Posts Tagged ‘Tommy’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Live and Leeds album and singles

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

The looming dissolution of the Beatles, after a stirring run of creative genius, signaled that everything would be different in the ’70s. They released their final album in Abbey Road, though the earlier-recorded Let It Be would follow, after some post-session doctoring from Phil Spector. They weren’t the only ones who departed: The original Jimi Hendrix Experience, Eric Burdon and the Animals and the Jeff Beck Group fell apart, even as Rolling Stones co-founder Brian Jones died. The warm feelings of Woodstock were quickly forgotten in the bloody aftermath of Altamont.

The death of Brian Jones, July 3rd , Brian Jones had long since relinquished his role as a major contributor to the band he founded, the Rolling Stones, when he drowned in his swimming pool at his home in Cotchford Farm, the estate formerly owned by A.A. Milnes, author of the ever popular children’s book, Winnie the Pooh. He had been fired by the Stones the month before due to drug use and increasingly erratic behavior, leaving Jones more or less out in the cold as far as any further recording ventures were concerned. Initially ruled “death by misadventure,” the verdict was later questioned when rumors spread that a construction worker named Frank Thorogood actually murdered Jones and had made a deathbed confession to a confidante. In 2008, the Sussex police department declared it was no longer investigating the claim. Nevertheless, Jones became the first member of the so-called 27 club, whose membership now includes Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Whitehouse and a number of other artists whose lives ended at the fateful age of 27. His death also ended a prolific and profound era for the Stones, which many still argue, was the most creative period of their collective career.

At the same time, bands appeared that would dominate the decade to come. Led Zeppelin released their acclaimed first and second albums in ’69, laying a sturdy foundation for superstardom. Zeppelin seemed to arrive as a fully formed new blues-rock variant, harder and louder than anything that had come before. In fact, after touring together extensively, the band arrived in the studio with this material so well rehearsed that they only needed 36 hours spread out over two weeks to complete the album. Its influence, however, has endured – not just as a template for their own career, but also for untold legions of soon-to-be-famous heavy-metal purveyors.

In the summer of 1969, Zeppelin was a band on the rise. Its self-titled first album, released in January of that year, reached Number 10 on the Billboard charts in the U.S., and peaked at Number 6 in the U.K. The band’s pairing of blues, folk and psychedelia eventually would make it the biggest band of the 1970s, “as influential in that decade as The Beatles were in the previous one,”  Zeppelin would play more than 40 gigs on their Summer of 69 tour of U.S.A.

Chicago issued the first of what will eventually be four straight multi-album projects, A band with a bright horn section and a scalding guitarist, Chicago was really all about dichotomy back then. Four songs from their introductory double album would enter the charts, through to 1972’s Chicago V. 

Mick Taylor joined The Stones, sparking their most heralded period – though one that was marked by a turn toward darker subject matter. Rolling Stones, ‘Let It Bleed’ was aptly titled, the second in a quartet of genius albums by the Stones echoed all of the very real apprehensions surrounding this era – like a gritty yin to the Beatles’ utopian yang on ‘Abbey Road.’ Mick Taylor’s arrival also ushered in a harder-edged sound, which combined to create one of rock’s most visceral triumphs. It’s sexy, foreboding, topical and dangerous, sometimes all at once.

Altamont – December 6th was one of the darkest days in music history, Altamont sealed the lid on the promise of peace and love that was capped by Woodstock, and did so within mere months following that celebratory event itself. The Stones, who headlined the sprawling festival in the California desert, may have had good intentions to offer a free concert, but enlisting the Hell’s Angels as security was a terrible idea. Though the line-up was stellar—CSNY, Santana and Jefferson Airplane reprised their roles from Woodstock, along with the Flying Burrito Brothers providing an excellent add-on—an aura of violence and uncertainty pervaded the proceedings. Both Jagger and Airplane singer Marty Balin were accosted the former as he left his chopper, the latter onstage and the death of concert goer Meredith Hunter by a pack of Angels who claimed they saw him wielding a gun, ensured the fact that an idyllic utopian era of the ’60s was quickly come to an end.

‘Abbey Road’ was always a far more fitting send off for the Beatles than ‘Let It Be’ could have ever been. It’s among Paul McCartney’s brightest, most artistically satisfying, moments. But John Lennon’s punctuations (and, to a quickly emerging degree, George Harrison’s) undoubtably make it so. Moments away from imploding, they arrived for these sessions as distinct individuals, rather than stylized mop-topped group. Yet, for a moment in time and for this one last time, the Beatles’ separate personalities seemed to work again in service of the whole.

The Beatles Final Concert, January 30th, Although the Beatles’ impromptu performance on the rooftop of their Apple headquarters in London’s central environs was rumored to be a tryout for a return to live concerts, it was in fact part of the band’s final hurrah. The tumultuous sessions for their album Let It Be exposed a group in disarray, and indeed, a mere nine months after this live six song set—all culled from tracks they had been working on at the time The Beatles were officially broken. Filmed to provide a cap on the ill-fated Let It Be film, it’s still an exhilarating experience to watch the four former Fabs giving it a final go for the curious crowds below. “Hope we passed the audition,” John says before vacating the premises on orders from the police. Yes, Mr. Lennon, indeed you did.

Nick Drake, ‘Five Leaves Left’ was an autumnal yearning which surrounds these folk-rock recordings, and that’s likely the reason Drake was overlooked in his time. Even smart assists from Richard Thompson, then of Fairport Convention fame, couldn’t push this delicately conveyed album into the public consciousness back then. Sadly, Drake only had five years left. He died at age 26 in 1974 of an overdose.

This daring debut by prog rock band King Crimson, ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ still remains prog’s standard bearer, the best example of a then-emerging movement that sought to combine musical concepts with rock. ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ was also a template for how this seemingly ever-evolving band would operate, as their lineup almost immediately flew apart. The core pair of Robert Fripp and Greg Lake was all that remained by the time King Crimson set about recording a follow-up.

The Kinks ‘Arthur,’ a triumph of rock with a British sensibility subtitled “Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire,” never gets the short-hand praise of contemporary works like the Who’s ‘Tommy.’ That’s likely because it’s less ambitious. But it’s also far more listenable – like a rock musical, rather than a rock opera. Hailed as one of rock’s first great concept albums, ‘Tommy’ – like so many examples in that genre – sometimes suffers creatively at the expense of furthering the plot. But at its best, this represents the Who at their finest. And there’s no questioning how the album opened up new narrative possibilities for pop composers.

The Who Performed Tommy for the First Time, April 22nd Notably, the concert in Devon, England, preceded the album’s official release by a month. Although other offerings can claim to be the first real rock operas—The Pretty Things’ S.F, Sorrow and the Kinks’ Arthur, among them—The Who were the only band to take the unusual step of performing an album in its entirety. They’d later take Tommy to some of the world’s great opera houses, elevating rock in both intellect and intent.

The debut of supergroup Blind Faith, June 7th, Heralded as the first true “super group”—a term that would resurface continuously in the years that followed Blind Faith was based on an all-star union between guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker of Cream and vocalist/keyboard player Steve Winwood of Traffic, with bassist Ric Grech, formerly of Family, added later on. Although Clapton in particular was wary of the implications involved in such a high profile ensemble and equally concerned about inviting the tempestuous Baker into the fold—he agreed to pursue the possibilities, owing in small part to the fact that he and Winwood had worked together in a short-lived ad hoc outfit called Powerhouse a few years before. The group’s less than spectacular live debut at Hyde Park further exacerbated Clapton’s concerns, and after a single spotty album and tours of Scandinavia and the U.S., the group disbanded later that year.

Dylan Reemerges at the Isle of Wight, August 31st, Dylan had been largely absent from public view since a 1966 motorcycle accident drove him into self-imposed seclusion. Other than his work with the Band at Big Pink, he chose to spend time with his family and record an album, Nashville Skyline, a shocking departure from any album he had offered before. Consequently, the announcement of his appearance at England’s Isle of Wight Festival attracted an extraordinary amount of interest, including the curiosity of various Beatles, a Stone, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett and a still gestating Elton John. Rumor had it that Lennon, Harrison and Starr might join Dylan onstage, and although that proved false, Dylan alone was enough to mesmerize the masses. Dressed in a beige suit, his hair cut short, he performed a 17-song set with backing from the Band, a concert that included several classics from his catalog as well as tracks from Nashville Skyline and its immediate predecessor, John Wesley Harding. It’s still considered a landmark performance today.

That was probably to be expected for a generation still reeling from shocking assassinations and an ever-escalating war. So, too, was a move toward nostalgia for the old ways. Bob Dylan Having hinted at his intentions on the more rustic ‘John Wesley Harding,’ Dylan definitively left behind protest music for a head-long dive into deep country for the charming, determinedly happy ‘Nashville Skyline.’ In its own way, this was revolutionary too as he went country, even as his old backing musicians in The Band released a determinedly homespun self-titled masterpiece. The Byrds also splintered, with two members Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman left to dive deeper into their passion for country and western music. The resulting album, unfortunately, did little on the charts – but it proved to be a well-spring of inspiration for descendent bands like the Eagles. breaking away to form the Americana-focused Flying Burrito Brothers.

Although there had been several gingerly moves to find common ground between the disparate realms of country music and rock ’n’ roll early rock pioneers Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers and Rick Nelson all had claims on country—in the divided America of the late ’60s, followers of the two styles were decidedly distinct. Nevertheless, the Byrds and the Buffalo Springfield effectively made efforts to narrow that divide, making it only natural that the two groups they spawned, the Flying Burrito Brothers and Poco respectively, would, to paraphrase the title of the latter’s debut album, pick up the pieces. As a result of releases like The Flying Burrito Brothers’ debut, The Gilded Palace of Sin, in February 1969, country-rock blossomed, spearheaded by the influence of “cosmic cowboy” Gram Parsons (a member of both the Byrds and the Burritos) before later finding a permanent bond with the release of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken, featuring members of both the new guard and the old, two years later.

The Stooges, ‘The Stooges’ This album’s wiry, first-take feel was no put on: Three songs from the Stooges‘ titanic debut were written in a single day, after their label said the album needed more material, then banged them out live. The ferocious results gave the nascent heavy metal genre new fire, presupposed far-off punk, and scared the hell out of parents everywhere.

Creedence Clearwater Revival began to come into their own here, reaching heralded high points with “Born on the Bayou” and “Proud Mary.” The rest of ‘Bayou Country’ doesn’t always reach that level, but the album is nevertheless surrounded by a sense of expectancy. They’re discovering themselves with every revolution of this album, and it’s a fizzy joy to hear. The second of an incredible run of three CCR albums from 1969 codifies every great thing the earlier ‘Bayou Country’ pointed toward. Sharply drawn, ‘Green River’ is just as sharply played – with none of the period-piece noodling that had occasionally seeped into their first two albums. John Fogerty dilated his muse on ageless cuts like “Bad Moon Rising,” the title track and “Lodi,” and Creedence finally found its true voice.

The Allman Brothers Band an accomplished debut as they blended rock, blues, jazz and a distinctly Southern sensibility to came up with something uniquely and forever their own. Taken for granted in today’s multi-cultural melting pot, ‘Santana’ marked the big bang of Latin rock. Within a year, congas and timbales had found their way into the music of the Rolling Stones, Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis, among many others. But it all started here, as ‘Santana’ blended mind-blowing, genre-bending musical explorations with more compact songs like the rambunctious Top 10 hit ‘Evil Ways’.

Jimi Hendrix forms the Band of Gypsies, October and with the release of Electric Ladyland, Jimi Hendrix was at the height of his prowess, but the break-up of the Experience left him without a band and bereft of new recordings. His band at Woodstock, ostensively dubbed “Gypsy Sun and Rainbows,” found him expanding his original trio concept and reuniting with his former army buddy, Billy Cox. The aggregate, which Hendrix referred to as “a band of gypsies” when interviewed on The Dick Cavett Show, fell apart soon after, although Cox continued on bass and joined Hendrix for some informal recording dates with Buddy Miles. It was a natural combination; Miles had subbed for Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell on two tracks used for Electric Ladyland, and the trio went on to record a few demos and rehearse for an upcoming concert at the Fillmore East that would span New Year’s Eve. The self-titled album, released on Capitol Records to satisfy a contractual obligation, became the band’s only official recording, but clearly pointed the way to a more racially charged sound Hendrix was working on for the future.

Woodstock, August 15th-18th, If ever there was a single gathering that served to define the spirit of the ’60s, those three days spent in the muddy fields of Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York takes the prize. It wasn’t always pleasant—despite an amazing array of rock’s most influential artists (Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, CSNY, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Richie Havens, et. al.), the traffic, the mud and the scarcity of supplies (other than the acid of course) tended to test the resolve of all involved. Still, it was that spirit of love, peace and music that pervaded the proceedings over all, assuring a communal embrace while setting the precedent for festival gatherings, a basic blueprint that remains relevant to this day.

Jefferson Airplane, ‘Volunteers’ was the last album to feature both Marty Balin and Spencer Dryden, ‘Volunteers’ blended a few bucolic moments (featuring guest stars Jerry Garcia and members of CSNY) in with the now-expected psychedelic rock – but that’s not this album’s best-remembered legacy. Instead, it’s a series of molten, occasionally profanity-laced rebukes of the American status quo. They left the ’60s with a bang.

Joining together for the first of what would become a string of free-wheeling, muscular successes alongside his band Crazy Horse, Neil Young blows a hole in the comfy folk-rock conventions of ‘Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere’ in fact, has a lot more in common with the wild eclecticism of his work with Buffalo Springfield, but with a new tone that’s both sharper and looser.

Records in  heavy rotation in my bedroom included the debut album from Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, The Beatles Abbey Road , The Who’s Tommy, King Crimson’s In The Court Of The Crimson King a great record,one that for its time was truly unique, The Rolling Stones Beggar’s Banquet which never left my turntable and the follow-up release Let It Bleed, Neil Young’s masterpiece Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Zappa’s Hot Rats which help change my musical perspective, Fleetwood Mac’s Then Play On, CSN debut, Blind Faith’s one and only official release which is also a very strange record, Nashville Skyline by Bob Dylan, The MC5’s Kick Out The Jams, Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul which arrived unexpectedly when I did not respond in time to a record company selection deadline and glad I got this gem,Chicago Transit Authority double set before they shortened their name to Chicago,  Jethro Tull’s Stand Up, Live Dead, The Doors Soft Parade, Pink Floyd’s Live Ummagumma, Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers, and Procol Harum’s A Salty Dog.

Few events in American history caused as much upheaval as the war in Vietnam. Young people took to streets and college campuses, protesting a conflict that they viewed as little more than an excuse for a murder machine entangling thousands of young draftees. Not surprisingly, musicians supplied the soundtrack against which protest was pursued. With the sound and imagery flashing across television screens night after night, it was only natural that people would find respite in an array of anthems—“Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Street Fighting Man from the Rolling Stones,” “For What It’s Worth (written about the riots on Sunset Strip) by Buffalo Springfield, “Machine Gun” from Jimi Hendrix, Country Joe and the Fish’s “Vietnam Song” and “Volunteers” which came courtesy of Jefferson Airplane. All served to remind the youth of the country that they weren’t alone in their determination to sway some sentiment and avoid the bloodshed overseas.

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While not exactly the most prolific of bands, The Who have released some of the most enduring and genuinely influential albums singles and in the history of rock

Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Keith Moon first began touting their maximum r’n’b wares to West London’s pill-blocked mod community in 1964, hammering out James Brown and Slim Harpo covers as The High Numbers. Their original manager, publicist and self-styled ace face, Pete Meaden was more intent on getting his own name on the songwriting credits of their first single (I’m The Face/Zoot Suit) than looking after the band’s best interests, but when they were picked up by film-makers Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert (lured by Townshend’s penchant for destroying guitars) the latter encouraged the troubled guitarist to compose some original material. Which he did. In abundance. And the rest is history.

The Who are among my my favorite band’s.  Lets have a look at their albums. Live At Leeds is no ordinary live album. Also included are the compilation Odds and Sods an album of outtakes and rarities because of so few studio albums and it was released while they were still going strong. and the compliation Meaty Big and Bouncy.

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Endless Wire – 2006 

This album was released in 2006. Obviously, I’m not as close to this album as The Who’s other albums..but I’ve listened to it more recently than the other albums.  It’s a good album but the best way I can describe it is it’s not as defined as other albums and the mini-opera Wire and Glass can get tedious. There are some good songs such as Black Widow’s Eyes (the only song featuring Zac Starkey), A Man in a Purple Dress and the different but good  God Speaks of Marty Robbins… I will say that time has affected Roger’s voice more than Pete’s. Pete’s voice sounds really good on this album. Roger does fine but age has treated Pete’s voice well.

Following their ludicrously extensive two decade-plus studio lay-off, Roger Daltrey weighs in with muscular vocals that occasionally overshoot the runway while Townshend remains largely introspective. Everything here is fine, but the overwhelming feeling is that none of these songs should ever trouble The Who’s live set. Performances are accomplished, but where’s the desire ?.

Regular live drummer Zak Starkey, a ten-year veteran unavailable due to touring commitments with Oasis is much missed, but the most keenly felt absence however is that of the late John Entwistle. Respected bass journeyman Pino Paladino work is solid, dependable, but the venerable Ox was always going to be utterly irreplaceable. A Man In A Purple Dress rails against religion, yet there’s no lyrical maturity, and you can’t escape the feeling that Townshend’s better than this. The Wire & Glass mini opera that lies at the heart of the project is as uneven as it’s technically faultless, and you cannot help but long for Endless Wire’s dependable surgical slickness to be shattered by a spell-breaking fart-at-a-funeral Moony drum fill.

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It’s Hard – 1982

One thing I will say about this album. It has aged better than I thought it would, never a big fan of this album. I liked some songs like Eminence Front, Athena and some of the tracks like Cry if you Want. This was the last studio Who album until 2006 Endless Wire. The band was not happy at this time and the end was coming…at least until they reunited at the end of the 80s for a reunion tour.

While lead singleAthena is insipid, with Pete Townshend at his most inconsequentially self-regarding, the guitar solo-led, groove-driven highlight Eminence Front remains in their live set to this day. Elsewhere the stylish muscle of Roger Daltrey powerhouse I’ve Known No War and epic dynamics of John Entwistle’s Dangerous work in the album’s favour, but Kenney Jones continues to wilfully behave himself. It’s Hard (their last studio set prior to a 24-year hiatus) is further hobbled by the always debilitating eighties factor. Its contemporary Glyn Johns production sheen lacks teeth and its Tommy-referencing cover documents a midlife style crisis that’s probably best forgotten.

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Face Dances – 1981

The first post-Moon album finds The Who on surprisingly good form. Occupying the Loon’s position at the rear ex-Faces drummer Kenney Jones faces an impossible task, but his tighter, more concise style focusses Townshend’s songwriting. Daltrey gives a little too much beef to some of the more sensitive material, but Entwistle’s The Quiet One is a highlight that, for a couple of years, replaced My Wife as his live party piece. Accompanying hit single You Better You Bet might not be Pete’s best work, but it boasts a similarly effective hook to Who Are You. Elsewhere modestly performing second single Don’t Let Go The Coat(again somewhat overcooked by Daltrey) further confirms Towshend’s continuing commitment to both the teachings of Meher Baba and, for the time being at least, sobriety.

This album has been slammed by critics and fans alike. I bought the album when it was released.  Face Dances was The first album without their engine, Keith Moon. Kenney Jones was a great drummer for the Small Faces and Faces but there is only one drummer for the Who and that was Keith. There are some good songs. “You Better You Bet”  (what I call “Who Are You’s” weak sister) Don’t Let Go the Coat, Another Tricky Day, and The Quiet One.

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Odds and Sods – 1974

This album was released in 1974 of outtakes and rarities that The Who had in the Vaults. The highlights are Long Live Rock, Naked Eye, Pure and Easy, and Postcard by John Entwistle. This album full of outtakes were as good as other bands A-songs. Just as its title suggests Odds And Sods is a collection of studio floor sweepings but, in this case at least, unreleased need not mean unworthy. Who’s Next era Long Live Rock previously sung by a Keith Moon-backed Billy Fury in the David Essex vehicle That’ll Be The Day movie — is absolutely classic ‘orrible ‘Oo in excelsis. The original Pete Meaden-penned single version of the pre-Who High Numbers’ rework of Slim Harpo’s Got Love If You Want It, I’m The Face (recorded in ‘64 as the b-side to Zoot Suit) is an essential mod artefact and irrefutable album highlight. Essentially compiled to confound bootleggers by a clearly spoiled-for-choice John Entwistle, Odds And Sods is a surprising highlight of the Who’s all too slight seventies output, and a release only deemed more essential by a CD-age doubling of its contents.

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Who Are You – 1978

The Who were in the worst shape of their 15-year career when they began work on Who Are You in late 1977. Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey had taken nasty swipes at each other in the press in recent years, and Keith Moon was a severe drug addict. He was just 32, but he looked a good decade older. The punk revolution was also sweeping England, threatening to make bands like the Who seem like dinosaurs.

Pete Townshend was determined to see his band survive, though the Who Are You opening track “New Song” acknowledges his tough task: “I write the same old song with a few new lines/ And everybody wants to hear it.” The title track reflects on a drunken night with members of the Sex Pistols where he did actually pass out in a Soho doorway, while “Music Must Change” also acknowledges the changing musical landscape. “But is this song so different?” Townshend wonders. “Am I doing it all again?” Despite his doubts, the album was a huge success – but less than two weeks after it hit shelves, Keith Moon was dead. Ironically, he’s posed on the cover sitting in a chair that reads “Not To Be Taken Away.”

Keith Moon was not well during recordings of this album. Still, I’ll take a 70 percent Keith Moon over a 100 percent anyone else for the Who. It contained the Who classic title track, Sister Disco, 905, and Music Must Change. Pete continued what he started with the Who By Numbers album by writing from the perspective of an aging rocker. This album sold faster than any other Who album. Within the month of its release, Keith Moon was gone for good.

Intoxicated and depressed into ill health and undeniable disinterest, Keith Moon’s lack of form left the band operating at little more than 75% of their potential. Quite literally in the case of Music Must Change from which, uninspired, the debilitated drummer remained entirely absent, save for a handful of cymbal crashes. Overshadowed by Moon’s death just three weeks after its release, this out of time album remains one of Townshend’s most underrated works.

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Who by Numbers – 1975

Pete wrote songs so personal that Roger didn’t feel right about singing some of the songs. Pete was wondering at this point if The Who were still relevant anymore. He felt old by rock standards and wondered if the band should just pack it in.

This album had to grow on me but now I do appreciate the personal songs that Pete wrote. “How Many Friends” is the single saddest song in the Who’s catalog, while “Dreaming from the Waist” deals with the sexual frustration of aging. The best-known song is Squeeze Box but the album is full of good songs. Slip Kid, However Much I Booze, Dreaming from the Waist and Blue Red Grey. With Punk music starting to happen Pete wrote in “They Are All In Love”

Hey, goodbye all you punks, Stay young and stay high
Hand me my checkbook, And I’ll crawl out to die

After the high concepts that dominated the band’s output for the previous trilogy of albums, The Who By Numbers’ unpretentious straightforwardness arrived into the directionless pre-punk doldrums as something of a relief. Kicking off in impressive style with Slip Kid, things rapidly freewheel downhill as Townshend takes his Dr Marten-ed foot way too far off the gas. However Much I Booze swathes the guitarist’s ongoing descent into alcoholism in an inappropriately jolly arrangement, while the seemingly inescapable contemporary jukebox staple Squeeze Box is little more than throwaway, end-of-the-pier fluff. Where is the Pete Townshend of Lifehouse? Where the architect of Quadrophenia? In 1975 it was a baffling disappointment. And The Who, as they entered their thirties, seemed unbelievably old.

If Pete had only known the future…they were only in their twenties at that time…that is just the beginning now.

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A Quick One – 1966

Following on from the time-marking surf-heavy Ready Steady Who EP, The Who’s second album represented almost implausibly rapid progression, and exhibited a far higher level of sophistication to My Generation. If there’s a slight return to their mod-era dance floor traditionalism in Townshend’s So Sad About Us, his closing mini opera A Quick One While He’s Away is almost preposterously ambitious. A multi-part expansion of the kind of linear narratives that were to provide the band with their next brace of singles (Happy Jack, Pictures Of Lily) it hasn’t aged particularly well and sounds significantly more sixth form than La Scala.

The mini-opera starts here. A Quick One, While He’s Away is a classic song made of fragments weaved with each other to make a whole. Everyone writes at least one song for this album. John Entwistle with his signature tune Boris the Spider, Keith Moon turns out the crazy and strange “Cobwebs and Strange,” and a bit of power pop with I Need You. They also covered Heatwave with the familiar Who flair.

The Kids Are Alright

The Kids Are Alright (1979) 

Released to accompany Jeff Stein’s documentary of archive clips, The Kids Are Alright captures some of the band’s greatest performances, not least a titanic final assault on Won’t Get Fooled Again captured during the soon-to-be-late Keith Moon’s swansong appearance at Shepperton Film Studios on May 25th, 1978. Here also is the band’s show-stealing rendition of A Quick One While He’s Away from The Rolling Stones ill-fated Rock ‘N’ Roll Circus TV Special of ‘68 and the, quite literally, explosive My Generation detonated during The Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour in ‘67 where soon-to-be long-term tinnitus sufferer Townshend is effectively deafened (and has his hair set on fire) when Moon exceeds the prescribed dose of pyro when blowing up his drum kit.

Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy [VINYL]

Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy (1971)

The overwhelming success of Tommy and Who’s Next brought the Who a huge new army of fans, and many of them weren’t around during their initial hit-making period in the 1960s. Also, many of their early classics (“I Can’t Explain,” “The Seeker,” “Substitute”) weren’t available on any album. It was common practice in the 1960s for bands to churn out regular singles, leaving many of them off their albums.

A cornerstone of any early seventies record collection, ‘60s hit compilation Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy provided irrefutable proof that throughout the previous decade The Who were not just a singles band but one of the world’s best. Prior to Townshend’s obsession with lengthier operatic works he was the master of the short sharp perfectly formed linear narrative, and the best (Happy Jack, Pictures Of Lily, I’m A Boy) are here, along with mod’s ultimate anthems; I Can’t Explain, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, Substitute and the totemic My Generation.

The BBC Sessions

BBC Sessions (2000)

For pure mod-era distilled adrenalin you’d have to go a long way to find a better example than the guitar solo captured here on Anyway Anyhow Anywhere. Eye-opening insights into the early Who’s live set come courtesy of spirited frugs through James Brown’s Just You And Me Darling and The Olympics’ Good Lovin’. Elsewhere, rare Roger Daltrey composition See My Way is significantly perkier in session than in its A Quick One incarnation and, somewhat implausibly, disaffected teen anthem My Generation is rewritten as a perky Radio 1-promoting jingle. With plentiful chart hits reimagined, some of the Odds on here are significantly better than the higher profile Sods corralled elsewhere.

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Live at Leeds – 1970

Tommy was a bigger hit than the Who could have possibly imagined. They were suddenly headlining major festivals and playing to sold-out opera houses in major cities. They played the entire album every night, along with earlier songs and covers like “Young Man Blues” and “Summertime Blues.” They were on fire every single night, playing some of the greatest concerts in the history of rock.

In late 1969, they began taping shows for a possible live album, though Townshend was unhappy with the results.  Tapes were rolling again when they played Hull and Leeds University, in February 1970, but Entwistle’s bass parts weren’t captured during the opening songs at Hull, so they released the Leeds show. The original record of Live at Leeds just had six songs (three of which were covers) to showcase their pre-Tommy live repertoire but, over the years, they’ve slowly released the complete show.

There are live albums and then there is this… This album along with At Fillmore East rise above other live albums. Bands would release them when they were in between studio albums. On Live at Leeds, I have never heard a rock band so tight. This is the Who clicking on all cylinders.

The Who were always a very different band in the live arena and Live At Leeds captures them at their best. Rather than the tightly-disciplined studio entity, they’re a loose-limbed, tirelessly extemporising rock machine. Rather than simply duplicating three-minute hits, the vinyl album’s entire second side is split between an elongated improvisation upon My Generation and a similarly expanded version of Magic Bus. Considered for at least the first five years of its existence to be the ultimate example of the live rock record, Live At Leeds (now vastly expanded for CD) still boasts a rare, feral potency.

Moon, Entwistle, Townshend, and Daltrey are all in their prime on this.

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My Generation – 1965

A little over a year after he helped the Kinks become superstars by producing “You Really Got Me,” producer Shel Talmy brought the Who into his recording studio. They made the heavily Kinks-inspired “I Can’t Explain” and “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” together and those singles were successful enough to get the young band a deal for an entire album.

Scattered among a handful of perky, maximum r’n’b covers designed to keep Goldhawk Road modernists leaping, a batch of Townshend originals entirely define their time. None more than the pair recorded in a single session on October 13th, ‘65. The Kids Are Alright and My Generation. The Who’s intensified, electrified, surf-splashed, pop art-infused over-cranked bludgeoning not only provides a raw template for garage rock, but created a musical landscape within which Jimi Hendrix, Heavy Metal, punk, and therefore, modern rock itself could exist. Due to a long period of unavailability, My Generation attained mythic status in the mid-seventies as it was widely assumed that every track delivered equal parent-quaking wallop to its ubiquitous title track. Of course, they don’t, but if they did the album would be good enough to actually kill you

The title song is still an anthem of the sixties generation. This may be the hardest power pop album released, The Kids Are Alright, A Legal Matter, and Out In The Street.

They experimented in the studio and found new sounds and used feedback as an instrument. You start hearing the power chords on this album and the great hooks that Pete came up with on guitar…Roger still hasn’t grown into his later voice and the band is raw but electric.

The Ox is just a musical explosion. What a great debut album this was in 1965.

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Who Sell Out – 1967

The Who’s take on Pirate radio of the sixties complete with commercials. The standout hit was I Can See For Miles but this album is a collection of good songs strung together with fake commercials. The Who Sell Out wraps up with “Rael,” which contains the musical seeds of a story about a blind, deaf and dumb boy that would transform the Who into one of the biggest bands on Earth.

I like to listen to this album in sequence. Pete was maturing into the Pete we would know soon. The Who didn’t repeat themselves and kept reaching and experimenting.

The Who’s third album — recorded soon after their pivotal appearance at the Monterey Festival — was even more ambitious in scope than A Quick One, yet while lauded as a pop art masterpiece on its initial release it hasn’t aged well. That said stone-cold classic I Can See For Miles balances out overly contrived one-joke ditties like Odorono and Heinz Baked Beans, Speedy Keen’s Armenia City In The Sky injects psych-era menace (even if it is more Satanic Majesty than Sgt Pepper) while Rael (1 And 2) sounds like a premonitory collage of sketchy snippets from Townshend’s notebooks, even to the extent of offering an early glimpse of Tommy’s Sparks. A tentative Daltrey is yet to find his voice, there’s way too much growing up in public on display, and for all its courageous intentions it often sounds contrived, hurried and half-formed.

Strong tracks are Armenia City In The Sky, Tatto, Our Love Was, Relax. and Rael and of course the masterpiece I Can See For Miles.

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Tommy – 1969

This Rock Opera left a huge dent in pop culture and left its imprint on rock history. I like the album but the production leaves a lot to be desired. This album made the Who rock gods. There are some great songs on this album like Pinball Wizard, We’re Not Going To Take It, I’m Free, and The Acid Queen.

Always more ‘important’ than satisfying, Tommy talks a better game than it delivers. Again produced under enormous pressure, while the band teetered on the brink of onstage auto-destruction hastened bankruptcy (all that smashed gear, much of it hired, racked up king’s ransoms of debt) the creative hothouse of the late sixties demanded back-to-back releases and full-tilt progression as standard. The band’s instrumental interplay is nothing short of electrifying and Michael McInnerney’s game-changing cover art stunning. Pinball Wizard swiftly captured the public’s imagination and Townshend’s grand, Kit Lambert-encouraged operatic vision gradually came to full fruition in the live arena, saved The Who financially and broadened rock’s scope with an ambitious high concept that brought sixties pop to adulthood and presaged seventies prog.

I personally like Sally Simpson and Christmas. Pete Townshend and Kit Lambert worked together on this album and Kit helped Pete shape it into a concept album. I wished Kit would have let someone else engineer and mix it. I’m mostly a studio album guy but I think this album works better live than the record. Listening to the live version of this album around that time for me beats the album.

There is no denying that it is a landmark album in Rock.

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Quadrophenia – 1973

Touching on real-life incidents – like the Brighton Beach brawl between mods and rockers – the double album Quadrophenia was a worthy follow-up to Tommy, though this time, kids all around the world related to Jimmy and his intense feelings of isolation. It proved too difficult to play onstage in 1973, but they revived it in 1996 and 2012 to much acclaim.

This kick-started the Mod revival of the 70s. The concept album is about a teenager mod (Jimmy) coming of age in the 60s…It is also about the band itself and it’s four different personalities and also their fans. It is much more cohesive than Tommy and Pete’s use of synthesizers on this is incredible.

The band are on fire. The ensemble interplay that accompanies Roger Daltrey’s bullish. career-topping vocal performance is only ever stunning. Quadrophenia is Townshend’s masterpiece, his most convincing and engaging rock opera by some distance. Based in mod though eternally relevant, it’s bolstered by a vast, cinematic production and is utterly huge in every given sense of the word: in vision, scope, concept and enduring influence.

The Real Me, Doctor Jimmy, Love Reign O’er Me, Bell Boy, 5.15; compositions that don’t just represent The Who at their best, but rock at its best. Townshend’s writing has matured almost beyond recognition – even since Tommy – and considering that he’s progressed from I Can’t Explain’s surly proto-punk inarticulacy to a work of such depth, sophistication, magnitude and brilliance in under a decade is astonishing. Quadrophenia then, a standout album from a standout year, an undiminished juggernaut of epic proportions. Rock really doesn’t get any more classic than this.

The high spot for me is hearing Entwistle and Moon play “The Real Me.”

Some of the many great songs are Love, Reign O’er Me, The Real Me, The Punk and The Godfather, Drowned, 5:15.

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Who’s Next -1971

There was really no suspense to this album being number one Who album. This arguably could be the best rock album of the 70s. Instead of Kit Lambert The Who hired Glyn Johns to help produce and it showed. The sound quality difference between this and Tommy is day and night. This album has a sonic quality like no other.

Having ultimately abandoned his long-promised Meher Baba-inspired Lifehouse project, Townshend asset-stripped its constituent parts for Who’s Next, and while it’s tempting to harbour a romantic notion of what could have been, the relative simplicity of a traditional nine-track album setting seems to suit the proposed Lifehouse material perfectly well. Baba O’Riley and Won’t Get Fooled Again (the latter released in a chart-troubling single edit) stand strong on their own merits and, bookending the album, have come to define the band in their prime. Roger Daltrey’s vocal performance is astonishing. Behind Blue Eyes seems to serve as signature piece for both Daltrey and Townshend, while Entwistle’s My Wife blazes with cannily deployed brass. A vast evolutionary leap forward that set the band’s reputation in stone as one of rock’s very best.

The album came out of a failed attempt at a rock concept album by Pete called Lifehouse that apparently no one but Pete understood. Classic radio stations use this album as their foundation. An incredible album with no weak songs.

These songs live work so well. Won’t Get Fooled Again maybe has the best line in Rock… “Meet the new boss, Same as the Old boss” . Pete Townshend released Lifehouse under his own name in 2000 as The Lifehouse Chronicles. It wasn’t nearly as good as Who’s Next. Not even close.

thanks in part to powerpop.blog, Rolling Stone and others.

The Albums
My Generation (1965)
A Quick One (1966)
The Who Sell Out (1967)
Tommy (1969)
Who’s Next (1971)
Quadrophenia (1973)
The Who by Numbers (1975)
Who Are You (1978)
Face Dances (1981)
It’s Hard (1982)
Endless Wire (2006)

tommy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Band

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

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Why did they actually do it? … This is the question every Smithereens fan—and every fan of The Who—must ask when listening to The Smithereens Play Tommy. It is common knowledge that Tommy is terrific, full of songs worth playing. And it’s common knowledge that The Smithereens—a briefly big power-pop outfit from North Jersey that had a small string of hits and fine albums in the 1980s—are a band deeply in love with the British Invasion.  The Smithereens, packing dosed-up guitars that ring with power and full-throated singing, are up to the task of playing Tommy. The band, in short, sounds a whole lot like The Who. This is an accurate, respectful maybe too respectful—recreation of a classic album release.

In 2007, Pat DiNizio (lead vocals and guitar) and his band released Meet the Smithereens, a track-by-track cover of Meet the Beatles. It was followed within a year-plus by B-Sides – the Beatles, a collection of less common tunes by the Fab Four. On the backs of these heartfelt but relatively unadventurous tributes, The Smithereens toured small theaters all over the country, playing their hits, sure, but also playing these ringingly familiar classics to receptive ears. It is ingenious, really, because releasing new albums of original music and hoping that the new music will be received happily by the band’s now-middle-aged fans .

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Beginning in the late 1960s, Pete 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 The 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, 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: 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 vocal fury launch these songs to a whole other level.

Of Tommy Pete Townshend said, ” Until we made TOMMY we had largely been our own bosses. Suddenly all that changed – for the first time in our lives we were really successful, really taken over by the audience, and we had to do as we were told. America, the great consumer nation told us, ” There are 50 million kids over here that want to see you perform. What are you going to do about it – stay in Twickenham and work on your next album, or come on over here and perform ? ” So we went on over and got involved in the standing ovations and the interviews, the 19 page Rolling Stone article, the presentations of the gold albums, all that. It took two years to work on anything new. ”

Out of the work from Tommy, I don’t recall this song ever being released. I extended Keith’s opening drum lines and the song, as well. I only know of two other takes that exist, but by far — I love this one the best.

The Who announce that 5 UK dates scheduled for April 2017 will include a performance of classic album Tommy in full.
The Who have confirmed they will play 1969 album Tommy in full on their 2017 UK tour.
After postponing five UK dates this year, The Who rescheduled them for April and have now revealed they’ll perform Tommy live in its entirety for the first time since 1989.

They say: “The Who are incredibly excited about performing Tommy and more in April 2017! Marking the first time that the band will play Tommy in full since 1989, it will be a truly unforgettable tour.”

The Tommy element of the shows will include a new video segment produced specially for these gigs.
As well as Tommy, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey’s band will play a set of their greatest hits and some lesser known tracks. The Tommy & More dates follow two shows at London’s Royal Albert Hall on March 30th and April 1st, at which they will also play Tommy in full.

Frontman Daltrey recently said he felt rock had “reached a dead end.” The tour has been especially reinvigorating for Pete Townshend, who has for years found playing live increasingly dull. But in the last few weeks of the run – originally dubbed “The Who Hits 50!” and later revised to “Back to the Who Tour 51!” Townshend is looking forward to getting back on the road and, for at least two shows, changing up the set list. On March 30th and April 1st, the Who will present the rock opera Tommy live in its entirety for the first time since 1989 at a benefit gala for Teenage Cancer Trust. The band’s website claims it will be acoustic but, as Townshend says below, that may not be the case.

He said: “The sadness for me is that rock has reached a dead end. The only people saying things that matter are the rappers and most pop is meaningless and forgettable.

 

Tommy, The Who’s defining, breakthrough concept album – a full-blown rock opera about a deaf, dumb and blind boy that launched the band to international superstardom reissued in multi format editions.

Originally released in May 1969, The Who were at a career crossroads, they were known mainly as a singles band but this project launched them as a serious ‘albums band’ and has now sold over 20 million copies as well as regularly turning up in lists of the most influential albums of all time.

It’s all too easy to go, “Yeah, The Who’s Tommy is great, love it.” But just put it into perspective for a moment. This was one man’s imagination, one man’s vision and it was groundbreaking. Add into the mix, Roger, Keith and John, who along with Pete, created what is one of the most amazing records of the rock era. It was released on 23rd May 1969 and every home should have one…

From the opening chords of ‘Overture’ you know you are in for something different.  But try imagining what it was like to hear this for the very first time in the last week of May 1969 when The Who released their magnum opus, the much vaunted, Tommy. To add to the sense of wonderment ‘Overture’ features a French Horn, previously the sole preserve of the Beatles in popular music, but here played by The Who’s bass player, John Entwistle.

This was rock music, but not as we knew it. It wasn’t the first extended musical piece in rock, but it was the first to have the audacity to bill itself as an opera.  Being a double album it certainly demanded to be taken seriously; to this point there had been few such lengthy albums, even ones that were not a cohesive piece of work. With its triptych of a fold out sleeve that was a lavish presentation of Mike McInnerney’s fabulous painting it all helped to make this an even more auspicious musical work.

A quick check of the album credits showed that all but four of the 24 tracks were written by Pete Townshend. It’s another reason why this monster of a work should command such respect. Few individuals had the ability, or the vision, to create such a complex and such a long piece of work; Pete’s inspiration came from the teachings of the Meher Baba.

Tommy took six months to record, and another two months to mix, while not unheard of even as long ago as 1969, but it was even then very unusual. With layers of Townshend’s acoustic guitar and the numerous overdubs Tommy was for the time a sonically very different album from most everything else. It’s another example of the passage of time fooling us into believing that this was not as significant an album as it was. So much has happened since the release of Tommy that it dulls the collective retrospective – what is now commonplace was then a step outside the accepted, a step into uncharted territory.

‘Pinball Wizard’, ‘Go to the Mirror!’, ‘I’m Free’, ‘Christmas’, and ‘See Me, Feel Me’ all came out as singles, with the first and last becoming hits in both America and the UK. ‘See Me, Feel Me’ was one of the highpoints of The Who’s appearance at Woodstock – has there ever been a better rock vocalist than Roger Daltrey.  If  The Who doing Tommy at Woodstock doesn’t send shivers down the spine try checking that you are still alive.

Coming after The Who Sell Out in 1967 it marked a complete change in style with Pete Townshend’s lengthy conceptual narrative brought exciting new opportunities to rock music. Tommy was and remains to be an ambitious, complex and controversial work, which was initially banned by the BBC. This new Deluxe and Super Deluxe version of the album comes with a wealth of previously unheard material in the form of 20 demos from Pete Townshend’s archive and also a live performance of Tommy from 1969 taken from tapes that infamously Townshend asked the band’s sound engineer to burn!

18 of the previously unheard and thought to be long lost live tracks are taken from a live show at the Capital Theatre, Ottowa, Canada on October the 15th 1969. Three others, I’m Free, Tommy’s Holiday Camp and We’re Not Gonna Take It were lost due to tape reels being changed during the show so are taken from later shows of the same era.

As discussed at length in Pete Townshend’s autobiography the tapes were all supposed to be destroyed but were kept by long time Who sound man Bob Pridden despite Pete’s instructions.The Who: Tommy: Super Deluxe Boxset

Super-Deluxe box set:
Disc 1 – The original album (2013 re-master) Digitally remastered in HD
Disc 2 – The demos and out-takes. Features 20 previously unreleased tracks from Pete Townshend’s archive.
Disc 3 – The 5.1 album mix – Hi Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray The complete album remixed in surround sound on new Hi Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray format
Disc 4 – The live ‘bootleg’ album. Features 21 previouslyunreleased tracks from 1969

  • Hardback 80-page full-colour book featuring rare & unseen period photos, Pete’s hand-written lyrics & notes and fascinating memorabilia.
  • 22,000-word essay by legendary Who aficionado Richard Barnes
  • Facsimile 20” x 30” Tommy concert poster
  • Limited edition, housed in a hard-back deluxe slip-case