Posts Tagged ‘Roger Daltrey’

‘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”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Live and Leeds album and singles

Buy Online The Who - Live In Amsterdam Red

“Live In Amsterdam 1969”. The Who’s performance at Amsterdam’s Opera House in September 1969 was remarkable in a number of ways. It was the first of a series of gigs in more formal surroundings and one of the longest live gigs the Who ever performed.

The recording was made by a Dutch radio/tv broadcast. It’s not 100% certain who did it, but it was probably done by the VPRO, who also did the Pink Floyd recording the same year at the same venue. And just like that Pink Floyd recording, this one was also bootlegged a million times from various very good to very poor sources. Alll of these sources were originated from radio broadcast/s. Back then, and today still, The Concertgebouw was not a place for rock bands but for opera’s and other classic music.

Mixed directly to 2-tracks, this may been one of the reasons why the mixing engineer had a hard time finding the right balance. The mix changes often, and sometimes the drums or the guitar just disappear or get buried for a while. It also must have been hard for the band to hear each other, because of the extremely reverbrating acoustics. Remember, this was 1969 and sound monitoring on stage was still a thing for the future.

When comparing this one to other Who shows from this period, this one probably isn’t the best. Roger Daltrey has once said that he didn’t think he sang very well this night. And playing the “Tommy” album on stage was obviously not a routine for the band yet. But, there is more than enough to enjoy here. It is the only complete soundboard recording from this year. It is also the only one with complete lineage, and it has the best sound. Beside that, all other Who ’69 board tapes are far from complete and don’t have most of Tommy.

Somewhere around 2000, a Pre-FM source of this show was unearthed. Funny enough, the same thing happended with the aforementioned Pink Floyd recording . They may have come from the same person though.

The recent boot “Amsterdam Journey” on the Hiwatt label is the one taken off his copy.

The Who, live at Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands 29th September, 1969
Following the release of Tommy in May 1969, the Who embarked on a series of epic concerts, soon earning themselves a reputation as the finest live band in the world. This amazing set was broadcast on AVRO-FM, in Amsterdam’s most prestigious concert hall on 29th September 1969. The only complete soundboard recording of them made that year, it boasts astounding fidelity and captures them at the peak of their powers, playing not only most of Tommy but also numerous other classics from the length of their career to date. It’s presented here together with background notes and images.

The Who – The Complete Amsterdam 1969 
Venue: Het Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Date: 29th September 1969

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The Who has one of the greatest rock legacies in music history, they’re one of the all-time great live bands, have sold over 100 million records world including 9 US and 10 UK top ten albums and 14 UK top ten singles in a career spanning six decades. Now Fifty-five years after they made their first recordings, The Who is back with their first new album in thirteen years simply entitled Who.

The eleven-track album was mostly recorded in London and Los Angeles during Spring and Summer 2019 and was co-produced by Pete Townshend and D. Sardy (who has worked with Noel Gallagher, Oasis, LCD Soundsystem, Gorillaz) with vocal production by Dave Eringa (Manic Street Preachers, Roger Daltrey, Wilko Johnson). Singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend are joined on the album by long-time Who drummer Zak Starkey, bassist Pino Palladino along with contributions from Simon Townshend, Benmont Tench, Carla Azar, Joey Waronker and Gordon Giltrap.

I’ve never bought a brand new Who album on – or near to on the day of release, which is a strange thing to consider. 2006’s Endless Wire passed me by – the hideous artwork not exactly helping – but this new record ticks every box, including the evocative Peter Blake cover. The simplicity of the title tells you everything you need to know. It’s short, direct and elemental, like the songs on the album. If this was a perfume it would be called Essence of Who. Opener ‘All This Music Must Fade’ sounds like what you’d get if you asked a computer create a new Who song based on analysis of their previous output, and I mean that in a good way. The lyrics are all thoughtful (Grenfell, #metoo, getting old, Guantanamo Bay) but never get in the way of a good tune, including ‘Detour’, ‘Street Song’ and ‘Break The News’. A massive and very pleasant surprise.

“A powerful, relevant album that does what good art should do: it expresses something about what it means to be alive” The Times, *****

The brand new album from The Who, “WHO” is out everywhere now!

Their first studio album in 13 years, and proclaimed by Roger as their best work since ‘Quadrophenia’

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The Who has one of the greatest rock legacies in music history, they’re one of the all-time great live bands, have sold over 100 million records world including 9 US and 10 UK top ten albums and 14 UK top ten singles in a career spanning six decades. Now Fifty-five years after they made their first recordings, The Who is back with their first new album in thirteen years entitled Who.

Not in a million, trillion years would I have expected to love a new Who record as much as I love “WHO.” Is it “The Who Sell Out?” Of course not. Nothing is, damnit! NOTHING IS! Is it “Who’s Next?” No, not even close. But it is truly wonderful, because of what it isn’t and that is trying too hard. This is a collection of solid Pete Townshend songs, played with mature restraint, and sung by one of the greatest voices in rock and roll, Roger Daltrey. There are just enough elements of The Who you’ve grown to love scattered throughout, and when you notice them, the record gets even better. I am both thrilled and relieved by “WHO.”

The eleven-track album was mostly recorded in London and Los Angeles during Spring and Summer 2019 and was co-produced by Pete Townshend and D. Sardy (who has worked with Noel Gallagher, Oasis, LCD Soundsystem, Gorillaz) with vocal production by Dave Eringa (Manic Street Preachers, Roger Daltrey, Wilko Johnson). Singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend are joined on the album by long-time Who drummer Zak Starkey, bassist Pino Palladino along with contributions from Simon Townshend, Benmont Tench, Carla Azar, Joey Waronker and Gordon Giltrap.

All This Music Must Fade‘ from The Who’s new studio album WHO, released on 6th December 2019.

The Who - WHO

The Who has shared another new original single to appear on the veteran rock band’s forthcoming studio album, simply titled Who, which is set to arrive on November 22nd via Polydor Records. Titled “All This Music Must Fade”, the new recording follows the previously-shared “Ball & Chain” as the second single which will appear on the band’s first studio effort since 2006’s Endless Wire.

The recording starts out hot with a burst of sonic energy which is followed by singer Roger Daltrey‘s cheeky and honest opening lyrics of, “I don’t care, I know you’re gonna hate this song/And that’s it, We never really got along/It’s not new, not diverse/It won’t light up your parade, It’s just simple verse.”

While many older artists of the “Classic Rock” era take pleasure in the shower of praise which critics and fans offer in regards to their hit singles of the past, The Who share more of a realistic, selfless point of view on their new music, as Daltrey is also heard belting out the repeated chorus lines of, “All this music will fade/Just like the edge of a blade.”

According to a statement shared by The Who guitarist Pete Townshend, “All This Music Must Fade” is “Dedicated to every artist who has ever been accused of ripping off someone else’s song. Seriously? Our musical palette is limited enough in the 21st century without some dork claiming to have invented a common chord scheme.”

All This Music Must Fade’ from The Who’s new studio album WHO, released on 6th December 2019.