This is the day 51 years ago (!) that 20-year-old Pete Townshend of The Who supposedly wrote “My Generation” on a train.
Released in November of 1965, it is rightfully regarded as one of the most memorable and influential rock songs ever, a clear – and gleefully distorted — beacon toward the coming of the punk-rock era.
So why did Roger Daltrey add stuttering to his delivery – f-f-f-fade away … d-d-d-dig … s-s-s-say? I’ve never investigated, just figured it was one of those artistic whims that I thought worked, incidentally. The device obviously adds to the song’s indelible character.
I didn’t take it as a spoof or a mocking of stutterers, fears of which reportedly kept the BBC from initially playing the record. But as a stutterer, I always kind of wondered what that was all about.
Fifty-one years later, the answer is as clear as mud, of course.
The alleged reasons, per the Wikipedia machine, vary from the song aping old bluesman John Lee Hooker’s “Stuttering Blues,” to Daltrey being unprepared to record the song and stumbling through the lyrics – which is a crock of Wiki-nonsense – to the cheeky intimation of F-word profanity.
I will lay it at the feet of the mystical inspiration that springs from the likes of then-21-year-old artists like Daltrey.
What’s funny is, as most people know, stutterers don’t stutter when they sing. My impediment spiked from mild to severe through my youth, which is why singing in the school chorus and church choir became such an oasis – aside from the girly boy teasing issues that inevitably cropped up. (Always something, right?)
But I remember realizing that the stutter vanished to music as an early fascination. I never understood it, and probably still don’t fully grasp it, although it certainly involves proper breathing technique. That was one of the keys I learned during some intensive therapy I took as an adult.
Alas, any music fan knows stuttering has been used forever as a singing device. Think of George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone,” “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive, David Bowie’s “Changes,” and “Bennie and the Jets” by Elton John. There are plenty more. The stutter is rhythmic. Effective. Memorable.
Funny I never thought that, though, under the death stare of a telephone receiver . . .
Happy 51st, My Generation.