The Who are often associated with the 60s and 70s, but they did get to the early 1980s despite the death of legendary drummer Keith Moon in 1978.
Perhaps that explains why, although they are played in a very competent and accomplished way, the drums in this song aren’t anything to ring home about. They function very well as a powerful, insistent backbone for the track.
Luckily, there are many other instruments in this song which are certainly noteworthy!
The keyboard arpeggio is laid down from the start, and helps mark the song as a Who song. The sound is reminiscent of the minimalist repetitions of the sort heard in Philip Glass pieces, only funkier.
The guitar work is splendid, making the 2 minute intro less of a build up to the vocals and more of an impressive thing in itself. The guitar is a fairly understated and chilled out affair, preferring to smoothly dance than to scream out its intentions.
The bassline is one of the highlights of the whole thing, adding untold levels of funky coolness, without getting too hot under the collar. For much of the song, it just plays single notes, but really comes into its own for the choruses.
The singing is done by Pete Townshend, with main singer Roger Daltrey declaring the song to be the only one on the album worth releasing! Lyrics-wise, Townshend picks apart the self-obsessed, cocaine fuelled excess of the 80s, the fakeness and depravity of the greedy nouveau rich.
The album, It’s Hard, was divisive for critics, but even the more critical critics have singled out this song as a classic…
The song was released as a single in 1982, and the band split in 1983. It came out just in the nick of time then!