Monday, 2 October 2017

Lindisfarne "Amigos" (1989)





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Lindisfarne “Amigos” (1989)

One World/Everything Changes/Working For The Man/Roll On That Day/You’re The One/Wish You Were Here/Do It Like This/Any Way The Wind Blows/Strange Affair/When The Night Comes Down/Don’t Say Goodnight/Another World

‘Change has got to come and I say roll on that day!’

By 1989 Lindisfarne were celebrating their twentieth anniversary. This is rather against the odds: the band that split up three years and a trio of records into their career hating each other’s guts had somehow found a way to add another four ‘proper’ records to that tally and were on their way to becoming a Geordie institution, passing The Animals’ and Dire Straits’ output to become the Newscastle band with the longest discography in rock and roll. You can afford the band a bit of a self-indulgent grin on this album, with its overly pally photographs on the front and the triumphant title suggesting the band are best friends and always have been. Alas, ‘Amigos’ was released by a band who were already far from the best of friends. Of the six members of Lindisfarne pictured smiling on this sleeve, half of them will be gone after just one more record – and while Alan Hull couldn’t help the heart attack that killed him in 1995, behind the scenes founding members Ray Jackson and Si Cowe are already getting rather fed-up. Hailed on release as a major success story that rekindled the Lindisfarne spirit and returned the band to somewhere approaching their best, hearing this album a further twenty-eight years on reveals it to be a bit of a deception all round: that isn’t a true period late 1960s sound on this album but a 1980s version of it complete with twinkly synths and saxophones just not quite as off-putting as before and the band aren’t really best buddies - they’re just putting their differences aside to make themselves seem like an institution in one last desperate hope of getting a record. Despite some very positive reviews and an album that appealed even to non-fans in the way the last few hadn’t, the price was ultimately just too high. Jacka quit more or less on release, Si found his songs rejected and another hopeful record deal, this time with Black Crow Records, never quite flew. ‘Amigos’ is an album that, for all it’s pally and matey feel, is for my ears a hard album to love.

Which is not to say that it’s terrible. Lindisfarne are definitely closer to their ‘real essence’ than they were chasing the synth-heavy pop on ‘Dance Your Life Away’ or the retro campness of ‘C’mon Everybody’. They sound, at times, like the band they used to be with a few returns to agitating political commentary (on album highlight ‘Working For The Man’, which finally answers the question ‘what would a Rod Clements-Alan Hull collaboration sound like?’ with the answer ‘heavy!’), breezy pop singles (Alan and Marty’s ‘Everything Changes’) and there’s more use of mandolin and harmonies than on any album since ‘Dingly Dell’. The band really should have kept with their working title ‘Keepin’ The Beacon Burning’ (used as a subtitle when the pictures came out looking like ‘Amigos’) because that’s much closer to the spirit and heart of what this album is all about: raging against age and finding new ways to do the same things all over again. On those terms this is perhaps the nest album since the glorious ‘Sleepless Nights’ a full seven years before with a band who are proud of who they are, sure of where they’re going and coming to terms with the fact that they aren’t young and trendy anymore. But hard as the band try to sound like their old selves (and as great a Lindisfarne tribute act as they are on this album), they’ve only remembered half their raison d’aitre and fail to engage with much of their heritage.

As horrific as much of ‘Dance Your Life Away’ was, at least it had ambition, which was as much a part of the Lindisfarne tradition as mandolins, harmonies and – erm – breathing. With Lindisfarne’s own short-lived record company ‘Lindisfarne Music Productions’ having come to a premature end, it feels as if the band are a little too desperate to please here, a little too keen to appeal to all the fans they’d scared away with songs about Reagan, missiles, drinking and spirituality. On this album Lindisfarne want to appear as your best mates, their arms round each other or in hideous trendy sportswear on the back cover, rather than agitprop commentators at the end tail-end of the Cold War. Rather than depress us by holding up a mirror to the horrors of life as per every previous Lindisfarne album of new material, this one feels like an extension of their ‘party’ album, here as poppy escapism and singalong lighter songs. Pretty as everything here sounds, it’s also a bit hollow underneath the surface and rather less substantial to get your teeth into. No wonder every reviewer who’d forgotten about Lindisfarne hailed it as a ‘return to success’ – it sounds exactly the way Lindisfarne had always almost sounded but never quite had in terms of icing, but there’s none of the multi-tiered cakes of old here. Personally I’d rather have this band, so raw and so spirited, sounding nicely out of tune than auto-tuned.

But maybe that’s just me. I’ve noticed that my rather less Lindisfawning relatives and friends all like this album. Heck, so much one of my university flatmates loves this record she bought her own copy and she hated everything else I ever played (admittedly much of it was the Who played loud to counteract the hideous dance music being played throughout the night upstairs). It’s a safe cosy, pretty little album and there’s much to be said for an album big on melody and pop fluff. Compared to contemporary pop releases you can see why it was so popular because it sounds like everything else around at the time (something Lindisfarne had never done before really) yet with this band’s distinctive sweet ‘n’ sour sound. Every track sounds like something else: ‘One World’ sounds like Band Aid,  ‘Everything Changes’ is a Geordie Proclaimers, ‘Roll On That Day’ is any decent pop act, ‘Wish You Were Here’ is Clannad with a Celtic feel from the ‘other’ end of the British Isles, ‘Do It Like This’ is Shakin’ Stevens, ‘Any Way The Wind Blows’ is a Dire Straits number if ever I heard one and ‘Don’t Say Goodnight’ is as close to a Merseybeat song as major Lennon fan Alan Hull ever came. Lindisfarne sound just enough like other people, while staying just true enough to their principles to make this a popular record with people who thought this band had gone a bit ‘weird’ since the similarly ‘please let me please you!’ purr of ‘Back and Fourth’. This album wears it’s commercial head with some pride, eager to make Lindisfarne an institution in the charts again and it’s not this album’s fault that the band never quite capitalised on that, with just too much water under the bridge for the public to really take to this album, signing with a record label that didn’t have the commercial clout of the old days (though it was as ‘local’ as could be, with Black Crow based in Sunderland, just down the road from Newscastle-Upon-Tyne) or that the band was itself going to implode in the most awful way when Alan Hull died of a heart attack a few years later, aged only fifty.

What ‘Amigos’ lacks, though, is any of the bite or integrity of yesteryear and there’s little ambition here other than selling records. There’s not one reference to politics across this album -  a rarity for a band who once took on the law, town planners, The Falklands, Raegan’s missiles and who once promised to ‘bake [the Government’s] head in Gingerbread and eat them one by one!’ Instead this album’s ‘theme’ seems to be crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, a theme that crops up especially in ‘One World’ (the most hopeful and upbeat song Alan Hull ever wrote) and Rod and Marty’s singalong number ‘Roll On That Day’. Some fans have wondered if Lindisfarne were merely re-acting to the fact that the Berlin Wall had fallen, that the Cold War had blown over and that mankind’s future seemed more certain suddenly. But no: this album was mostly written in 1988 when the Cold War was still distinctly frosty and recorded in ‘Spring and Summer 1989’ according to the sleevenotes and the wall didn’t come down till November that year (personally I didn’t believe the Cold War was over until the next year when the Kremlin opened its first McDonalds – then I knew for sure it was over!) Also, this album doesn’t ‘feel’ like a happy album unless you’re paying close attention to the lyrics which aren’t printed in the CD booklet anywhere anyway (unusual for 1989): it’s not full of joy and exuberance and happiness, the way that ‘Clear White Light’ is in a deeper, spiritual sense and ‘Fog On The Tyne’ is in a sillier, more playful sense. Instead it really does sound like an album crossing it’s fingers and hoping for the best, but sure that it will be proved wrong – again.

I would like this album more if it wasn’t trying so hard to be so ‘matey’ too, at just the point when Lindisfarne were suffering their biggest crisis since the big split of 1972. I mean just look at the inner booklet where the band are hamming it up like some male version of The Spice Girls, complete with their own personas, which oddly enough are all out of character with who they really are: Rod is clearly ‘Loony Spice’, as the normally straightforward and humble bass player puts on a Homburg Hat and puts on a silly walk for the camera. Si Cowe, the most eccentric member of a truly eccentric band, looks smart and proper, wearing a sad grin as he stands still, his barely-touched guitar draped round his shoulders. Hully is leaping in the air with his cool shades on, like some young wannabe rather than one of his generations’ deepest thinking poets. Ray Laidlaw is showing off muscles he never had in his gym kit as the band’s ‘Mr Sensible’ shakes his maracas like Mick Jagger on a hot-tin roof. Only Jacka and Marty look their usual ‘selves’, with Ray holding out an album to hug an imaginary someone while grooving with a tambourine and Marty is giving it all with his saxophones and long hair in one of the most 1980s pictures I’ve ever seen. Notably the band don’t appear altogether anywhere, but in ones or threes: are they really amigos nowadays or just musicians who met in the canteen? Worryingly, despite this being their twentieth anniversary, evidence suggests the latter.

Though even the excellent ‘Fog On The Tyne – The History Of Lindisfarne’ book tries to downplay it, Lindisfarne was not a happy ship in 1989 as the band split up at least partly over the new direction the group were steering into. Ray Jackson had re-located to London: not that far in international terms but far enough from the all-Geordie band arrangement to make him feel an ‘outsider’. His mother-in-law was deathly poorly and his family needed him – but while his eye was off the ball he was horrified at what the others had been up to in his absence: signing with the ‘party hits!’ label Stylus for the ‘C’mon Everybody’ rock and roll medleys album in 1987 and making this album with the demand that the ‘commercial’ end of Lindisfarne had to be up high and the ‘creative’ element down low. Jacka also had his nose put out of joint when saxophone player Marty Cragg began taking more and more of the lead vocals on songs intended for Jacka: naturally so given that their singer couldn’t make rehearsals, but a slap in the face for Lindisfarne’s founding member who had stayed loyal to the band through thick and thin so far. Jacka also had a ‘day job’ doing advertisements, a gig that paid far more than Lindisfarne ever did and kept him busy in London – if the rest of the band didn’t seem to value him, why was he even still with them? Alas Jacka’s loss soon after these album sessions (the first time any of the band had left in eleven years’ worth of reunion records) will be a major blow and Lindisfarne will never sound quite the same again. As small a part as he plays on this record, Jacka’s vocals are all the best moments here too: he’s the only band who isn’t audibly grinning through his tracks, as he growls his way through ‘Working For The Man’ and laments better days on ‘Anyway The Wind Blows’, easily the two best songs on this album. Si, too, is suffering a crisis of confidence. After a quiet period in the mid-1980s he moves to a new house with a large pond and finds himself inspired by being around water, coming up with a string of songs that return him to the playfulness of the ‘Jack The Lad’ days and adds a quirky sound back to a band who badly need it. Unfortunately the rest of the band make it clear that this is to be a commercial LP and as middle as the road they come – poor Si’s contributions get booted out and his guitarwork gets watered down for this album too.

 That’s two of Lindisfarne’s four creative voices silences across this record, which is not a good sign. Alas Alan Hull also chooses this album to creatively go to sleep. ‘Freed’ of the need to write deep political songs, Hully is just having fun across this album, writing more love songs than he’d ever written in his life and coming up with merely his ‘half’ of the Clements collaboration ‘Working For The Man’ that sounds at all like his usual style (political, angry and often sarcastic). There aren’t even any ‘party’ drunk songs to savour on this album: instead we get utopia, love, love again, retro dancing and a tearful ballad. The ‘strangest’ Hull song on the album by far is the moody ‘Strange Affair’, but alas even this tale of love going wrong is buried underneath an oompah beat and a very 1980s pop setting. Rod Clements fares better, making the most of the extra space to stretch himself, but even then it sounds as if he’s working from the idea that Lindisfarne are nothing more than a ‘pop’ band. ‘When The Night Comes Down’ and ‘Roll On That Day’ are the most straightforward and commercial of all his songs for the band down the years and only ‘Anyway The Wind Blows’ even vaguely approaches old classics.

That would matter less if this production was warm and vibrant. Alas it isn’t. Again it’s odd that Lindisfarne choose this album to emphasise just how friendly they now are with each other on the album that sounds more than ever before as if Lindisfarne are recording their parts separately. As it happens, this album was made all-together where possible, with just a few twinkly synth parts (by this album’s producer Steve Daggett on his second album for the band) and Jacka’s contributions added later occasionally. But it doesn’t sound like it: that big rich Lindisfarne sound that may have been ramshackle on occasion but was always exciting sounds bland and lifeless, as if the band are playing down the end of a wind tunnel, surrounded by way too much fog on the Tyne for comfort. The harmonies never quite blend together the way they used to, as if they’ve been pieced together later. Ray Laidlaw’s drums boom in a tinny late 1980s way, making him sound more robot than rebel as he usually does. There’s virtually no bass audible at all across this record. Si is lucky to get a guitar part on here at all and for the most part answers what everyone is doing with a smile on their face with a grumpy growl. The dominant sounds are synths and saxophone: perfectly acceptable as colour on other Lindisfarne albums, but here they’re the main course for much of the album. The only songs that really break up this mode are the acoustic ‘Everything Changes’ (which still slaps a horrid 1980s sound slapped over the top of everything) and the closing ‘Another World’ which is a bit of a cheat: it’s an instrumental repeat of the opening track with some horrid cod-panpipes blowing all the way through it.

All of the above makes me sound like some old codger moaning. While that is undoubtedly true, it’s not as if I hate ‘Amigos’ either. There’s too much that goes right here to truly hate or laugh at this album. Had this record come out with any other band’s name on the label I would have quite liked it, given that 1989 isn’t the world’s greatest year for music. At least Lindisfarne don’t fall into the traps of many of their contemporaries: there’s no rap or hip-hop section, no desperate bid to sound younger than the band are and at least Lindisfarne have shaken off the excessive synths that marred their last album. This album makes for some very lovely background music and has some pretty melodies hidden away in here, just waiting to be rediscovered (alas none of these songs stayed in the live setlist long enough for me to hear them, but I bet they all sounded much better played by a real band together on stage and with less excessive noise running through them). This album isn’t terrible, merely average. But Lindisfarne should be more than mere background noise and they weren’t an average band at all. Thankfully much will be put right for next record ‘Does Elvis Live On The Moon?’ which puts back much of the mystery and politics back into the band’s sound (alas too late for Jacka to stay, but you can’t have everything). Combine the two and you might have the best Lindisfarne album in years. Instead this album feels like a missed opportunity to start afresh by reminding the world just how creative, hungry and talented Lindisfarne always were, rather than what good listenable pop merchants dressed in sports clothes they could be. 

At the time of release ‘One World’ was greeted as a grown-up and impressively contemporary re-action to modern-day living. Many fans compared Alan Hull’s passionate plea for tolerance and equality to ‘Imagine’ and revelled in the fact that one of our most ‘real’ and troubled writers was promising us a better tomorrow, in great contrast to his usual gloomy take on the world and it’s leaders. Upon release in the Autumn, just a few short months before the fall of the Berlin Wall it seemed prescient: this really was a better world and we had reason to be hopeful. Alas, hearing it from today’s perspective of terrorism and a different form of pop music this track doesn’t have quite the same impact that it would have done at the time for while this song’s heart is in the right place, its synths aren’t. To most modern ears it’s uncomfortably 1980s, with booming drums and a solo played on what sounds like a digital watch uprooting this song’s attempt at timelessness. The lyrics also seem oddly contrived by Hull’s standards, as if he was sat down and asked to keep a lid on ‘the political stuff’ and that if he had to write about the outside world to make it hopeful and happy. Hull just isn’t that good at happy and he’d already written his customary one upbeat and positive song of the decade (the previous album’s ‘Shine On’) and while this song has a much more memorable melody, with big open chords and a big singalong chorus, it lacks even that’s songs sense of beauty. Alan’s vocal sounds forced and in the wrong key (was it written for Jacka to sing?) while the lack of anything that Lindisfarny for once on this album (it’s all synths, pianos and fake synth chords) make it a bit of a drag to sit through. The problem, though, is surely more to do with arrangement and performance than composition. Alas, Hully never re-worked this track for his low-key solo performances where I suspect it would have sounded rather good as a humble passionate outpouring from the heart rather than a too obvious attempt to give this album a hit single. There are some classic Hull lines buried in this song after all: the opening invocation to the listener to ‘take you by the hand’, with the added hint that Hull is reaching out for his newly born grand-daughter Roxanne’s and wishing her a happier future than he ever had. Hull sighs that she was born into a too obviously ‘broken world’ but in what almost sounds like an AAA ‘greatest hits’ urges her ‘don’t give up – the tide is on the turn’ Roger Waters style and wishing that those in charge, ‘the men in grey… keep away’ Ray Davies style. Alas, though, the chorus which keeps cycling round the song isn’t quite as inspired and the ‘one land, one sea, one world will be’ line at the heart of this song sounds both unfinished and oddly short on syllables for a writer of Hull’s calibre. There’s a good track in here somewhere, but it perhaps tries just a little bit too hard to be an outright ‘classic’.

The poppy ‘Everything Changes’ should have been the single instead, an upbeat commercial number caught right on the cusp between the 1980s’ last love for retro 1950s numbers and a snappy Merseybeat feel more akin to the 1990s. Fittingly for a song split between two decades, it’s a song about change which started off life when Marty was doing a bit of eavesdropping in the band’s local and overheard the barmaid commenting to a friend that she knew her boyfriend didn’t really love her because his eyes didn’t ‘change’ the way they do when you’re in love, when ‘everything about you changes’. Hull was becoming good friends with Craggs and had given him the loose invitation to come round and write some songs the next time he had an idea to work on – Hull happened to be at the other end of the bar when Marty came over and whispered his idea for the song in his ear. ‘My house – tomorrow!’ Hull roared in reply and the pair came up with a fun, silly song that’s unusually straightforward and sweet by Lindisfarne standards. Clearly Marty wrote the poppy hook, which is a signature of his work, where the narrator’s voice, smile, face, heart and even his ‘day’ changes because he’s in love and walking on air and it’s one of the best things the sax player ever wrote. Hull clearly filled in the verses which are much more social – he fleshes out the character to be a cog in a ‘wheel’, throwing himself into life’s great ‘masterplan’ and figuring that he’s always going to be stuck there, ‘carrying the weight that’s hanging on you’. However, suddenly, true love changes his way of seeing the world and it’s not quite so heavy or oppressive anymore. Clearly equating this song with his now twenty-three year marriage to wife Pat, Hully makes the comment here that his life changed for the better after meeting her and that he went from feeling oppressed to being free. It’s a lovely last love song to her, with Marty’s pop nugget of a chorus at the heart of it all catchy too. Alas, like a lot of this album, the recording lets the song down. There’s nothing wrong with Hull’s strummed guitar and bouncy lead vocal which is delightfully bouncy and cute, but the loudest thing in the mix oddly enough is Rod’s snarled bass work that rather undercuts the song’s sweetness, while the synths and ‘fake’ drumming rather overpower a second that would have been better off sounding simple. As good as Alan and Marty are as collaborators, too, their voices really aren’t a natural fit in the harmony stakes. Still this is definitely one of the better album moments and Lindisfarne missed a trick not making this catchy song the lead single from the album.

The best track, though, is the long-awaited lone collaboration between Rod and Alan in Lindisfarne’s long history ‘Working For The Man’. The pair had always meant to write together but were very much ‘loner’ creators, unused to working with other people at this point in their careers. The idea for the song was Rod’s, who asked Alan to come up with a middle eight he was stuck with – oddly enough, though, the end result sounded much more like a full Hull composition than a Clements one. Written about the influx of immigrants to England’s shores, this song (thankfully) takes the opposite view of many contemporary songs and pities the worker, conned into travelling to a distant shore away from their family and ‘breaking my back till I could hardly stand’. The song is written like a warning to other employees from other lands by a band who always held their union cards with pride: beware as ‘The Man’ doesn’t are who he breaks if he gets the job done and he will do it to you too’. The poor beleaguered worker sounds like he’s working for a chain gang, with a wonderful off-beat rattled percussion part that sounds just like an axe hitting a rock and a heavy Ray Laidlaw drum part (on proper drums at last) that’s relentless. Si fits in a terrific snarled guitar part too, growling just out of reach of ‘the man’ and waiting for a chance to seek revenge. Rod offers up some fascinating lyrics about the need to keep going and pushing your body past it’s limit, which is where the album’s original title ‘keeping the beacons burning’ comes from, so apt for the band in their twentieth anniversary year. However it’s Hull’s middle eight that sticks in the memory most, a Beatley chord progression that ‘works against’ the majority of the song by forcing it’s way upwards, against the tide. ‘Working for the man you know exactly where you stand’ Jacka sighs on his colleagues’ behalf, ‘last in line and working for the man’. Jacka’s aggressive huff-puff of a double-tracked vocal that’s almost yelled is his last great moment with the band, while Marty’s dark and dirty saxophone part is impressively manoeuvred to fit the rest of the song better than normal. Ironically, by working to their real strengths and ignoring the commercial dictates of the rest of the album Lindisfarne come up with one of their best songs about ‘working for the man’ by ignoring the ‘man’!

Rod was intrigued with a saxophone-lick that Marty kept playing during soundchecks, which became more and more elaborate with every performance. ‘Bung that down on tape for me’ he asked the sax player, who forgot all about it until their next meeting when the bass player sheepishly handed him a demo of the finished song ‘Roll On That Day’. Another oddly upbeat and utopian Lindisfarne moment, this song promises that ‘change must come’ and rallies the troops into becoming a gospel-tinged number full of hand-clapping and massed vocal harmonies. The stabbing piano chords, aggressively pushing for change and a catchy chorus make it a more memorable take on the same theme than ‘One World’, but again this rather feels like the song that got away and which desperately needs a remix. This song should feel as positive and bouncy and happy as any song in the AA canon. Instead it falls horribly flat, as if it’s take seventy-three and everyone is just waiting for home-time to roll on instead. That might partly because this song wasn’t intending for Marty to sing – Jacka should have been doing it but couldn’t make the session, something which happened a lot on the making of this album. Marty was only meant to be ‘filling in’ and on those terms his throaty roar is a pretty good substitute, but it lacks the power a Jacka lead would have brought the song. The song’s arrangement also feels as if it’s been structured just so, as to be familiar to anyone whose ever heard a charity single: the handclaps, the sax solo, the key change, the gospel harmonies going ‘ooh’, even the faux soul shouting near the end – you can predict every twist and turn of this song long before it happens. The result falls a little flat, but again I say roll on that day we get a remix when this simple and sweet little song might sound infinitely better.

‘You’re The One’ is Alan Hull going back to re-writing The Beatles, with a mandolin solo just like the one Jacka played on ‘Maggie May’ (credited on the sleeve as ‘the guy who does that sort of thing from Lindisfarne only I can’t remember his name’ by a foggy Rod Stewart) thrown in for good measure (oddly enough Rod gets credit for ‘mandolin’ too though only one is featured: is this a cover-up for the fact that Jacka wasn’t here at this session either?) Like much of ‘Amigos’ it’s a happy-go-lucky song about finding your way again, which is nice as far as it goes but misses out on the meat of Hull’s darker and angrier songs. This just feels too much like other songs we’ve heard before: the narrator was lost but now he’s found, he feels glad that you’re around…no actually that’s a song by fellow AA star Justin Hayward, but it could just as easily have been from this song. The guitar twirl, meanwhile, is a dead ringer fro George Harrison’s ‘My Dark Sweet Lady’ of 1979 and as a passionate Beatlemaniac Alan probably knew that. And when Alan Hull, one of the world’s most original writers, sounds like other people you know something has gone wrong. Another oddly flat-footed performance, with drums out-banging everything else here, doesn’t help this song either where Jacka’s mandolin part – the last ever to grace a Lindisfarne album, shockingly – is the only thing to really catch the ear. That’s a shame because, yet again, there is a sweet song in here somewhere, another love song (of sorts) to wife Pat. After a live that’s best described as ‘turbulent’, that’s seen ‘peace’ and war’ and found the narrator lost walking down ‘endless corridors’, his love ‘mends’ him and brings him the stability he craves in his life. Alas this song’s central message seems to be a little bit like ‘thank goodness you’re so boring!’ which isn’t the most romantic thing Hully ever wrote! There is, at least, a great second verse – sadly hard to hear in this recording – where Alan sums up his life in Lindisfarne to date in a typically clever and witty way: ‘I’ve pulled some strokes, I’ve cracked some jokes and I’ve spent some years with boozy blokes!’ Alas, it’s a little bit too late to rescue a song which, by his high standards, is a little bit anonymous.

‘Wish You Were Here’ is the one album song that tries to do something different to usual and wouldn’t have sounded out of place on previous darker albums. Once again Hull’s narrator is longing for someone to bring stability to life, but this song is written from a much darker place. The narrator is alone, out on the road, reading the paper full of endless ‘craziness’ and ‘crying into my beer’. Only one thing can put his mind right and that’s a call back home to his loved one where it’s safe and everything is as it should be. This prompts Hull to call out his postcard cry that he wishes she was with him, to the accompaniment of Rod’s slide guitar (a sound that will dominate the final period of Lindisfarne recordings) that makes him sound like he’s trapped in Hawaii. This performance is stronger than most on this album and really makes a so-so song come alive: Hull sings the lead like he means it and there is one last chance to hear just how good Jacka’s harmony goes with his voice, ironing out the kinks and softening the blow as in the days of old without diluting the passion. Alas, though, this song needs an extra something to keep our interest and goes a bit odd in places: like a ghost, Hull tells us that he’s been trying to ‘walk through walls’ to visit his loved one but that it doesn’t work!

‘Amigos’ needs a bit more life to it about now and Hull obliged with his best song on the album, daft and simple as it is. ‘Do It Like This’ is another of this album’s throwback moments, a  far more 1950s sounding rock and roll song than the genuine ones the band had been recording a couple of years earlier on ‘C’mon Everybody’. Part autobiography, part fiction, this song features a young couple out of work with lots of children struggling to date and then make ends meet across a long period, ‘each day deeper in debt’, that sounds much like the early Hull marriage. ‘Never thought I would be a teenage bride’ sighs Hully, perhaps confusing his gender, wondering how he got into this situation before telling us how it happened: all his girl had to do was ask him and he’s so head over heels in love he’d do anything. Hully has great fun in this song, contrasting his beautiful bride with a risqué curl ‘on her borderline’ (pubic hair?) with his married wife of several decades whose ‘nag nag all the time!’ – at least until night falls and she beckons him to bed, Hull breaking off for the song to see to his conjugal rights while the rest of Lindisfarne nudge and wink behind him! Lindisfarne are clearly having great fun on another of the album’s best recordings, highlighted by a silly ‘do it do it do it’ chorus, a ‘lalalalala’ backing and a grungy Hull piano backing. Hull’s vocal is a delight as he barks and blusters his way around the song, caught between comedy and tragedy on the one hand and attraction and revulsion on the other. Mostly, though, this song is triumphant: the couple have had their problems and don’t always see eye-to-eye but they’ve proved their detractors who said this teenage couple should never be together ‘wrong’. This is, of course, one of Lindisfarne’s silliest numbers and can’t compare to the very best or deepest work, but this is at least third only to ‘Fog On The Tyne’ and ‘I Must Stop Going To Parties’ as the band’s cutest flimsiest song. The music video is particularly good, with a Jacka-less Lindisfarne shuffling dance-steps to this track and Hull leaping up in the air to do his Beatley ‘wooohs!’

The final album highlight is Jacka’s final vocal for the band on Rod’s sad and lonely song ‘Any Way The Wind Blows’. In a way it’s the opposite of ‘Working For The Man’ as this narrator is a British worker forced to work abroad to feed his children thanks to Thatcher’s politics and a recession that closed the mine where he used to work. This hard worker sees himself as a ‘victim of the times’, unsure and unstable in his career as he slogs it out in an un-named foreign land, dreaming of being reuniting with his family and whom ‘society rejects – I don’t know where I’m headed for or where I’ll end up next!’ Jacka gets angry as he imagines a cold and desolate future with only a ‘box to keep me warm’, while a smart and sparky chorus bounces him from pillar to post, a bouncy but unpredictable chorus line literally pushing him around. For the most part this song is laidback and reflective rather than crusading with anger, but the sudden surge of panic in the chorus (‘Which way to choose? Which way to go?’) really catches the ear and in great Clements tradition this is a brilliantly rounded and believable song. The result is the sort of song nobody ever did better than Lindisfarne (except maybe The Kinks or CSNY): sticking up for the people who have nothing and giving them a voice. Jacka is perfect for this character-driven song and the Hull-Cowe harmonies behind him are delightful, one last great burst of undiluted Lindisfarne tradition on an album that doesn’t feature enough of that.

The curio ‘Strange Affair’, a co-write between Hull and band friend Jimmy Barrett, sounds like a medley of two already heard album songs, with the oddly Hawaiian distant sound of ‘Wish You Were Here’ combined with the lyrics of ‘Everything Changes’ in a darker mood. We don’t know why the pair wrote this song about a liar who can never speak the truth and who looks ‘strange’ in her ‘eyes’, but I’m willing to guess that this might be another diatribe against Thatcher. Certainly she’s a girl who seems to have been brought up in an entirely different world to the narrator, walking a ‘crooked mile’ with a ‘crooked walk’ and a ‘crooked smile’ and dressing up in elegant garb to impress the narrator that she’s ‘the one’. Hull tries to listen to what she has to say but soon realises that she has ‘no voice’ and hopes that one day ‘the book will be read’ with the truth of what really happened, while imaging her as a ‘frightened little girl…at the end’ (actually Thatcher has another eighteen months to go from the point when this song would have been recorded and didn’t look wobbly in power, at least not quite yet. Then again, as a former MP candidate himself, maybe Hull had insider contacts mere mortals didn’t have?) However there’s a curious switch at the end where Hull admits that he still has feelings, it’s just that his doubts make him see this mysterious woman as ‘less of a lover, more of a friend’. There’s also the chorus that keeps repeating itself over and over: why is this a ‘strange affair, strange affair, strange strange affair’? Surely after ten years in power this relationship was more of a lasting marriage of convenience than an ‘affair’? This song is impressively different and brave, the sort of thing we’ve been moaning at the rest of the album for not doing, but alas it could have done with some of ‘Amigos’ catchy choruses and straightforward commercial charms as it all sounds separate and distant to us and lacks the hook we need to really get into this song. A strange song all round, especially recorded like this with Hull’s vocal oddly tame and low-key and hard to hear in the mix, dominated by another Clements slide-guitar part.

‘When The Night Comes Down’ is Rod’s most straightforward track on the album, a big booming pop number with a terrific Cowe guitar growl and a Marty vocal that makes it sound more contemporary than most tracks on this album. Alas, though, for straightforward you could also read ‘boring’, as this oom-pah song doesn’t really go anywhere. Sounding oddly like the 1980s Searchers, this song features some heavy relentless drumming and a strummed guitar part as well as a strident pop vocal. The lyric pleads with a lover to stay for the end of the day instead of going home and has a tacked-on chorus that doesn’t really fit, even though the verses sound rather good. The lyrics are odd: the narrator compares their night so far to an ‘ocean’ (in what way? Full of tides, obsession-filled water, or seagulls? We never learn) and urges his lover to look out for the light from his ‘doorway’, suggesting the pair must live ridiculously close together. The narrator’s pleas that he has the ‘money’ for a girl to stay over against her will is a little odd too: is he really pleading with a prostitute to keep him company? Though very 1960s in sound, this song is very 1980s in outlook and doesn’t sound anything like any previous Lindisfarne track. Which is a good thing, really, as this song never quite connects even if Marty deserves extra plaudits for his strong and sturdy lead and Si does too for his growling lustful guitar howls, so at odds with the rest of this song’s distinct ‘prettiness’. Surely Si’s own planned contributions for the record couldn’t possibly weirder than this, though?!

‘Don’t Say Goodnight’ is the simplest Hull song on the record, a track that sounds deeply out of place on this album but would have been par for the course in 1964. My guess is that Lennon-maniac Hull had been stuck for enough songs to fill out this album (especially is Si’s songs were abandoned at the last minute and Jacka decided to keep his songs for himself) and turned to The Beatles’ ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ for inspiration. Alas copying isn’t the same as inspiration and this song’s simple chord structure and groove is at odds with another sister song pleading for a girl not to go home. Hull’s lyrics are stronger than Clements’, not because they ‘re better written but because this song successfully straddles the bigger idea that this might be the world saying goodnight at the end of the Cold War, urging the powers-that-be to give everyone a ‘second chance’ to ‘not let the evening end’. Hull may have written this song in honour of the ‘doomsday clock’, which was designed by atomic scientists in 1947 to show how close they thought the world was to atomic war (‘midnight’). In 1984 the clock had moved to 23:57 and stayed there until the end of 1989 (when the Berlin Wall collapse set the clock back to 23:43, the furthest back it’s ever been to date – we’re currently at 23:58 at the time of writing, but that figure is without Trump and Kim Jong-Un threatening to blow us to kingdom come again). This song pleads with the world that it’s wrong, that mankind still has a long way to go and that it’s ‘only half-past three!’  This song is a little too sleepy to make that point work as well as it should though and Hull’s messy vocal can’t convey even the little emotion he’s written for himself here, though, alas.

‘Amigos’ ends with ‘Another World’, an unnecessary repeat of the albun’s opening track played on tacky Northumbrian pipes (a sort of cross between bagpipes and panpipes) by guest artist Kathryn Tickell. Though born in Walsall, she was something of a Geordie local celebrity after winning the gig of ‘Official Piper To The Lord Mayor Of Newcastle’, a post that no one else had held since 1840! Like LIndisfarne in this era, she was signed to Black Crow Records and interested in promoting local bands. No one knows who suggested the crossover but you can kind of see where Lindisfarne were going with this instrumental: what more Lindisfarne thing was there to do than make a decidedly ‘localised’ version of their international plea for peace? You can imagine the band’s grandiose plans to get every region of the world to record their own versions with local musicians (this track would have sounded good on sitar!) Alas, though, once again the style of this album lets the song down. Tickell’s parts sound far more irritating and ‘fake’ than they do on her own Tickell Band album (no not a group of Mr Men Musicians despite what that sounds like!), while her playing is drowned out by a particularly wretched Marty saxophone solo. It’s also a little bit odd that out of all of Lindisfarne the only musician playing for certain on this album finale is Ray Laidlaw and their new sax player, with most of the rest of the work done by Steve Daggett on some more irritating synths. A nice ideas which doesn’t quite work.

To be fair, you could say that about a lot of ‘Amigos’. There are some cracking ideas for songs on this album and occasionally some of them really connect too: ‘Do It Like This’ is Lindisfarne’s funniest song in years, ‘Everything Changes’ one of their sweetest and Rod’s twin pairing of ‘Working For The Man’ and ‘Anyway The Wind Blows’ (which would have worked really well as an import/export medley) are some of their saddest. Some of the other songs show promise too, either in idea or lyric or chorus. Somehow, though, nothing quite comes together across this album, with every track flawed in some way or another. Even the best songs are hampered by indifferent performances and of-their-time arrangements that mean this album is never quite giving as good as it could. Hully sounds slightly down on power compared to usual and hard as Rod and Marty try they’re not quite up to filling the gap he’s left them. This is an album that’s easy to admire, in parts, but is hard to love or really get your teeth into the way you could with past Lindisfarne albums, the need to work for ‘the man’ and to sell records taking precedent over Lindisfarne’s usual quirky character traits. Unlike ‘Dance Your Life Away’, though, which was flawed nearly all the way through, all this album needs is a bit of love, care and a remix to take away the 1980s excesses that are drizzled all the way through. Oh and a band who are pulling together as best friends and ‘amigos’, the way they pretend to be on the sleeve. Alas, the loss of Jack during this album and the loss of Si during the next one will really take away much of this great band’s distinctive sound and leave them in disarray, though at least on ‘Elvis Lives On The Moon’ they will get back much of the ambition and drive curiously missing from this rather lifeless CD. Amigos, then, might never be your best friend, but it has its moments and like everything else Lindisfarne did post-1978 is badly under-rated and deserving of re-appraisal, if not quite as much as some of their other albums.


A NOW COMPLETE LIST OF LINDISFARNE ARTICLES TO READ AT ALAN’S ALBUM ARCHIVES:


'Nicely Out Of Tune' (L) (1970) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-37-lindisfarne-nicely-out-of.html

'Fog On The Tyne' (L) (1971) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/news-views-and-music-issue-88.html

'Dingly Dell' (L) (1972) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/news-views-and-music-issue-146.html

'Roll ON Ruby' (L) (1973) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/lindisfarne-roll-on-ruby-1973.html 



'The Squire' (AH) (1975) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/alan-hull-squire-1975.html

'The Old Straight Track' (JTL) (1975) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/news-views-and-music-issue-109-jack-lad.html




‘Jackpot’ (JTL) (1976) https://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/jack-lad-jackpot-1976.html

'Magic In The Air' (L) (1978) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/12/news-views-and-music-issue-15.html


'Back and Fourth' (L) (1978) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/lindisfarne-back-and-fourth-1978.html

‘The News’(L) (1979) http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/lindisfarne-news-1979.html

'Sleepless Nights' (L) (1982) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-83-lindisfarne-sleepless-nights.html


'Dance Your Life Away' (L) (1986) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2017/01/lindisfarne-dance-your-life-away-1986.html


‘Amigos’ (1989) https://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/lindisfarne-amigos-1989.html


'Elvis Lives On The Moon' (L) (1993) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/lindisfarne-elvis-lives-on-moon-1993.html


'Here Comes The Neighbourhood' (1998) http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/lindisfarne-here-comes-neighbourhood.html


'Promenade' (2002) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/lindisfarne-promenade-2002.html


Si Cowe Obituary and Tribute (2015) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/simon-si-cowe-lindisfarne-guitarist.html


Surviving TV Clips http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/surviving-lindisfarne-tv-clips-1971-1996.html


Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part One 1970-1987 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/lindisfarne-sololiveraritiescompilation.html


Live/Solo/Compilation Albums Part Two 1988-2015 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/lindisfarne-sololiveraritiescompilation_29.html

Essay: Keepin’ The Rage On Behalf Of The Working Classes https://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2018/03/lindisfarne-essay-keepin-rage-on-behalf.html





The Who: Live/Solo/Compilation/Rarities Albums Part One 1965-1972



"The Who Sings My Generation"

(Brunswick/Track Records, December 1965)

Out In The Street/I Don't Mind/The Good's Gone/La La La Lies/Much Too Much/My Generation//The Kids Are Alright/Please Please Please/It's Not True/The Ox/A Legal Matter/Instant Party (Circles)

"It's a legal matter from now on!"

Back in the 1960s American record labels weren't used to issuing British LPs Stateside and often insisted on tweaking the running order and contents around. The Who got away with this more lightly than most actually, thanks to the close ties between Brunswick and Track Records (who released the Who albums in Europe) and they only ever suffered this with their first two LPs. The biggest change is the title and cover: while the British LP is just titled 'My Generation', the American edition is called 'The Who Sings My Generation' (because they can't play it?!) while instead of cynical pouting behind some bins The Who cynically pout instead of London's Big Ben and Houses of Parliament instead. Track-wise the album substitutes the mysterious 'Circles' under the 'wrong' name 'Instant Party' (only released as the B-side of 'Substitute' in the UK) for the cover of Bo Diddley's 'I'm A Man', which seems a more than fair swap to me. 


"Ready! Steady! Who!" EP

(Reaction, November 11th 1966)

Disguises/Circles//Batman/Bucket T/Barbara Ann

"I think it's you but I can't be sure - you're wearing disguises!"

The weekend starts here! Err, maybe. I don't know when you're reading this to be honest and maybe it's a repeat anyway. All I know is that's what they used to shout every Friday night on UK TV's second most important music programme of the 1960s every week between August 1963 and December 1966. Fans tend to forget about this show now, which is one of the few that survived the 1960s tape purge (thanks to our beloved hero Dave Clark of The Dave Clark Five who bought up all the tapes he could with his own money) but has still been largely unseen by people in the years since and is always being pulled off youtube (thanks to that swine Dave Clark who hasn't let anybody re-issue this priceless footage since some highlights shows and a Beatles special came out on video in the 1980s). Anyway, 'Ready Steady Go' was a bit more 'hip' than it's Thursday-night rival 'Top Of The Pops' and was intended for a much younger, more music-loving audience than it's more family viewing sister programme. The Who were naturals, being young angry and wildly exciting and were almost a 'house band' for the show, turning up regularly and even getting their own 1966 special 'Ready Steady Who' (joining a list of just two other acts who had a whole episode to themselves: the fab four and Otis Redding, so they were in great company!)

Never one to miss a marketing trick and needing money fast, Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert organised a new EP to be released to cash in on this Ready Steady craze. By breaking the lengthy silence since 'The Who Sings My Generation', it could also be seen as a pun on words with the band getting 'Ready Steady' for the Christmas market when it was all systems 'go' with second album 'A Quick One' in the shops only a month or so later. This EP also marks a Who tradition whereby the band were celebrating an institution and era they knew was dying: despite still being very popular, the BBC axed 'Ready Steady Go' at the end of 1966, aware that ratings were beginning to slide now that mod was out of fashion and wanting to find another cool young alternative (not that they ever really did - the closest any BBC music show came to matching the popularity of these two was 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' in the 1970s - and that mainly appealed to the thoughtful adults the teenage mods who watches RSG!' turned into). The Who probably knew the mutterings and warnings from the programme makers, being the biggest darlings the show had and all, and they pay tribute here in the same they will to pirate radio on 'Who Sell Out' when that gets axed in 1967 and the whole mod scene in 'Quadrophenia'. For a band who never wanted to grow old, they spent a long time looking back on their younger days and that trend arguably starts here.

Anyway, at the time nobody in or around 'The Who' thought of the 'RSW!' EP as anything more than a quick cash-in. The five-song set includes only two new Pete Townshend songs and one of these named 'Circles' could already be heard, briefly, on the flipside of the original single of 'Substitute' before the dispute with Shel Talmy saw the record pulled and, well, substituted with a new B-side (even if it is a new, inferior recording that's slower and calmer and features plenty of John Entwistle's lovely French Horn).That leaves three cover songs - the last The Who will release on a 'proper' studio release, with the exception of 'Eyesight To The Blind' on 'Tommy' - and none of them are songs anyone was itching for The Who to play. Recent Beach Boys hit 'Barbara Ann'? Jan and Dean minor hit 'Bucket T'?!? The theme from the TV series 'Batman'?!?!? At times you wonder if The Who put any thought into this album at all or whether they just turned up one day and went 'gee guys, what's a song we all know how to play?' This EP is very much dominated by surfing (and Batman) fan Keith Moon, who chose the entire second half, gets to 'sing' lead vocals for the first time on a Who recording and plays out of his skull on the first half, with some fascinating (and loud!) drum sounds that have to be heard to be believed. Unless you're a fellow surfing/Batman fan you might not enjoy quite as much as Keith clearly is doing here. However the EP is saved single-handedly by the 'other' Townshend recording here, the thrilling 'Disguises' which is an angry, atonal, raucous song where musically the ground always seems to be shifting under your feet, while lyrically too the narrator's lover always seems to be transforming into somebody new. For a band who sounded so 'right' on songs about change and who often sounded like things were always moving at speed, it's a natural sound the band should have used more. Overall, though, the EP is a curio, not a 'proper' thought out and well executed Who recording, in the modern age given a natural home as a 'bonus' on the end of the 'A Quick One' CD where it fits quite well - all except for the re-recording of 'Circles' at least, for which you'll need to track down a copy of rarities set 'Two's Missing' (1987).

Note: We've already dealt with [  ] 'Circles' as part of our 'non-album recordings' for 1965, though strictly speaking the version on the EP is a re-recording with added horns!

'Disguises' is the EP's most lasting moment, the Who's heaviest recording so far and  another Pete Townshend composition concerned with 'identity'. This time the narrator has a hard track keeping himself together because his girl keeps changing - at first she just has a different mood each time he sees here, but then her appearance changes and then her clothes too. Possibly an early Townshend 'drug' song (an early experience on board a failing aircraft meant that Pete didn't 'trip' anything like as much as other writers on this list, but he is known to have taken drugs across 1966 and 1967), the fact that LSD changes a taker's 'perceptions' of other people and the drug's ability to juggle 'multiple' personalities at once (rather than one mood changing it reads several moods simultaneously) seems to be a dead 'ringer' for this track. What's more, this song 'sounds' different: John's bass has been stripped back to a loud squeal running through the song while Pete's guitar doesn't play so much as sizzle, making weird noises throughout. The lyrics feature Pete and John singing deep in tandem with Roger's more 'normal' vocal, which is very disconcerting: this is a world where nothing is certain and nothing is 'safe'. It's also rather 'surreal' - at one point the narrator even sees his girl disguised as a 'flower bed'. The result is 'Susbtitute' raised up a level, although the lyrics aren't quite so clever or the effect quite as 'musical'. Still, 'Disguises' is an under-rated track that easily beats the cover versions that surround it on the 'Ready Steady Who' EP. Paul Weller, noted Who and mod fan, recorded his own version with The Jam on their 1981 LP 'Absolute Beginners' in an arrangement that stays pretty faithful to the wild psychedelia of the original, but doesn't have the French Horn solo!

For a while there - till it got outrageously cancelled at the height of its fame due to an ill-advised move to a different network and confusion that led to the pricey sets being demolished - 'Batman' was the coolest programme on TV. It was also about the most pop-art and mod-ish, full of bright colours, sharp dressing and a bunch of obviously fake fight scenes that made The Who look like a bunch of hippies (kretch!) If you were a hip teenager of 1966 then you were probably singing The Who, but if you weren't then you might well have been singing the distinctive 'Batman' theme tune and The Who weren't the only ones to fall under it's spell - The Kinks kovered it too on their 1966/1968 live album 'Kelvin Hall'.  While The Kinks extend the song past breaking point in a mammoth medley, The Who are short and too the point and add a lot more guitar swirls around John's take on the stabbing riff. Keith causes chaos on the drums while Roger sounds distinctly uncomfortable shouting 'Batman!' for a living fifty times over. The result is, like most selections on 'Ready Steady Who', truly weird and something only a fan could love - but love it we do!

[  ] 'Bucket T' is even weirder. Keith chose the Jan and Dean surfing song to record and sang the lead vocal, which is arguably the most 'together' vocal he ever gave. At least he's more on form than Pete and Roger's falsetto shrieks in the background, though John's french horn part steals the show (french horn on a surfing song?!? It can only be The Who...) The original is actually a rare 'spoof' song from Jan and Dean who were annoyed that all their fans were moving on to car songs and neglecting their surfboards and so made up a song about a form of car popular in the 1910s-20s (and thus was popular with the parents of The Who's biggest audience!) They actually mean a 'T-Bucket' though, which probably wasn't as easy or catchy to sing. A lot of fun but, truly, this is a 'leave it in the vault' moment if ever there was one - how did it end up on an EP when so many better things were left in the can? (I just can't handle these things the way I am!)

On a similar note, Keith Moon famously missed a prestigious Who gig with the very understandable excuse that The Beach Boys were in town and he wasn't going to miss them play just for some responsibilities with his own band was he? Despite his wild rock image and (along with Dave Davies) the best claim to have invented 'heavy metal', Keith was a 'surfer' at heart, spending his pre-teen years collecting the records by Dick Dale and The Surfaris and his teenage years as a fan of Brian Wilson and his brothers. With an EP to fill in a hurry and only one Townshend original to go on it, The Who held a quick discussion to see what songs they ought to cover, preferably ones simple enough to be rehearsed in a hurry. The Beach Boys had just scored a hit with 'Barbara Ann', a Fred Fassert song recorded in a similarly haphazard hurried way for their 'Party!' album (a 'fake' party album made of an 'unplugged' session and a later playback where band, friends and girlfriends all joined in making daft comments). Keith particularly liked that record and suggested it to the band, getting his first lead vocal on a Who record to boot. Keith's falsetto is vaguely enough like Dean Torrence (of Jan and Dean)'s guest vocal on the Beach Boys version for him to get away with it, but it's not a great vocal even for a drummer notoriously 'banned' from most Who vocal overdub sessions. This is a nice rare chance to hear the whole band singing together though, with John unusually singing the bass part, and while chaotic in the extreme (Keith is the only one who knew the song well) this version is a lot of fun, with one of Townshend's most gonzo guitar solos (dressed up in final production with some squeaking 'sound effects' that sound suspiciously like a swannee whistle, though none of the band ever admitted to playing one!) Listen out for the fact that The Who re-create the 'mistake' of The Beach Boys version in the last verse; not sure whether the correct line is 'Betty Lou' or 'Betty too' half the band sing each version ('Betty Lou' is the right line, by the way!)

  "Happy Jack"

(Track Records, December 1966)

Run Run Run/Boris The Spider/I Need You/Whiskey Man/Cobwebs and Strange/Happy Jack//Don't Look Away/See My Way/Sad About Us/A Quick One While He's Away

CD Bonus Track: Heatwave

"My head's in a lion's mouth, wants to eat me up"

The American version of 'A Quick One' substitutes the cover of 'Heatwave' for hit single 'Happy Jack' (though the American CD edition adds that as a bonus track) and adds a bit more advertising and pictures to the back sleeve (the front cover being the same except for the change in album title). Otherwise it's business as usual and The Who's albums will never be messed around with again Stateside. 

"Magic Bus - The Who On Tour"

(Decca/MCA, September 1968)

Disguises/Run Run Run/Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde/I Can't Reach You/Our Love Was/Call Me Lightning//Magic Bus/Someone's Coming/Doctor Doctor/Bucket T/Pictures Of Lily

"Famine, frustration, we only acted out an imitiation of what our love could have been"

By 1968 The Who's fanbase had moved on from teenyboppers who thought their singles were kinda cute to rock fans who knew that The Who were at their greatest on stage, undiluted, with microphones twirling guitars wind-milling and cymbals flying in all directions. Given that even largely studio-based bands like The Kinks and The Beach Boys had released live albums by 1968, it was surely time for The Who to release their first live set. That's what most fans thought they were getting when they handed over their hard-earned pennies for a new album that was actually called 'on tour' and had a hilarious cover sleeve of The Who larking around on a bus (sadly not magic, despite what it said on the cover, but an old disused one borrowed from a London depot and painted rather unconvincingly in flowers - a ramshackle, falling apart, seat-bumpy-but-still-road-worthy Who version of The Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour). Instead 'Magic Bus' is one of those occasionally misleading cash-ins record labels liked to rip people off with in the 1960s, perhaps misunderstanding just how cross consumers got about such things then and now. 'Magic Bus' is really the first ever Who compilation, dressed up by the band's American label who thought that releasing a best-of when the band had only released three albums (including one they didn't have the rights to) was possibly a bit premature. The answer: it was and even as the world's first compilation released before the band had had a chance to record many of their greatest moments (and thus on a par with The Beatles' 'Oldies but Mouldiers', The Stones' 'Big Hits, High Tide and Green Grass' and especially 'The Beach Boys' Greatest') 'Magic Bus' is a shoddy set. The disc contains just two bona fide hits (the title track and 'Pictures of Lily') plus the major flop 'Call Me Lightning' with no sign of 'I Can See For Miles' 'I'm A Boy' or even 'Substitute'. Though fans of the day who'd worn out their B-sides and had lost their copy of 'Ready Steady Who' might have been pleased to have these songs out again nobody else was and this album rightly became a byword for everything that was wrong about the capitalist music machine of the 1960s, occasionally still parodied today (usually by rather desperate 1960s various artist compilations). Amazingly this shoddy set still found a CD re-issue in the 1980s (which included the rarer, extended mix of the title track, unlike original vinyl copies), although it hasn't been seen since which makes sense - it's almost old enough for a bus pass now and there are so many better Who sets around today (i.e. all of them!)
"Direct Hits!"

(Track Records, October 1968)

Bucket T/I'm A Boy/Pictures Of Lily/Doctor Doctor/I Can See For Miles/Substitute//Happy Jack/The Last Time/In The City/Call Me Lightning/Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand/Dogs

"Just how long is there to go? Please tell me I want to know. No, on second thoughts don't tell me, I'm too ill!"

Meanwhile, over in Europe, Track Records filled the gap between Who albums three and four with this similar and even more esoteric compilation. If anything the title of this set was even more misleading, with only three songs close to anything that might actually be called 'hits' (and a weird trio they are too: 'Substitute' 'Happy Jack and 'I Can See For Miles') with lots missing: the Brunswick recordings with Shel Talmy obviously (the court case over who owned what rights was in full swing by 1968) but also such big sellers as 'Magic Bus', given a starring role on the other side of the Atlantic even though the single shifted far less copies there, weirdly. With the debut album out of bounds too that means 'Direct Hits' is taken from just two LPs and an EP - not exactly a great amount of material to choose from. Like 'The Who On Tour - Honest They Are, No Really' this set is of much more interest to the 1960s collector containing the first appearance on a long-playing record for such oddities as the flop singles 'Call Me Lightning' and 'Dogs', B-sides like 'Doctor Doctor' and 'In The City' and - most bizarrely of all - EP cover 'Bucket T' and Stones cover 'The Last Time'. If it wasn't for the presence of the hits Track could probably have got away with calling this 'The Worst Of The Who' as the album tracks aren't exactly chosen with care either. Even the album artwork is weird: lots of small photographs that have nothing whatsoever to do with The Who and strung together in a very arty 'Hipgnosis' style which isn't like The Who at all. Perhaps mercifully this compilation has never appeared on CD, except in Japan in 2007, though it was re-issued on vinyl in America to coincide with the reunion tour in 1989. At least the title - with its sense of violence and guitar-smashing - gets half a point for being clever. Legend has it this album became the first ever British 'import' to be reviewed in America's premier Rolling Stone Magazine. That should have been a time of  great tribute for the band - except they didn't like it much. General fans had to wait another three years for 'Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy' which did this sort of thing with much more class - erm, despite that title!

"The Rolling Stones Rock 'n' Roll Circus"

(ABCKO, Recorded December 1968, Released October 1996)

Entry Of The Gladiators (Circus Cast)/Song For Jeffrey (Jethro Tull)/A Quick One While He's Away (The Who)/Over The Waves (Circus Cast)/Ain't That A Lot Of Love? (Taj Mahal)/Something Better (Marianne Faithfull)/Yer Blues (Dirty Mac)/Whole Lotta Yoko (Dirty Mac)/Jumpin' Jack Flash/Parachute Woman/No Expectations/You Can't Always Get What You Want/Sympathy For The Devil/Salt Of The Earth (Rolling Stones)

"And now, ladies and gentlemen, dig The Who!"

Though unreleased until 1979 and only heard in context as late as 1997, even at the time in 1968 Who fans knew that this performance was the 'holy grail'. The Stones partly abandoned their intended TV special because they knew they'd been upstaged by their rivals, unwisely brought in as a support act and told they could only do one song - being The Who in 1968 they made their own song a mini-opera that lasted nine minutes and played out of their skins. This is really a visual performance, full of bouncy flying guitars, twirling microphones and Keith turning his drunkit into a fountain - but even on the soundtrack album the Who's power really shines through on easily the definitive version of 'A Quick One'. The Who were tight and disciplined in late 1968 after an American tour and on this evidence it's a tragedy they didn't record a live record a couple of years before 'Leeds' - this performance suggests it might have been even better than that superlative album. The track was first released on the soundtrack of Who documentary film 'The Kids Are Alright' in 1979 but for the full experience try and buy the Stones set if you can - it's the perfect summary of the era and the Stones' own much-maligned set is actually pretty good and one of their very best too, while a young unknown band named Jethro Tull and new boy Taj Mahal are also on cracking form. However there can only be one winner of this circus's greatest highwire trapeze act and that's The Who. In 1968, with the band already pregnant with 'Tommy' and at the height of their live powers and unified like never before, truly Who else could it be? 

Pete Townshend and Various Artists "Happy Birthday"

(Universal, February 1970)

Content*/Evolution**/Day Of Silence*/Alan Cohen Speaks/Mary Jane*/Alan Cohen Speaks #2/The Seeker*//Begin The Beguine*/With A Smile Up His Nose They Entered/The Love Man*/Meditation
* = Pete Townshend solo ** = Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane

"I am happy singing in the arms of God"

Happy birthday to Who? No, happy birthday to Baba as Pete's guru Meher's spirit turned 76 on February 25th 1970 (his body having passed on at the end of January 1969, a few months before 'Tommy's birth - coincidence or karma?) Pete wanted to pay tribute and the best way he knew how was through music. However rather than releasing an all-singing all-dancing wind-milling affair, Pete chose to release this set quietly in collaboration with other Baba believers including Small Face Ronnie Lane, Pink Floyd collaborator Ron Geesin, Mike Da Costa and Vytas Serelis. The album was pitched mainly to fellow converts and crept out quietly - at least at first, until Who and Faces fans heard about it and started buying up every copy they could and creating a collector's item in the process (shocked at all these 'lost' sales Track Records will ask Pete to re-assemble this and the next Baba album 'I Am' for re-release as the rather different 'Who Came First' record in 1972). To get the most out of this and the two sequels you do really need to be a Baba fan, as these spiritual bordering-on-religious works are a long way from the cynicism and anger of The Who. For the most part this record of devotion is peaceful and heartfelt and pointed for the first time to the passionate, lost soul beating at the heart of The Who's creative powerhouse.

On that score it's an intriguing album even for non-converts, containing as it does a glimpse into Pete's firm beliefs behind concepts like re-incarnation and the interconnectedness of man, key cornerstones of 'Tommy' 'Lifehouse' and 'Quadrophenia'. Some of the music is rather good too even if some is pretty awful: 'Content' is a sweet piano ballad that's a little like the start of 'The Song Is Over' with a double-pun on the devotional 'content' on the album and the 'contentment' such thoughts brings it's worried author; 'Day Of Silence' is a meditative song about the healing power of silence that heads towards 'Too Much Of Anything' in its need for stillness and emptyness; 'Mary Jane' has Pete swapping the marijuana drug often given that nickname for God (or nearest offer) because of 'things I've been told by a man who is very old' (Pete is, of course, now Baba's age); there's a clumsy cover of Cole Porter's 'Begin The Beguine' simply because Baba 'liked' the song; also 'Love Man' is a rather clumsy attempt to work out why Pete is being 'used' as a vehicle for Baba's love when he feels unsuitable but has to pass on the word anyway (It's a little like the awkward 'but I'm not a God!' works of Tommy's fourth side and not totally convincing); then best of all there's a very apt demo for period Who single 'The Seeker' - the first of Pete's Who demos to find release. Rough as it is (much more so than later Townshend demos with particularly rudimentary drums and vocals), Pete's devotion is readily apparent and has never sounded more charming.

Elsewhere Ronnie Lane steals the show with his jovial song of 'Evolution' (better known to Faces fans as 'Stone' from their debut album 'First Step') which does the John Entwistle tradition of laughing good naturedly at the seriousness of Pete's higher concepts while Ron Geesin gets to sound weird all over again and Allan Cohen bores the pants off us with a lecture delivered to sitar backing. It's all terribly earnest and not all that convincing, like one of those interminable Christian sermons in school assemblies that made you become Buddhist or Islamic they were so bad. However for the most part and especially when Pete is in charge, this is a nice enough LP made mainly as a hobby to be passed around by other converts rather than as a grandiose concept album. Stuck at the time on the first stages of 'Lifehouse', Pete sounds as if he needed the rest and the mind-clearing and we got a so-so album almost as a bonus - which sounds like a bargain to me, if not quite the best we ever had. Fans in the CD age can now hear all of the Pete recordings as bonus tracks on the 'Who Came First' CD re-issue (except for 'Mary Jane', which isn't really much of a loss), which is the sensible place for them rather than tracking down this expensive set individually even if the songs are all in a bit of a jumble. 

"Live At Hull"

(Decca, Recorded February 1970, Released as part of the super deluxe 'Live At Leeds' set 2010)

CDs One and Two: Deluxe Live At Leeds

CD Three: Heaven and Hell/I Can't Explain/Fortune Teller/Tattoo/Young Man Blues/Substitute/Happy Jack/I'm A Boy/A Quick One While He's Away/Summertime Blues/Shakin' All Over/My Generation/Magic Bus

CD Four: Overture/It's A Boy/1921/Amazing Journey-Sparks/Eyesight To The Blind/Christmas/The Acid Queen/Pinball Wizard/Do You Think It's Alright?/Fiddle About/Tommy Can You Hear Me?/There's A Doctor/Go To The Mirror/Smash The Mirror!/Miracle Cure/Sally Simpson/I'm Free/Tommy's Holiday Camp/We're Not Gonna Take It!

"All the time the needles flick and rock, but no machine can give him the kind of stimulation needed to remove his inner block"

Re-assemble the musicians! The Who were lucky when the mobile recording truck trundled into Leeds University on Valentine's Day 1970 - the musical Gods were on their side and even by their high standards they turned in a top show that day which none of the home-recorded bootlegs of the period can touch (unusual that it has to be said - usually the presence of recording equipment scares bands off from providing their best). However it was common knowledge amongst Who fans that the band had recorded a second show from the very next day in Hull University and the initial plan had been to combine the best of the two before discovering that the Hull show had been hit by technical problems (Entwistle's bass comes and goes throughout the show - nobody seems quite sure why; maybe the Ox had a malfunctioning microphone or maybe a wind-milling Roger accidentally pulled out a plug?!) For years fans had assumed the near-identical Hull show was un-releasable, but actually the lack of bass doesn't get in the way too much - certainly the gig is 'complete' enough to deserve release as part of yet another 'Live At Leeds' re-issue, with an extra two discs now added to this fourth straight version of the concert (following the condensed 1970 original, the extended 80 minute 1995 CD version, and the complete two-CD set from 2001). Released in a frenzy of fuss unusual for The Who, reviewers were falling over themselves to proclaim the Hull gig as being even better than its famous counterpart. A careful listen reveals that not to be the case however: with only one night between the gigs there aren't really that many differences, even in the bigger improv moments like 'My Generation' (which here runs only 20 seconds or so slower) and all the differences there are go in the Leeds set's favour. There's nothing 'wrong' with the Hull gig and it's a perfectly fine show in it's own right, but The Who are just that bit more tentative somehow with that magic 'fifth member' that used to take over when the band flew in tandem only putting in occasional appearances and the band playing more as individuals than through 'Leeds' telepathy. Some songs, such as 'Can't Explain' and 'Tattoo' are actually pretty clumsy for peak-period Who (only a snappy 'Substitute' with more falsetto harmonies, a funky 'I'm A Boy' and a slightly calmer 'I'm Free' come close to matching or surpassing the 'Leeds' versions) and the band are in a far grumpier mood too, with less on-stage jokes or ad libs to the audience. It’s as if The Who are trying to remember what made the previous night’s show in Leeds so special and they can’t quite relax enough to re-create it no matter how hard they try. Our verdict: considering the hefty price of this set (£60 when it came out, although some shops have it cheaper at the moment), personally I’d steer clear and go back to the two-disc version, one of the greatest and most musical noises it will ever be your privilege to hear and buy the 'Isle Of Wight' set too if you still can't get enough of period Who. 

"Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970"

(Decca, Recorded September 1970, Released October 1996)

Disc One: Heaven and Hell/I Can't Explain/ Young Man Blues/I Don't Even Know Myself/Water/ Tommy: Overture/It's A Boy/1921/Amazing Journey-Sparks/Eyesight To The Blind/Christmas

Disc Two: Tommy (Continued): The Acid Queen/Pinball Wizard/Do You Think It's Alright?/Fiddle About/Tommy Can You Hear Me?/There's A Doctor/Go To The Mirror/Smash The Mirror!/Miracle Cure/Sally Simpson/I'm Free/Tommy's Holiday Camp/We're Not Gonna Take It!/Summertime Blues/Shakin' All Over-Spoonful-Twist and Shout/Substitute/My Generation/Naked Eye/Magic Bus

"Do you think it's alright, to charge the kids a fortune to hear Tommy on a field? Yes I think it's alright, I think it's alright!"

America had massive events in exotic sounding places like 'Monterey' and 'Woodstock'. Britain had The Isle Of Wight, a tiny island where it always rained and most famous for its sheep, which wasn't exactly in the same league in terms of numbers or music and the biggest get-together of music fans on British shores is generally remembered as an ill-tempered battle between the 'capitalists' insisting on people buying tickets and buying expensive burgers and the 'freeloaders' who tore down fences and burger vans in anger at being made to pay for something as spiritual and uplifting as music. The row still hadn't been decided by the time headliners The Who took to the stage on the Saturday of the three-day weekend show, but the band's nihilism and anger was the perfect soundtrack to a generally unsettling weekend (you can see more of this in the 'Message To Love' documentary film about the Festival in 1990, which in contrast to the films of 'Monterey' and Woodstock' mostly consist of angry locals - choice extracts from which ended up in Oasis' instrumental 'Fuckin' In The Bushes' ten years later. The Who get to play 'See Me Feel Me', while their full show was also released on DVD alongside this CD in 1996). For music fans this was kind of music's last hurrah a few months before Altamont when the mood had already turned surly; for Who fans this gig is more remarkable for Entwistle's outrageous skeleton suit and the last 'hurrah' of 'Tommy' before the 'Lifehouse' material squeezed it out of the setlist (The Who's 'dear little boy' won't go away though and will be revived in 1976).

This belated issue is surprisingly the only archive Who CD release in all the years since 1982 when the band split up and – even though its far to similar though not quite as good as ‘Live At Leeds’ – its nevertheless a very welcome opportunity to study The Who’s peak live years in greater detail. Had 'Live At Leeds' never existed and this album had been released instead it would still be regarded as one of the greatest live albums ever made. Everything The Who touched in 1970, especially on stage, has a certain air of magic about them as at last the band are in sync with each other and their audience and especially their material. Back in 1996 the first 'full length' version of 'Live At Leeds' was still five or so years away so for fans at the time this was a welcome opportunity to relish hearing the famous songs in context, with this show's setlist identical to the one played seven months earlier with the exception of three new songs 'I Don't Even Know Myself' 'Water' and 'Naked Eye' replacing 'A Quick One While He's Away' 'Tattoo' and 'Fortune Teller'. However now that 'Leeds' is out in an equally extended form on two discs (four if you buy the more recent set with 'Live At Hull' in there too), the less vital this show sounds. ‘Tommy’ is the greatest casualty in this era, with the band plainly tiring of it already a year on from its live debut (and that’s a shame because it takes up over half the running time of these two CDs!), especially as you have to change discs partway through which rather kills the momentum. The Who don't play badly any means - they roar in tandem for the most part, with a sloppy precision that's thrilling and makes them sound very much as if they've stolen The Rolling Stones' crown as 'greatest rock and roll live band' of their generation. But compared to 'Leeds' they're playing a level below their best, missing the occasional cue here, pulling short there and most regrettably diluting the wild improvisations that made the February 1970 version of 'My Generation' so memorable from fourteen minutes down to seven (while in turn 'Magic Bus' runs to just four minutes, not the original seven). There is nothing wrong with this show: it's 99% as good as 'Leeds' with The Who on top form and the live recordings of a bluesy 'Water', a nervy 'Myself' and especially a mad-eyed and dangerous 'Naked Eye' are worthy additions to The Who live catalogue, while throughout the sound is amazingly good for an outdoor show. There is, also, one live medley unique to this release: ‘Shakin’ All Over’/’Spoonful’/’Twist And Shout’ which is right up there with the best Who covers with Roger on especially good form. But with the complete 'Live At Leeds' now out and sounding almost identical to this gig (only better) there's less reason to own it nowadays. Plus it costs a fortune if you want to own both sets ('music should be free' remember) - one will probably do for most fans and this isn't it. 

John Entwistle "Smash Your Head Against The Wall"

(Track Records, May 1971)

My Size/Pick Me Up (Big Chicken)/What Are We Doing Here?/What Kind Of People Are They?/Heaven and Hell//Ted End/You're Mine/No 29 (External Youth)/I Believe In Everything

CD Bonus Tracks: Cinnamon Girl/What Are We Doing Here? (Demo)/It's Hard To Write A Love Song/World Behind My Face/My Size (Early Take)/What Kind Of People Are They? (Demo)/Big Chicken (Demo)/No 29 (Demo)/Ted End (Demo)

"You'll enjoy your stay - until you're all reborn someday"

With 'Lifehouse' taking it's slow steady time to make it into the shops, a hard-working musician like John Entwistle couldn't hang around waiting for his one lone contribution to the album to make it into the shops, so The Ox became the first member of The Who to release a 'full' solo album (Pete's Meher Baba birthday messages not withstanding). For now, a John Entwistle solo album sounds much like fans of The Who in 1971 would have been expecting - everything comes with that mid-tempo bass-heavy feel of John's period B-sides ('Someone's Coming' 'Doctor Doctor' 'Postcard' and 'Heaven and Hell', a song re-recorded here) and subject matters that vary from the quirky to the morbid. John gets the chance to show off his multi-instrumentalist skills, playing piano and flugelhorn in addition to his more usual bass 'n' brass while the presence of Keith Moon on the handful of tracks that include percussion (and backing vocals! Reportedly this was the price John paid for his friend's presence - Keith was always trying to get involved in the backing vocals despite the very obvious drawback that he couldn't sing!) adds a slight Who flavour to the performances. John's other main collaborator stays close to home too, with Who roadie Dave Langston providing the Townshend-like guitar (his album credit as 'Cyrano' also reveals that big-nosed Dave had more in common with Pete than just his guitarwork!) and it was his enthusiasm and support for the project that inspired John to make a full LP in the first place (so closely does Langston ape Pete's style that inevitably the rumour went round that it was just Townshend under a pseudonym but actually Pete seems to have deliberately stayed away to give his colleague his moment in the spotlight without criticism and witticisms about Pete secretly doing all the work).

What comes as more of a shock is how reflective and melancholy most of this work is and the set takes as its template the Who B-side 'When I Was A Boy' rather than the chuckle-a-minute 'My Wife' or 'Boris The Spider'. Throughout this solo career John presents himself as a much sadder and mournful figure than the deadpan comedian of Who lore and never more so than on this album which is a Townshend-style concept album about life and death and the inevitability of mortality. Even the cover art - made with Roger's help, via his cousin, medical photographer Graham Hughes - fits this theme, the front cover having John's ghostly form superimposed over the x-ray of a terminally ill patient with lung cancer, while the back cover has John looming over a pregnancy test. As for the songs, they all have a funeral air with characters worrying about the afterlife (typically, John's narrator 'won't get let in to heaven without a tie' and ends up in Hell by default!), worrying that life is passing them by and paying tribute to absent friends lost in the great struggle of life. If ever there was a depressing album in the Who canon then, well, actually it's 'Who By Numbers' although ironically that set is lightened by Entwistle's humour - but 'Smash Your Head Against The Wall' comes close. John didn't wear his skeleton suit most nights on stage in this period for fun it seems - he really was obsessed with the idea of death and what fate had in store for him. Little does he know, back in 1971, that his end would actually come after a good night out with cocaine and a groupie - but then the very earthiness of John's death after so many songs pondering it in a spiritual, existential self would probably have struck the bassist as very funny anyway.

Is 'Smash' a good album though? Yes, by and large, even if it's not the album you expect and even though it starts a trend for weepy ballads rather than the rock and roll fans were expecting (the album title, too, is a misnomer: this album should have been called 'Shake your head gently and stare at the wall' instead). Entwistle was always an under-rated lyricist though, summing up major life questions in a few witty lines and that's never been a greater strength than here where John proves himself every bit as much a poet as his windmilling band colleague. Whether bidding goodbye to an old friend, damning people who strain to life forever at any cost or coming to terms that all the cruxes of life he once leant on (such as Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy) aren't true and life is truly a scary place, Entwistle is on top expressive form. So why isn't this album better known? Well, Entwistle's knack for melody seems to have escaped him compared to his past songs for The Who and his future songs for himself, while the lack of any real uptempo rockers does leave this album in danger of sounding a little the same before you get to know it. With all the best will in the world too, John isn't a natural singer the way that Roger and even Peter are and despite the pretty open-to-all surroundings they're in, John's voice takes some getting used to across a full LP. However, even if this album isn't a 'smash' in the traditional sense, it is a grower and a cult success and the longer you stay in John's company the longer you realise what a truly talent there was hiding behind the three extroverts on stage-left every night.

The CD re-issue includes numerous bonus tracks - nine in all, including five demos, one alternate take and three abandoned recordings of which a slow jugging cover of Neil Young's period hit 'Cinnamon Girl' and a very different take on opening rocker 'My Size' are about the best.

'My Size' is, after all, the closest thing to traditional Entwistle on the album, based around a strutting hard-rock riff and with clever lyrics about being put down by his missus so often John wishes he was 100 foot-tall and could tower over her for a change. Across the song, John's love makes him 'hit the ceiling' and his lover seems so above the world she 'never touches the ground'.

'Pick Me Up' aka 'Big Chicken' is a sprightly horn and booze-drenched song that predicts many of Townshend's alcoholic cries for help from 'Who By Numbers'. John is drinking heavily to blot out the fact that he is, umm, drinking heavily and it's beginning to make him ill. Telling his friends down the pub that he'll be back tomorrow to pick up the car he had to leave behind (and that this scenario has happened every day for weeks), Entwistle's sadness has never been more mournful of self-lacerated.

'What Are We Doing Here?' is the album highlight, a sweet slow country-rocker that agrees with 'My Generation' from a new perspective whilst complaining that after the fire of youth old age means continual drifting and 'all we can do is let the time drag by and think of home'. You can just imagine John putting this sad song together on the road, a million miles away from home and after a million hours of just 'hanging around', in a land 'without any friends' and watching the days go by one after another.

'What Kind Of People Are They?' has a stunning bass 'n' brass opening that's truly atmospheric and though the song soon settles into a more average rocker, there are some strong lyrics here. Everyone sighs when John walks past because of the way he looks and the way he lives his life and he's sick of it, always needing a tie to perform the jobs that are given to well-dressed incompetents instead. After watching a policeman directing traffic and 'causing chaos with his hands' John finally parks and coughs up endless coins to go to the profits of a traffic warden who hates his guts. He's clearly having a bad day, hence the singalong chorus 'they've only got their jobs to do - that's why they've got it in for you!'

A revived 'Heaven and Hell' - the only Who song to be re-recorded for a solo Entwistle album - sounds very different. Instead of noise, bluster and defiance this song is sad, slow and reflective, with John spending more time puzzling on how to work out how to get to Heaven 'if you've done nothing wrong' and worrying about 'having been a bad boy' and ending up in the other place. Langstons' superb Townshend-ish Who style guitar solo is the only part that sounds like the same song.

'Ted End' is perhaps the most substantial song on the album, with John bidding goodbye to an old friend he used to look up to at school who loved to dress up as a teddy boy. As the title implies, the shortness and pointlessness of his life and the lack of visitors at his funeral has led John to wonder if the way he's living his own isn't just a 'dead end' and some pretty colliery-style brasswork really brings out the waterworks for this track.

'You're Mine' is perhaps the weakest track on the album, an anti-religious rant where a drunk and out-of-tune John declares 'get behind me Satan!' and instead declares that unlike the preachers around him he can easily understand why the world is a wicked place - because it makes us that way. John knows what it's like to feel the need to drown a cat or rob an old lady of her pension, even if he doesn't actually do it himself and declares - in the voice of the devil -that all these forgotten and lost souls are 'mine'.

'No 29 (External Youth)' imagines an elixir of life that allows you to stay young forever and then worries about all the people (politicians, filmstars, even rock musicians) most likely to use it who will never benefit from the nuances of growing old. John doesn't want to stay young or live forever and distrusts those who do because they've clearly missed the 'point' of living and experiencing life in the first place. A thoughtful lyric goes well with a bouncy, zestful melody eager to experience all life has to offer.

The album ends with power-ballad 'I Believe In Everything' which features perhaps Keith's most precise and subtle drum-part of all as well as arguably the finest singing of John's career. The song itself starts off as another earnest diatribe about digging behind the excesses of life to the things that matter and discussing his belief in reincarnation, before turning into a self-confessed joke where John throws in every belief system he's ever had (which by the end includes love at first sight, Santa Claus, Mickey Mouse and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs!)

Overall, then, 'Smash Your Head Against The Wall' is a fine quiet album from The Who's biggest introvert that won't offer you the thrills or spills of almost all the other records in this book but does provide a fascinating insight into the complex mind of The Who's second most prolific writer. In many ways this album was long overdue, with Entwistle having already proven himself a diligent and creative soul and it was inevitable that, despite the relatively poor sales, the bass player would be back with another solo set barely a year later. John was a character with a lot to say and most of what was on his mind deserves to be heard, but curious fans might perhaps want to hold out for the later Entwistle albums which have a style much closer to The Who signature sound and return to this one once they've adopted to John's more expressive, intimate, understated frame of mind. 

"Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy"

(Track Records/Polydor, October 1971)

I Can't Explain/The Kids Are Alright/Happy Jack/I Can See For Miles/Pictures Of Lily/My Generation/The Seeker//Anyway Anyhow Anywhere/Pinball Wizard/A Legal Matter/Boris The Spider/Magic Bus/Substitute/I'm A Boy

"I'm gettin' funny dreams again and again"

This wasn't the first Who compilation - in actual fact it's the third - but it's the first to do things 'properly' and treat The Who as a band with a history worth listening to rather than simply cashing in on their fading fame and despite it's age now this set still remains close to being 'definitive'. The perfect introduction to the band's earlier singles for fans who'd only just discovered the band in the wake of 'Tommy' and 'Who's Next', it's a sensible collection of all of The Who's singles up until that time and perfectly timed for the days when the thinner vinyl used on 45rpm singles meant they tended to wear out after five years or so. This is also the first to recover the rights to the Shel Talmy material after a 'one-off' deal which won't happen again until the 1980s - and as every Who fan knows, you can't have a greatest hits set without 'My Generation'! What isn't quite so perfect is the running order, with Pete Townshend personally overseeing the track listing and putting together the tracks that he thought worked best together, regardless of their true lineage - something manager Kit Lambert is said to have been horrified by and tried to prevent before discovering that pressings had already been sent to shops. Actually the order works better than most compilation albums and works well considering it's out of sequence, with the scowl of 'Anyway Anyhow Anywhere' a natural side opener and 'I'm A Boy' a rousing finale, even if 'The Seeker' - the only song here to date after 1967 - sounds very out of place. Pete also controversially chose an 'alternate' mix of 'I'm A Boy' with added French Horn and extra backing harmonies which has been confusing fans ever since and still occasionally crops up on compilations instead of the 'real' thing, while an 'extended' unedited version of 'Magic Bus' first appears here and is the one generally heard on compact disc. Less controversially included the 'unofficial Brunswick' singles 'A Legal Matter' and 'The Kids Are Alright' to flesh out the running time as well as the only song here not released as a single, 'Boris The Spider'.

It's the packaging, though, that makes this set so popular with fans then and now. On the front cover four children gather round looking surly and all four are just enough like The Who to make you think for one moment that it's a genuine childhood shot (it isn't - Keith was seventeen when he first met the others and the 'founding trio' were all at high school and therefore at least eleven when they first met, Pete admitting later that he and John were scared of Roger at that age and didn't go near him till they formed a band at fifteen!) The boy playing 'John' is the brother of yet another Who manager, Bill Curbishley while the others are child models. The 'real' Who, meanwhile, appear in colour peering at their monochrome past. It's the perfect image for The Who, a band which more than any other in the 1960s was more like a 'gang', with so many of their songs reflecting brotherhood and unity and so many of their on-stage bust-ups suggesting the love-hate relationships common between close childhood friends - even if, ultimately, it is all something of a 'lie'. The title too is very 'Who': adults in 1971 would have recognised the title as the sort of thing usually printed on the front of lad's magazines referring to the women within; in a band context though it's said to refer to the band's nicknames for each other: Roger is 'Meaty' and the band's pinup, Keith the drummer is obviously 'Beaty', John was built like an Ox and so very 'Big', while Pete's on-stage acrobatics means he was 'Bouncy'. Overall, the set is a welcome one that collects the band's past together nicely just in time for the backward-looking 'Quadrophenia' album to come and for The Who to fully embrace being an 'album' rather than a 'singles' band. Though several later CD compilations arguably beat it, simply by virtue of coming later and containing more stuff, this is still a first-class release. 

Pete Townshend and Various Artists "I Am"

(Universal, '1972')

Forever's No Time At All/How To Transcend Duality/Affirmation/Baba O Riley*//The Song Is Green/Everywhere I Look This Morning/Dragon/Parvardigar*
* = Pete Townshend Performances

"Nothing sure is forever when forever is no time at all"

The title says it all: after seven years of being associated with 'The Who' and searching for identity, Pete knows who he is - because as a Meher Baba convert he knows he's destined to be forever evolving and is happy to be whatever he is. Or something like that: this second Meher Baba tribute actually features even less of Pete than the first, 'Happy Birthday' released the year before, as despite the billing Townshend only 'stars' on two songs himself, though he is involved on the rest of the album. This is arguably the best of the three 'Baba' records out there, with Pete adding subtle touches to some particularly inspired music by his friends and fellow Baba converts like Billy Nicholls (a fellow Track Records artist who was unlucky not to become a big star himself with his excellent post-psychedelia 1968 album 'Would You Believe?' and whose opener here 'Forever Is No Time At All' is a real highlight), poet Mike Da Costa (who is more of an acquired taste and very of his time, although he 'inspired' Townshend to a particularly gutsy guitar wail so, hey, all is forgiven) and Ronnie Lane and Ian 'Mac' McLagan on loan from The Small Faces who are effectively this album's backing band.

The biggest talking points though are Pete's two vocals. 'Parvardigar' is a Townshend composition based around the Meher Baba poem 'Parvardigar Prayer', a short hymn that offers thanks to God and is traditionally spoken or sung when followers meet and sung in the original Indian (sample translated lyrics: 'You are without beginning and without end and none can measure you without forms or attributes'). Though non-native speakers might not understand the text, Pete's devotion and awe come over strongly and the acoustic guitar accompaniment sounds rather like 'Pinball Wizard' at a slower speed, while the tune is a pretty one perfectly fitting for a spiritual prayer. Even more interesting still, though, is Pete's nine-minute instrumental demo of 'Baba O'Riley' before it became part of the 'Lifehouse' story and it's nine minutes of one of the most famous riffs of them all looped over and over to the point where the quickly cross-cutting synth lines become quite hypnotic while Pete's guitar, drums and piano (the latter largely cut from the final version, sadly - they sound rather good here) all maintain momentum. The recording really builds to an orgasmic peak towards the end as the song becomes more and more out of control before slowly coming to find rest and solace in the song's loop before going for that final  famous charge at double-speed, which on the demo lasts for nearly a full minute. Even shorn of the lyrics this is a pretty incredible composition and 'O'Riley' has rarely sounded more better or more inspired. Re-released in 2000 on Pete's mega box set 'Lifehouse Chronicles', it's a recording all fans should go out of their way to find on something, even if this Baba tribute album is probably the least consistent or interesting of the trio generally. Along with 'Happy Birthday' and 'Avatar', it has since been collected on CD as the double disc set 'Jai Baba', with this album split across the two sides.

The London Symphony Orchestra "Tommy"

(Ode Records, October 1972)

Overture/It's A Boy/1921/Amazing Journey/Sparks/Eyesight To The Blind/Christmas/Cousin Kevin/Acid Queen/Underture//Do You Think It's Alright?/Fiddle About/Pinball Wizard/There's A Doctor/Go To The Mirror/Tommy Can You Hear Me?/Smash The Mirror/I'm Free/Miracle Cure/Sensation/Sally Simpson/Welcome/Tommy's Holiday Camp/We're Not Gonna Take It!/See Me Feel Me

"Do you think it's alright to leave the boy with a 100-piece orchestra even though it'll surely sound shite? Yes I think it's alright!"

Mercury Records A&R Man Lou Reizner loved 'Tommy' from the moment he heard it in 1969 and had a 'vision' of how it should be: closer to a 'true' opera played by classical musicians and with lots of special guest stars involved. Always open to a man with a vision, Pete Townshend listened patiently, told the record boss (who wasn't even involved with The Who's label) that it was a daft idea and The Who had moved onto 'Quadrophenia'. But the relatively weak re-action to that album and the need to get the fragmented Who back together doing something led Pete to listen again to the ideas and somehow slowly down the line he was persuaded to move from giving his relative permission to becoming an active participant, eager to hear how 'Tommy' could have sounded if it had been made the way he heard it in his head rather than by a rock quartet in rushed sessions with little or no record company support. Originally the 1972 production of Tommy was to star Rod Stewart and have little or no Who involvement, but one condition of Pete saying 'yes' was that Roger would be able to return to the role (because Pete couldn't imagine any other voice performing his work just yet) and slowly the other places got filled by Who friends including John Entwistle, Sandy Denny, Steve Winwood, Maggie Bell and Ringo Starr.
Though well received at the time, the general consensus now is that it probably wasn't such a hot ideas. 'Tommy' tends to work best when pared back to the basics - as a guttural cry from a disconnected youth whose so hurt by life that he shuts himself off from the world big time, arguably best heard stripped back to an hour and performed by The Who in concert without a pause. Even on the original studio record 'Tommy' sometimes sounded a little padded out or pretentious. Getting hold of a full-blown orchestra only accentuates the problems and makes the whole piece sound pompous and overly theatrical when it should be grounded and heartfelt. The guest stars too are here for laughs and/or career promotion and don't take this show either seriously enough or take it too seriously: Richie Havens blatantly doesn't understand why 'Eyesight To The Blind' is here, Maggie Bell is arguably a better singer than Tina Turner but her 'Acid Queen' lacks the theatricality and deliciously subversive nature and everybody's favourite Thomas The Tank Engine narrator Ringo is horribly miscast as Uncle Ernie (why couldn't they use Keith?!) Only Rod's strutting as the Pinball Wizard and Pete's folk-narrator on 'Sally Simpson' cuts through the sonic mess and delivers anything approaching a decent alternative to the original. There are some inadvertently great moments too: hearing Townshend try to sound like he means it on 'Amazing Journey' while an orchestra charges like a Mantovani session from hell and a choir wheeps and swoops might well be the funniest thing you've heard since David Cameron pretended he quite liked football and rock music, while the spacey orchestral take on 'Sparks' is actually pretty decent in a Stockhausen kind of a way. If you love 'Tommy' and don't want to hear it ruined, though, then this orchestral work is an even greater travesty than Oliver Reed allegedly 'singing' the film soundtrack and poor Tommy sounds bloated and in poor health throughout. Perhaps the best thing about this set was the inclusion of all the original lyrics as a 'proper libretto', which back in 1972 was quite a rare and exciting thing to do. Otherwise the packaging is awful though: goodness knows why this smoke 'n' pinballs cover won the 1974 Grammy for 'best packaging' as like the music it's not a patch on the original.


Pete Townshend "Who Came First"

(Track Records, October 1972)

Pure and Easy/Evolution/Forever Is No Time At All/Let's See Action!//Time Is Passing/There Is A Heartache Following Me/Sheraton Gibson/Content/Parvardigar
CD Bonus Tracks: His Hands/The Seeker/Day Of Silence/Sleeping Dog/The Love Man/Lantern Cabin/Mary Jane/I Always Say/Begin The Beguine

"Nothing is everything is nothing is everything is nothing..."

Pete's first solo album, released in the crucial gap between 'Who's Next' and 'Quadrophenia', was actually requested by Track Records. They wanted a more 'mainstream' release of Pete's trilogy of Meher Baba tribute records released in the past few years which were becoming hot property in the bootleg market - the guitarist at first refused, on the grounds that they were intended for Baba followers only. However he decided to compromise and agreed to the first ever official release of his growing collection of demos instead which might take away some of the attention given to the bootleggers. The release also enabled Pete to pass on more of the 'Lifehouse' story to fans interested enough to want to follow it, with solo demo versions of 'Pure and Easy' 'Let's See Action' and 'Time Is Passing' all given their first official releases long before The Who's better known versions came out. Pete also threw in a few extras he'd been carrying around with him for a while and which would never have fitted on a Who record: the charming improvisation 'Sheraton Gibson' written to see if Pete could come up with a song on the spot (answer: yes he can!) The  other five songs were the ones Pete considered the best recordings from the 'Baba' albums, even though two of them didn't feature much input at all (his friend Ronnie Lane's 'Evolution' - Pete might not have known that his pal had already re-recorded that song with The Faces for their debut album 'First Step' in 1970 - and his pal Billy Nicholls' 'Forever Is No Time At All), as well as Pete's take on Baba hymn 'Parvardigar' and a cover of Pat Barker's country song 'There Is A Heartache Following Me' (sadly the song fans really wanted to hear, the nine-minute epic instrumental version of 'Baba O'Riley', wasn't included). The result is still quite a thrilling LP though, especially at the time when the 'Scoop' demo series was still a couple of decades away and the album really enhanced Pete's reputation as a songwriter and visionary, with many reviewers commenting on just how Who-like he sounded on drums, bass and vocals even without his bandmates in tow. The result is a pretty listen that's downright compulsory in terms of the 'Lifehouse' recordings (thankfully two of them are on the 'Pete Townshend Anthology' as well) and even more so on CD which adds another nine bonus tracks taken from the Baba albums 'Happy Birthday' and 'With Love' (though sadly still not the 'O'Riley' demo, with a charming demo of 'The Seeker' the other period recording every fan should own).

Pete's demo for 'Pure and Easy' is stunning, sounding much like the 'Lifehouse' recording for the most part but with the obvious switch of Pete singing rather than Roger. The song sounds better in Pete's lighter, folkier voice although you miss the Daltrey roar on the word 'derrrrstrooooy!' Pete's simplified version of Moon's drums and his own later keyboard part are both very inventive too. However it's the ending that puts this version head and shoulders over the 'Who' version: 'There once was a note, listen!' two Pete's snap while a third goes into the realms of ecstasy with the gospel cry of 'pure and easy!' The holy trinity of Townshends then continue on this way for what seems like an eternity but is in reality around three glorious minutes, while the backing track weaves in and out of a minor key shift missing from the re-recording which gives the song a real added bite. Sublime, although it's a shame that Track Records chose to edit the song down from eight minutes to five.

Ronnie's 'Evolution' is a charming song too, as Lane tackles the ideas of incarnation and imagines himself as a stone, a blacksmith, a daisy, a goat and 'tinker, tailor, soldier, failure'. Though not as well-presented as the Faces version under the name 'Stone' and apparently without any Townshend presence whatsoever, it's a charming song that very much represents not just Baba's thoughts but Ronnie's own homespun down-to-earth philosophy to a tee.

Billy Nicholls' gorgeous falsetto-led 'Forever Is No Time At All' is another very Baba-esque song and one of the better ones from 'I Am', even if again Pete is largely not here at all. With its tale about time working in a very different way to how humans understand it, the song is an apt one and Billy doesn't sound all that different to Pete's own voice when he sings high.

The six-minute demo for 'Let's See Action', a song released almost contemporaneously by The Who as a mid-selling single, is thankfully kept complete here. A call to arms for unity and brotherhood, it's not quite as strong as the similar 'Join Together' but it is very Townshend with its call-and-answer responses and direct appeals to the audiences he 'feeds' off. The ending is again the best bit as the mantras 'everything is nothing is everything is...' gets repeated over and over, the hugeness of that thought taking on mystical proportions for almost half the song, in contrast to The Who's version which uses that sentence as a big finale. Pete also sounds far more comfortable singing this track than Roger.

'Time Is Passing' is the final 'Lifehouse' demo but the one here that doesn't  work quite as well as the Who version, with Pete lacking Roger's scowl and roar. The song sounds rather timid here and less urgent, even if again the lyrics are very Townshendesque in his Baba 'time is an illusion and lunchtime doubly so' phase.

The weakest track on the album is probably Pete's weird rendering of the Jimmy Reeves hit 'There's A Heartache Following Me'. Recorded because Baba once said (sorry, wrote - this was during his years of silence) that it was his favourite song, it's not my favourite song and Pete sounds all at sea here. Proof that even if you're the re-incarnation of God in human form, that doesn't mean your music taste is necessarily any good. 

However the album's only truly unique song 'Sheraton Gibson' is a charmer. Pete was feeling bored in yet another hotel room and with nothing to do, so he decided to test himself and see if he could write a song about nothing in minutes. Realising that he was sitting with his Gibson guitar on his knee while in the Sheraton Gibson chain of hotels, he figured that was enough of a coincidence to write about and starts making up a little ditty about all the nothing things on his mind. Pete wants to go home, he's due to travel to Cleveland in the morning (what is it with AAA acts singing about Cleveland?) and how he has 'someone' on his mind (wife Karen or guru Meher Baba? Probably the latter given this album is effectively an LP made for 'him'). Simple as the song is - 'Sheraton Gibson' is the only Townshend track written between 1969 and 1973 not intended for a 'concept' - that's all part of the charm as Pete has never sounded more alone or relaxed than here.

'Content' is another simple song, this one a more obvious spiritual first released as the opening track of 'I Am'. Pete sings about being ready to grow and learn spiritually over an acoustic guitar and piano backing, which is solemn and sombre. More religious than most of Pete's Baba inspired works, it's a bit of a shock to hear the cynical Pete of old turned into such an earnest unthinking unquestioning worshipper - but maybe that's being unkind as Pete is asking to be shown thoughts and to be given answers here. The song worked better on a private album for fellow devotees than this more mainstream record though.

Finally 'Parvardigar', repeated from 'I Am', is Pete's version and extension of the speech Baba supporters recite when meeting each other. Pete again sounds unusually reverent here, which will come as a shock to many, although there's no doubting the sincerity of the performance or the awe in the words (the parts that are in English rather than Indian at least). One of the synth riffs that plays throughout the 'noisy' verse in this song will be recycled as incidental music for the 'Tommy' film in 1975.

Overall, then, 'Who Came First' is a fascinating and revealing collection which offers a lot more than 'just' the highlights from the 'Happy Birthday' and 'I Am' LPs. Many fans would no doubt have preferred an early peek into the demos Pete was building up (and later released as the 'Scoop' series), especially given that the then-unreleased 'Lifehouse' recordings are clearly the best thing here. However as a halfway house between Pete coming to terms with his spiritual beliefs and inner confusion on the one hand and as an entertaining, melodic collection of songs on the other then 'Who Came First' is still quite a success, with only the songs towards the end of side two losing focus and interest. A much under-rated work and a fascinating peek into Pete's creative brain.

John Entwistle "Whistle Rhymes"

(Track Records, November 1972)

Ten Little Friends/Apron Strings/I Feel Better/Thinkin' It Over/Who Cares?/I Wonder/I Was Just Being Friendly/The Window Shopper/I Found Out/Nightmare (Please Wake Me Up)
CD Bonus Tracks: I Wonder (Demo)/All Dressed Up/Back On The Road/Countryside Boogie

"I'm just hoping for a glimpse of something I've never had and never will"

Beaten to the shops by a single month with Pete's collection of demos, John's second record became the third 'proper' Who spin-off solo album and made the most of Entwistle's growing reputation as the band's second chief voice and the increasing gap between Who albums in this era. This self-deprecating album (named after the common mis-spelling of John's surname with an added 'h' - similarly Pete's surname is often spelled without the correct 'h') is noisier and less subtle than the first, but it's arguably the most Who-like of all of the many spin-off records out there. It sounds in many respects like a collection of Who B-sides from a parallel universe, with some bass-heavy rockers dealing with characteristically quirky subjects such as suicide ('Thinking It Over', a song that calmly wonders about jumping off a roof) and - erm - trolls ('Ten Little Friends', written for Keith Moon as a 'thankyou' for his characteristic gift to John's new-born son Christopher). 'Who Cares?' may also be the most autobiographical song John ever wrote, as his narrator suffers all kinds of calamities and feels rather down and bitter about everything, while trying to pretend he doesn't care at all and keeping his distance from his troubles through his dark humour. There's nothing here quite as sophisticated as 'Smash Your Head Against The Wall' and nothing either as wonderfully moving as 'When I Was A Boy' or as funny as 'Boris' or 'My Wife', but this is a cracking band (with a guesting Peter Frampton, shortly after he left Humble Pie, filling in for Pete) often playing some cracking rock and roll. A fine cover sums the album up well, a dark and scary version of a world that in other circumstances would be a sweet world full of children's parties and cute animals - it's exactly what this album sounds like with its protests of 'why aren't I having any fun and why do I have to grow up?'

'Ten Little Friends' sounds like a squealing, noisy, inebriated rocker about a funky band getting their groove on. In actual fact it's a sweet little song to Keith about what John thought his present of ten troll dolls were getting up to when his back was turned. It's fun but not very revealing.

'Apron Strings' is an album highlight, a song full of worry and doubt as John realises he's now become an adult and is rather scared of the prospect of not being told what to do or where to go. It must have been a shock to be at home as a new dad after years of being on the road following the instructions of managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp and being the only real 'dutiful' and 'responsible' member in The Who (some of the time!) John's worry, which could have been played for laughs, is impressively heartfelt here and the vocal is one of his best.

'I Feel Better' has John not feeling anything of the sort. He's just split up with a girlfriend and is busy listing all the things he won't have to put up with anymore in his life and he's trying to feel positive about it, but without saying it you can hear the unspoken pain in this song.

'Thinking It Over' is a synth-waltz of all things as John decides 'not to bother' with life anymore and walks sadly up to the roof of the flat where he lives, ten stories high, to jump off it. As he sits and mopes and considers the effort he changes his mind, decides 'not to bother' jumping and sadly slinks home again.

'Who Cares?' is a fun song and offers Entwistle's philosophy of life. He tries to get away with what he can, responsibility free, because who cares really what he does or doesn't achieve in life, it's nobody's business but his own. Underneath it all, though, you can hear a slight defensiveness in this song as John tries to gee himself up to doing more with his life - as soon as he's finished partying!

'I Wonder' is, unusually, the only song here to feature John's beloved brass section. It's a wry hymn to all the great things in life to be grateful for, a little like 'Red Blue and Gray' but much heavier in feel and tone. The sarcastic way John sings it makes you wonder if he's not trying to deliver a double-meaning here as he's never sounded more fed-up despite his list of blessings!

'I Was Just Being Friendly' is the closest thing here to a ballad as a shocked and stunned Entwistle is accused of asking a girl if she's a prostitute.  If it had happened to Keith he'd probably have laughed, but John is genuinely hurt - he was trying to be nice and was genuinely concerned about the girl's future. You can hear a sequel of sorts to this song with the better and more powerful 'Trick Of The Light' on 'Who Are You' where John also tries to rescue a prostitute and offer her a better life.

'The Window Shopper' is a messy recording of what sounds like it might have been a fine song. John is looking for the girl he's always dreamed of but doesn't mean anything by it - he's dreaming of a different future but would never act on it. An angry guitar part adds defensive sting to this track, while a French Horn part buried in the mix offers a twinge of real sadness and hollowness.

'I Found Out' is another album highlight, a simple piano ballad with less production than the rest of the album as John sings prettily about how the woman he thought was going to be his wife forever never really loved him and how the uncle he cared for was just after his money. John's feeling gullible and betrayed and it hurts, inspiring one of the great unsung classics in the Entwistle canon without any dark twists, humour or rocking solos for once - just unmitigated pain in the 'Who By Numbers' style.

'Nightmare' carries on with almost the same theme as an insomniac John tries to dream of 'girls and money' and finds that his subconscious has other ideas. Quirkier than the last song but also rather sweet and sensitive, these two tracks reveal just how much of a strain John was under in this period.

The CD re-issue comes with four demos - a similar version of 'I Wonder' and three otherwise unreleased tracks that show promise: 'All Dressed Up' is a sad ballad that has John all dressed up with nowhere to go and no one to go out with, 'Back On The Road' is a 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' style ballad about wearily waiting for another tour after being bored at home and the more traditionally Who-like 'Countryside Boogie' features a proto-heavy metal surfeit of guitars before turning into something more like Sha Na Na.

'Whistle Rhymes', then, starts as just another noisy rock album but ends somewhere quite genuine and haunting. Whether you can cope with the oddball jokes and dark humour before you get there is another matter, but 'Whistle Rhymes' is another strong effort from an under-rated writer whose voice has never sounded better, caught on the cusp between sweetness and huskiness. Though 'Wall' is still just about the stronger of the first two records, both of these sets are welcome additions to the Who canon and come highly recommended, non-stop whistle tours of John's always fascinating psyche. 


In case you were wondering where it was, our old review for 'Live At Leeds' is here:  http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-33-who-live-at-leeds-1970.html