“Won't Get Fooled Again” is one of The Who’s most defining records. Edited down to just over three-and-a-half minutes and originally released as a single in June 1971, the song became a top ten hit in the UK. This time 50 years ago, the same single was busy climbing its way up the US Billboard Hot 100, eventually peaking at number 16 (opens in new tab).
The full eight-and-a-half-minute version appears as the closing number on the band's 1971 album Who's Next, released later in August 1971. Pete Townshend achieved his iconic electric guitar tone for the recording using a Filter’Tron-loaded 1959 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins Hollow Body going into a 1959 Fender Bandmaster via an Edwards Light Beam volume pedal. Gifted to Townshend by Joe Walsh this setup subsequently became his go-to studio rig.
“I think the significant moments have actually had a lot to do with guitars, actual guitars,” Townshend told GP back in 1989. “Like being given an orange Gretsch [6120 Chet Atkins Hollow Body] and an Edwards [volume] pedal by Joe Walsh, and being told exactly how to set up the amp to produce that amazing Neil Young noise, and using that sound on “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Bargain.”
Speaking of the guitar, amp, and pedal in another GP interview from 1993 the guitarist comments: “When I get those three things out and put them in a chain, it’s a sound from paradise. If I try to fuck with it and say, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if I took the Gretsch and put it through a Zoom pedal,” it doesn’t work. It’s got to be just that combination of stuff.”
Performed here live using a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe (modified with a DiMarzio pickup) and a wall of Hiwatts at Shepperton Studios on 25 May 1978, this rendition of "Won't Get Fooled Again" was shot for the closing sequence of the band's 1979 rockumentary The Kids Are Alright.
While the sequence captures Townshend at his peak – complete with windmills and knee-slide – the performance is notable for being Keith Moon’s last appearance with the band before his untimely passing in September 1978 aged 32.
Buy Who's Next here (opens in new tab).
Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar World (opens in new tab), Guitar Player (opens in new tab) and MusicRadar (opens in new tab) in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.
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