I don't like critiquing music. Yes, I write about music.…
The Hot 106 is a list of 106 “classic rock” songs that deserve to be banned from radio airplay forever, due to being overplayed or just plain played out. In an effort to be fair, and to showcase great, lesser-known “deep cuts”, Kent and Jen have tasked themselves with finding replacements for these banished tunes.
This week on the Hot 106 Hit List “Who Are You” gets the business, CSI be damned.
Kent: No change
In the summer of 1993, in the tiny confines of the Conway, AR Hendrix College radio station, an elfin man named Neal was teaching me and some others the rules of radio broadcasting. I was here to both flex and hone my writing muscles, which I did, but getting to have my own radio station was so exciting that I was nervous and woozy.
Me and Carl Somers had our show, called Chuck’s Pez Dispenser, dedicated to the world’s worst music. It was a hit on the Governor’s School campus (rumors floated around about bootleg recordings of our shows being mailed out to others), but when the actual citizens of Conway started calling the radio station I was giddy.
I also said “god damn” on air, accidentally I said it to Yoko Ono, in response to her song “Sleepless Night”. Just listen to it; you will, too. Carl looked at me like I just shat on him. We both turned to the phone, waiting for it to turn into a cobra and kill us for what just happened. Nothing happened, though. Close call.
“Who Are You” stays. Hearing “fuck” on the radio makes my day.
Jen: The radio edit must die
I really enjoy “Who Are You.” It’s Keith Moon’s last hurrah (after, allegedly, over a hundred takes) and a sonically interesting song for its day. Let’s go back in time for a moment, back to that dark space between 1977 and 1978 when this was recorded: Pete Townshend is at the height of his alcoholism, feeling increasingly irrelevant thanks to punk rockers who stole all his moves and were doing them better than him; Roger Daltrey sits high atop the rock frontman list, just wanting to keep things going like a good working class lad would; and John Entwistle is being John Entwistle.
The song is written around a blackout drunk episode in which some punk rocker, maybe one of The Sex Pistols who was unintentionally wounding Townshend’s very soul, was hanging out with a 100% wasted Pete at a bar. There are a few stories as to what happened that evening, but all of them end in him asking (one of the Sex Pistols, a cop, or his manager, or a random passer-by, or God) “Who the fuck are you?” which is, of course, the line that makes the song especially cool. Kent is dead on with this one.
The original track plays pretty long, too–at least twice the length of an average punk song–as if to give the punks a double “fuck you” for whatever reason. (I think Townshend always admired the punks and longed to re-embrace that aesthetic that he essentially pioneered, but then he got into his “new romantic” phase, and it was all even-shittier-than Flock of Seagulls hair and more synthesizers and poncy lyrics for a few years.)
But radio won’t play it. They used to. The Who’s producers did a good job of sort of obscuring Daltrey’s voice in that spot, but now… now it’s gone. Everywhere. There’s no acoustic guitar solo — no solo at all — and the whole thing clocks in at just under three minutes.
Bring the radio edit back and “Who Are You” can stay. Otherwise, you’re gonna have to pay up. Big.
Like, Live at Leeds big.