When the English band The Who had their first hit single with My Generation in 1965, Max Ernst and his wife Dorothea Tanning had recently moved from Paris to the south of France. It is unlikely that the celebrated Ernst paid attention to the single that heralded a new and riotous generation, or was even aware of its existence at the time.
On the other hand, Pete Townshend, who wrote My Generation, must have been aware of the existence of Max Ernst and his works, as he attended art school before joining the band. Through Townshend and his art school friend John Entwistle The Who underwent various influences from artists. When Townshend introduced the now repertory but then shocking act of destroying guitars and equipment on stage, he was inspired by Gustav Metzger's theory and practice of auto-destructive art, a violent critique of Western industrial societies by the Polish-German artist who, as a child, had found refuge in London from the Nazi regime.
My Generation reflects the London Mod outlook on life. According to some the stutters that Townshend added to the lyrics of the song are a conscious reference to the symptoms of an amphetamine overdose, not uncommon among Mods. Townshend himself, however, says he added the stutters almost unaware of what he was doing: it just happened by chance. Max Ernst would have appreciated that either as a surrealist technique of creation, or else as a typical artist's story spun to conceal enjoyable but illegal practices behind an artistic smoke-screen.
On the Missed Encounters track Degeneration Townshend's conscious or unconscious subversion of his own lyrics has been applied to Max Ernst's account of the revolutionary nature of his work. Degenerate stuff.
Degeneration (Max Ernst & Pete Townshend)
Er... I was born, or where I was born,
With a very strong (cough) f...feeling of, er... need of f...freedom, er... liberty
And that means also with a very s...strong feeling of (cough) revolt
Er... the... revolt and revolution is not the same thing, and so on
But when you have this really strong er... feeling of er...
This need of revolt, need of f...freedom
Er... and you er... are born into a period (cough)
Where s...so many er... er... events invite you to g...get revolted
And (...) what is going on in the world
And be disg...gusted with it (cough), and so on (cough)
Er... it is absolutely na...natural that (...)
The work you produce is a revolutionary work.
On the recording Max Ernst is talking to Roland Penrose in the 1960s. Roger Daltrey's stutters were isolated from The Who's My Generation (1965).
* Max Ernst can be heard on the CD Surrealism Reviewed, LTM Compact Disc, LTMCD 2343
* My Generation can be found on the CD The Who - Then and now, Polydor 9866577