Pete Townshend's inspiration for "My Generation" was twofold. First, he drew upon his own life and his frustration with the older generations. Even though The Who was successful, Mr. Townshend was still often treated with disrespect by older individuals and those of a higher social status. Second, he was inspired by the "Young Man Blues" by legendary blues pianist Mose Allison. Like "My Generation", "Young Man Blues" dealt with the theme of youthful rebellion and frustration with older generations.The Who covered the song in live performances and the song appeared on both their album Live at Leeds and the documentary film The Kids Are Alright.
One of the best known features of "My Generation" is Roger Daltrey's stutter throughout the song. The reason for the stutter is now unclear. Roger Daltrey credited The Who's manager Kit Lambert with the idea of the stutter as a way to simulate the sound of a Mod on speed (amphetamines). Pete Townshend said that "My Generation" started as a talking blues song like "Talkin' New York Blues" by Jimmy Reed and then went through a number of changes, after which he came up with the idea of the stutter. According to Keith Moon the stuttering came about entirely by accident when Roger Daltrey was trying to learn the song's lyrics and it was decided to keep the stutter. Regardless, the stutter would result in "My Generation" being banned by the BBC for a time, who thought it might offend those who stutter.
"My Generation" was released as a single in the United Kingdom on October 29 1965. The song became the band's highest charting single in the United Kingdom, peaking at no. 2 on the British singles chart. "My Generation" also went to no. 3 in Canada and no. 9 in Australia. Curiously it did not do nearly as well in the United States. Released in the U.S. on November 5 1965, it only went to no. 74 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was only The Who's second single to make the Billboard Hot 100, the first being "I Can't Explain (which peaked at no. 93)". The song gave its name to The Who's debut album, My Generation, which was released on December 3 1965 in the United Kingdom and on April 1966 in the United States.
As might be expected The Who performed "My Generation" on various television shows, including the American Broadcasting Company's show Shindig; the German show Beat Club; and legendary British show Ready, Steady, Go. The most famous performance of the song on television would air around two years after it was released. On September 15 1967 The Who appeared on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, performing "I Can See for Miles" and "My Generation". Drummer Keith Moon and a stage hand overloaded his drum kit with explosives. At the end of "My Generation" Keith Moon detonated the explosives, which went off with unexpected effect. Reportedly Keith Moon's arm was injured by shrapnel from the blast. Pete Townshend attributed the start of his partial hearing loss and tinnitus to the explosion that took place during The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
While "My Generation"did poorly in the United States upon its initial release, it has since become possibly their most famous song. It has remained part of The Who's sets at concerts ever since its release. It has also been used in numerous television shows and movies. Here it The Who's performance of the song from the German music show from the Sixties, Beat Club.