The Who

The Kids Are Alright

Song Review by

Other than "My Generation," "The Kids Are Alright" was the best song on the Who's first album, My Generation, and over the years has come to be seen as an anthem of sorts for the entire mid-'60s British mod movement. Through the end of 1965, most of Pete Townshend's songs had been fairly standard (if usually rather aggressive) romantic situations or general statements of mod purpose and freedom that were colored by anger and frustration. "The Kids Are Alright" was an important step forward for the composer in revealing shades of self-reflection, vulnerability, and sensitivity. The track itself, of course, was pure power pop at its best: there are fewer guitar chords that epitomize the genre more than the ringing, strident unaccompanied one that opens the track. As its sustain dies away, a harmonized team of Who vocalists comes in super-briefly before Roger Daltrey takes over the verse. The melody of "The Kids Are Alright" is lilting and pleasant, very pop in a way that sounds almost Beatles-like, especially with the prominent harmonies. The crisp tempo, authoritative guitar chording, and bashing Keith Moon drums -- especially at the end of the brief instrumental break, where he really lets loose with a raucous roll -- definitely mark this as a Who performance, though. The lyrics have an intriguing ambiguity that also help mark this as one of Townshend's first major efforts. The narrator seems to be mulling over leaving his gang -- the mods, in other words -- for more freedom. But something is holding him back from doing so: the need for security, hence the realization that the "kids," meaning mods most likely, are okay. There is a brief melancholy bridge that hints that he really should be breaking away, because it'll be a lot better for a certain "her," presumably a girlfriend. Viewed in such a way "The Kids Are Alright" is a mod update on the old "wedding bells are breaking up the old gang of mine" theme. A more radical interpretation that has been mooted is that the narrator finds the companionship of mods, who are mostly or wholly guys most likely, preferable to a girlfriend or wife, perhaps reflecting sublimated homosexuality in the mod movement as a whole. Because of the title, it's been seen as an endorsement for the validity of youth culture as a whole, although really it seems just as much an admission of the inevitability of leaving that culture to eventually lead an adult life. Whatever, it is a certified Who classic, becoming especially embedded as such after its use as the title for the Who's film documentary The Kids Are Alright. Incidentally, there are two different edits of the track that have circulated: the original British LP featured a long instrumental break of repeated guitar chords, which was drastically shortened to almost nothing when it was released in the U.S. The most noted cover of "The Kids Are Alright" is the one done in the 1970s by Eddie & the Hot Rods, a group who bridged pub rock with new wave.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Who Sings My Generation 1965 Universal 3:05
Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy 1971 MCA 2:45
No Image 1974 MCA
Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy/Who by Numbers 1982 MCA
The Who 1985 Grupo Laser Disc
Who's Better, Who's Best 1988 MCA 2:45
Thirty Years of Maximum R&B 1994 MCA 3:05
The Ultimate Collection 2002 Universal Distribution 2:46
Then and Now: 1964-2004 2004 UMVD 2:46
The Early Collection: Magic Bus/Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy/Who's Missing 2004 Griffin 2:45
My Generation [Japan Box Set] 2008 Universal 3:10
Greatest Hits 2009 Geffen 3:07
Greatest Hits & More 2010 Polydor 3:07
Icon 2 2011 Geffen 3:06
The Who Hits 50! 2014 Geffen 3:05
Completely Under the Covers 2015 Edsel 2:50
Maximum A's & B's 2017 MCA / Polydor 3:06
No Image Hiwatt 2:46
No Image
Various Artists
Universal 3:04
No Image
Various Artists
Polygram