From their first album, and though it wasn’t a hit when it came out, it is now a title that has become ubiquitous with the band. They are the kids. Were the kids. But, if you love them, they still are the kids. The original punks, angry, playful, bombastic. Revolutionaries in stripes and sneakers, dippity-doed hair, mod before mod was a thing.
Who? The Who.
The Kids are Alright set a great standard. The standard for rock greatness. Greatness was Keith Moon’s frenzied, nuclear motored drumming. It is still the greatest drumming I’ve ever heard. Townshed’s spectrum spanning guitar, crunching, driving, melodic, a full on range of sound from a mere six strings. He wielded chords with an orchestral strength. Daltry sang like he had a brass pair. Entwistle rolled thunder like a Greek god.
1965. They looked so clean cut, so reserved. Yet in this amazing song one finds their personas of greatness, rock gods in waiting, like Clark Kent behind his glasses - almost there, bursting at the seams to do what they were destined to do. There are two versions, but the UK album version has a glorious instrumental break that personifies Townshed’s ability to spin melodic gold.
The original promo video was filmed in Hyde park at the water’s edge, while holiday makers rowed past. A number of them have stopped to watch the band play, unamplified and lip-synching to a pre-recorded track. Moon is his usual self—a ball of energy, barely able to stay in his seat. Entwistle is straight knife-fight nonchalant, playing his bass with fingers the defied the limits of the bones under the skin. Townshed is reserved, but breaks into a genuine smile, a goofy grin that is unmistakable joy, then he throws in his classic windmill, forever changing the way we would all play guitar thereafter. Daltry is sullen, looking away from the camera rather than giving any of himself to it. He looks off to the side, this way and that—later you see all the girls that had gathered just the side of the band, and the boys on their bikes. Do you think they knew what they were watching? The very evolution of rock ‘n roll…the kids were definitely alright.
The song is still as fresh as it was in 1965, still packs the same raw, punchy joyous power. It’s a retrospective on youth now, but the song itself is still young, still invokes and evokes the joyousness of abandon and the joy of not knowing any better and not needing to. The assured swagger that comes with knowing everything will be fine.
In 2000, at the Royal Albert Hall, they extended the song, and Townsend took the opportunity to sing a new interlude:
"When I wrote this song I was nothing but a kid, trying to work out right and wrong through all the things I did. I was kind of practicing with my life. I was kind of taking chances in a marriage with my wife. I took some stuff and I drank some booze. There was almost nothing that I didn't try to use. And somehow I'm alright."
… the kids are definitely alright, still.