Posts Tagged ‘Lifehouse’

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The Who’s incendiary 1968 performance on “The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus” TV special. That article was all about the incredible power of the Who, and Townshend in particular, as live performers.

Pete Townshend’s stage antics were unparalleled (the leaps, the windmill, the guitar smashing), as was the sheer speed and energy of his playing. As another example, check out one of my all-time favorite Townshend live performances, him doing Quadrophenia’s “Drowned” by himself on acoustic guitar at the 1979 Secret Policeman’s Ball.

The entire performance is spellbinding, but the guitar flurry he unleashes at the 2:00 mark just blows me away every time. That technical dexterity combined with primal energy, top-notch songwriting, and heartbreaking pathos encapsulates the amazing creative mixture that was Pete Townshend.

Yet there’s a quieter, more private side of Pete Townshend that’s just as noteworthy. Beginning in the late 1960s, Townshend was on the forefront of the development of home studios. In a world before ProTools and GarageBand, the idea of having a recording studio in your own home was quite extraordinary, but Townshend took to it immediately and started producing amazingly rich demo recordings on which he sang and played every instrument (including drums and bass). For tracks that later found their way onto Who albums, these demos provided a template for the other members of the Who to flesh out with their individual parts, adding their own flourishes and touches.

It’s incredible, however, how fully Townshend had already worked out the arrangements of these future Who classics. In many respects he’d figured everything out ahead of time, and it was just up to The Who to lay it down in a professional studio, bringing to it the animal electricity that only The Who could.

The first album for which Townshend did extensive home demoing was 1969’s “Tommy”, and his demo of “Pinball Wizard” is a perfect example of his arranging genius, as his home recording maps out the song pretty much exactly in line with the Who version that would sweep the world by storm:

Despite the fact that Townshend could play every instrument and write every part, he never felt like he didn’t need the band. He heard in these demos exactly what we hear today—that Keith Moon’s manic drumming, John Entwhistle’s muscular bass, and Roger Daltrey’s guttural fury launch these songs to a whole other level.

It was in preparing for the Who’s next album—which started as the multimedia Lifehouse project but wound up as the Who’s Next collection released in 1971—that Townshend began producing stunningly complex and beautiful home demos, cuts that really demonstrate his multi-instrumental talent and sonic adventurousness. One of the most impressive tracks is “Baba O’Riley,” which is both like and quite unlike the eventually released Who version:

Townshend’s synthesizer part is mind-blowing in and of itself, revolutionary at the time and still impressive today. In fact, the part heard on this home demo is the very one the Who wound up using on the official recording (though they did muck around with it a bit once in a professional studio). “Baba O’Riley” gives a fascinating window into Townshend’s creative process. All the basic parts of the Who version are here, but this demo goes on for longer, and includes little passages here and there that eventually got cut from the Who’s Next arrangement. In this recording we get to hear all the ideas Townshend throws at the wall, and by comparing it to the released version he can hear what eventually stuck (though Townshend was reportedly unhappy with the released version of “Baba O’Riley,” feeling that he’d allowed too much material to be cut; he’s wrong, though, since The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” is pretty much perfect).

Another Who’s Next classic worth pointing out here is “Behind Blue Eyes.” Again, the demo mostly mirrors the Who version, but in this case it has an entirely different feel. Whereas the Who’s version is for the most part loud and bombastic, Townshend’s demo version is gentle, dark, and plaintive,  (Daltrey’s over-the-top vocals on this track have always bothered me):

These demos provide the listener a view into an alternate reality where Townshend rather than Daltrey is The Who’s primary vocalist. I mean, listen, for much of the Who’s material, Daltrey was the man for the job, and in certain instances, he laid down some of the best rock vocals ever, period. The first and last example anyone would need in that regard is “Won’t Get Fooled Again” from Who’s Next, aka “The Scream”:

Pete Townshend could never pull off that scream, nor could anyone else. But on some of the Who’s more gentle material, Daltrey’s approach can feel a little ham-fisted, so hearing Townshend sing some of these songs in demo form is a real treat. The song that stands out in this regard for me is one of my Who’s Next favorites, “Getting in Tune.” With Townshend at the mic, the song’s delicacy and fragility come to the front, causing my heart to break a little bit each time I hear it:

Speaking of Townshend’s gentle side, not all of his home demos were done with the Who in mind. Since the late 1960s Townshend had been a loyal disciple of the Indian spiritual leader Meher Baba, and a good portion of his home recordings were intended for release on Baba tribute and fund-raising albums, produced and released under the name “Pete Townshend” rather than “the Who.” This gave Townshend the chance to work out material not appropriate for the Who as a band, and which might confuse or anger the Who’s trill-seeking, head-banging audience.

Many of these tracks were very hard to track down until released on Townshend’s first solo album, 1972’s Who Came First, in their original demo form. The gentle yet bouncy “Mary Jane” is a great example of the type of material Townshend worked on without thinking of the Who eventually performing the song in a stadium setting:

While Townshend continued to produce home demos throughout the rest of the 1970s, I’ll end here with two choice cuts from the Who’s last significant record, 1973’s Quadrophenia. Breaking from the pattern of these home demos being very close in arrangement and spirit to the eventually released Who versions, “The Real Me” demo is vastly different. Whereas the Who version is a driving punch in the face—for my money one of the best things they ever recorded—Townshend’s home demo is a slower, funkier, almost dancey take. I don’t think it holds a candle to the Quadrophenia version, but it’s an interesting experiment nonetheless:

Another standout from the Quadrophenia double album was “Bell Boy”; as with “The Real Me,” the Who’s version of “Bell Boy” is a prolonged punch in the face, a monumental wave of sound and energy. Townshend’s home demo follows the same structure, but overall it’s quieter and gentler, especially with him on lead vocals for the entire song instead of drummer Keith Moon, whose vocal cameo on the album version is hilarious, intense, and unforgettable. In the home demo setting, you can here just how complex and lovely the song’s arrangement really is, having stripped away all the Who’s (admittedly great) rock and roll bombast:

And that’s just it—the Who as a band could melt your face, but obviously Pete Townshend’s vision and talent went beyond such histrionics, and it’s in these home demos that we hear him stretching out in all sorts of different directions. They’re certainly a mixed bag—sometimes these sketches are better than the eventual Who versions, sometimes they’re not, sometimes they allow us to hear material never performed or recorded by the Who or Townshend in any other arena, but they’re always revelatory, giving us a more intimate glimpse of the creative process of a man who could both windmill the shit out of a guitar but also play every instrument in the band and arrange complex rock operas while his tea steeped in the kitchen down the hall.

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In 1969, The Who released their classic rock opera Tommy, which has gone on to be considered one of the most influential rock albums of the time. Emboldened by the success of Tommy, the group decided to capitalise on their success by recording yet another rock opera, this time, one called Lifehouse. Intended to be an album that focused on a post-apocalyptic world, the original version of the album was scrapped in favour of creating a more straightforward rock album.

The album they chose to record instead was Who’s Next?, one of the group’s most famous records. Containing tracks such as ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, and ‘Baba O’Riley’, the album was made up of abandoned ideas from Lifehouse. The group would later revisit ideas from the abandoned sessions on their record Who Are You. While we may never know what Lifehouse was going to sound like, we did manage to get Who’s Next? instead, so maybe this one was actually for the best.

This is what “Who’s Next”, the greatest official rock album ever made in my opinion, would have been with some changes and additional songs, a complete rock opera.

The resulting album “Who’s Next”, and in an ironic twist of fate the failure of the Lifehouse project made Who’s Next a greater album than it could have been as simply Lifehouse’s soundtrack. Enough material was recorded for a two-record set but the band decided to release a single album. Townshend explained:

“We were gonna do a whole thing, Then we figured it would be far better to just pick the best stuff out and make it a good, hard, rock-solid album ’cause we were afraid of doing what the Beatles did, just laying ourselves wide open like they did with their double album and making it so that there was too much, too many unlinked ideas which to the public would look like untogetherness, despite the fact that it’s always there in the background.”

Over the years, Townshend never really let go of Lifehouse. As songs from “Smile” did for The Beach Boys, bits of the abandoned project surfaced through the years, on subsequent Who albums.

  • Some of the Lifehouse songs ended up on Pete’s first solo album, “Who Came First”, including “Let’s See Action” and “Pure and Easy”.
  • “Pure and Easy” also found a home on 1974’s “Odds and Sods” album.
  • “Slip Kid” ended up on 1975’s “The Who By Numbers” album.
  • “Music Must Change”, “New Song”, “Sister Disco” and “Who Are You” were on 1978’s “Who Are You” album.



00:00:00 “Pure and Easy” 00:04:22 “Baby Don’t You Do It” (Holland—Dozier—Holland) Live at the Young Vic 26/4/71: 00:09:36 “Naked Eye ” 00:15:07 “Water” 00:21:33 “Bony Moronie” (Larry Williams) 00:24:56 “Too Much of Anything” 00:29:21 “Time Is Passing” 00:32:51 “I Don’t Even Know Myself” 00:37:47 Studio Dialogue 00:38:34 “Behind Blue Eyes” New York Record Plant session: 00:42:00 “Baby Don’t You Do It” (Holland—Dozier—Holland) 00:50:22 “Getting In Tune” 00:56:57 “Pure and Easy” 01:01:31 “Love Ain’t For Keeping (Electric Version, Townshend on lead vocals)” 01:05:34 “Behind Blue Eyes” 01:09:02 “Won’t Get Fooled Again” 01:17:50 “Water” 01:22:30 “I Don’t Even Know Myself (Cancelled EP Version)” 01:26:38 “Pure and Easy” All tracks composed by Pete Townshend unless otherwise noted.

check out these sessions too,

Teenage Wasteland– Pete Townshend Going Mobile– The Who Baba O’Riley– The Who Time is Passing– The Who Love ain’t for Keeping– The Who- The album version combined with the electric outtake version Bargain– The Who Too much of Anything– The Who Greyhound Girl– Pete Townshend Mary– Pete Townshend Behind Blue Eyes– The Who outtake version I Don’t Even Know Myself– The Who Put The Money Down– The Who Pure and Easy– The Who Getting in Tune– The Who Let’s see Action– The Who Relay– The Who Join Together– The Who Won’t Get Fooled Again– The Who The Song is Over– The Who

After almost thirty years, Pete Townshend was finally able to bring some conclusion to the Lifehouse project with the release of the LIFEHOUSE CHRONICLES in February of 2000. The set consists of 6 discs including demos, the 1999 radio play and various remixes. The Lifehouse Chronicles can be purchased exclusively through Pete’s official merchandise site

The Who - Whos-Next

“Who’s Next” is the fifth studio album by English rock band The Who, released in August 1971. The album has origins in a rock opera conceived by Pete Townshend called Lifehouse. The ambitious, complex project did not come to fruition at the time and instead, many of the songs written for the project were compiled onto Who’s Next as a collection of unrelated songs. Who’s Next was a critical and commercial success when it was released,

Much of “Who’s Next derives from Lifehouse, an ambitious sci-fi rock opera Pete Townshend abandoned after suffering a nervous breakdown, caused in part from working on the sequel to Tommy. There’s no discernable theme behind these songs, yet this album is stronger than Tommy, falling just behind Who Sell Out as the finest record The Who ever cut. Townshend developed an infatuation with synthesizers during the recording of the album, and they’re all over this album, adding texture where needed and amplifying the force, which is already at a fever pitch. Apart fromLive at Leeds“, the Who have never sounded as LOUD and unhinged as they do here, yet that’s balanced by ballads, both lovely (“The Song Is Over”) and scathing (“Behind Blue Eyes”). That’s the key to Who’s Next  there’s anger and sorrow, humor and regret, passion and tumult, all wrapped up in a blistering package where the rage is as affecting as the heartbreak. This is a retreat from the ’60s, as Townshend declares the “Song Is Over,” scorns the teenage wasteland, and bitterly declares that we “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” For all the sorrow and heartbreak that runs beneath the surface, this is an invigorating record, not just because Keith Moon runs rampant or because Roger Daltrey has never sung better or because John Entwistle spins out manic basslines that are as captivating as his “My Wife” is funny. This is invigorating because it has all of that, plus Townshend laying his soul bare in ways that are funny, painful, and utterly life-affirming. That is what the Who was about, not the rock operas, and that’s why Who’s Next is truer than Tommy or the abandoned Lifehouse project. 

Track listing:

Side one
1. “Baba O’Riley” 5:08
2. “Bargain” 5:34
3. “Love Ain’t for Keeping” 2:10
4. “My Wife” (John Entwistle) 3:41
5. “The Song Is Over” 6:14
Side two
6. “Getting in Tune” 4:50
7. “Going Mobile” 3:42
8. “Behind Blue Eyes” 3:42
9. “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

All songs written and composed by Pete Townshend, except where noted.


The Who
  • Roger Daltrey – lead vocals, backing vocals, harmonica on “I Don’t Even Know Myself”
  • Pete Townshend – guitars, organ, VCS3 and ARP synthesiser, backing vocals, piano on “Baba O’Riley”, lead vocals on “Going Mobile” and the original version of “Love Ain’t for Keeping”, co-lead vocals on “Baba O’Riley”, “Bargain” and “The Song Is Over”
  • John Entwistle – bass guitar, backing vocals, brass, lead vocals and piano on “My Wife”
  • Keith Moon – drums, percussion
Additional musicians
  • Nicky Hopkins – piano on “The Song Is Over” and “Getting in Tune”
  • Dave Arbus – violin on “Baba O’Riley”
  • Al Kooper – organ on alternate version of “Behind Blue Eyes”
  • Leslie West – lead guitar on “Baby, Don’t You Do It”
  • Kit Lambert, Chris Stamp, & Pete Kameron – executive production
  • The Who & Glyn Johns – production
  • Glyn Johns – engineering, mixing
  • Ethan A. Russell – photography
  • John Kosh – album design

With its acoustic guitars and drumless bits, this triumph of hard rock is no more a pure hard rock album than Tommy. … And… it uses the synthesizer to vary the power trio format, not to art things up.

Check out this live cut of the song “Bargain”  with Pete’s  Dialogue – Long Beach, California December 10, 1971.

“Bargain” – San Francisco Civic Auditorium December 12, 1971. (This is an edited version of the performance)

On Who’s Next, the band crossed that line with power and grace. The album spawned the concert classics “Baba O’Riley” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”; the great Daltrey vocal vehicles “Bargain” and “Song Is Over”; Entwistle’s scorching, anxiety-ridden “My Wife”; and Townshend’s most delicate song on record, “Behind Blue Eyes.” On Who’s Next, Townshend unleashed the power of the synthesizer as a rock & roll instrument, to be used like guitar or bass rather than as a special-effects novelty.
Recorded March May 1971 at Olympic Studios  in London

This is Track 09 of the Who’s album – Who’s Next. First recorded (then rejected) in New York on March 16th, 1971, this became the first song to be worked on with Glyn Johns during a trial session at Stargroves with The Rolling Stones Mobile studio in April, 1971. This version (unlike the New York original) used the synthesizer track from Pete’s demo and was edited down for the single which reached #9 in the UK and #15 in the USA. Played onstage at the Young Vic ( see Other Post ) and retained at every Who concert thereafter.


The Who released this album WHO’S NEXT on the 13th August 1971 featuring the classic songs “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Baba O’Reilly” both still in their live set, Roger Daltrys incredible vocalon “The Song Is Over” and “Bargain” John Entwhistles song “My Wife” and Pete Townshends ballad “Behind Blue Eyes” . Recorded at London Olympic Studios between March-May 1971 and produced by the Who and Glyn Johns . With parts of the Album coming from Pete’s “Lifehouse” a further sci-fi rock opera  project which did’nt come to fruition became the fifth studio album and almost certainally their most instant accesible finest record.  the Who’s sound changed with Townshend become infatuated with the fairly devolping sound of the synthesiser during the recording of the album  adding texture and amplifying the sound. Named as one of the best rock albums of all time and one of Classic Guitars best ever albums and featured in the VH1 “Classic Albums” series