The Who

A Legal Matter

Song Review by

As if "My Generation" hadn't been enough of a clue, "A Legal Matter" proves conclusively that Pete Townshend was working on a different plane than just about every other songwriter in London in 1965. Where John Lennon was writing coded odes to infidelity like "Norwegian Wood," Townshend wrote perhaps the first pop song to be explicitly about divorce. (It seems important to note that, at the time this song was written, Townshend hadn't even married his future wife, Karen Astley, yet.) Townshend sings the song himself, in an early break with band tradition that does the tune a big favor; Roger Daltrey is so self-assured a singer that lines like "You ain't the first and you ain't the last/I gain and lose my women fast" would sound callous in his hands, but Townshend's adenoidal whine actually makes the singer sound like he's sneaking out in the dead of night, scared to death that his wife's going to catch him. It adds an extra layer of humor to a song that's already quite funny. Musically, the song is a Rolling Stones-like blast of punky R&B similar to much of the rest of My Generation, but it's spirited enough that, although it was never a hit, "A Legal Matter" showed up on the singles compilation Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy in the early '70s.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Who Sings My Generation 1965 Universal 2:48
Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy 1971 MCA 2:48
No Image 1974 MCA
Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy/Who by Numbers 1982 MCA
Thirty Years of Maximum R&B 1994 MCA 2:46
The Ultimate Collection 2002 Universal Distribution 2:48
The Early Collection: Magic Bus/Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy/Who's Missing 2004 Griffin 2:48
My Generation [Japan Box Set] 2008 Universal 2:54
Maximum A's & B's 2017 MCA / Polydor 2:49
No Image Hiwatt 2:49