchestra And Chamber Choir, as well as for a ballet by Les Grand Ballets Des Canadiens in New York City. It’s also lent itself to a film by Ken Russell and a Tony-winning Broadway production.
  • After retiring it in 1971, the Who performed Tommy on their 1989 North American tour.
  • Drummer Keith Moon died in the fall of 1978. He was replaced by former Faces drummer Kenney Jones.
  • The Who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
  • 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 last year called Endless Wire, and recently finished a world tour in support of it. They are preparing to record a new studio album this fall, which might feature a number of early R&B covers.