Posts Tagged ‘Live at Leeds’

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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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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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We’re so excited to welcome back Aussie modern rock heroes DMA’S & Electrifying Manchester indie-pop quartet PALE WAVES! This year also sees the return of Leicester’s Easy Life fresh from a huge UK tour, as well as folk-punk provocateur Ezra Furman. Plus we’ve got psych heroes Temples, Bristol’s favourite sibling fronted band Bad Sounds, former Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess & pop songstress SELF ESTEEM all just added for next year!

We’ve announced over 50 artists today and there’s still loads more to come from the Best Festival For Emerging Talent – Over 200 artists, 20+ venues, all across Leeds on Saturday 2nd May!

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Mobile recording studios have a longer history than you might think. As early as the 1920s, record companies in both the U.K. and the U.S. were experimenting with location recording, albeit with incredibly primitive equipment. This was the pre-magnetic tape era, after all.

In the U.K., the pioneer was EMI, closely followed by its chief rival, Decca. The purpose, for the most part, was to record live concerts of classical music, and while the equipment changed out of recognition during the following 30 years or so, that purpose remained: to capture live performances.

By the time rock music arrived around the mid ’60s, a new generation of mobile studios appeared that would capture some of the most important recordings of the era. And curiously, most of them were not recordings of live gigs. That was because the mobile studio soon became used as much for the freedom it offered artists to record in domestic locations as for capturing their stage performances.

Digital technology has helped bring about the demise of the mobile truck since the turn of the millennium. Now, artists can of course record on devices as small as an iPad (to name but one famous example, Damon Albarn recorded the Gorillaz album The Fall in just that way). Even if you don’t want to be quite as stripped-down as Albarn, a laptop armed with plugins and a small digital mixer can offer almost as much as a fully fledged mobile studio at far less cost.

However, before the mobile trucks rumbled off into the distance, the freedom they provided in that short period produced some remarkable recordings. Here are six of them.

The Who, Live at Leeds (1970)

This album, still regarded by many critics as the finest live rock LP ever, was originally designed to be Live at Hull and Leeds. It was recorded by the Pye Records mobile on eight-track analogue tape machines installed beneath the auditorium in a cloakroom. At this stage, mobile trucks were used simply to carry recording equipment to a gig. That equipment then had to be removed, assembled, and used in whatever space could be found.

With nothing more than split cables from the vocal, speaker, and drum microphones, the two recordings were plagued with technical problems. Some of the bass track from Hull was lost, and the Leeds concert suffered from crackles, which have caused controversy ever since. Years later, when the crackles were erased using digital wizardry, some fans objected that they removed the authenticity of the recordings.

Originally released as a single six-track vinyl LP, Live At Leeds has since appeared in many incarnations, some with and some without the infamous crackles. The Hull gig recorded the night before (February 13th) has been released, too, with John Entwistle’s missing bass parts replaced with carefully synced recordings from Leeds. There are those who claim that Live At Hull 1970 is even better than the raw and powerful Live At Leeds. They can both be heard on the 40th Anniversary collectors’ edition.

Led Zeppelin, IV (1971)

You could toss a coin over whether Led Zeppelin’s III or IV was the more significant album, but it doesn’t really matter for our purposes—both made very extensive use of the Rolling Stones Mobile (RSM) and were released before two other other landmark RSM recordings, the Stones’ Exile On Main St. and Deep Purple’s Machine Head.

A former 18th-century poorhouse, Headley Grange in Hampshire was the chosen venue, as it had been for much of Zeppelin III. The majestic sound of John Bonham’s drums—sampled a thousand times and still used today—was created in wood-paneled Headley Grange with a pair of distant Neumann condenser mics. It has probably never been equalled.

The Rolling Stones, Exile On Main St. (1972)

Just as The Who’s Live At Leeds is regarded by some as their finest hour, so the Stones’ Exile On Main St. stands as a testament to the band at its peak—even if a wobbly one at times.

In 1970, Mick Jagger bought Stargroves, a country house in Hampshire. The band’s pianist and tour manager, Ian Stewart, suggested that in order to make full use of it, they needed their own mobile studio. This saw the birth of the most famous truck of them all, the Rolling Stones Mobile. It is one of the few things you can use the word legendary about without risk of exaggeration.

Unlike earlier trucks, the Stones Mobile had a control room inside the vehicle, so it really could go anywhere and do almost anything. The band used it to record most of the Sticky Fingers album, and a year later, beset with taxation problems, they decamped to the Villa Nellcôte in the South of France, with the RSM following.

The sessions that followed have become the stuff of rock legend and lore. Beside the technical problems imposed by an unsuitable recording environment—a cramped, damp basement—and compounded by an erratic power supply, the band’s “personal issues” should have made the resulting album a shambles. Indeed, engineer Andy Johns described them as “the worst band in the world” for much of the time. But somehow, in true Stones fashion, what emerged from the chaos was one of rock’s most memorable and charismatic albums. It just reeks of authenticity thanks, at least in part, to the location and the way in which most of it was recorded.

Deep Purple, Machine Head 1972

If Exile On Main St. really put the Stones Mobile on the map, it was Deep Purple who immortalized it in “Smoke On The Water.” The song recalls the night in 1971 when the Casino in Montreux, Switzerland burned down following a gig by Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention.

The plan had been to record the next Deep Purple album in the Casino, but the fire put paid to that. A couple of other venues in the town were hastily found for the recording sessions, which produced, among others, “Smoke On The Water,” the lyrics of which refer to the RSM as “the Rolling truck Stones thing.”

The Who, Quadrophenia 1973

On the face of it, this seems an unlikely album to have emerged from a mobile studio, and in fact it was made at an unlikely location, too. Ronnie Lane’s Mobile (known as the LMS) was parked in Battersea, south-west London for much of the recording of Quadrophenia, in an urban jungle outside a still uncompleted Ramport Studios, which The Who were in the process of building.

Ronnie Lane, the ex-Faces bass player, had chosen an American Airstream trailer for his mobile studio, and Bad Company, Led Zeppelin (notably on Physical Graffiti), Rick Wakeman, and Eric Clapton were just some of the musicians who would make excellent use of it. Of all the British golden-era mobiles, Lane’s was one of the most successful.

Radiohead, OK Computer 1997

There were many impressive albums recorded using mobile studios between The Who’s Live At Leeds in 1970 and Radiohead’s OK Computer in 1997, and there were more mobiles than we have space to include here, among them Jethro Tull’s Maison Rouge, Virgin’s Manor Mobile, and Mickie Most’s RAK.

By the late ’90s, however, the era of the truck was coming to an end—and OK Computer provides fitting mood music. Relatively inexpensive and highly portable digital equipment and computers meant that the need for a large studio on wheels was passing.

In fact, OK Computer wasn’t recorded using a truck at all, but it epitomizes why mobile trucks had been so popular: location recording enabled a band to work at their own pace, in their own way, in an environment completely unlike an essentially sterile fixed-site studio.

For this album, which Rolling Stone described as “the last masterpiece of the alt-rock movement,” Radiohead were given a reputed £100,000 by their record company. Their producer Nigel Goodrich used it to buy recording equipment for use in St Catherine’s Court, a spectacular manor house near Bath in Somerset, owned at the time by actress Jane Seymour. In the same way that the natural acoustics of Headley Grange helped Led Zeppelin achieve astonishing looseness, vitality, and depth, so St Catherine’s Court added its brooding presence to a haunted, dark, and troubled album.

One thing binds together the albums featured here: none of them could have been made in a traditional fixed-location recording studio. In the case of recordings of gigs, it’s obvious why that should be. But a common quality shared by the albums featured here is the live ambience of an environment that wasn’t carefully designed to sound neutral. In the age of Pro Tools sameness, that is definitely something to be cherished.

There is another angle, too. Musicians often complain that “clocking in” to record every day is too much like going to work, especially in a traditional city-center studio. In a residential location, they can not only experiment with different sounds but also socialize and make music in a freer and more creative way. You may not be able to quantify that.

Live at Leeds Festival have added further artists to our 2018 line-up, huge additions including:

The Vaccines, Idles, CABBAGE, Nadine Shah, Rae Morris, Superorganism and Bad Sounds.

They and around 70 artists will join the already announced Ash, Sunset Sons, Pulled Apart by Horses, Dermot Kennedy, Circa Waves, Peace, British Sea Power, and The Horrors on 5th May in Leeds City Centre. Live at Leeds is the ultimate place to hear the essential new sounds of 2018, join us on Saturday 5th May- we’re sure you will find your new favourite band!

Check out all the artists on our Artists page, where we have social and listening links on every artist on the line-up. Live at Leeds is part of Leeds International Festival.

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47 years ago tonight, The Who performed at Leeds University in Leeds, UK on February. 14th, 1970. The recording of this landmark concert became known as the greatest live album in Rock history

Classic Rock photographer Ross Halfin is an avid record collector – especially when it comes to The Who. He owns multiple versions of the band’s classic Live At Leeds album, and here he tells us through ten different versions of them.

The Who’s “Live At Leeds” is among the greatest live rock album of all time, The original on vinyl is way better than the uncut, remastered version, which is too much. It goes on for too long. The original edit by Pete Townshend captures all the dynamics of The Who as a band. And the vinyl release sounds better.

In England, there were three variants of “Live At Leeds”. The first came out with a black-stamp cover, and the first 1,000 copies of it had the ‘Maximum R&B’ poster from The Who at the Marquee [in 1964] inside. There have been versions with blue stamps and red stamps as well.”

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There have been Taiwanese versions, Spanish versions, a Peruvian version with a picture of Townshend jumping on the cover… The critic Nik Cohn, who inspired Pinball Wizard and wrote the article that became Saturday Night Fever, reviewed “Live At Leeds” for the New York Times, and called it a “hard rock holocaust”. The hardest version to find, then, is the one that came out in Israel with Cohn’s quote translated into Hebrew on the cover. It had to be withdrawn.

Since its initial reception, Live at Leeds has been cited by several music critics as the best live rock recording of all time

wholiveatleeds

The forthcoming The Who “Live at Leeds” vinyl reissue will be a three-LP package that features the FULL setlist, as played on the night.  The Who booked two shows, one at the University of Leeds for February. 14th and a second in Hull the next day, and would choose the songs from there. Unfortunately, there were technical problems with the Hull recording — John Entwistle’s bass was inaudible on the first six songs — and they were forced to use just the one concert.

They couldn’t be bothered to trawl through the recordings from the US tour so they decided to record the Leeds and Hull gigs and release the best. The Hull recording was unusable, because the cable connecting the bass guitar to the tape recorder didn’t work. That left Leeds. The three-hour concert took place on Valentine’s day 1970. Students queued for hours to get a ticket and many who failed took to the roof of the building that evening to hear and feel the music.

Townshend joked: “We decided before that we were going to put it out whatever. It was lucky it was good”.

As it turned out the recording was more than good: it was phenomenal and would become one of the most successful live albums of all time.  the tapes caught the Who at their absolute best. The original release clocked in at just under 38 minutes and featured only seven songs. This will be a half-speed mastered 33RPM pressing and unlike the two-CD deluxe edition issued in 2001, this new vinyl release will feature the 33-song set in the order that the songs were performed on the night (Valentine’s Day 1970!)

This is packaged as a six-panel gatefold with three inner bags. SDE ran a deal alert for this last week (now finished), but even the non-deal price of £25 in the UK is pretty good for a triple vinyl, half-speed mastered set that celebrates this landmark live album.

This will be released on 25th November 2016


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