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Boomer Anthems: “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

[To replicate the effects of the original, take ten bong hits, plug this into two twenty foot high stacks of concert speakers, set them out in the driveway, and then crank up the volume until everyone in a half-mile radius has a nosebleed.]

This romping stompling anthem was released as a single in June 1971, reaching the top 10 in the UK, while the full eight-and-a-half-minute version appears as the final track on the band’s 1971 album Who’s Next, released that August.

Townshend wrote the song as a closing number of the Lifehouse project. To symbolise the spiritual connection he had found in music via the works of Meher Baba and Inayat Khan, he programmed a mixture of human traits into a synthesizer and used it as the main backing instrument throughout the song. The Who tried recording the song in New York in March 1971, but re-recorded a superior take at Stargroves the next month using the synthesizer from Townshend’s original demo. Ultimately, Lifehouse as a project was abandoned in favour of Who’s Next, a straightforward album, where it also became the closing track. It has been performed as a staple of the band’s setlist since 1971, often as the set closer, and was the last song drummer Keith Moon played live with the band.

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

Pete Townshend lived on Eel Pie Island in Richmond, London, when he wrote this song. There was an active commune on the Island at the time situated in what used to be a hotel. According to Townshend, this commune was an influence on the song. “There was like a love affair going on between me an them,” he said. “They dug me because I was like a figurehead in a group, and I dug them because I could see what was going on over there. At one point there was an amazing scene where the commune was really working, but then the acid started flowing and I got on the end of some psychotic conversations.”

The album version runs 8:30. The single was shortened to 3:35 so radio stations would play it.

Daltrey was unhappy about the editing. He recalled to Uncut magazine: “I hated it when they chopped it down. I used to say ‘F–k it, put it out as eight minutes’, but there’d always be some excuse about not fitting it on or some technical thing at the pressing plant.”

“After that we started to lose interest in singles because they’d cut them to bits,” Daltrey added. “We thought, ‘What’s the point? Our music’s evolved past the three-minute barrier and if they can’t accommodate that we’re just gonna have to live on albums.'” Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who Songfacts

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again, no, no

Pete Townshend wrote this song about a revolution. In the first verse, there is an uprising. In the middle, they overthrow those in power, but in the end, the new regime becomes just like the old one (“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”). Townshend felt revolution was pointless because whoever takes over is destined to become corrupt. In Townshend: A Career Biography, Pete explained that the song was antiestablishment, but that “revolution is not going to change anything in the long run, and people are going to get hurt.”  Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who Songfacts

I’ll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky
Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?

(Endless synth/guitar/drums riff intervenes at this point… You may be excused to make a sandwich.)


There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again, no no


Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Lambert proved to be unable to mix the track, and a fresh attempt at recording was made at the start of April at Mick Jagger’s house, Stargroves, using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. Glyn Johns was invited to help with production, and he decided to re-use the synthesized organ track from Townshend’s original demo, as the re-recording of the part in New York was felt to be inferior to the original. Keith Moon had to carefully synchronize his drum playing with the synthesizer, while Townshend and Entwistle played electric guitar and bass. Townshend played a 1959 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins hollow body guitar fed through an Edwards volume pedal to a Fender Bandmaster amp, all of which he had been given by Joe Walsh while in New York. This combination became his main electric guitar recording setup for subsequent albums. Although intended as a demo recording, the end result sounded so good to the band and Johns, they decided to use it as the final take. Overdubs, including an acoustic guitar part played by Townshend, were recorded at Olympic Studios at the end of April. The track was mixed at Island Studios by Johns on 28 May. After Lifehouse was abandoned as a project, Johns felt “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, along with other songs, were so good that they could simply be released as a standalone single album, which became Who’s Next.

Townshend described the song as one “that screams defiance at those who feel any cause is better than no cause”. He later said that the song was not strictly anti-revolution despite the lyric “We’ll be fighting in the streets”, but stressed that revolution could be unpredictable, adding, “Don’t expect to see what you expect to see. Expect nothing and you might gain everything.”  Bassist John Entwistle later said that the song showed Townshend “saying things that really mattered to him, and saying them for the first time.”      – LaWik 

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ghostsniper August 23, 2018, 3:01 PM

    I actually got throwed out of a rental unit back in 1978 for playing this song.
    First place I moved into when I got out of the army. It was a 1 bedroom duplex, the people on the otherside were cool. They played loiud shit too.

    Got home from work, turned on the toonz and jumped in the shower, all the windows were wide open. This was my ARMY toonz. Pioneer SX1250 160 watt (REAL watts, not that bullshit they claim is watts today) receiver. Running it thru a Pioneer Range Expander, Reverb, and Equalizer into (4) Pioneer HPM100 speakers. I had it cranked about halfway so it was easily hearable a half mile away – about the distance to the landlords house. Won’t Get Fucking Fooled Again.

    I’m in there scrubbin’ the munkey and suddenly the toonz drop off. WTFF? I came out of that deluge like my hair was on fire, not knowing if something blew up or what. And there he was, the landlord, standing in my living room bigger’n Stuttgart. There I was, naked as the day was long, drippin’. I looked at my receiver and seen the power switch was off.

    I jumped square in his shit, right up in his mug. You NEVER cut the juice on a high powered sound system, ever. You ease the volume down to zero, wait a few seconds, then you cut the power. The back pressure will crystalize the magnets in the drivers and possibly stretch the cones. Those speakers cost about $500 each in real world dollars and that asshole risked every one of them. And for what? No one was complaining except for him. I paid my rent, what was the problem.

    Well, it was right then and there I realized that renting was not the path for me. He gave me 10 days to get out and I was gone in 2.

    Still have all that Pioneer stuff and that receiver went through a major do over about 15 years ago. Frame off cleaning, new caps, all solder joints redone, etc. It’ll still make your hammer and anvils quake and still looks like the day it was born. Pristine.

  • steve walsh August 23, 2018, 3:44 PM

    Entwistle’s bass playing was often overlooked and always under appreciated.

  • Michael A Marinacci August 23, 2018, 5:18 PM

    Pretty much THE anthem of everyone who’s been let down by a politician or a movement since its release.
    And the ironic thing is, we ALWAYS get fooled again.

  • MMinLamesa August 23, 2018, 11:02 PM

    Saw The Who live in Denver, musta been around the early 70s as I remember the gal I was living with at the time, sprung for the tickets. When they did this song, Pete Townshend shot out of stage right like someone jumping on a tube of toothpaste, wailing on his guitar.

    Pretty dang cool.

  • H August 24, 2018, 5:38 AM

    Townsend continued to embrace the suck with this little ditty:


    Drinks flow
    People forget
    That big wheel spins, the hair thins
    People forget
    Forget they’re hiding
    The news slows
    People forget
    Their shares crash, hopes are dashed
    People forget
    Forget they’re hiding

  • tim August 24, 2018, 5:58 AM

    Glad ole Pete wasn’t around spreading his pap back in 1775, “Yea, the new boss is gonn’a be the same as the old boss, count me out.”

    Still though, great song, great band. Saw them on their “farewell tour” back in ’89 at Rich Stadium in Buffalo. Guy next to us kept passing us a packed pipe of opium, concert rocked.

  • ghostsniper August 24, 2018, 11:37 AM

    Anybody ever notice that Pete never played lead guitar?
    But he made up for it by being a fulltime rhythm guitarist with an attitude.
    He was all over the neck all of the time. Fulltime.
    Yeah, he bent single wires now and then but only rarely.
    And, Entwistle did an excellent job filling in the holes.
    Yes, he was an amazing bassist and you could tell it just by how he held the thing.
    Up tight where he could work it properly, not all hangin down to the floor like it was an after thought. He’s the first person, say, maybe late 60’s, that caused me to pay attention to how a bass was supposed to be played. Not with a pick. Your index and middle fingers together get far more stuff done than any pick ever could. I got a bass rig but could never get the hang of the 2 finger thing. Just didn’t work for me. I was all thumbs. A Rogue 4 string bass and a Peavey bass amp. Nothing fancy. Gave all of to me kid last summer, along with an Epiphone 12 string acoustic, a Fender Princeton amp, and an old Harmony acoustic. And 2 keyboards and a Digitech guitar processor. Stuff was just sitting around getting in the way. I just don’t play much any more. Still have 3 guitars (2 electric) and 2 amps, and several large boxes of accessories, and my kid might get them the next time he comes here.

    The Seeker

  • Daniel K Day August 24, 2018, 11:47 AM

    My favorite version of that song is a duet on an album titled “The Secret Policeman’s Ball”. Peter Townshend and John Williams, acoustic all the way.