Crawdaddy: Why we think "Going Mobile" is the weakest cut on the Who's Who's Next

Martin Bailey Martin.Bailey at
Wed Apr 21 08:02:41 UTC 2010

and from the same "Wolfgang's Vault Newsletter":

(I'll have to read all this later)


The Weakest Cut: Who's Next

by: James Greene Jr.

Our musical heritage is littered with albums deemed "classic" and "essential." Yet can any one album, even the most highly-touted or beloved, truly be flawless? I say no. Welcome to The Weakest Cut, a weekly feature in which the least important, interesting, cohesive, or artistically integral song on a specific album will be singled out and discussed at length.

A friend of mine constantly refers to the Who as "sweaty ball rock." This term, though disparaging, seems appropriate. For who can hear the name Roger Daltrey and not think of that perspiration-streaked stage warrior from The Kids Are Alright belting out the classics in his impossibly tight denim pants, testicles undoubtedly soaked in just as much sweat as his sausage-colored torso? I'm sure Roger's nuggets looked as moist and tender as two Chinatown dumplings back in the day. Actually, every member of the Who appeared pretty gamey during the Me Decade. How much Gold Bond medicated powder do you think these guys demanded on their tour rider? You can't play powerful, dynamic music like that and expect not to chafe.

1971's Who's Next was as powerful, dynamic, and sweat-drenched as the Who came, a true powerhouse of a record that found the band dialing down their trademark whimsy for increased personal rumination and sonic bombast. The results were remarkable, transforming not only the Who but the genre of rock itself (I think it's fair to say the synth break at the end of "Won't Get Fooled Again" helped to permanently excise "n roll" from the style that previously gave us the Big Bopper and Chubby Checker). Today it's difficult to judge the majority of Who's Next in the proper context as it seems every other song has been pilfered for car commercials or B-grade television crime dramas. While some may argue that the post-Y2K commercial ubiquity of these songs is the ultimate testament to their greatness, I for one wish I could hear the rolling, somber melody that carries "Behind Blue Eyes" without nightmare memories of that neanderthal Fred Durst's hollow interpretation (and the accompanying Blair Witch-ish video).

The Who wisely kept Who's Next brief, offering a mere nine tracks as a follow-up to their successful and sprawling 1969 rock opera Tommy. This wasn't the original plan; at first, guitarist Pete Townshend was dedicated to the notion of bringing the world another rock opera. This, the famed Lifehouse project, proved too stressful for the band, so they scrapped the idea and served up the best musical chunks on Who's Next. More bands should work like that-write 24 songs and then just pick the best nine. Then the world would probably have more Who's Nexts and less Razorblade Suitcases.

It's true, there is nothing outstandingly awful or out-of-place on the Who's 1971 masterpiece. Instead, the bar only lowers to dazzlingly mediocre. I single out the seventh track on Who's Next, "Going Mobile", as the one song that doesn't contain a single moment on par with the kind of impact "Bargain" or "My Wife" might make on any given listener. "Going Mobile" is a dippy, "free-spirited" travel jingle that, while sort of fun, seems better suited for Kermit the Frog. In fact, the damn thing conjures up images of Pete Townshend riding a bicycle a la Kermit in those old Muppet movies, waving at old ladies and children with his spindly arms as he whizzes through a small English village. What adventures will Pete have today? Will he remember to pick up that tea cake for his Mum? Repeated use of the term "gypsy" in "Mobile" also rubs this reviewer the wrong way.

I suppose an innocuous song like "Going Mobile" is necessary as a palette cleanser between heart-bruising material like "The Song Is Over" and the aforementioned "Behind Blue Eyes". Lift the people up before you bring them down again. Yet why couldn't the Who have dropped in their taught Marvin Gaye cover, "Baby Don't You Do It" (available as a bonus track on the 1995 Who's Next reissue), instead? That song actually inspires some body movement, whereas "Going Mobile" makes me feel like I'm choking on baby food.

Not a pleasant sensation, although less revolting (I imagine) than being forced to gag on the warm drippings from Keith Moon's nether regions following a three hour concert. You know Moon's pores probably poured out the most perspiration of all Who members. As the drummer, he was exerting the most force playing songs like "Baba O'Riley" and "A Quick One While He's Away". Also, Keith was hopped up on so many goofballs in the 1970s the guy probably couldn't even blink without soaking himself. One can only imagine what the crotch of that white jumpsuit smelled like after the final tour.

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