Posts Tagged ‘Face Dances’

“When I say ‘I love you,’ you say ‘You better!’” There’s a lot to love on the RSD expansion of The Who’s “Face Dances”.  This 2-LP presentation expands the original 1981 album which was the band’s first with drummer Kenney Jones following the 1978 death of Keith Moon.  The first LP in the RSD reissue is the original album with its nine tracks including “You Better You Bet” and “Don’t Let Go the Coat.”  The second LP, cheekily entitled Face Dances Part 3 as Pete Townshend recorded Part 2 for his solo album “All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes”, has another nine tracks beginning with a clutch of Session Rough Mixes.  These encompass the previously-issued outtakes “I Like Nightmares,” “It’s in You,” and “Somebody Saved Me” as well as the previously-unreleased “Dance It Away” and a take of “Don’t Let Go the Coat” with Townshend rather than Roger Daltrey on lead vocals.  Side Four has a quartet of live performances of Face Dances songs as recorded for Rockpalast in 1981. 

The album was remastered and cut at half speed by Miles Showell at Abbey Road.  LP 1 will be pressed on blue vinyl and LP 2 on yellow.  Four 12 x 12 art prints are also included within the jacket famously designed by Peter Blake.

For Record Store Day 2020, The Who expanded their 1974 rarities collection Odds and Sods for a 2-LP, 25-song deluxe presentation.  This year, the band celebrates 40 years of 1981’s Face Dances with another double-disc, expanded presentation.  It’s due on Drop 1, June 12th, from Geffen Records in a limited edition of 6,500 copies.

Face Dances was the first of two Who studio albums recorded with drummer Kenney Jones following the 1978 death of Keith Moon.  While many missed Moon’s explosive and unpredictable touch, interest remained high and the album (produced by Bill Szymczyk ) peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and No. 2 on the U.K. Albums Chart. 

The shimmering lead single “You Better You Bet” showed that Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, and John Entwistle hadn’t missed a beat in a new decade. 

A tough but poppy tune with an irresistible call-and-response hook (“When I say ‘I love you,’ you say ‘You better!’”) .  Second single “Don’t Let Go the Coat,” a catchy ode to Meher Baba, was moderately successful.  Both songs were bolstered by the emergence of MTV; “You Better You Bet” was one of the first videos aired on the channel and the first to be repeated.

The first LP in the RSD reissue is the original album with its nine tracks. The second album, cheekily entitled Face Dances Part 3has another nine tracks beginning with a clutch of Session Rough Mixes.  These encompass the previously-issued outtakes “I Like Nightmares,” “It’s In You,” and “Somebody Saved Me” as well as the previously-unreleased “Dance It Away” and a take of “Don’t Let Go the Coat” with Townshend on lead vocals. 

Side Four has a quartet of live performances of Face Dances songs as recorded for Rockpalast in 1981.

The album was remastered and cut at half speed by Miles Showell at Abbey Road.  LP 1 will be pressed on blue vinyl and LP 2 on yellow.  Four 12 x 12 art prints are also included within the jacket famously designed by Peter Blake.  The expanded Face Dances will be released for RSD Drop 1 on June 12th. 

“Face Dances” celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2021 with this 2-LP expanded coloured vinyl version, both discs have been mastered by Jon Astley and cut at Half Speed by Miles Showell at the world-famous Abbey Road Studios.

Disc One contains the newly re-mastered version of the album while Disc Two has a side of studio out-takes and four tracks from the bands Rockpalast show in 1981 which appear for the first time on vinyl. The vinyl is housed in a slim line 12” box with 4 bonus art prints of the band members.

The Who, “Face Dances” (Polydor WHOD 5037 (U.K.)/Warner Bros. HS 3516 (U.S.), 1981 – reissued Polydor/UMC, 2021) Record Store Day 2021

When Keith Moon died on September 7th, 1978, The Who were left without the driving force of their rhythm section, a larger-than-life drummer whose thunderous approach on the kit defined the band’s sound and changed the course of rock drumming. Even with this blow, guitarist and principal songwriter Pete Townshend announced the next day that the band “is more determined than ever to carry on.” They’d already signed deals for several projects and would soon be under contract to deliver albums to the label, the first of which would be “Face Dances”, featuring new recruits Kenney Jones on drums and John “Rabbit” Bundrick on keyboards.

But The Who’s first project following Moon’s untimely death wasn’t a forward-looking studio effort, but a pair of retrospectives: the Jeff Stein documentary The Kids Are Alright, which served somewhat as a tribute to Moon-era Who; and the film adaptation of Quadrophenia, itself based on an album that looked back on the band’s first decade, produced by bassist John Entwistle. The band was set to promote the projects with large-scale tours and had brought on ex-Faces drummer Jones to replace Moon.

“I thought that the best thing I could do was to play the way I play. That’s being honest,” Jones reflected decades later. “I tried to take the best of Keith Moon—all his great fills, which you have to do in certain songs—and use them selectively. But the style would finally be me. And that’s all I could do. I couldn’t do no more.”

His simpler, more pointed style on the kit nevertheless benefits Townshend, who is restrained in his playing both rhythm and solo guitar. Late bassist John Entwistle (who passed most unexpectedly on the eve of a 2002 tour) is likewise unencumbered by the need for keeping the beat, so his inimitably mobile instrumental work reminds of his crucial, stable presence in the group chemistry. As do his two original songs as both serve the same function his compositions always have on a Who album: to provide pacing.The Quiet One” manifests a light-hearted tone compared to the introspective material of the group’s titular leader, while the savage playing of “You” contrasts its more nuanced surroundings.  

For his part there, and throughout the record, Roger Daltrey completely inhabits the material. His voice and phrasing are particularly forceful on those numbers with which he readily identifies, such as “Daily Records,” and while there’s little if any profundity to be found in  “Another Tricky Day”(or much of trademarked Townshend the angst in a studio outtake titled “I Like Nightmares”), the frontman’s sly delivery suits the tone of that closing tune, indicative of the nuance he can bring to lyrics.

Jones’ first studio recordings with the band were “Get Out and Stay Out,”Quadrophenia outtake resurrected for the soundtrack, and “Joker James,” originally written in 1968. Though it was no easy task, Jones gelled with the band and with nearly constant tour dates stretching from spring of 1979 to summer of 1980—not to mention appearances with the other members of The Who on vocalist Roger Daltrey’s McVicar soundtrack project—he became integrated into a new well-oiled machine: The Who, mk. 2.

In early 1980, Daltrey, Townshend, Entwistle, Jones and Bundrick set up at Odyssey Studios in London to begin recording what would become Face Dances. As was typical, Townshend had already recorded multi-layered home demos to present to the group , so it was down to the band to deliver its best performances, and for famed producer Bill Szymczyk to record and mix.

Sessions with Szymczyk—whose credits included Michael Stanley, Eagles and the J. Geils Band—were bumpy, as The Who felt the spark fading with each take. As Entwistle recalled, “He recorded everything in groups of three. I don’t like playing a backing track too many times. We’d get a really good one and he’d say, ‘Give me three more exactly the same.’ I lost a lot of confidence worrying about being brainwashed by the song, so I didn’t play as loosely as I might have.” And any momentum was stalled by more tour dates and Szymczyk’s commitment to mixing Eagles Live. Tracking for Face Dances continued at the end of the year and the band was pleased with what it played.

But final mixing was carried out by Szymczyk in Florida without the full band’s input, which led to unsatisfactory, glossy results. While the band blamed each other for what they felt was sub-par material, the album, released on March 16th, 1981, was nevertheless successful. 

While the magic of the Moon era might be missing in many spots, “Face Dances” still satisfies, with Daltrey delivering some fine interpretations of Townshend’s increasingly personal lyrics. And its sound, which lies somewhere between classic Who power-pop (“Daily Records”), punk (“Cache Cache”) and Police-like rhythms (“Don’t Let Go the Coat,” “Did You Steal My Money”), managed to reach audiences worldwide.

The flirtatious pop gem “You Better You Bet” was an early MTV staple and became the band’s last Top 20 single, featuring Entwistle’s self-referential “The Quiet One” on its B-side. In the U.K., the band appeared on the BBC’s Top of the Pops to promote the single. There, it reached #9. The breezy “Don’t Let Go The Coat,” inspired by Townshend’s spiritual mentor Meher Baba, Meanwhile, “Another Tricky Day” became a live staple for decades.

In all, Face Dances sees every member of The Who pouring all their energy into their music. In the fallout of Moon’s death, they were overwhelmed—not just by the tragedy of losing a friend and core member of the group, but also by a gruelling tour schedule, continuous side projects and a variety of personal issues. Somehow, they were able to direct all this energy into a fine studio effort that explores new and varied styles. It may not have hit the heights of their past glories, with the occasional belaboured performance and a certain studio sheen unusual for The Who, but it was a success and is far from the worst material The Who would scrape together.

As Townshend and Daltrey continue to look back on their albums with in-depth reissue campaigns (the most recent being a super-deluxe edition of 1967’s The Who Sell Out), one wonders what a deep-dive into 1979-1981 might look like and how it might reshape the narrative of Face Dances as a tired album.

On stage, the band was energized, and unreleased gems and jams show they still meshed. Might revealing monitor mixes exist showing an un-futzed-with Face Dances? Or compelling unreleased songs from Townshend’s library? Perhaps The Who will dust off such rarities in time and give the era its due with all the bells and whistles. Maybe it will give fans a new look at this relentlessly creative period. Until then, Face Dances serves as a document of The Who’s somewhat shaky reinvention just before things really crumbled.

It was reissued in expanded form in 1997 around the same time as other items in the iconic British band’s discography, but apart from a handful of the previously-unreleased studio and live tracks, it was hardly presented with the same discerning hindsight the group, in particular its titular leader Pete Townshend, has afforded other titles,  All the more reason, then, to crank up the volume when going back for a retrospective listen to this somewhat forgotten LP and thus at least simulate the accurately visceral punch: then, in a very practical way, it will foreshadow the healthy maturity and adherence to the style that reappeared thirty-eight years later on 2019’s WHO, the 2019 album that, perhaps not coincidentally, sported cover images by the very same graphic artist who commissioned the sixteen paintings on its predecessor. 

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While not exactly the most prolific of bands, The Who have released some of the most enduring and genuinely influential albums singles and in the history of rock

Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Keith Moon first began touting their maximum r’n’b wares to West London’s pill-blocked mod community in 1964, hammering out James Brown and Slim Harpo covers as The High Numbers. Their original manager, publicist and self-styled ace face, Pete Meaden was more intent on getting his own name on the songwriting credits of their first single (I’m The Face/Zoot Suit) than looking after the band’s best interests, but when they were picked up by film-makers Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert (lured by Townshend’s penchant for destroying guitars) the latter encouraged the troubled guitarist to compose some original material. Which he did. In abundance. And the rest is history.

The Who are among my my favorite band’s.  Lets have a look at their albums. Live At Leeds is no ordinary live album. Also included are the compilation Odds and Sods an album of outtakes and rarities because of so few studio albums and it was released while they were still going strong. and the compliation Meaty Big and Bouncy.

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Endless Wire – 2006 

This album was released in 2006. Obviously, I’m not as close to this album as The Who’s other albums..but I’ve listened to it more recently than the other albums.  It’s a good album but the best way I can describe it is it’s not as defined as other albums and the mini-opera Wire and Glass can get tedious. There are some good songs such as Black Widow’s Eyes (the only song featuring Zac Starkey), A Man in a Purple Dress and the different but good  God Speaks of Marty Robbins… I will say that time has affected Roger’s voice more than Pete’s. Pete’s voice sounds really good on this album. Roger does fine but age has treated Pete’s voice well.

Following their ludicrously extensive two decade-plus studio lay-off, Roger Daltrey weighs in with muscular vocals that occasionally overshoot the runway while Townshend remains largely introspective. Everything here is fine, but the overwhelming feeling is that none of these songs should ever trouble The Who’s live set. Performances are accomplished, but where’s the desire ?.

Regular live drummer Zak Starkey, a ten-year veteran unavailable due to touring commitments with Oasis is much missed, but the most keenly felt absence however is that of the late John Entwistle. Respected bass journeyman Pino Paladino work is solid, dependable, but the venerable Ox was always going to be utterly irreplaceable. A Man In A Purple Dress rails against religion, yet there’s no lyrical maturity, and you can’t escape the feeling that Townshend’s better than this. The Wire & Glass mini opera that lies at the heart of the project is as uneven as it’s technically faultless, and you cannot help but long for Endless Wire’s dependable surgical slickness to be shattered by a spell-breaking fart-at-a-funeral Moony drum fill.

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It’s Hard – 1982

One thing I will say about this album. It has aged better than I thought it would, never a big fan of this album. I liked some songs like Eminence Front, Athena and some of the tracks like Cry if you Want. This was the last studio Who album until 2006 Endless Wire. The band was not happy at this time and the end was coming…at least until they reunited at the end of the 80s for a reunion tour.

While lead singleAthena is insipid, with Pete Townshend at his most inconsequentially self-regarding, the guitar solo-led, groove-driven highlight Eminence Front remains in their live set to this day. Elsewhere the stylish muscle of Roger Daltrey powerhouse I’ve Known No War and epic dynamics of John Entwistle’s Dangerous work in the album’s favour, but Kenney Jones continues to wilfully behave himself. It’s Hard (their last studio set prior to a 24-year hiatus) is further hobbled by the always debilitating eighties factor. Its contemporary Glyn Johns production sheen lacks teeth and its Tommy-referencing cover documents a midlife style crisis that’s probably best forgotten.

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Face Dances – 1981

The first post-Moon album finds The Who on surprisingly good form. Occupying the Loon’s position at the rear ex-Faces drummer Kenney Jones faces an impossible task, but his tighter, more concise style focusses Townshend’s songwriting. Daltrey gives a little too much beef to some of the more sensitive material, but Entwistle’s The Quiet One is a highlight that, for a couple of years, replaced My Wife as his live party piece. Accompanying hit single You Better You Bet might not be Pete’s best work, but it boasts a similarly effective hook to Who Are You. Elsewhere modestly performing second single Don’t Let Go The Coat(again somewhat overcooked by Daltrey) further confirms Towshend’s continuing commitment to both the teachings of Meher Baba and, for the time being at least, sobriety.

This album has been slammed by critics and fans alike. I bought the album when it was released.  Face Dances was The first album without their engine, Keith Moon. Kenney Jones was a great drummer for the Small Faces and Faces but there is only one drummer for the Who and that was Keith. There are some good songs. “You Better You Bet”  (what I call “Who Are You’s” weak sister) Don’t Let Go the Coat, Another Tricky Day, and The Quiet One.

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Odds and Sods – 1974

This album was released in 1974 of outtakes and rarities that The Who had in the Vaults. The highlights are Long Live Rock, Naked Eye, Pure and Easy, and Postcard by John Entwistle. This album full of outtakes were as good as other bands A-songs. Just as its title suggests Odds And Sods is a collection of studio floor sweepings but, in this case at least, unreleased need not mean unworthy. Who’s Next era Long Live Rock previously sung by a Keith Moon-backed Billy Fury in the David Essex vehicle That’ll Be The Day movie — is absolutely classic ‘orrible ‘Oo in excelsis. The original Pete Meaden-penned single version of the pre-Who High Numbers’ rework of Slim Harpo’s Got Love If You Want It, I’m The Face (recorded in ‘64 as the b-side to Zoot Suit) is an essential mod artefact and irrefutable album highlight. Essentially compiled to confound bootleggers by a clearly spoiled-for-choice John Entwistle, Odds And Sods is a surprising highlight of the Who’s all too slight seventies output, and a release only deemed more essential by a CD-age doubling of its contents.

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Who Are You – 1978

The Who were in the worst shape of their 15-year career when they began work on Who Are You in late 1977. Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey had taken nasty swipes at each other in the press in recent years, and Keith Moon was a severe drug addict. He was just 32, but he looked a good decade older. The punk revolution was also sweeping England, threatening to make bands like the Who seem like dinosaurs.

Pete Townshend was determined to see his band survive, though the Who Are You opening track “New Song” acknowledges his tough task: “I write the same old song with a few new lines/ And everybody wants to hear it.” The title track reflects on a drunken night with members of the Sex Pistols where he did actually pass out in a Soho doorway, while “Music Must Change” also acknowledges the changing musical landscape. “But is this song so different?” Townshend wonders. “Am I doing it all again?” Despite his doubts, the album was a huge success – but less than two weeks after it hit shelves, Keith Moon was dead. Ironically, he’s posed on the cover sitting in a chair that reads “Not To Be Taken Away.”

Keith Moon was not well during recordings of this album. Still, I’ll take a 70 percent Keith Moon over a 100 percent anyone else for the Who. It contained the Who classic title track, Sister Disco, 905, and Music Must Change. Pete continued what he started with the Who By Numbers album by writing from the perspective of an aging rocker. This album sold faster than any other Who album. Within the month of its release, Keith Moon was gone for good.

Intoxicated and depressed into ill health and undeniable disinterest, Keith Moon’s lack of form left the band operating at little more than 75% of their potential. Quite literally in the case of Music Must Change from which, uninspired, the debilitated drummer remained entirely absent, save for a handful of cymbal crashes. Overshadowed by Moon’s death just three weeks after its release, this out of time album remains one of Townshend’s most underrated works.

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Who by Numbers – 1975

Pete wrote songs so personal that Roger didn’t feel right about singing some of the songs. Pete was wondering at this point if The Who were still relevant anymore. He felt old by rock standards and wondered if the band should just pack it in.

This album had to grow on me but now I do appreciate the personal songs that Pete wrote. “How Many Friends” is the single saddest song in the Who’s catalog, while “Dreaming from the Waist” deals with the sexual frustration of aging. The best-known song is Squeeze Box but the album is full of good songs. Slip Kid, However Much I Booze, Dreaming from the Waist and Blue Red Grey. With Punk music starting to happen Pete wrote in “They Are All In Love”

Hey, goodbye all you punks, Stay young and stay high
Hand me my checkbook, And I’ll crawl out to die

After the high concepts that dominated the band’s output for the previous trilogy of albums, The Who By Numbers’ unpretentious straightforwardness arrived into the directionless pre-punk doldrums as something of a relief. Kicking off in impressive style with Slip Kid, things rapidly freewheel downhill as Townshend takes his Dr Marten-ed foot way too far off the gas. However Much I Booze swathes the guitarist’s ongoing descent into alcoholism in an inappropriately jolly arrangement, while the seemingly inescapable contemporary jukebox staple Squeeze Box is little more than throwaway, end-of-the-pier fluff. Where is the Pete Townshend of Lifehouse? Where the architect of Quadrophenia? In 1975 it was a baffling disappointment. And The Who, as they entered their thirties, seemed unbelievably old.

If Pete had only known the future…they were only in their twenties at that time…that is just the beginning now.

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A Quick One – 1966

Following on from the time-marking surf-heavy Ready Steady Who EP, The Who’s second album represented almost implausibly rapid progression, and exhibited a far higher level of sophistication to My Generation. If there’s a slight return to their mod-era dance floor traditionalism in Townshend’s So Sad About Us, his closing mini opera A Quick One While He’s Away is almost preposterously ambitious. A multi-part expansion of the kind of linear narratives that were to provide the band with their next brace of singles (Happy Jack, Pictures Of Lily) it hasn’t aged particularly well and sounds significantly more sixth form than La Scala.

The mini-opera starts here. A Quick One, While He’s Away is a classic song made of fragments weaved with each other to make a whole. Everyone writes at least one song for this album. John Entwistle with his signature tune Boris the Spider, Keith Moon turns out the crazy and strange “Cobwebs and Strange,” and a bit of power pop with I Need You. They also covered Heatwave with the familiar Who flair.

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The Kids Are Alright (1979) 

Released to accompany Jeff Stein’s documentary of archive clips, The Kids Are Alright captures some of the band’s greatest performances, not least a titanic final assault on Won’t Get Fooled Again captured during the soon-to-be-late Keith Moon’s swansong appearance at Shepperton Film Studios on May 25th, 1978. Here also is the band’s show-stealing rendition of A Quick One While He’s Away from The Rolling Stones ill-fated Rock ‘N’ Roll Circus TV Special of ‘68 and the, quite literally, explosive My Generation detonated during The Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour in ‘67 where soon-to-be long-term tinnitus sufferer Townshend is effectively deafened (and has his hair set on fire) when Moon exceeds the prescribed dose of pyro when blowing up his drum kit.

Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy [VINYL]

Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy (1971)

The overwhelming success of Tommy and Who’s Next brought the Who a huge new army of fans, and many of them weren’t around during their initial hit-making period in the 1960s. Also, many of their early classics (“I Can’t Explain,” “The Seeker,” “Substitute”) weren’t available on any album. It was common practice in the 1960s for bands to churn out regular singles, leaving many of them off their albums.

A cornerstone of any early seventies record collection, ‘60s hit compilation Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy provided irrefutable proof that throughout the previous decade The Who were not just a singles band but one of the world’s best. Prior to Townshend’s obsession with lengthier operatic works he was the master of the short sharp perfectly formed linear narrative, and the best (Happy Jack, Pictures Of Lily, I’m A Boy) are here, along with mod’s ultimate anthems; I Can’t Explain, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, Substitute and the totemic My Generation.

The BBC Sessions

BBC Sessions (2000)

For pure mod-era distilled adrenalin you’d have to go a long way to find a better example than the guitar solo captured here on Anyway Anyhow Anywhere. Eye-opening insights into the early Who’s live set come courtesy of spirited frugs through James Brown’s Just You And Me Darling and The Olympics’ Good Lovin’. Elsewhere, rare Roger Daltrey composition See My Way is significantly perkier in session than in its A Quick One incarnation and, somewhat implausibly, disaffected teen anthem My Generation is rewritten as a perky Radio 1-promoting jingle. With plentiful chart hits reimagined, some of the Odds on here are significantly better than the higher profile Sods corralled elsewhere.

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Live at Leeds – 1970

Tommy was a bigger hit than the Who could have possibly imagined. They were suddenly headlining major festivals and playing to sold-out opera houses in major cities. They played the entire album every night, along with earlier songs and covers like “Young Man Blues” and “Summertime Blues.” They were on fire every single night, playing some of the greatest concerts in the history of rock.

In late 1969, they began taping shows for a possible live album, though Townshend was unhappy with the results.  Tapes were rolling again when they played Hull and Leeds University, in February 1970, but Entwistle’s bass parts weren’t captured during the opening songs at Hull, so they released the Leeds show. The original record of Live at Leeds just had six songs (three of which were covers) to showcase their pre-Tommy live repertoire but, over the years, they’ve slowly released the complete show.

There are live albums and then there is this… This album along with At Fillmore East rise above other live albums. Bands would release them when they were in between studio albums. On Live at Leeds, I have never heard a rock band so tight. This is the Who clicking on all cylinders.

The Who were always a very different band in the live arena and Live At Leeds captures them at their best. Rather than the tightly-disciplined studio entity, they’re a loose-limbed, tirelessly extemporising rock machine. Rather than simply duplicating three-minute hits, the vinyl album’s entire second side is split between an elongated improvisation upon My Generation and a similarly expanded version of Magic Bus. Considered for at least the first five years of its existence to be the ultimate example of the live rock record, Live At Leeds (now vastly expanded for CD) still boasts a rare, feral potency.

Moon, Entwistle, Townshend, and Daltrey are all in their prime on this.

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My Generation – 1965

A little over a year after he helped the Kinks become superstars by producing “You Really Got Me,” producer Shel Talmy brought the Who into his recording studio. They made the heavily Kinks-inspired “I Can’t Explain” and “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” together and those singles were successful enough to get the young band a deal for an entire album.

Scattered among a handful of perky, maximum r’n’b covers designed to keep Goldhawk Road modernists leaping, a batch of Townshend originals entirely define their time. None more than the pair recorded in a single session on October 13th, ‘65. The Kids Are Alright and My Generation. The Who’s intensified, electrified, surf-splashed, pop art-infused over-cranked bludgeoning not only provides a raw template for garage rock, but created a musical landscape within which Jimi Hendrix, Heavy Metal, punk, and therefore, modern rock itself could exist. Due to a long period of unavailability, My Generation attained mythic status in the mid-seventies as it was widely assumed that every track delivered equal parent-quaking wallop to its ubiquitous title track. Of course, they don’t, but if they did the album would be good enough to actually kill you

The title song is still an anthem of the sixties generation. This may be the hardest power pop album released, The Kids Are Alright, A Legal Matter, and Out In The Street.

They experimented in the studio and found new sounds and used feedback as an instrument. You start hearing the power chords on this album and the great hooks that Pete came up with on guitar…Roger still hasn’t grown into his later voice and the band is raw but electric.

The Ox is just a musical explosion. What a great debut album this was in 1965.

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Who Sell Out – 1967

The Who’s take on Pirate radio of the sixties complete with commercials. The standout hit was I Can See For Miles but this album is a collection of good songs strung together with fake commercials. The Who Sell Out wraps up with “Rael,” which contains the musical seeds of a story about a blind, deaf and dumb boy that would transform the Who into one of the biggest bands on Earth.

I like to listen to this album in sequence. Pete was maturing into the Pete we would know soon. The Who didn’t repeat themselves and kept reaching and experimenting.

The Who’s third album — recorded soon after their pivotal appearance at the Monterey Festival — was even more ambitious in scope than A Quick One, yet while lauded as a pop art masterpiece on its initial release it hasn’t aged well. That said stone-cold classic I Can See For Miles balances out overly contrived one-joke ditties like Odorono and Heinz Baked Beans, Speedy Keen’s Armenia City In The Sky injects psych-era menace (even if it is more Satanic Majesty than Sgt Pepper) while Rael (1 And 2) sounds like a premonitory collage of sketchy snippets from Townshend’s notebooks, even to the extent of offering an early glimpse of Tommy’s Sparks. A tentative Daltrey is yet to find his voice, there’s way too much growing up in public on display, and for all its courageous intentions it often sounds contrived, hurried and half-formed.

Strong tracks are Armenia City In The Sky, Tatto, Our Love Was, Relax. and Rael and of course the masterpiece I Can See For Miles.

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Tommy – 1969

This Rock Opera left a huge dent in pop culture and left its imprint on rock history. I like the album but the production leaves a lot to be desired. This album made the Who rock gods. There are some great songs on this album like Pinball Wizard, We’re Not Going To Take It, I’m Free, and The Acid Queen.

Always more ‘important’ than satisfying, Tommy talks a better game than it delivers. Again produced under enormous pressure, while the band teetered on the brink of onstage auto-destruction hastened bankruptcy (all that smashed gear, much of it hired, racked up king’s ransoms of debt) the creative hothouse of the late sixties demanded back-to-back releases and full-tilt progression as standard. The band’s instrumental interplay is nothing short of electrifying and Michael McInnerney’s game-changing cover art stunning. Pinball Wizard swiftly captured the public’s imagination and Townshend’s grand, Kit Lambert-encouraged operatic vision gradually came to full fruition in the live arena, saved The Who financially and broadened rock’s scope with an ambitious high concept that brought sixties pop to adulthood and presaged seventies prog.

I personally like Sally Simpson and Christmas. Pete Townshend and Kit Lambert worked together on this album and Kit helped Pete shape it into a concept album. I wished Kit would have let someone else engineer and mix it. I’m mostly a studio album guy but I think this album works better live than the record. Listening to the live version of this album around that time for me beats the album.

There is no denying that it is a landmark album in Rock.

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Quadrophenia – 1973

Touching on real-life incidents – like the Brighton Beach brawl between mods and rockers – the double album Quadrophenia was a worthy follow-up to Tommy, though this time, kids all around the world related to Jimmy and his intense feelings of isolation. It proved too difficult to play onstage in 1973, but they revived it in 1996 and 2012 to much acclaim.

This kick-started the Mod revival of the 70s. The concept album is about a teenager mod (Jimmy) coming of age in the 60s…It is also about the band itself and it’s four different personalities and also their fans. It is much more cohesive than Tommy and Pete’s use of synthesizers on this is incredible.

The band are on fire. The ensemble interplay that accompanies Roger Daltrey’s bullish. career-topping vocal performance is only ever stunning. Quadrophenia is Townshend’s masterpiece, his most convincing and engaging rock opera by some distance. Based in mod though eternally relevant, it’s bolstered by a vast, cinematic production and is utterly huge in every given sense of the word: in vision, scope, concept and enduring influence.

The Real Me, Doctor Jimmy, Love Reign O’er Me, Bell Boy, 5.15; compositions that don’t just represent The Who at their best, but rock at its best. Townshend’s writing has matured almost beyond recognition – even since Tommy – and considering that he’s progressed from I Can’t Explain’s surly proto-punk inarticulacy to a work of such depth, sophistication, magnitude and brilliance in under a decade is astonishing. Quadrophenia then, a standout album from a standout year, an undiminished juggernaut of epic proportions. Rock really doesn’t get any more classic than this.

The high spot for me is hearing Entwistle and Moon play “The Real Me.”

Some of the many great songs are Love, Reign O’er Me, The Real Me, The Punk and The Godfather, Drowned, 5:15.

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Who’s Next -1971

There was really no suspense to this album being number one Who album. This arguably could be the best rock album of the 70s. Instead of Kit Lambert The Who hired Glyn Johns to help produce and it showed. The sound quality difference between this and Tommy is day and night. This album has a sonic quality like no other.

Having ultimately abandoned his long-promised Meher Baba-inspired Lifehouse project, Townshend asset-stripped its constituent parts for Who’s Next, and while it’s tempting to harbour a romantic notion of what could have been, the relative simplicity of a traditional nine-track album setting seems to suit the proposed Lifehouse material perfectly well. Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again (the latter released in a chart-troubling single edit) stand strong on their own merits and, bookending the album, have come to define the band in their prime. Roger Daltrey’s vocal performance is astonishing. Behind Blue Eyes seems to serve as signature piece for both Daltrey and Townshend, while Entwistle’s My Wife blazes with cannily deployed brass. A vast evolutionary leap forward that set the band’s reputation in stone as one of rock’s very best.

The album came out of a failed attempt at a rock concept album by Pete called Lifehouse that apparently no one but Pete understood. Classic radio stations use this album as their foundation. An incredible album with no weak songs.

These songs live work so well. Won’t Get Fooled Again maybe has the best line in Rock… “Meet the new boss, Same as the Old boss” . Pete Townshend released Lifehouse under his own name in 2000 as The Lifehouse Chronicles. It wasn’t nearly as good as Who’s Next. Not even close.

thanks in part to powerpop.blog, Rolling Stone and others.

The Albums
My Generation (1965)
A Quick One (1966)
The Who Sell Out (1967)
Tommy (1969)
Who’s Next (1971)
Quadrophenia (1973)
The Who by Numbers (1975)
Who Are You (1978)
Face Dances (1981)
It’s Hard (1982)
Endless Wire (2006)