Sharing the Shuffle – Baba O’Riley (The Who)

I love this song. I love everything about this song.

I get shivers every time I hear the opening, the incessant repetition of notes just tumbling over and over each other. I love how it takes 45 seconds for anything to happen, how the song enjoys what it’s doing and doesn’t care whether or not  you’re listening. It eases into itself, savoring each beat. And then, once you’ve lost yourself in the rhythm and almost forgotten about vocals, Roger Daltrey comes in, and it’s defiant and joyous, and there’s a weird sort of beautiful nihilist abandon.

I love the contrast between the energy of the verses and the asceticism of the bridge. I love the beats of cacophony that eventually work in with the music and turn out to not be cacophonous at all. I love the tension between the lyrics’ suggestion that the best days are over and the desperate determination of the music to enjoy what’s left anyway. And I love the wild chaos of the end, which is reminiscent of the beginning but sped up, like Pete Townsend is saying, look, the song is over and we don’t need to prove anything anymore, so here’s what we can do.

In the world of this song, nobody cares about it, and that shows up overtly in the lyrics, but it’s also in the way that the music goes off by itself, does what it likes, and wanders in and out of everything else. Except for the bridge (don’t cry/don’t raise your eyes/it’s only teenage wasteland), and I have a feeling that’s only so that you can focus on the reassurance of nothing to see here folks, move on.

Everything about this song screams that the good days are fading, but this moment is ours to do as we like. No one’s watching, and it’s a little sad, and a little hopeless, but then the drums come in at the end and none of that matters. Perhaps we’re dancing to death, but it’s one hell of a night.


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