15. You Better You Bet (1981)

A great song and an accomplished piece of song-writing to be sure, but the sense of barely-contained anarchy has gone out of the band following Keith Moon’s death three years earlier so it marks the end of an era in some ways. Faces drummer Kenney Jones is now behind the kit, but things just aren’t quite the same. The last Who single to dent the UK top 10, peaking at number nine.

14. Pictures Of Lily (1967)

A teenage boys swoons (and more) over a photograph of music hall star Lily Langtree, given to him by his father to help him sleep. It probably isn’t the only song about masturbation to break into the charts – it, er, peaked at number four – but it’s certainly one of the cleverest. Pete Townshend is said to have coined the phrase ‘power pop’ when describing it to the NME.

13. I’m One (1973)

It opens with a passage of acoustic guitar before John Entwistle and Keith Moon come in. Townshend then switches back to his famous Gretsch 6120 but the song remains oddly restrained by Who standards. Perhaps it’s because Daltrey sits this one out: Townshend sings, and the song is taken from the band’s Mod-themed rock opera Quadrophenia, later turned into a film by Franc Roddam. Rarely performed live until the mid-1990s, it now features regularly on the set list and is one of Townshend’s most introspective – and possibly most cathartic – compositions. “Ill-fitting clothes and I blend in the crowd, fingers too clumsy, voice too loud.”

12. The Real Me (1973)

Another Quadrophenia cut, this is classic Who: drums, fuzz-drenched guitar salvos and liquid bass runs all pull in separate directions at the same time. Made to be played very loud – the band generally obliged – it traditionally closed the set as an extended jam and was later covered by Pearl Jam and left-field American rockers Phish.

11. Pinball Wizard (1969)

Taken from The Who’s rock opera Tommy and a number four hit in the UK, Townshend later referred to it as a “clumsy” piece of writing. But despite its curio status – a song about deaf, blind, mute pinball player? – it became a firm fan favourite, thanks in part to its blindingly simple guitar intro. “His disciples lead him in and he just does the rest,” Daltrey sings. Almost as famous is Elton John’s version, sung by him in Ken Russell’s 1975 film adaptation.

10. Substitute (1966)

Townshend has a caravan load of emotional and psychosexual baggage, and much of it finds its way into his lyrics. Here is an early run through some of this favourite themes: split-personalities, masculinity, disguises and self-confidence (lack of). Think of it as a tarnished silver coin with Smokey Robinson’s twin Motown masterpieces The Tears Of A Clown and The Tracks Of My Tears on the obverse. “I look pretty tall but my heels are high/The simple things you see are all complicated”. And how. Still, the single made it to number five which isn’t bad for a song this freighted with doubt.

9. Magic Bus (1968)

The title nods to the customised school bus which ferried counterculture guru Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters around the US in the early 1960s as they laid the seeds for the hippy revolution. But, as ever, Townshend’s lyrics subvert and undercut everything and in spite of the Latin percussion and Bo Diddley-style guitar rhythm driving it, he gives the song a peculiarly English feel. “Every day I get in the queue,” Daltrey sings. “Thruppence and sixpence … just to get to my baby”. It fared badly in the charts but it’s now viewed as a classic, covered by Paul Weller and used by Martin Scorsese on the soundtrack to Goodfellas. Check out the near eight minute version on 1970’s Live At Leeds album. Cool fact: the ‘slapback’ delay effect is actually the sound echoing off the back wall of the venue. Townshend was reportedly furious, but it makes the recording even more special.

8. The Seeker (1970)

“I asked Bobby Dylan/I asked The Beatles/Asked Timothy Leary/But he couldn’t help me either,” sings Daltrey in what appears to be a tale of spiritual and intellectual questing but turns into something darker and more existential as the song runs on. Townshend claims to have written it while drunk in a Florida hotel room at three in the morning – or “in the swamp” as he described it – but whatever its genesis, it rocks. Features prominently in Steven Soderbergh’s 1999 film The Limey, starring Terrence Stamp as an avenging London hardman tracking down his daughter’s killer in Los Angeles.

7. The Kids Are Alright (1965)

Downbeat and plaintive – “I don’t mind other guys dancing with my girl” is the opening line – this became a Mod anthem in the late 1970s and was used as the title for a 1979 documentary about The Who whose accompanying double album featured the now-iconic image of the band lying under a Union Jack. Shot in New York in 1968 by Art Kane, it shows the band leaning against a monument to German revolutionary Carl Schurz with the flag draped over them. “They were great,” Kane said later. “They made me think of Dickens’ Oliver Twist, Fagin’s gang. Irreverent, lovable. The first to wear clothes made from the British flag. I had the flag made from two Union Jacks. I was influenced by a Cartier-Bresson photograph of a vagrant asleep under a statue in Trafalgar Square.” There are notable cover versions by Patti Smith and Green Day.

6. I’m A Boy (1966)

A song about gender dysphoria hitting number two in the pop charts in 1966? You bet. Originally intended for a sci-fi rock opera called Quads, it became a showcase instead for Townshend’s song-writing brio and lyrical preoccupations. “I’m a boy, I’m a boy but my Ma won’t admit it,” sings the avowedly cisgender Daltrey in this tale of either (and here take your pick) a boy dressed up as a girl against his will, or a girl who feel she’s a boy.

5. I Can’t Explain (1965)

The Who always give good intro (see also Baba O’Riley, I Can’t Explain, Pinball Wizard, Won’t Get Fooled Again) but few of them are as punchy or as unmistakable as this one. Just ask Fatboy Slim: he sampled the choppy opening chords of Yvone Elliman’s 1973 cover for his 1997 single Going Out Of My Head single, and even David Bowie’s sluggish version on Pin Ups can’t disguise its power. The band’s first single as The Who, it reached number eight in the charts.

4. Baba O’Riley (1971)

Influenced by Indian spiritual teachings and the music of minimalist composer Terry Riley, Townshend experimented with synthesisers to great effect on this track from the Who’s Next album. Dissonant and clashing at first, it comes into focus as piano and drums join in and Townshend punches out a simple, descending three-chord riff before the whole thing segues into a folk-tinged stomper (it’s one of the few well-known Who songs to feature solo violin, supplied here by Moon’s pal Dave Arbus). The “teenage wasteland” refrain is a reference to the scene of devastation following the band’s appearance at the Isle of Wight festival in August 1969, and the drug-induced carnage they witnessed at Woodstock a couple of weeks earlier.

3. 5.15 (1973)

Drugs, boredom, suburban alienation, reflection, commuter trains, poor mental health and self-referential japery – it all comes together in this full-throated stomper driven by an insistent piano line, filled out by brass parts supplied in part by Entwistle’s trusty French horn and punctuated by Moon’s gleeful, fizzing cymbal crashes. Another track from Quadrophenia, 5.15 reached number 20 in the singles charts and was re-issued in 1979 to coincide with Roddam’s film. “Inside, outside, where have I been? Out of my brain on the 5.15”.

2. Won’t Get Fooled Again (1971)

A guitar chord chimes, modulated and arpeggiating synthesiser pulses set a beat which seems to reach for the celestial – Townshend worked with the BBC’s esteemed Radiophonic Workshop to create the now iconic intro – and then the familiar aural frenzy starts. There aren’t many songs that make you want to head bang and also bring a tear to the eye at the same time but this is one of them. Eight and a half minutes long in its album version, it sets out like a hymn to revolution then morphs into something more cynical and pessimistic – a warning against all causes and all leaders. “I know that the hypnotized never lie,” Daltrey roars before the song’s gloomy sign-off: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

1. My Generation (1965)

“People try to put us down,” snarls Daltrey in the opening line of this, The Who’s greatest recorded legacy, as Townshend sings the refrain over blocky power chords and Keith Moon’s manic, crashing, scattergun drum patterns. Nearly 60 years on it has lost none of its relevance either lyrically or musically, and from The Buzzcock’s Ever Fallen In Love to The Strokes’ Last Nite there isn’t a punk-tinged power pop favourite which doesn’t have this in its DNA somewhere. You would be hard pushed to find a more exciting and visceral sonic assault anywhere in the rock canon. Three and a bit minutes of raucous genius. “Why don’t you all f-f-f-f-fade away,” Daltrey howls. This song never will.

No Behind Blue Eyes? No Love Reign O’er Me? Where’s Boris The Spide? Make your case and have your say