Posts Tagged ‘John Entwistle’

The Who’s American Album Chart Debut

The American market wasn’t fully ready for The Who when they made their album debut with ‘My Generation’ at the end of 1965. Second time around, they cracked it, winning their first appearance on the US album chart 48 years ago today, on May 20th, 1967 — but only after a delayed release and a title change.

With the US release coming five months after the UK, The Who’s American label, Decca Records, decided that the band’s second LP ‘A Quick One’ should be renamed there for their song that was climbing the Hot 100 at the time. ‘Happy Jack’ had been a top three UK hit in January, but wasn’t included on the album ‘A Quick One.’ That wouldn’t do for Decca, who removed the album’s one cover a nod back to their soul and R&B roots with a cover of Martha Reeves & the Vandellas ‘Heat Wave’ — and replaced it with ‘Happy Jack,’ which would become The Who’s first US top 30 hit in early June. The song features Roger Daltrey on lead vocals with John Entwistle singing the first verse, making it one of the few songs composed by Pete Townshend to feature Entwistle on lead vocals. Author Mike Segretto describes Daltrey’s vocal as “imitating Burl Ives”. At the tail end of “Happy Jack”, Townshend can be heard shouting “I saw you!”; it is said that he had noticed drummer Keith Moon trying to join in surreptitiously to add his voice to the recording, something the rest of the band would try to prevent (Moon had a habit of making the other members laugh). critic Dave Marsh calls this line “the hippest thing” about the song.

According to some sources, Townshend reported the song is about a man who slept on the beach near where Townshend vacationed as a child. Children on the beach would laugh at the man and once buried him in the sand. However, the man never seemed to mind and only smiled in response. According to Marsh, “the lyric is basically a fairy tale, not surprisingly, given the links to Pete’s childhood”.

Daltrey reportedly thought the song sounded like a “German oompah song”. But Chris Charlesworth praised the “high quirky subject matter” and “fat bass and drums that suspend belief”. Charlesworth particularly praised Moon’s drumming for carrying not just the beat, but also the itself, in what he calls “startlingly original fashion”.

The album also featured one of John Entwistle’s best-loved songs, ‘Boris The Spider’ (a title that he and Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman came up with after a night out drinking); two Keith Moon compositions, ‘I Need You’ (his first-ever song for the band) and the highly percussive ‘Cobwebs and Strange’; and a mod favourite that the band are currently reviving on their ‘Who Hits 50’ anniversary tour, ‘So Sad About Us.’

Happy Jack back

After ‘A Quick One’ reached No. 4 in the UK in January, the ‘Happy Jack’ version opened on Billboard’s Top LPs at No. 184, in between albums by Jimmy Ruffin and Dean Martin. It climbed steadily for the next nine weeks, peaking at No. 67 in June.

 

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When you think about the most important rock bands in history, The Who is undoubtedly in the conversation for many different reasons. One of those reasons is their incredible live performances – which they are still doing to this day.

Take a trip in the Iconic by Collectionzz time machine all the way back to 1970. The Who were looking for a way to follow up their 1969 album TommyThey had recorded several shows for a live album on tours supporting Tommy in the United States, but didn’t like the sound on any of the recordings. The Who decided to book two shows in early 1970 (on Valentines Day weekend) to record the live album. The first show at University of Leeds on February 14th, 1970 was planned to be the warm up show; and the second show at City Hall in Hull on February 15th, 1970 was planned to be the record. The recording equipment was rolling for both shows though, just in case.

According to The Who’s sound engineer, John Entwistle’s bass was not recorded for the first few tracks at Hull, and Pete Townshend didn’t even listen to the whole recording once he realized that. It didn’t matter though, they had made history the night before at the University of Leeds in front of 2,000 ravenous fans. Pete Townshend called it “the greatest audience we’ve ever played to.”

The Who released part of concert at University of Leeds on February 14th, 1970 as their now legendary live album “Live at Leeds.” It was the only live album that was released while the group were still actively recording and performing with their best known line-up of Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon.

If Tommy announced the Who’s ascent to rock-band immortality, Live at Leeds was the headline’s exclamation point. The live album cemented their distinction as one of the world’s most powerful acts, yet it came together almost by accident.
The 1969 Tommy tour saw the Who performing to massive audiences across the globe, including a historic stop at Woodstock. Keenly aware of its popularity, and having seen the success of live albums from many rock contemporaries, the band decided to record its performances during the trek. By the end of 1969, the Who had recorded 30 shows in the U.S. and an additional eight in the U.K.

While the abundance of material seemed like a blessing at first, it was actually too much of a good thing. Poring through all the hours of music was a daunting task, one the band could not feasibly do considering the amount of time it would necessitate. Frustrated, Pete Townshend took a scorched earth approach; the guitarist instructed his audio engineer to burn all of the concert recordings. The Who would instead book two shows from which a live album would be constructed. Without the previous tapes to fall back on, the band was bravely performing without a net.

The group wanted to capture the ferocity of its live shows, something Tommy’s high-art concept had briefly taken them away from. “We were better known for doing Tommy than we were for all the rest of the stuff,” bassist John Entwistle noted in the book The Complete Chronicle of the Who. “I mean, all the guitar smashing and stuff went completely out of the window. We’d turned into snob rock. We were the kind of band that Jackie Onassis would come and see.”

The band planned one concert for February 14th, 1970, at the University of Leeds, with a second the following day in Hull. As fate would have it, the Hull performance was plagued with technical problems. Thankfully, the Who needed only the first show to make history.

The Leeds concert saw the band play more than 30 songs, including the earlier hit “My Generation” and almost all of the songs from Tommy. More than 2,000 students – many of whom had been lining up since 6AM that day – filled the capacity of the University’s refectory. Their energy was palpable.

“The students there were a great audience for us,” Roger Datrey later recalled to the BBC. “It was packed to the rafters and then some more. I heard there was a thousand fans on the roof!”

Keith Moon echoed similar sentiments. “We fed on the audience as much as they fed on us,” the drummer explained to the University’s student newspaper. “They were just too incredible.”

Though the Who initially planned on releasing a double live album from the set, they honed Live at Leeds to a powerful six-song LP. The track listing would go as follows: “Young Man Blues,” “Substitute,” “Summertime Blues,” “Shakin’ All Over,” “My Generation” and “Magic Bus.”

Originally released on May 23rd, 1970,Live at Leeds was quickly hailed as a triumph and has sealed its legacy as one of the Who’s best albums and one of the greatest live records ever made. The complete Leeds and Hull shows were eventually released on various expanded editions of the album.

In celebration of Live at Leeds’ 50th anniversary, Collectionzz is releasing officially licensed concert posters for the University of Leeds concert. The images feature the faces of Daltrey, Townshend, Moon and Entwistle cloaked by the Union Jack. The design also includes the Who’s trippy logo, psychedelic trim and original concert details. Two versions of the poster are available: a glow-in-the-dark edition and a black metallic edition. They go on sale May 15th exclusively through the Collectionzz website.

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Released just over 45 years ago, The Who “By Numbers” has some of Pete Townshend’s most personal and saddest lyrics and is hence a passionate and emotional album with the help of Roger John and Keith. Their last classic album? maybe.

After releasing two of the greatest rock concept albums of all time in Tommy and Quadrophenia, the Who had nowhere to go but down, at least in terms of overweening ambition, anyway. The result released in 1975 The Who by Numbers, proved a critical and commercial triumph in the face of personal adversity.

At the time, the band were battling demons on two fronts. On one hand, they felt somewhat boxed in after setting the template for rock concept records. As singer Roger Daltrey complained, fans and critics expected the band’s albums to come with a certain amount of heft, to the point that they sometimes weren’t willing to give non-concept efforts their proper due. Grumbling that “nobody wanted to listen to what [else] we were doing” after Tommy came out, Daltrey argued  “Who’s Next” holds up much better, but nobody wanted to take it seriously because it was just nine songs.

Further complicating things was the band members’ increasingly critical view of where the Who stood — or should stand in a turbulent musical landscape that had grown to encompass styles that seemed to exist in contrast to the growing complexity and maturity of the band’s own work. For guitarist Pete Townshend, who wrote the bulk of the material, the question proved particularly vexing.

“Before the emergence of punk, the Who were the only band who actually sat round a table to decide ‘Should we go on or not?’ Would we be doing music a favour if we just f—ing stopped? We actually considered that,” Townshend told NME Magazine.

“Around the time of The Who by Numbers we used to have really quite heavy conversations about where music was going to go – particularly in this country – and whether we should be involved in it, and the problem with [drummer Keith Moon] living in America and living that Hollywood lifestyle and whether we should try and force him to come back to England … all those kind of things. Whether our music should change, whether we should let the Who tradition just bash on until it got really boring, whether we should try and force change by starting labels and working with other bands.”

As Who fans are well aware, the band opted to forge ahead with their seventh studio album, The Who by Numbers, which arrived in stores on October. 3rd, 1975 . It was nearly two years after Quadrophenia, and a relative eternity during the speedier release cycle that was the norm at the time. Realizing their rather chaotic state would make recording more of a slog than normal, they enlisted producer Glyn Johns to help wrangle the sessions into shape, and as the weeks dragged into months, Johns earned every penny of his paycheck even though the album’s aesthetics were less intricate and synthesizer-driven than the recordings that had preceded it.

Glyn worked harder on The Who by Numbers than I’ve ever seen him. He had to, not because the tracks were weak or the music poor but because the group was so useless,” Townshend’s quoted as saying in Alan G. Parker and Steve Grantley’s The Who by Numbers. “We played cricket between takes or went to the pub. I personally had never done that before. I felt detached from my own songs, from the whole record. Recording the album seemed to take me nowhere. Roger was angry with the world at the time. Keith seemed as impetuous as ever, on the wagon one minute, off the next. [Bassist John Entwistle] was obviously gathering strength throughout the whole period; the great thing about it was he seemed to know we were going to need him more than ever before in the coming year.”

The end result, unsurprisingly, was a collection of moody, introspective, and fairly dark songs; although tracks like the opening cut “Slip Kid” and double entendre-laden “Squeeze Box” went down easy enough, The Who by Numbers is more strongly defined by self-critical Townshend compositions like “However Much I Booze” and “Dreaming from the Waist”; even the lighter-sounding “Blue, Red and Grey,” which found Townshend strumming a ukulele on top of a brass section overdubbed by Entwistle, was later described by Townshend in a Numbers reissue’s liner notes as “me wanting to kill myself.”

Between the subject matter and the rumors of band strife that pervaded the music press at the time, the popular opinion was that The Who by Numbers offered a sort of grim personal manifesto from Townshend as he approached middle age  and although he’s more or less confirmed that point of view a number of times over the years, he’s also cautioned that listeners shouldn’t try to read too much into the songs, insisting what he was really trying to do was put himself in his audience’s shoes.

“There are a couple of really politically incorrect lines on Quadrophenia, but I thought I could get away with it because I was writing for a character. But on By Numbers, everybody took everything really literally. I don’t know. It’s interesting,” Townshend . “I certainly didn’t feel a lack of friendship and I certainly didn’t feel suicidal. I think I may have been a bit angry occasionally. I think I need to go to the great journalistic psychiatrist and have it explained to me, why I was wrong and they were right.”

Perhaps more importantly, according to Townshend, Daltrey was actually more responsible for the overall theme of the album. “The songs are about being older, feeling lost, losing your way,” Townshend has said. “Changing fashions, being sentimental, looking at the sunrise. What’s that got to do with being a young man? You don’t start looking at the sunrise until you’re dying. But,” he added, “Roger picked those songs from my demos.”

The end result, pointed out Townshend, was an album of songs in which one artist interpreted the words of another  which were themselves interpretations of Townshend’s efforts to put music to what his audience was going through. “Roger’s an actor,” he argued. “I don’t think he realized that what he was doing all the time with my work was interpreting, acting and I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t be an actor and he could.”

Daltrey, for his part, still believes the album is more autobiographical than Townshend would perhaps like to admit. “Who by Numbers is very dark because Pete was going through some terrible agonies, but I didn’t realize this at the time,” he told Uncut. “We thought, if he wants space, we’ll give him some space – when what we should have done was been there saying, ‘You all right, Pete?’ But that’s just the way he was and still is. There’s a side to him that is like a stone wall and what he really wants you to do is knock down the f—ing wall and come through it, which takes a lot of effort all the time. I understand it now but I didn’t understand it then. So it led to this brooding, deep, introspective album. He was boozing a lot and I think he was having problems with his marriage, trying to balance that family life with rock’n’roll, ’cause they don’t balance. But I love that album.”

However you take the songs’ meaning, “The Who by Numbers” proved yet another hit for the Who, with “Squeeze Box” entering heavy rotation on both sides of the Atlantic while the album hit the Top 10 in the U.S. and U.K. on its way to RIAA certification for half a million in sales. And while Townshend may have sweated the songwriting during this period, other members of the band seemed perfectly content — including Entwistle, whose hand-drawn album art reflected the record’s scaled-down sensibilities.

“Squeeze Box” is a slang term for an accordion, but it is also slang for the vagina. The band just wanted to see if they could get away with singing about the joys of explicit sex.

In the liner notes to Pete Townshend’s compilation album Scoop, he wrote that he recorded the song for fun one day when he had bought himself an accordion. The accordion gave the song a polka-esque rhythm and the lyrics were “intended as a poorly aimed dirty joke.” Townshend had no thought of it ever becoming a hit.

The song is about an accordion (sort of), but there is hardly any of the instrument in the song. You can hear some in the section about 90 seconds in that goes, “squeeze me, come on and squeeze me,” but the subsequent instrumental section is mostly banjo. Pete Townshend played both instruments.

“The best we’ve done since the last one,” chuckled Entwistle when asked for his thoughts on The Who by Numbers in a 1976 interview with Sounds. “I like the cover. That’s pretty good.”

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The Who were scheduled as the second to last act (before Jefferson Airplane) to play on Saturday, August 16th. When they actually started playing it was already Sunday morning around 5:00. They played their exceptional Tommy album, a Rock Opera dealing with the struggle of a deaf, dumb and blind boy who later finds a cure and gains stardom with his messianic movement. The finale of this performance took place during sunrise which occured at 6:05 am, The story of a deaf, dumb, and blind boy who is cured of his ailments and gains stardom became a legendary performance. Although not an apex performance in the Who’s career, Woodstock helped solidify the band’s place in rock history.

In 1969 The Who performed most of the songs from “Tommy” with some modifications due to time constraints. During the set Abbie Hoffman took the stage and protested the imprisonment of MC5 member and White Panther leader John Sinclair on charges of marijuana possession. Hoffman was met with a few unfriendly words from Townshend as well as a guitar to the head. A clip of this can be heard the Who compilation “Thirty Years of Maximum R&B”. While Townshend has some rather strong words expressing dissatisfaction with the performance, it is still seen as a historical in the rock and roll world.  Townshend, angry that someone took the stage, yelled: “Fuck off! Fuck off my fucking stage!”, hit him with his guitar and sending him off stage again. Townshend then added: “I can dig it!”; And after the song “Do You Think It’s Alright?”: “The next fuckin’ person that walks across this stage is gonna get fuckin’ killed! [crowd cheers] You can laugh, I mean it!”  A 16 second sound bite of the incident can be heard on The Who compilation set entitled Thirty Years of Maximum R&B (Disc 2, Track 20, “Abbie Hoffman Incident”).

The lone highway that led to Woodstock was jammed with traffic, so the Who left the hotel early to play its Saturday night show. When the group arrived, word was out that bands weren’t getting paid; the promoters had decreed it a free show and stopped trying to collect tickets because so many people had turned up. The Who refused to go on until it received a cashier’s check, but all the banks were closed.

The Who have long expressed disdain for their Woodstock performance, and in a new interview, singer Roger Daltrey noted that a series of delays and equipment problems prevented them from playing until 5AM.

“You’ve got to remember, by the time we went onstage, we’d been standing in the mud for hours,” he told The New York Times. “Or laying in it, or doing whatever in it. It wasn’t actually that muddy backstage, but it wasn’t comfort, let’s put it that way. … That’s all you could do. Waiting, waiting, waiting. We were young, and life is a lot easier when you’re young. I wouldn’t do that show now. Sod that. I’d walk away from it. I’m joking. No, I’d walk away and come back 10 hours later.”

Daltrey said he has never listened to the Who’s set to reassess it with years of detachment. But, after noting it was the band’s worst gig, he still has vivid memories of what went wrong.

“It was a particularly hard one for me, because of the state of the equipment,” he said. “It was all breaking down. I’m standing in the middle of the stage with enormous Marshall 100-watt amps blasting my ears behind me. [Keith] Moon on the drums in the middle. I could barely hear what I was singing.”

While promoters scrambled to find money and the wait stretched out, the band found trouble, as it often did. The drummer Keith Moon and the bassist John Entwistle dropped acid and partied in the back of a station wagon with a pair of young female fans. The guitarist and chief songwriter Pete Townshend drank a cup of coffee backstage, and realized it was spiked with acid. When the singer Roger Daltrey took a break from his bottle of Southern Comfort to drink some tea, he, too, began to hallucinate.

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Finally, after a wait that totaled 14 hours, the Who went on early Sunday morning and played its new album, the epochal rock opera “Tommy.” Moments after the set finished, the activist-prankster Abbie Hoffman, also high on LSD, crashed the stage, and said, into Townshend’s microphone, that the focus shouldn’t be on music, but on the MC5 manager John Sinclair, who was in prison on a minor marijuana charge. Townshend, according to his memoir, “Who I Am,” “knocked Abbie aside” with his guitar. The crowd roared at Townshend’s act of non-nonviolence. After years of struggling commercially in the United States, the Who had found a way to establish who it was.

 

The Who have long expressed disdain for their Woodstock performance, and in a new interview, singer Roger Daltrey noted that a series of delays and equipment problems prevented them from playing until 5AM.

Of all the shows on The Who’s legendary “Quardrophenia” tour in 1973, none stands out more than the penultimate show in Philadelphia on December 4th.  Parts of this show were broadcast on the King Biscuit Flower Hour and titles surfaced almost immediately taped directly from the radio broadcast.

The first is the famous “Tales From The Who” (TMOQ) which featured one of William Stout’s most well known covers featuring the band in cages a la a box of animal crackers cookies. Over half of this two-record set is devoted to selections from the then-new Quadrophenia, and there’s an amusing story about this recording. Normally when the King Biscuit producers put out live concerts for commercial broadcasts, they carefully bleeped out any obscenities, but in this case they overlooked some. The New Orleans radio station that aired this program was unaware, like the show’s producers, that “Dr. Jimmy” contained a four-letter word, and it was duly broadcast. However, whichever station provided the broadcast that served as the source material for this bootleg had a station manager or program director familiar with the song, so they duly dubbed the KBFH disc to reel-to-reel tape and spliced out the offending word prior to airing the program (producing the bizarre line “Her fella’s gonna kill me/Aww, f-ill he”), but even they missed another one slipped into “My Generation.” The bootleg label’s claim that this is a quadraphonic release was a bit laughable, because it couldn’t been taped off the radio in quadraphonic, and trying to convert it after the fact would have had all the success of the pseudo-stereo records of the 1960s. According to William Stout, who designed the colorful cover that was a knockoff of classic horror comic book covers, only 120 copies of this two-record set were released, as the operators of TMOQ knew that the FBI was on their trail and, in a fit of panic, they destroyed all other copies of the release (as quoted in Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry by Clinton Heylin).

Like most King Biscuit broadcasts, the sound isn’t quite as good as typical commercial live rock records, but this collectable is far better-sounding than any other bootlegs featuring the Who, and its extreme rarity makes it a very valuable recording to own, superseded only by the original King Biscuit Flower Hour LPs distributed to the network radio stations for the broadcast.

This release was copied on “Who Are You” (Ruthless Rhymes), copy of the TMQ release with five songs from a 1971 audience recording.  The Ruthless Rhymes release was copied on the German release “Mods & Rockers”(Ruthless Rhymes) and on another German title called Mods & Rockers (Slipped Disc) in 1974.

The final vinyl release  was Decidedly Belated Response (TAKRL). This new release contains the recently surfaced, more complete version of the Spectrum show for the first time ever. “Substitute,” “The Punk And The Godfather,” “5:15,” “Drowned,” “Naked Eye” are new to on this release with only “Love, Reign O’er Me” being the only song missing from the setlist.

The sound quality on this release is nothing short of phenomenal.  Given the phenomenal performance, this is  simply a fantastic release.  The set begins with a few older numbers to warm up the audience.  After a moment of audience buzz the band launch into “Substitute” and “I Can’t Explain.”

The Band:

Roger Daltrey: Vocals, Harmonica
John Entwistle: Vocals, Bass
Keith Moon: Vocals, Drums
Pete Townshend: Guitar, Vocals

The Setlist 00:01:00 “I Can’t Explain” 00:03:29 “Summertime Blues” (Eddie Cochran, Jerry Capehar) 00:07:32 “My Wife” (John Entwistle) 00:14:50 “My Generation/My Generation Blues” 00:21:46 Pete Introduces Quadrophenia 00:23:00 “I Am the Sea” 00:24:52 “The Real Me” 00:30:42 “The Punk and the Godfather” 00:36:47 “I’m One” 00:39:355:1500:46:28 “Sea and Sand” 00:53:35 “Drowned” 01:03:43 “Bell Boy” 01:09:05 “Doctor Jimmy” 01:17:43 “Won’t Get Fooled Again” 01:26:36 “Pinball Wizard” 01:29:32 “See Me, Feel Me/Listening to You” 01:43:14 Encore 01:43:33 “Naked Eye”

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Following Keith Moon’s death in September 1978, The Who decided to continue as band, recruiting former Small Faces drummer Kenney Jones; keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick was also added to the line-up for live performances, adding another element to the band’s sound.  A horn section was introduced to the band’s act for the first time around this time. It would be retained through 1980. The horn section also allowed numbers like “5:15” and “Drowned” (now sung by Townshend) to be reintroduced to the act. Meanwhile, 1979 shows are known among Who fans for new material that Townshend introduced on some nights during jams,  The tour supported their 1978 album “Who Are You”,

The Who performed at the Chicago Amphitheater in Chicago, Illinois on December. 8th, 1979,
The version of “How Can You Do It Alone” from the Face Dances reissue also comes from the Chicago show.
“5:15”, “My Wife”, “Music Must Change”, and “Pinball Wizard” from the Thirty Years of Maximum R&B Live video and DVD come from the same Chicago show.

The concert was broadcast live to several local movie theaters. The general consensus was that this show was the
best on the 1979 tour. The show was visually stunning. Many times Pete Townshend or Roger Daltrey would move to the front of the stage and direct the cameraman to focus in close, then unleash a mic twirl or scissors kick for the hungry crowd.

Backstage Roger asks us if we liked the show with a devious smile, knowing full well how great it was for the band
and crowd alike”. ~ The Who Concert File book/Joe McMichaels;Jack Lyons.

The Chicago Tribune wrote: “… it is the spirit The Who brings to its performance that makes it so special. Like the title of its current movie, “The Kids Are Alright,” The Who is alright and more; and though no longer “kids” in terms of the calendar, Daltrey and Townshend in particular reflect a genuine love for rock and roll, with a kid like enthusiasm which has nothing to do with age. Twirling the microphone on its cord, running in place to the beat, Daltrey throws himself into the proceedings with a joy that’s not only convincing, but catching; Townshend, meanwhile, lopes and lur-ches around the stage, his windmilIng arm crashing out heavy rock chords. The Who’s own energy output is just as devastating on a more human level.

Daltrey and Townshend come across like cheerleaders for rock and roll. If the act is, when It comes to the seeming affection for the music and the transcendent moments that rock at its best can offer, just that – an act- really doesn’t matter”.

The three-disc version of The Who biographical film “Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who” includes the majority of the band’s show of 8th December at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago.

Roger Daltrey: Harmonica, Vocals, John Entwistle: Vocals, Bass, Kenney Jones: Drums, Pete Townshend: Vocals, Guitar
John Bundrick: Keyboards,Reg Brooks: Trombone, Howie Casey: Saxofone, Dave Caswell: Brass Section

Setlist:
Substitute,I Can’t Explain,Baba O’Riley,The Punk And The Godfather,My Wife,Sister Disco,Behind Blue Eyes,Music Must Change,Drowned,Who Are You,5.15,Pinball Wizard,See Me Feel Me,Long Live Rock,My Generation,I Can See For Miles,Sparks,Won’t Get Fooled Again

Encore:
The Real Me, Dancing In The Streets, Dance It Away, Young Man Blues, Roadrunner, Big Boss Man, How Can You Do It Alone

The Who - Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and Keith MoonThe Who 'Live at Leeds' Concert, Leeds, Britain - Feb 1970

On the 50th anniversary of a legendary gig by The Who, people who were there have been recalling how the band “threw everything into it.” The rock group played at the packed University of Leeds refectory on 14th February 1970 and recorded the gig. The record it spawned, Live at Leeds.

It was 50 years ago today that the Who walked into the University of Leeds Refectory in Leeds, and played what many rock fans consider to be the greatest concert of all time. At the very least, the album they recorded that night “Live at Leeds” is one of the most celebrated live albums in the genre’s history, up there with the Allman Brothers’ At Fillmore East, Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York, the Band’s The Last Waltz, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band’s Live Bullet, and Cheap Trick’s Live at Budokan.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Live at Leeds, the Who’s longtime sound engineer Bob Pridden to chat about the momentous gig. He joined their ranks in 1966 and, amazingly, stayed on the road with the Who until 2016 when he decided that half a century traveling around with a rock band was enough. “It was getting hard,” says the 74-year-old. “I wasn’t getting any younger. The pressure each night was getting hard for me.”

Pridden witnessed well over 1,000 gigs during his life with the Who, but he says they reached their peak in the late Sixties and early Seventies. “That’s when they were on fire,” he says. “The were working all the time and just on top of their game. As a unit of just four people, a band couldn’t be any better.”

It was his job to mix the sound every night for the room, but actually recording the shows for posterity wasn’t even a thought for the band in their earliest years. Tragically, that means that the hundreds of gigs they did between 1963 and 1968 have been completely lost to history beyond little bits here and there.

“About two years before Live at Leeds, I thought I’d try recording them with a couple of microphones plugged into a tape recorder,” Pridden says. “I brought an Akai seven-and-a-half–inch reel-to-reel and started taping shows on it. We went from that to a Vortexion where you can take a D.I. [direct input] into it and then put two mics into it and mix them in together.”

The enormous success of 1969’s Tommy forced the band to think more seriously about recording their shows. The rock opera gave them a huge new audience, but it was largely a studio creation that didn’t capture their explosive onstage sound. When they headed to America in the fall, Pridden was instructed to tape 30 shows for a live album that was envisioned as the perfect follow-up to Tommy. (Bootlegs were also becoming big business at this point, and the band wanted to beat the pirates at their own game.)

In Pete Townshend’s memoir “Who I Am”, he recalls speaking to Pridden after the tour and realizing he hadn’t taken any notes about the relative quality of each show. “There wasn’t enough time for us to wade through 30 shows again,” he wrote. “Plus we now had an additional eight that Bob had recorded in England — including the most recent show at the London Coliseum. For me to listen to 38 shows would take five days in a studio. Even with notes I would lose track. The live album was never going to happen if we didn’t do something, and fast.”

This was early in February 1970, and the band had only two gigs coming up before a long break, at Leeds University on February 14th and Hull’s City Hall the following day. “‘Hire an eight-track rig, record the shows, I’ll mix them both at home on my new eight-track machine, and the best of the two nights will have to do,’” Townshend instructed Pridden. “Bob was looking anxious again. ‘What do I do with the live tapes from the tour?’”

In a move he’d later label “one of the stupidest decisions of my life,” Townshend told Pridden to burn the tapes so that they’d never wind up in the hands of bootleggers. Pridden remembers the moment well all these years later. “I burned them in a dustbin in the back of a cottage I had,” he says. “I put them in the bin, dropped a match and that was it. I felt weird, but we were already planning on playing another show. I didn’t think that 20 years on people would be crying out for these things. But it couldn’t have been everything because some of them did eventually surface and they got used.”

Pridden’s bonfire put immense pressure on the Who as they headed to Leeds and Hull. They had just two nights to capture a perfect concert after thinking they could simply pick the best out of 30 in America. Making matters worse, the mobile recording kit that Townshend envisioned the label sending over wound up being “a bunch of bits and pieces in military-grade boxes” that arrived in a van. This equipment was set up in the cafeteria one floor below the general assembly hall where the Who were performing.

“They played in the room where students would get together and the headmaster or the teachers would talk from the stage,” says Pridden. “There were no seats at all and it was really packed. People were hanging off the side of the wall and onto things. It was packed to the gills. I don’t think these days that amount of people would even be let in.”

The set featured the vast majority of Tommy along with earlier hits like “I Can’t Explain,” “Happy Jack,” and “Substitute,” along with covers like “Fortune Teller” and “Summertime Blues,” and a nearly 16-minute version of “My Generation.”

“I played more carefully than usual and tried to avoid the careless bum notes that often occurred because I was trying to play and jump around at the same time,” Townshend wrote. “The next day we played a similar set in City Hall in Hull. This was another venue with good acoustics for loud rock, but it felt less intense than the previous night.”

When Pridden listened to the tapes, he was horrified to discover that John Entwistle’s bass parts somehow weren’t recorded at Hull. “Forget about Hull then,” Pridden recalls Townshend telling him. “Concentrate on Leeds.”

That show had its own problems though. In addition to intermittent clicks, the backing vocals weren’t recorded properly. “I arranged a session at Pye studios,” Townshend wrote, “played the show back, and John and I simply sang along. We covered the backing vocals in one take, preserving the immediacy of the live concert.”

Townshend tried slicing out the clicks with a razor blade and quickly realized it would be impossible to get all of them. But subpar-sounding bootlegs were flooding the market at this time, so the band just added a note to the label saying the clicks were intentional. The cover was a faded stamp reading “The Who: Live at Leeds” on brown paper, mirroring the look of illegal vinyl bootlegs of the era.

The original Live at Leeds, released May 23rd, 1970, featured just six of the 33 songs played at the show, and not a single one of them was from Tommy. It wasn’t until 1995 when a CD version arrived containing 14 of the songs, and the complete gig wouldn’t see the light of day until the release of a deluxe edition in 2001.

All this time, the master tapes for Hull sat in storage. They were presumed to be worthless because of the issues with Entwistle’s bass parts, but when prepping a 40th anniversary of Live at Leeds a decade ago, Pridden listened to the full Hull show for the first time. “That bass wasn’t there for the first five or six numbers,” he says. “Then all of a sudden it kicked in and stayed.”

He went to Townshend with his discovery. “Let’s get someone to overdub a bass on it,” Townshend said. “We can use it.” Horrified at the idea of someone else attempting to replicate John’s bass parts, Pridden came up with a better solution. “I thought to myself, ‘They did exactly the same set both nights,’” says Pridden. “‘Maybe we can lift the bass from the first few numbers on Leeds and drop it in.’ This is when Pro Tools was on the go.”

He tasked an audio engineer, Matt Hay, with the delicate task of lining up the Leeds bass parts to the Hull recordings. “We went in and set up an eight-track machine, which Hull was recorded on, and lifted the bass from Leeds and dropped it onto the track with Pro Tools,” says Pridden. “Poor Matt was running for two days and nights marrying the bass from Live at Leeds. But when we did, it was fantastic.” (Live at Hull was released on the 40th-anniversary edition of Live at Leeds in 2010 and as a standalone disc two years later.)

After the Leeds and Hull shows, the Who slowed down the pace of their touring considerably so they could focus on the creation of complex studio releases like Who’s Next and Quadrophenia. Their tours after 1971 were shorter affairs marked by private planes, drug binges, and sloppier sets, especially when it came to the work of Keith Moon. These were still incredible gigs by the standard of most any other band, but the magic of Live at Leeds — the culmination of seven years of relentless road work was never quite achieved again.

After Moon died in 1978, the group never again played as a four-piece band, despite coming close in 1999 and 2000 when Daltrey, Townshend, and Entwistle were joined only by drummer Zak Starkey and keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick

“They are still fantastic, though,” says Pridden. “I went to the concert at Wembley last year. It was certainly different with the orchestra, but it was magical. Maybe the next thing they’ll do is go back to a four-piece, but I don’t think there’s a chance in hell it’ll happen. It would be amazing, though.”

And looking back at Live at Leeds five decades later, Pridden says he and the band were moving so quickly they didn’t realize what an amazing legacy they were leaving for future generations to discover. It was just another show.

“We were making history,” he says. “But we weren’t history. We never thought about making history. We were just wandering minstrels out there having fun.”

The Who Roger Daltrey – lead vocals, harmonica, tambourine Pete Townshend – guitar, vocals John Entwistle – bass guitar, vocals Keith Moon – drums

The Live and Leeds album and singles

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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.

The Kids Are Alright

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)

Image result for The Who at Shepperton Studios, Shepperton UK on May 25th, 1978

The Who recorded live footage at Shepperton Studios in 1977 and 1978 for their documentary “The Kids are Alright”. Keith Moon’s final performance with The Who before his death was at these studios on May 25th, 1978.

Keith Moon climbed over his drum kit, took a bow, shook hands with fans and then walked off stage, unaware it would be the last time he would play live with the Who. The band had reconvened (after two years of not touring) at Shepperton Studios in England to record some pick-up footage for their documentary movie The Kids Are Alright. Some tension had surrounded the sessions, which was performed in front of a small invited audience, because director Jeff Stein was unhappy with a take of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

He wanted the band to play it again, and after some complaints, they did, giving it the bombastic ending Stein wanted. But no one could have predicted Keith Moon would be dead within four months, at age 32, a victim of his larger-than-life lifestyle. Moon suffered a number of setbacks during the 1970s, most notably the accidental death of chauffeur Neil Boland and the breakdown of his marriage. He became addicted to alcohol, particularly brandy and champagne, and acquired a reputation for decadence and dark humour.  After moving to Los Angeles with personal assistant Peter “Dougal” Butler during the mid-1970s, While touring with the Who, on several occasions he passed out on stage and was hospitalised. By their final tour with him in 1976, and particularly during production of The Kids Are Alrightand Who Are You, the drummer’s deterioration was evident. Moon moved back to London in 1978, dying in September of that year from an overdose of Heminevrin, a drug intended to treat or prevent symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Scottish bassist Chris Glen of Michael Schenker Group, who knew Moon during the last decade of his life, says he still finds the footage difficult to watch. The pair first met when the Who played the Caird Hall, Dundee, Scotland, around 1969, and Glen’s band Tear Gas — which later morphed into the Sensational Alex Harvey Band  were the support act. The Who and SAHB would later tour the U.K. together.

“It’s very emotional, and sadly it’s far from his best,” Glen says of the filmed performance, “He’d put on a lot of weight by that time … and the worst bit was that the Who hadn’t been together for a while. I saw him the week after the recording and he told me, ‘I wish we’d got together before it, just hung out together for a bit, and that would have made it better.’”

In spite of all Moon’s much-documented antics, Glen says the drummer “cared an awful lot about their music.”

“As a bass player,” he notes, “I was impressed with John Entwistle, of course, and one of the most impressive things was that it was John’s problem to take what Pete Townshend and Keith were doing and pull it together. That’s not easy and God knows how Roger Daltrey managed to find a place to fit in! But Keith really cared about what he did, and I think it’s a shame that’s ignored by the general populace.”

Glen had first-hand experience of Moon’s legendary eccentricities, and recounts a number of the drummer’s outlandish moments in his memoir Chris Glen: The Bass Business. In one instance, they were in a penthouse suite in a hotel in Glasgow, when Moon, who’d stolen a megaphone, opened the window and announced that there was a bomb scare in the building, leading to a police raid. Moon was arrested but released with a caution. Glen also remembers a story about Moon leaving a U.S. hotel only to return an hour later, because he’d forgotten to throw the TV out of his room window.

But Glen insists that not all of the drummer’s legendary antics were Moon’s idea. “Keith was a nicer, quieter guy than people think he was,” Glen says. “He was just easily led. You hear stories, like he drove his car into the swimming pool, but it wasn’t his idea. People would say, ‘Come on, Keith, do a Keith Moon thing! Drive your car into the swimming pool!’ and he’d go, ‘Okay, I will then.’ It’s not that he didn’t find it funny, or that he regretted it, it was just that if no one had asked him to do it, he wouldn’t have done it.”

tommy

Pete Townshend‘s masterpiece is as much a defining part of the late ’60s as Vietnam and Woodstock. Its story — about a deaf, dumb and blind boy  turns hippie idealism into a messianic fable of acceptance and rejection. But it’s the music, constructed as a rock opera complete with an overture and recurring musical themes, that holds together this double-record epic.

Perhaps it’s the original rock opera “Tommy”, released in 1969, composed by Pete Townshend and performed by The Who. This acclaimed work was presented over two LPs and it took the idea of thematically based albums to a much higher appreciation by both critics and the public. It was also the first story-based concept album of the rock era to enjoy commercial success. The Who went on to further explorations of the concept album format with their follow-up project “Lifehouse”, which was abandoned before completion, and with their 1973 rock opera, “Quadrophenia”.

After the witty, but flawed The Who Sell Out, The Who still hadn’t been really accepted as a serious album act. That was it, if they were going to conquer the world, they were going to have to use the big guns. It was time for the rock opera. While there had been concept albums before, none of them had been on this scale, Tommy was a double album meditation on loneliness, murder, child abuse, spritual guff, rejection and and a whole host of other weird stuff. On top of this it also had some fantastic tunes and was easily the best Who album to date.

Tommy as a little boy see’s his father murdered by his mother and her lover. He is told to never say he saw it or heard it. Tommy, being deaf, dumb, and blind learns to play pinball by sense of smell and touch soon master’s the game.
Tommy as an adult becomes famous for his pinball prowess and quickly gains a mass following. By the end of the Opera Tommy’s follower’s turn on him, as they get sick of all of the rules he give’s.

Townshend’s desire for this album to be taken seriously is underlined by the instrumental passages “Overture” and “Sparks”, though admittedly the ambitious “Underture” was far too long for its own good. Most of the characters in this cantata are given voice by Roger Daltrey, though each member of the band seems to get to voice at least one character. As many of the songs on Tommy are a part of the much bigger narrative, there’s actually not that many songs that work well as stand-alone tunes, with only the rocking “Pinball Wizard” and to a lesser extent “Sally Simpson” able to thrive outside of the confines of the parent album.

Tommy is an album you have to listen in totality. There’s no point in which you can happily let your mind wander, other than “Underture”, which probably explains why it is one of the most popular tracks on the album (i.e. it gives you chance to put the kettle on). Arguably the thing that makes Tommy work was the drive and ambition of Pete Townshend and the fact at this stage in their career, The Who were a particularly well-drilled band, capable of making a good job of almost anything thrown at them.

Of course since its release Tommy has inspired countless bands to attempt ill-conceived and frankly tedious concept albums, all trying to be hugely significant and open the doors of perception. Ultimately Tommy is a much more intelligent and creative album than its questionable legacy suggests.

On (May 23rd) in 1969: The Who released their classic album ‘Tommy’ (Track Records in the UK/Decca Records in the US), a full-blown ‘rock opera’ about a deaf, dumb & blind boy that launched the band to international superstardom; written almost entirely by Pete Townshend, his ability to construct a lengthy conceptual narrative brought new possibilities to rock music; despite the complexity involved, he & the band never lost sight of solid pop melodies, harmonies & forceful instrumentation, imbuing the material with a suitably powerful grace the album has sold over 20 million copies worldwide…

The Who – Rock Opera Tommy – Full Concert – 1989 – Live performance in Los Angeles at the Universal Amphitheater The Los Angeles version of this show featured Phil Collins as Uncle Ernie, Patti LaBelle as the Acid Queen, Steve Winwood as the Hawker, Elton John as the Pinball Wizard and Billy Idol as Cousin Kevin

The Band

Roger Daltry (Vocals) Peter Townsend (Vocals/ Guitar) John Entwistle (Vocals Bass) Phil Collins, Billy Idol, Elton John, Patti LaBelle, Steve Winwood Simon Phillips (drums) Steve Boltz Bolton (Guitar) John Rabbit Bundrick (Keyboards) Roddy Lorimor (trumpet) Jody Linscott (Percussion) Simon Clarke (Saxophone) Tim Sanders (Saxophone) Niel Sidwell (Trombone) Simon Gardner (Trumpet) Chyna (Vocals) Cleveland (Vocals) Billy Nichols (Vocals)