Nestled at the end of WHO, the Who’s glorious new album that Roger Daltrey has called their best since Quadrophenia, is a song that transports you back to an era of My Generation or A Quick One. All thanks to Pete Townshend’s vocals sounding so damn young. And, we can promise you, it’s not because of a strategic use of auto-tune. “Got Nothing to Prove,” Townshend confirmed to NME, was actually recorded as a demo by the band back in the summer of 1966, but it was ultimately rejected as a song by the band’s manager-producer, Kit Lambert, due to its lack of emotional resonance at the time. (A sample lyric: “When I was a little younger I’d have to justify my acts / I’d spend a lot of precious time trying to find the facts.”) Townshend would go on to offer the song to Jimmy James & the Vagabonds in 1967, but they ultimately passed on it, too.
“I have a feeling Kit may have felt the song sounded as though it was sung by an older and more self-satisfied man than I was in real life,” Townshend explained. “That would have applied to Roger too, I suppose. Now it works. Back then, perhaps it didn’t.” For WHO, Townshend and the album’s co-producer, Dave Sardy, deciding on using Townshend’s vocals from the original “Got Nothing to Prove” demo juxtaposed with modern-day orchestration (bass, brass, the works), which were recorded in a studio. “We decided to ask George Fenton to do a Swinging ‘60s band arrangement to make the song more interesting,” he added, “but also to place it firmly in an Austin Powers fantasy. I love it.” We concur that it’s very shagadelic, baby.