When it came to talking about their generation, few bands matched The Who
CBC hosts went to London to see the Kinks but had to settle for a lesser-known band called The Who
In the mid-1960s, word got out that England—that stodgy bastion of tradition, empire, and never, ever emoting—was hip. The Beatlemania which had taken over North America a few years earlier wasn't an anomaly. England was cool now. It was teeming with rock bands and young people in fun clothes.
Curious, the crew at CBC's new mid-day current affairs program, Take 30, decided to head over to London and find out what all the fuss was about.
"That England was leading the world was astonishing," says co-host Paul Soles. He and Adrienne Clarkson took an up-close look at the new England, including the fashion mecca of Carnaby Street. They also talked to American author Tom Wolfe, who said Swinging London was the result of young people "dropping out" of a rigid class system and choosing to focus more on "the style of life." They also spoke to British satirist Malcolm Muggeridge, who was unimpressed with the styles being worn by young Britons.
But the climax of their look at London was when they were sent to catch a performance by and up-and-coming young London band called The Who.
"We knew we could never get The Beatles," says Clarkson. "But when we went to London, we wanted The Kinks. And The Kinks were not available to us. And they said 'There's this little band that's really getting to be quite good, and they're playing a gym in Westminster. You should go to them because the girls really like them.' That was The Who, and we'd never heard the name before."
What followed was a barrage of sweat and sound and broken musical equipment that Soles called "mesmerizing and exhausting." More than 50 years later, Clarkson says that she instantly understood the band's appeal.
"You just knew," she says. "There was a feeling about it. It was different from The Beatles and The Kinks, and we just felt like there was something going on here."
"The velocity of it all, in terms of decibels and everything else was astonishing," adds Soles. "But, as with everything else, with all great cultural upheavals, the kids were absolutely into it. It was expressing their freedom, their exuberance. And that's why the tune 'My Generation' was apt."