Posts Tagged ‘Pete Townshend’

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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Pete Townshend’s “Empty Glass” Turns 40 years old, In 1980, the Who guitarist’s cup overflowed as the finest solo outing of his career. Although a true solo album from The Who’s wunderkind might have been eagerly anticipated at the time, Empty Glass–Pete Townshend’s first fully fleshed out album outside the boundaries of his band–still begs the question of why he didn’t opt to record these songs with the Who.

The album was written and recorded between 1978 and 1980, when activity with the Who had started to pick up again, and Townshend found himself having to write for both his solo project and his band. After all, Face Dances, the album the group released shortly thereafter, was, by all estimations, an inferior effort, widely derided as one of the weakest releases of the Who’s career. Roger Daltrey himself claimed he was disappointed that Townshend denied the group the opportunity to take a shot at Empty Glass and make it a masterpiece the band could claim as its own.

Some could consider the singer’s resentment a matter of professional jealousy. If so, it’s easily dismissed. Where Townshend’s first nominal effort on his own, “Who Came First”, was essentially a grab bag of demos and solo sketches, Empty Glass is a masterpiece even by the Who’s exacting standards.

The album title alludes to Townshend’s eternal search for spiritual salvation, particularly at a time where he was beset by an array of issues that had all but consumed him — among them, alcoholism, substance abuse, marital difficulties, and the death of his friend and bandmate Keith Moon two years before. Symbolically, “Empty Glass” refers to an analogy that compares a bar patron passing a bartender an “empty glass” in hopes it will be filled, and a seeker of spiritual redemption approaching God with an open heart, looking for the solace only the Almighty can provide. Townshend was finding further inspiration in the works of a Persian poet named Hafez, who drew the musician’s interest in the wake of  his fascination with his personal guru, Meher Baba.

Indeed, the songs offered such a sense of reflection and rumination, it’s hard to imagine Empty Glass being delivered from anything other than his personal perspective. The song that emerged as the album’s initial hit, “Rough Boys,” bows to Townshend’s unresolved sexual ambiguity. Although he dedicated it to his children Emma and Minta, it made more sense as a shout-out to the Sex Pistols who, at the time, represented punk’s brooding, blistering upending of traditional rock norms. Years later, Townshend himself alluded to its alleged homosexual references, noting that he knew members of the gay community but was not gay himself. Given that some saw the song as a coming out of sorts a decidedly wrong assumption, Townshend assured them — it would have been an awkward choice for the macho Daltrey to voice. Nevertheless, The Who did eventually include it in their live sets, a wise choice considering that it ranked among their strongest contemporary material at the time. It also hit America in the top ten, the only Townshend solo song ever to achieve that distinction.

The rest of the album is similarly introspective. “Let My Love Open the Door,” the second single from the album, made its way up the charts, although both Townshend and his management allegedly expressed some misgivings about the song. A third single, the similarly philosophical “A Little Is Enough,” which Townshend acknowledged was his bow to the Kinks’ Ray Davies, failed to make any impact at all, although Townshend considered it a better bid for chart success than the aforementioned “Let My Love Open the Door.”

While several songs could have been compelling candidates for inclusion on a new Who album — “And I Moved,” “Empty Glass,” “Gonna Get Ya,” “A Little Is Enough,” and “I Am an Animal” would have been fine fits for Daltrey’s vocals — Townshend surrounded himself with an able support cast. Producer Chris Thomas, best known for his work with the Pretenders, Procol Harum, Paul McCartney, Elton John and Pink Floyd, helped manage his client’s blend of pomp and poignancy, while four different drummers — recent Who recruit Kenney Jones, all-star session man Simon Phillips, Big Country’s Mark Brezicki and James Asher — as well as the Who’s erstwhile keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick, Medicine Head’s Peter Hope-Evans on harp, and another Big Country stalwart, bassist Tony Butler provided the instrumental underpinnings.

Townshend once claimed he wanted Todd Rundgren to oversee the proceedings, but changed his mind, fearing Rundgren’s abilities as a singer and guitarist would steal the album’s focus.

Regardless, Empty Glass still ranks as the best individual effort of Townshend’s career and a worthy companion piece to his Who resume. In this case, the glass was more than half full.

Who the a quick live one

The Who’s incendiary live performance at the legendary 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival, available for the first time on vinyl LP: Red / White / Blue striped vinyl. Fancy old fashioned high-gloss tip-on style jacket. Printed inner sleeve. The Who’s set at the Monterey festival in 1967, including tales of psychological warfare with Jimi Hendrix, upsetting Ravi Shankar and more…On June 18th 1967, The Who brought what Rolling Stone magazine called their “pulverising music” to the Monterey International Pop Music Festival at the Monterey County fairground, California. As The Who had only just dented the US market, co-manager Chris Stamp agreed to the group playing for nothing. Stamp had recently permed his hair to look more like his hero Jimi Hendrix, discovered LSD and embraced what he called “love and communication… and all that shit.” But he was still compos mentis enough to know this was a good opportunity for The Who.

The Animals‘ frontman Eric Burdon, his Newcastle accent now softened by California or drugs or both, introduced The Who as “a group that will destroy you completely in more ways than one”. Behind him, the band crashed into Substitute followed by Summertime Blues. It was hard to imagine anything more removed from The Mamas And Papas’ passive California Dreaming or anything else played that weekend.

The other acts on the Monterey bill included Country Joe And The Fish, Jefferson Airplane and Scott McKenzie, whose hit San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair) was now an anthem for what critics were calling ‘the summer of love’. The stage was wide open for a loud, aggressive group from England.

The Who were due to play on Sunday evening and arrived the day before. Pete Townshend watched Otis Redding work his magic on Saturday night,

Among the festival’s organisers were John Phillips of the harmony group The Mamas And The Papas and The Beatles’ press officer Derek Taylor. The organisers had pledged the festival’s profits to charity, and asked the bands to perform for free. Most accepted, albeit grudgingly, except Indian composer and sitar player Ravi Shankar who pocketed $3,000 for his afternoon performance. The Who tore through Pictures Of Lily, A Quick One, While He’s Away, Happy Jack, and My Generation. Instead of peace, love and flowers, Pete Townshend hacking away at the stage with his guitar, like a lumberjack trying to dismember a log with a blunt axe. In the subsequent Monterey Pop movie, you can hear the gasps from the audience as stagehands rush on to salvage the broken equipment. Ravi Shankar watched the performance and was disgusted by “their lack of respect for their music and their instruments.”

If ever The Who had the opportunity to, as Townshend put it, “leave a wound” it was now. But they weren’t the only Track Records act on the bill. “The Who paid my fare home,” says Keith Altham, who covered the festival for New Musical Express, “but Jimi Hendrix had paid for my flight out.” To add to the frisson, The Who and fellow Track act Hendrix were both due to play on Sunday evening. By then, as many 80,000 people had passed through the gates into the fairground or congregated outside, hoping to see and hear something, anything. The festival had also attracted unprecedented media coverage, with over 1,000 journalists besieging Derek Taylor’s press tent.

“I wasn’t wearing a psychedelic shawl. It was a tablecloth I bought in Shepherd’s Bush.” Roger Daltrey

Backstage, the Grateful Dead’s sound engineer turned chemist, Owsley Stanley, was distributing free LSD trips and Rolling Stone Brian Jones was drifting around dressed like a Regency prince, but looking, as Keith Richards once said, “like a ghost about to leave a séance”. Roger Daltrey recalls Jones joining him, Janis Joplin, The Mamas And The Papas’ Mama Cass and Jimi Hendrix for a jam session in the dressing room under the stage.

recordstore day

“Jimi was playing Sgt. Pepper on his guitar,” said Daltrey. “But, and this was the amazing thing, he was playing all the parts. He would go from a bit of orchestration, to a vocal part, to a solo – the whole thing on one guitar.” The others stood and watched, accompanying Hendrix by beating out a rhythm on anything close to hand.

Others remember it differently. Pete Townshend recalled arguing with Hendrix about who would go on first, as neither wanted to follow the other. At one point Hendrix stood on a stool in front of Townshend to show off on the guitar, as if to say, “Don’t fuck with me, you little shit.” In the end, John Phillips suggested they toss a coin. Townshend won.

This is a Record Store Day 2020 item. It will be available to purchase from 8am 20th June. 

Setlist:
Eric Burdon Introduction
Substitute
Summertime Blues
Pictures of Lily
A Quick One, While Hes Away
Happy Jack
My Generation

All songs written by Pete Townshend except Summertime Blues, written by Eddie Cochran and Jerry Capehart.

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Buy Online Mick Fleetwood & Friends Celebrate The Music Of Peter Green And The Early Years Of Fleetwood Mac - Super Deluxe Edition Box Set

Legendary drummer, Mick Fleetwood enlisted an all-star cast for a one-of-a-kind concert honouring the early years of Fleetwood Mac and its founder, Peter Green which was held on 25th February 2020 at the London, Palladium.

The bill included Billy Gibbons, David Gilmour, Jonny Lang, Andy Fairweather Low, John Mayall, Christine McVie, Zak Starkey, Steven Tyler, Bill Wyman, Noel Gallagher, Pete Townshend, Neil Finn, Kirk Hammett and many more. Legendary producer Glyn Johns joined as the executive sound producer and the house band featured Fleetwood himself along with Andy Fairweather Low, Dave Bronze and Ricky Peterson.

Fleetwood, who curated the list of artists performing, said: “The concert is a celebration of those early blues days where we all began, and it’s important to recognize the profound impact Peter and the early Fleetwood Mac had on the world of music.

Peter was my greatest mentor and it gives me such joy to pay tribute to his incredible talent. I am honoured to be sharing the stage with some of the many artists Peter has inspired over the years and who share my great respect for this remarkable musician. ‘Then Play On’…”

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.

‘Pinball Wizard’: The Magic Moment Behind The Who’s ‘Tommy’

‘Pinball Wizard’ is one of those very special pieces of music, It’s a great rock song, but at the same time a classic  song, and yet it was not as big a hit as perhaps we all remember, such is its popularity today, five decades after it was recorded. The song was, of course, part of Pete Townshend magnum opus “Tommy”,which he and the band had begun recording in September 1968, but they had broken off from working on to tour. With much of the album in the can, Pete had played some of it to his friend, the music critic Nik Cohn, who liked it, but thought it only worth four stars, rather than five.

Pete, knowing Cohn to be a massive pinball fan, asked “So, if it had pinball in it, would you give it a decent review?’ He went, ‘Of course I would. Anything with pinball in it’s fantastic.’ And so I wrote ‘Pinball Wizard,’ purely as a scam.”

Written in haste, Pete was unsure of its merit, saying, “It was going to be a complete dud, but I carried on. I attempted the same mock baroque guitar beginning that’s on ‘I’m a Boy’ and then a bit of vigorous kind of flamenco guitar. I was just grabbing at ideas. I knocked a demo together and took it to the studio and everyone loved it.”

On 7th February 1969, The Who went into Morgan Studios, in the High Road, Willesden, far from the most prestigious recording set up in central London, and set about ‘Pinball Wizard’ with Kit Lambert as producer.

Released on Friday 7th March, on Track Records it made the UK chart on the 22nd, climbing to No.4 on 3rd May. The Beatles ‘Get Back’ was at No. 1 and fellow Apple Records artist Mary Hopkin at No. 2 with ‘Goodbye,’ with the great Desmond Dekker and the Aces’ ‘The Israelites’ at No. 3. All this despite BBC Radio 1 DJ, Tony Blackburn calling ‘Pinball Wizard’ “distasteful.” Released in the US two weeks after its UK appearance, it made the Hot 100 in early April, eventually peaking too No.19 on the Billboard chart on 24th May.

Tommy was finished in March and released in May to critical and fan acclaim in equal measure, although there were some poor misguided critics who deemed it “sick.” Despite a poor sales start, the double album’s growing mystique eventually pushed Tommy to No. 2 in Britain .

Tommy formed the core of The Who’s set at the Woodstock Festival in the middle weekend of August 1969. While they were playing their “opera” section, Abbie Hoffman infamously stormed on stage just after they had just finished ‘Pinball Wizard’. He grabbed the microphone and started ranting about the imprisonment of John Sinclair, the leader of the White Panther Movement and the MC5’s manager. Townshend was incensed, and hit Hoffman with his guitar while herding him off the stage with a chorus of invective.

For all its controversies, ‘Pinball Wizard’ remains one of The Who’s crowning glories.

Pete Townshend

When it comes to chops and technique on the instrument, Pete Townshend is rarely thought of as a virtuoso, but he may just be the best guitarist in rock’s history. Townshend soloed infrequently during the Who’s glory run especially if we’re talking about studio albums but no player has used the guitar to build up so much of a band’s sonic architecture.

Pete Townshend (born 1945 Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend), lead guitarist and principal songwriter of one of the world’s most successful bands The Who, was also known for his extravagant stage style. The Who’s shows often culminated in him smashing his guitar.

Such on-stage equipment destruction has now become part of rock and roll tradition and while Jerry Lee Lewis may have been the first rock artist to destroy pianos on stage, Pete Townshend was the first guitar-smashing rock artist. Rolling Stone magazine included his guitar smashing at the Railway Hotel, Harrow in September of 1964 in their list of ’50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock & Roll’. The Who are the best known and most brilliant expression of the most influential “youth movement” ever to take Great Britain, the Mods. Their career began in Shepherd’s Bush, a lower-class suburb of London, and took them through such places as Brighton-by-the-sea, scene of the great Mod-Rocker battles several years ago. Their first recording was “My Generation.”.

Townshend’s career with The Who has spanned more than 40 years, during which time the band grew to be considered one of the greatest and most influential rock bands of all time. The author of most of the material, the composer of most of the music and the impetus behind the Who’s stylistic stance. It was he, for example, who is credited with initiating the Union Jack style in clothes.

Townshend was the primary songwriter for the group, writing over 100 songs on the band’s eleven studio albums, including the rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia, plus dozens of additional songs that appeared as non-album track singles, bonus tracks on re-issues, and tracks on rarities compilations such as Odds and Sods.

A genius for overdubbing, with a sense of scale and shape that bordered on the Bachian, and an underrated acoustic player, Townshend used the guitar as a tool to abet his singular compositions, and as the director within the band’s dynamics and interplay. While there are also stellar moments within Townshend’s solo career as well, here are 10 cuts from the Who’s heyday that work as a primer for his guitar brilliance.

10. “Pictures of Lily” (1967)
One of the best written singles of its decade—it’s essentially a short story in song form about masturbation, a post-Mod bildungsroman—“Lily” is typical of Who songs of this vintage for not having a guitar solo. But listen to the intense, driving chording of the song. Townshend has the firmest of grips on his guitar, his central riff acting as a path for Keith Moon and John Entwistle to follow. There’s bounce in that riff, too, a playfulness that provides congruity with the oh-so-cheeky lyric that turns out to have the warmest of hearts at its core

9. “A Quick One (While He’s Away)” (1968)
The album version is pretty great, too, ditto the Leeds and Hull live renditions from 1970, but this performance from The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus stands as the best live Who cut of all. The band was tighter than a seaman’s knot thanks to working on Tommy in the studio. Townshend’s volume-swelling chords lend scope right from the opening section, which makes Moon’s fills feel all the more epic. Come the coda, as the power chords rain down and the intense hammer-ons come in clusters, it’s evident that here’s an artist who uses every last crayon in the tin.

8. “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” (1965)
A strangely under-discussed early single, this is the Who growing up—fast—in large part thanks to Townshend’s guitar. Displeased with the feel of the preceding “I Can’t Explain”—they thought it wasn’t tough enough—the band boosted the energy quotient and Townshend decided to turn his guitar into a percussive element. Put simply, he bashes holy hell out of the thing on the instrumental blast-out-of-the-galaxy bit. What makes a guitarist think that way? See a rule, detonate a rule. This was a melding of avant-garde bona fides with a populist kick. Thrilling.

7. “My Way” (1968)
Finally receiving an official release in 2018, the Who’s April 1968 Fillmore East gig includes this Eddie Cochran cover, with Townshend’s tone blending rockabilly twang and proto-metal swagger. And lordy, that first guitar solo—distortion, a broad-assed tone, coppery sheen, a curl or two of vibrato. Then the second comes along and redoubles everything before some slashing power chords top us off.

6. “Pinball Wizard” (1969)
It’s a cool notion that one of the most indelible of all guitar tracks should feature both acoustic and electric guitars, and nary a solo in sight: how many other songs can you say that about? The opening riff is both easy to play and something that no one else would have thought of. Orson Welles would talk about the dozen or so ideas that might just come to a genius, like a gift from the gods, without laboring over them, and one has the sense that the song-starting guitar figure fit that bill for Townshend. It’s as central to rock riffology as the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie,” the Stones’ “Satisfaction” or the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.” And that’s not even the guitar high point of the song. For that we have to turn to the over-loud—but pleasingly so—crunch that follows the “sure plays a mean pinball” line, especially on the second pass. You can just about feel Townshend’s entire body leaning into his instrument.

5. “5:15” (1973)
There may be no better guitar album in rock than Quadrophenia, the Who’s second double-album rock opera. The guitar textures are tapestries that could hang on a museum’s walls, were it possible to mount sound. This brassy strut of a song, with its angry-young-man lyrics about various boasts that, of course, will never be brought off, bubbles with aggression and ego, which is also to say, the insecurity of the hero of the piece, Jimmy the Mod. Townshend’s solo channels the energy of a Motown horn section, and Roger Daltrey can’t stop himself from vocalizing through it. It just feels good—like Jimmy does as he rides those rails.

4. “My Generation” (1970)
This fourteen-and-a-half-minute rendition of the Who’s unofficial anthem from Live at Leeds is practically an album unto itself. Townshend’s guitar has a lot of responsibility: it triggers the next spate of improvisations from the band, brings them to a stop so as to start something else, solos with gusto, and unleashes enough riffs to stock another guitarist’s career. A Townshend riff is never just a riff: it can double as the basis of a song that will be further fleshed out. Near the end of this performance, he starts playing against his own echo from the back of the hall. No guitarist was better at waiting than Townshend, allowing a sound or an idea to develop. He plays a figure, the echo repeats it, with the effect that it’s in a slightly different, more compressed key, and another cue for invention is taken from that.

3. “Overture” (1969)
The opening number from Tommy has a lot of instrumental high points—Moon’s drumming, for instance—but listen to the acoustic playing in the song’s segue sequence near the end. Arpeggios ripple outwards, delicate figures possessing almost flower-like forms dance, flamenco movements intercede and Townshend gives his guitar a couple of open-palmed whacks that produce echoes to further vibrate the strings.

2. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (1971)
An anthem in which a synthesizer and a power-chording guitar essentially duet, and drums pop from all directions, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is like two kinds of concertos in one. Again, no guitar solo, and so much of the guitar you do hear comes in impeccably placed staccato bursts. The tone is crucial to the overall sound design; and where else can you hear a tone that sounds like a tendril of frozen fire being dragged across a radiator grill?

1. “Quadrophenia” (1973)
There are moments in the title track from the Who’s second rock opera album that Townshend’s guitar so seamlessly assumes the characteristics of its surroundings that it doesn’t sound like a guitar at all. The lines are regularly pinched, tamped down, which lends them a greater reverby quality, and a greater sing-song one, too. No player had a more vocal guitar than Townshend, in terms of making the instrument sing. He varies his pacing throughout, so that when the synth goes faster it feels natural that the guitar should immediately start to dance alongside it. And when the cut slows down and the heavens feel as though they’re opening up, it’s the guitar that comes descending down from them.

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”