“Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere”* is the least personal of the early Who singles: it easily could have been an instrumental. The band wanted its second single, as Pete Townshend said at the time, “to achieve the sound we get on the stage at present…show what we’re really trying to do.” So after the chorus and a bridge, there’s a nearly minute-long sonic steeplechase, with Townshend, his Rickenbacker stuffed with paper, producing harmonic feedback and using his toggle switch to make SOS signals, while Keith Moon and John Entwistle set off bombs underneath him. Townshend had wanted “to make the guitar sound like a machine gun,” he told Guitar World in 1996.
The lyric’s pure Pop aspirations—I can do anything I want to, at any time; I can recreate myself at will—sounded like wishful thinking when voiced by Roger Daltrey, all blustery delusions of youth. Bowie sings the lines as statements of fact. Nicholas Pegg hears Bowie “test-driving [his] burgeoning soul mannerisms” in the vocal, and you can hear Bowie trying out croons in the long-held notes. Mainly, though, Bowie seems to be trying to craft an imitation of Daltrey that’s superior to the original.
Taking that cue, Aynsley Dunbar spends most of the track playing technically “better” versions of Keith Moon’s fills; he’s powerful, but you hear Dunbar thinking all the way through the performance. As in “I Can’t Explain,” Ronson sounds mostly muted, coming alive only in the opening riff and in the taste of feedback he offers during the surprisingly dull rave-up section. A better cover than “I Can’t Explain,” if as pointless.
Recorded July-early August 1973.
* Pin Ups and most Who compilations have the song title written with commas separating the words, but the original single was titled “Anyway Anyhow Anywhere,” which works better, I think—the title’s so of the Now that pauses seem antiquated.
Top: Malcolm McDowell in Lindsay Anderson’s O Lucky Man!, 1973.