Friday, 19 November 2010
The Who "Lifehouse/Who's Next" (1971) (News, Views and Music 81, Revised as one long double-length article 2016)
‘The note is eternal, I hear and it sees me, forever we blended, forever we die’
'Lifehouse' and 'Who's Next' - two works that are so utterly completely different it's hard to believe that in actual fact these projects have most of their songs in common. These two are, as such, nearly always discussed as two separate entities, but no: their DNA strands are wrapped around each other for life, so for once on the AAA we're going to give you two very different reviews that basically cover the same thing, with a 'weird' take on the concept and a more 'normal' take on the final album that combined became the longest article Alan’s Album Archives ever published. You see, while everyone reviews ‘Who’s Next’ with a paragraph or two about how it started as ‘Lifehouse’ you truly can’t tell the story of one without the other: the DNA of the two are wrapped around each other so that these songs make most sense as part of an ongoing ‘plot’ – even if it is a plot that was never fully established (and which wre’ve had fun in this article trying to replicate with a few digs at the Colalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in power when the article was first written). If the plot for an album that never really existed anyway doesn't do it for you and is too weird even by our book’s standards then feel free to skip the bits in italics and go on to the 'normal' print; equally if you're bored or reading about 'Who's Next' but you're tickled by the idea of 'Lifehouse' than that's the part when you can probably stop reading, or you can be brave and read it all, whatever floats your concrete monolith boat.
To provide a bit of history first though for those who don't know, 'Lifehouse' is the biggest, grandest, most impossible Who concept ev-uh (yep, even more than a handicapped pinball wizard), based around a vague idea of the 'lost chord' that unites all of humanity and which will bring peace and prosperity to the whole world when all of our individual 'notes' are in harmony. Pete believed that somewhere, tapped away in people, was some sort of general mass consciousness, a sort of ‘lost chord’ that, when joined together, would represent nirvana for humanity (or Who fans at the very least). It is in many ways an extension of the part in ‘Tommy’ that was generally considered to ‘work’ the most, as Tommy fed from his audience and gave back in turn, but with that idea writ large. The idea was that The Who would book a theatre every might and play to a group of fans - some of them the same every night, some new - and see how the 'vibrations' subtly changed and if The Who could get this down in musical form. The characteristics of each person would then be fed into their 'synthesiser' and turned into 'music' which could then inspire more music - something that worked spectacularly well when Pete combined the musical DNA strands of guru Meher Baba and synthesiser pioneer Terry O’Riley for  ‘Baba O’Riley’, but abandoned en masse when it became a) too expensive b) too complicated c) The rest of the band and even unshockable manager Kit Lambert went 'eh? Whaaaaat?' and d) The only theatre The Who could get at short notice was 'The Young Vic' in London and that was partly booked during the week anyway which rather destroyed the musical vibes (though a few gigs did go ahead - one of them can be heard on the deluxe edition of 'Who's Next', though it's marred by technical gremlins and a reliance on 'oldies' because The Who haven't had enough rehearsals of the new songs yet).
That’s the part even casual fans have vaguely picked up on. There was more to the plot than that, though, something fans don’t often realise so even though it was never finalised, here is our final version of it, based on what Pete spoke about in interviews, with a little bit of moulding going on to fit the story that 'appears' to be there in there somewhere. As I'm sure you'll agree it's impressively spot-on for our times and yes, almost all of this genuinely does come from Pete in 1971: On this future vision of Earth people no longer interact – instead they are all contained within their tiny narrow boxes, unable to meet except in ‘Life Suits’ due to the strong pollution of the outside world. Two 'lost souls', maybe 'twin flames', are searching for each other in our (fairly) distant future where a totalitarian regime and a diet of reality TV (not that it was called that, but that's clearly what Pete meant) mean that people have lost touch with anything 'real'. Life is a series of repetitive jobs that involve thought not feelings and emotional connections between two people have been if not quite outlawed then certainly frowned upon. Most of the inhabitants of the new world accept it because they don't know anything better. However two of them actively search for a better world based on 'reality' and find each other against all odds. One of them got a name in the plot and even a song: 'Mary' so she's easy to identify: she's a teenager, possibly still a schoolgirl, who hears about this exciting thing from centuries ago called rock and roll and searches everywhere for sound of it. One magical night she hears it, played by an outlawed historian and rock and roll fan who didn't get a name in the original plot (some fan sites call him 'Bobby' but he doesn't sound like a Bobby and I've no idea where they got that name from, so we'll call him 'Max' after our website mascot),as amplified through 'the grid' (which is basically a 1970s musician's premonition of what the internet might look like - seriously, Pete was way ahead of his time). She sneaks out of her house to track him down discovering the pollution isn’t as bad as she was told and meets him, he laughs and calls her his 'groupie', they find out the amazing run of coincidences in their lives and despite their age and cultural differences they become an 'item', united in their desire to enjoy rock and roll and their attempts to take down what they see as an increasingly corrupt establishment. We don't know what the ending would be, but judging from the songs 'left over' things go sour in their partnership in both a romantic and career-sense as they realise the enormity of their challenge and the difficulties facing them and instead sadly go their separate ways, their song over. As with Pete’s other grand works the ending is ambiguous:  ‘The Song Is Over’ offers hope that somehow this band of misfits encourage the world to start talking to and learning from each other again;  ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ rather suggests that the new bunch of leaders end up every bit as corrupt as before.
So where did such a strange and unlikely concept about human beings being notes come from? Well Pete was clearly influenced by the poem 'A Lost Chord', written by Adelaine Anne Proctor in 1860 which takes a more religious reading of the idea that mankind will one day be 'in tune' like the keys on her piano; probably too the Arthur Sullivan piece inspired by it and perhaps the 1933 Jack Hawkins film based on it as well. Maybe even The Moody Blues' album 'In Search Of The Lost Chord' from 1968 which looked at how the 'chord' had been searched for by every musician of every era before they discover that actually it's the meditation word 'Ommmm' that unites humanity in peace. The Who were never the sort of band to go in for that sort of hippie speak and it's notable that 'Lifehouse' seems to have an unhappy ending where one chord can never save us all, only humans (though music is still our best means to do exactly that). However the poem still seems like the best bet and may well have appealed to Townshend as a writer, as it speaks of music being like 'magic' and created by some divine other - not there one minute and in reality as something concrete the next (even for a singer-songwriter-guitarist, Pete was obsessed with making music and once referred to making things on tape on his home machines as 'my only real hobby'. He clearly thinks of it as magic still).
Then again this album's other big influence is, like 'Tommy', the works of Meher Baba. The self-confessed 'avatar' (ie God in human form) stopped speaking at the age of twenty-six but still continued to write about his beliefs and visions and many of them were 'in tune' with the 1960s/70s in a way that more cruel and rule-filled religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism could never be (Baba's teachings are closest to Buddhism, but even there not in a purist form). The 'big' concept, which drove both Who projects, was the idea that the world is an 'illusion' - that only by bringing everybody's 'perception' of it together can we truly understand what the 'real' world is. While 'Tommy' picked up on the 'inability to communicate so as to hear yourself more' half of this idea, 'Lifehouse' has the other in spades - the idea that music unites us all (just as The Who once united their audiences) and brings out a part of mass consciousness we can never find by ourselves. We need each other to bounce ideas off, to see things from a different perspective and to understand that there is something out there bigger than ourselves. It speaks volumes too that for at least one of the proposed 'Lifehouse' storylines the characters all live in their own bubbles, alone and afraid to venture outside because of 'pollution' (perhaps of the spiritual rather than physical kind). Baba's most famous saying outside Pete and fellow convert Ronnie Lane's work is 'don't worry, be happy' - which seems like a strange thing for two of rock's biggest worrywarts to hang on to, but that theme is in there too. Throughout Pete's 'big idea' works people do awful things to the main characters (physically in 'Tommy', via Government on 'Lifehouse' and through misunderstandings on 'Quadrophenia') but they always end with the hope of salvation: that one day, if you can see through all the smoke and mirror illusions set up to distract us from 'real' life, we too can live in the present and embrace it, without guilt for the past or worries for the future. 'Tommy' may well be the most Baba-centric album in the Whoniverse, but the influence is plainly there in 'Lifehouse' as well. It seems a tragedy that Baba died in January 1969, just before his most vocal worshipper turned his ideas into song - but maybe that was meant to be too, with the cup of understanding passed on to a new disciple. Or something. I don't know, I'm just a blogger and this is only a tiny viewpoint of the ‘Lifehouse’.
The ‘Lifehouse’ idea was so grandiose and ethereal that even as erudite a writer as Pete Townshend struggled to bring it down to earth and he especially found difficulty telling his bandmates what the piece was all about, causing a nervous breakdown and a loss in confidence that lasted until near the end of the decade. Most people, even the biggest Who fans, think of this concept as monkeynuts – and they’re probably right in the sense that ‘Lifehouse’ is a great idea that was surely impossible to turn into something concrete and releasable. Pete really struggled to put his concept over to the band too (John admitted years later he thought the plan was to turn a concert venue into a hippie commune!) and Pete badly lacked the support of Kit Lambert who had so helped him navigate the difficulties of making ‘Tommy’. Their fall-out was sudden and surprising: as soon as the album came out directors were lining up to make a film of the deaf, dumb and blind kid. In the end it was director Ken Russell who shouted loudest and – after agreeing to Pete’s term of casting Roger in the title role – was given carte blanche to do what he liked with the work. For a while though Kit was as protective over the the project as Pete, aiming to write the film script himself and causing disagreements eith its chief composer about the best direction to take it in. Pete’s interest in a film waned as ‘Lifehouse’ took over as Kit just didn’t get ‘it’ and the manager got frustrated as he came back from lengthy business meetings in America to find that pete in London cared only for his new baby. The pair’s close friendship – and the tipping point for Townshend – came when he found that Kit had sold filming rights to the ‘Lifehouse’ shows on the understanding that it would be a TV re-make of ‘Tommy’ instead of a whole new work and when Pete overheard a conversation with a business accolade where his closest friend and ally in the world referred to him by his surname ‘Townshend’. Suddenly all those warnings in ‘Tommy’ about corruption and celebrity seemed to be coming true and without any allies or anyone there to interpret what was in his head Pete felt crushed.
Many fans hear the vague concept and think that Kit was right – this wasn’t an album, it was an idea that could never work and almost everyone considers ‘Lifehouse’ an unworkable failure, however great the scartered pieces left in its wake. However is this idea really as untenable as people have made out in the years since? ‘Tommy’ by all accounts came together at the eleventh hour – whose to say ‘Lifehouse’ wouldn’t have done the same as more and more people got on board with the idea. Before judging this failed concept, bear in mind three things. Firstly the interaction The Who felt during the finale of ‘Tommy’ was real – there clearly was something in Pete’s idea of having the audience shape the band shape the audience – it’s only making it a concrete plan that the concrept fell apart. Secondly, the Who really did ‘feed’ information about a person into a new-fangled invention called a synthesiser once (either a VCS3 or an ARP synth fans!) back when the very first digital ones were on the market, replacing the old analogue mellotrons with a sound that was other-worldly and futuristic. By spiralling the twin strands of musical DNA from twopeople Pete not only proved the cpomncept could work but came up with one of his best-loved songs, Baba O’Riley (named after Pete Townshend’s spiritual guru Meher Baba, whose ‘information’ was fed into the synthesiser - no I’m not quite sure how that works either - and Terry O’Riley, jazz-classical pianist and lover of tape loops whose 'modal figures' - psychedelic scales to you and me - clearly inspired this song musically). Thirdly, replace the word ‘radio’ with the word ‘internet’ and the concept is spot on; no band ever listened to or took ideas from the audience as much as The Who did (‘Listening To You’ from ‘Tommy’ puts these sentiments across perfectly) and if only the worldwide web had been around 30 years earlier the band could easily have been inspired, challenged and intrigued by comments made by their fans on sites like the very one these books were taken from. During its early stages this ‘Lifehouse’ concept would have been a double-album, a touring stage show which changed every night depending on the audience and a big budget feature film – all three seemed unlikely for ‘Tommy’ too in the early stages yet somehow happened and in the wake of their biggest success ever everyone wanted to work with The Who.
Like Brian Wilson four years before him, Pete’s new work was just too ahead of its time, too inventive, complicated and sprawling for anybody to pull off all on their own and the guitarist was simply too close to the subject matter to delegate material to anybody else as he perhaps should have done. Making ‘Lifehouse’ now would be difficult – making it in 1971, when these concepts of ‘inter-activeness’ and ‘togetherness’ were new and alien to the world in large, was nigh on impossible even for a Pete Townshend who did everything short of magic to pull it together and make it work. After all, the pressure on The Who’s shoulders was enormous – after ‘Tommy’ anything the band was bound to be scrutinised closely and the fact that Pete was boasting in the press that this album would ‘revitalise the whole of the jaded rock and roll industry’ probably didn’t help either. So Pete gave up, filed away some songs for later and allowed his double-album vision to be condensed his double album into a killer eight-track collection, with a new and hilarious song by John Entwistle added at the last minute.
While most casual fans were content with ‘Who’s Next’, serious Whonatics saw 'Lifehouse' as something of the 'holy grail' amongst Who recordings, fans who knew the pieces of the jigsaw were brilliant but didn’t have much of a grasp on the bigger picture. A few clues have come to light in the years since though, such as an abandoned second go in 1978 (which became ‘Who Are You?’ and seems mostly to have consisted of  ‘Sister Disco’) and a third go in 1999 that arguably should have been lost, a revisitation of the story with only the barest use of music as a book and radio play (this time told squrely from the point of view of Mary’s father rather than Mary herself). Pete, inspired by the worldwise use of the worldwide web which so reflected his ideas for ‘Lifehouse’, created a blog to specifically talk about this project and ‘leaked’ various demos from both the first two versions of the concept, later rounding them up as a box set and a single disc set in the year 2000. Back in 1971, though, the album’s reputation grew like wildfire due to the brilliance of the music that did escape from the album sessions: most famously of course the eight songs that were taken from the original concept which may have run to as many as nineteen tracks and released as the far more compact 'Who's Next' (with John Entwistle favourite  'My Wife' added to the running order). That album has, generally rightly, come to be regarded as one of the band's greatest moments, with the planned concept album scrapped and replaced by a series of tight recordings made by engineer Glyn John who cared nothing for the storyline but everything about making a tight and impressive album. Rootsy in a way that 'Lifehouse' could never have been and made with a consistency and diversity even over and above The Who's usual levels and with a good balance between tried and tested ideas and whole new concepts ('Who's Next' is arguably the first rock album to use a digital synthesiser, as opposed to the monologue 'mellotron' method), this album was always going to be a strong seller. However those who yearned for more weren’t disappointed either, with several additional key tracks written for ‘Lifehouse’ that became much loved highlights of Pete’s demo collection ‘Who Came First’, 1974 Who outtakes set ‘Odds and Sods’ and a couple of standalone singles released in 1972. ‘Lifehouse’, even before it was cobbled together as a bona fide box set in the CD age, seemed like a hugely impressive collection of songs even if few really truly grasped the concept.
Even after these three versions, however, it feels as if 'Lifehouse' still isn't quite there yet: the box set contained lots of extraneous stuff written and recorded later, much of it orchestral while the play changed Pete's original storyline so much he may as well have sat down to write a different work altogether. Only by hearing everything alongside each other – the play, the box set and Who’s nNext plus random oddities – do you get any sense of what ‘Lifehouse’ might have been really like and even then we can only speculate – although speculating is what sites like ours were made to do so that is what we are going to do here. Obviously there is no one agreed 'Lifehouse' tale to draw on and no two Who fans agree on what music would have made it to the album (it seems unlikely all nineteen selections we've picked here and which were recorded at the time would have made the record for reasons of space, even if it became a double as everyone assumes, but hey you should know by now that we'll take up any excuse to write long articles!) However doing ewhat we normally do and writing a ‘srtraightforward’ review of something that didn’t technically exist seemed ‘wrong’ somehow. As I’m sure you’ll agree the concept of ‘Lifehouse’ is vague enough and the songs malleable enough to fit multiple variations, while reviewing an album that predicted the internet actually on the internet seemed too good an opportunity to be ‘weird’ to throw away, so what you get for the next section of the review is more of a ‘story’. Think of this not as the definitive conclusive guide to what 'Lifehouse' might have been like, but a very weird AAA version instead...
The Album (Lifehouse):
Music. I remember that word now. How magical it used to sound back in the days when I first heard about the concept. I couldn’t get my head around it at first – how could people in the past distant days have celebrated certain noises, put them on things with funny names like LPs and CDs and sit back in their arm-chairs and say ‘Ooh yes, that’s what I feel like, I agree with that’ or move them to outrage, to the point where they’d stand up and pace and snarl and say ‘We can do so much better than this, where did it all go wrong????’ I could never understand that. Didn’t these people realise that listening to such things would get them into such trouble with the Coalition? That listening in to intelligent people unbowed by the system telling us how the world should be lived could ever be anything but a threat to the people in charge? How could there ever have been a time when it was any other way?
I hadn’t given much thought to that word ‘music’ again for ever such a long time. You don’t give it much thought do you? I mean, its banned and all that and I didn’t really know what that word meant anyway, but something stayed with me all through my childhood about what the idea was and how great it must have been in the days gone by, to be listening to music right out there in the open. It was one of my friends at work who brought it up again; he was a strange guy, he kept whistling to himself at work though he knew it was against the law. Luckily the girl who was our boss didn’t seem to mind and even stopped working sometimes so she could come and listen. He said he didn’t know any songs himself – well, you don’t do you? Not unless someone sings them to you and they’re hardly likely to do that or so I always thought - but I liked to listen and after a while the two of us both thought we recognised some of them, enough to join in and give us a go. I got the strangest look I’ve ever been given by my co-worker when we joined in, something that was a cross between admiration and fear. It was as if the very depths of his soul had been open to us and he didn’t know whether he wanted us to see him like that or shut us off and never open the door again.We had never heard more thsn one voice at any one time before. It felt kind of…strange.
Anyway, this guy (I promised not to give his name, to protect him) was truly weird. You see, he told me a folk story. I thought at the time that it can’t have been true, it was just too unbelievable. You’ll laugh when you hear it, it just doesn’t make any sense. You see, some decades ago there was meant to have been a big craze for this thing called the internet. It was big and it was wide and it contained ever so many delights, thoughts from almost every single member of the population once it caught on, some funny, some deep, some profound, little titbits of life the world over that let you see inside another person’s life and what they thought about things. I mean, there’s no point thinking things is there? It’s all thought for you, what to say, what to do. I mean what a funny little world that must have been, having all that choice open to you and not knowing what to do with it. Hah, and what a word that was, ‘the internet’. It implied a connection of things – and where I came from connecting to things just didn’t apply, you were separate, kept apart from people and doing your own job in isolation with no idea of how it affected anybody else. You weren’t allowed to ‘feel’ anything for what you did, you just had to do it. They called it the worldwide web too I understand.World wide – I didn’t even know what the world looked like. I mean most people belonged to something called ‘The Flat Earth Society’ but they had given themselves away by telling us they had members ‘all over the globe’ which set me thinking maybe we were on a sphere? There was definitely something creepy about that phrase ‘the worldwide web’, so creepy I edged away from it and I had dreams that night after I heard about it, as if all these little nuggets of truth from across the globe were following me and catching me in this giant spider’s web full of arachnids named Boris and once I’d opened the door to it I couldn’t escape no matter how hard I tried.
I didn’t want to know about it at first. I mean it’s not just that it’s banned, it’s what a weird unworkable concept that was. All those thoughts, colliding into each other, provided by other people outside your mind - I mean, you just wouldn’t know what to believe, what was real,it was easier to have someone tell you. Yet I somehow knew implicitly that if you could read enough of these truths, sift through them all bit by bit, then after time you could find some sort of mutual understanding, as if all the humans who had ever had any thoughts would be part of this giant ‘universal truth’ and I even imagined that there was some true universal path mapped out for us where we could understand how other people thought, see what they saw, hear what they heard, felt what they felt. But that was just silly wasn’t it? That was just a fairytale that someone had come up with, someone with too much time on their hands who needed to work longer shift patterns. Wasn’t it?
Because then this guy surprised me. He didn’t say a word the next day after our singing session, he just came in and looked at me and our boss slyly, as if judging what our re-action would be. He then brought out this curious little piece of equipment. He said it was something called a ‘personal computer’ and that he still had a connection to this thing called the internet that someone the other side of the world had been keeping what he called ‘online’ for several years and that all the files that had ever been posted by anyone were still out there for anyone with access to read. I laughed. I mean, everyone knows the only computers around are massive, meant for work purposes only and there’s nothing personal about them whatsoever. Some of the privileged few in our workstation got to use them, but only under the strictest supervision for set time periods only. But then he showed it to me. And my world was never the same again.
Because there it was. The ‘Lifehouse’. A collection of bits and pieces of recovered music that had been kept safe from all countries and all times since the late 20th century, all gathered together in one place on a hidden 'dark' part of the 'Lifehouse'. They all had unusual names like  'A Quick One While He's Away' and  'Glow Girl' and  'I Can't Explain' and all sorts of unusual phrases, each full of such emotions I had never dared open myself up to before. All those desires, all those hopes, all those dreams, it was utterly overwhelming, while some even dared to speak out against the rulers of the world that made me turn scarlet as I read people actually daring to think thoughts that weren’t those of their leaders. I felt strangely ashamed and yet also rather relieved when I realised that I, too, had felt some of those feelings and thought some of those thoughts and never told anyone. Things like: 'Surely there's more to life than this?' or 'what if we were to do things differently?' or 'what if we were all equal?' or at times simply 'Why???' I got scared and asked my co-worker to turn the curious machine off right then and there and then he showed me something that made me stop in my tracks.
It was a music that caught my eye though, specifically a review dedicated to an album with the deeply unsettling name ‘Who’s Next’, an album I was told was the starting point for the whole ‘Lifehouse’ project, which soon became my favourite of all these illicit works. It was a daring name, confrontational, side taking, quietly confident that the listeners would want to follow what did come next. I was intrigued by the cover too, where four men with spookily long hair appeared to be defacing a concrete monolith, one last futile gesture of outrage against a society that had for so long tried to box them in (although according to my later researches it turned out to be a last minute desperate attempt to shoot an album sleeve when another of Keith Moon cross-dressing gags thankfully fell through and the photographer happened to spot the concrete on an English motorway while driving with the band between gigs one day - and that they later claimed to hated it even if it did look more than a little like the ‘wasteland’ outside). Extraordinary. How could people be so openly revolutionary about that? Even without the music and despite the danger I knew I was in I knew I wanted to hear and see more things like that. Despite my better instincts I was hooked.
And later I did hear more and I was never the same person ever again. So this is what I had been tantalisingly waiting to hear for all my years? I can’t describe what it felt like to hear my first song or later my first full LP, huddled around a tiny computer, afraid of being discovered but so lost in the music I didn’t care if they’d found me straight away and took me away. I began to hang out with this strange guy more and more so I could learn more and more about these strange and wonderful sounds. I once said to him that I wished that the music could be continued somehow, that we could break some few remaining instruments out of the museums they lay in gathering dust, plug them into the 'Lifehouse' and experience that joyous noise in person. And he told me that somebody had done exactly that: several centuries after the music had existed an underground radio network had suddenly sprung into life, oh so briefly and oh so brightly. They were led by an outlaw named Max who broadcast music 'live' as often as he could, re-recording it as many times as he dared while he changed locations all the time and broadcasting on analogue equipment in our digital age, whilst moving between broadcasts on his mobile buggy so that the establishment couldn't always track him down (sadly neither could we, as his broadcast range altered from night to night depending where he was). He had been inspired by a monkeynuts website dedicated to albums of music that had long since passed with the curious name of ‘Alan’s Album Archives’ none of which meant anything to me at the time, albums and archives both being long dead and names being used only by the rich and powerful. Most of the music listed on the site had long since died out too, although much of it survived including that single copy of Pete Townshend’s rock opera ‘Lifehouse’ which had inspired the site I had read, celebrating not just music but the opinions, ideas, romances, daydreams, beliefs, hopes, fears and somehow the life essence of a bunch of people who had clubbed together to create and maintain the site from all corners of the world (which of course doesn’t actually have corners, being round, and yes it turns out my instimncts were right about that too!).’Lifehouse’ became my favourite record - and his too as he played it incessantly.
I became interested in who else might be listening to the broadcasts as the same names kept being mentioned the whole while - exotic names like Slack TV, Barnacle Bum, Face Of Bo and Flufflewina - all alien monikers to me apparently chosen at random from an old defunct social media platform named twitter which became a shorthand for our 'real' names. I soon discovered that Lifehousers were made up of people all over the globe, or my work colleague said, from as far away places as Sweden, America and Skelmersdale (that last one sounded such a pretty place!), all of them trying to spread the word about what music was and what it could represent. When the recession of the early 21st century hit, you see, the Coalition in power at the time started a policy of isolationism and all the other countries eventually followed suit, leaving us a stranded island alone in the middle of the gaping sea, all borders closed. We’d never been encouraged to think about what lay on the other side of the sea so we never thought about it – but oh I thought about it now. By learning through other people and finding out what I had in common with them I also began to learn more about myself, a voyage of discovery that taught me so much more than I had learned from the junior workstation schools of my youth. And when the music talked to me, it was as if I was listening for the first time in my life to something that made sense, that I was only now doing and thinking what I should have been doing my whole life, spreading light and truth across the world as a lighthouse spreads light to those caught up on the rocks.
You see, it wasn’t just a world of music ‘Lifehouse’ opened me up to. I became obsessed with these mysterious voices writing these titbits of hidden knowledge in awe, just as I was able to imagine other countries I had never even heard of before now, less dreamt I would one day be able to talk about it in detail with the inhabitants. As time wore on and the guy at work could tell I was ‘one of them’ (ain’t it funny how we all seem to look the same?) I badgered the guy for the secrets of the technology, so that I could communicate and pass a small part of my understanding to the people out there. I hurriedly began to scribble notes on the music I found. I knew I would be in trouble if I was ever found out but I knew that I had to make my own connections with this music and pass a little tiny piece of my own self down to other people. I began to connect with the others out there, around the globe. They laughed when I told them this, told me that they had all felt like that at first, that they too were worried about who on earth would want to connect with them but that they were convinced that if enough of us showed up we could spread our ‘life essence’ and find the one universal truth that would save mankind and give us the path we were looking for.
That wasn't enough for me though: I became besotted and after Max went missing for two whole days I couldn't bear to think about the fact that he might not broadcast again. As my feelings were beginning to interfere with my work and I'd be found out anyway, I decided to sneak away, to slip away under the cover of darkness and try and unite myself with this mysterious broadcaster and see if there was any way in which I could help him. Piecing together all the clues Max had delivered in his final broadcast about the next potential position (a triangle formed around 'Abbey Road' 'Shakedown Street' and '4 Way Street', the three albums played that night) I stole a buggy and set off to find him - and through some form of telepathy or luck I did indeed find him. He was shocked at first, then defensive and in denial about who he was and what he was doing, but after quoting all of Alan's Album Archives' 'core' 101 albums in order he realised that I was who I claimed to be: a fan (a 'groupie' he called me - I slapped him, once I went away and researched what what one of those was). Even though he was so much older than me and was the only person I ever physically met from another land, we found we had everything in common: our growing sense of outrage at the system that had betrayed us and tried to silence us and pitch us against each other through random policies that played up our differences when, underneath it all, we were clearly the same as one another. Even the language barrier wasn't a barrier at all with so much out there which we had in common to share with each other, from what made us laugh to what made us cry to what made us think and almost all of it stemmed from the music. It wasn't long at all before the Lifehouse broadcasts became twice daily, the two of us taking shifts and helping each other try and send out our voice to the masses before it was too late. We thought as one, wrote as one - and eventually lived as one.
The pairing was never easy. We nearly got caught and separated so many times, with everyone telling us it was for our own 'good' (even though it clearly wasn't). We both became homesick and longed to go back to our families, usually after some minor fight about what to play next (CSN or Y?) but we persevered and we made headway. Slowly, little bit by little bit, the fans came to our broadcasts which were passed on through word of mouth just as my introduction had been. Eventually we had a following - not a strong one, not as strong as the original 'Lifehousers' would have had when this music was new and fresh and everyone was talking about it, but enough to make us feel as if we were doing good work. We even helped overthrow the Government thanks to a series of co-ordinated attacks that took down the evil Coalition down permanently, spreading news about how the evil leaders had fun with pigs, kept the disabled prisoners in their own homes or sent the unemployed through costly work programmes that achieved nothing or on endless courses designed to break their spirit. Little bit by little bit we celebrated our small successes, became elated at the small rate of progress in our own tiny part of the world and breathed new life purpose into the other as we went from one daring escapade to the other.
But it all became too much - too much of anything is too much for us these days. Though we overthrew the old Government through sabotage and truth, we couldn't do anything about the new one put in its place who came with a different name but the same old baggage. The two of us, also, began to see differences where once we had only ever seen similarities and our broadcasts became fewer and fewer as less and less people kept tuning in, disillusioned at the state of the new world we'd bequeathed them as a consequence of taking down the old one. In a way I felt ashamed: so many people had been looking up to me and yet I knew nothing more than what I'd learnt from the records I'd played and soon there were other, greater numbers of listeners writing in who were far more erudite than I. The whole 'Lifehouse' broadcast project so very nearly came to nothing. But then I realised than I still had a duty to future generations to see if they could rid themselves of this vicious circle of repeated corruption and phony leaders. Just because our generation couldn't get it together was no reason why the next one couldn't - or the one after that. After all, the music we played every night had lasted centuries with their meaning still intact - who (and indeed Who) was to say that some future successors of our selves might not get it together one day? Especially as we ourselves were carrying a member of the next generation inside us. The music was in danger of being snuffed out and we couldn't let that happen.
So we decided to invite our followers unite with us and tell us their stories, sing us their songs and read us their words - and when that wasn't enough we invited them to make their own interpretations of the songs from yesteryear we'd been playing all those years. Perhaps, dear reader, you are one of them. And that’s why I’m writing this report on behalf of the Lifehouse organisation, spending my precious allotted hour of free time on the 'Lifehouse' when our electricity supply will allow us talking to anybody out there who’s listening (now there’s a great title for a follow-up: ‘Who’s Listening’?) Our albums are picked at random, although I am very privileged to have been chosen to study my favourite work, ‘The Lifehouse’, an album that rings truer in 2171 than it must have done when The Who composed it a century ago and one ripe for all sorts of interpretations. I can’t say I’m looking forward to my next choice, ‘The Spice Girls: 75 years Of Hits’ though – why did that one out of all the records in the universe have to survive eternity intact? One day we're going to unite all these songs, combine all the things we've learnt, assimilate all the viewpoints as we can and maybe, just maybe, we'll find that one pure note that runs secretly within us all, so pure and easy. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the album that might just as well be telling our story...
Plot: It's the start of a great new adventure - as it is everyday. Max the Musician is still hopeful that if he keeps dre-discovering enough 'abandoned' music and broadcasting it to people then he'll understand how life, the universe and everything works, with one note threaded between all the songs he hears, so pure and easy...  ‘Pure and Easy’ is easily the best known of all the ‘Lifehouse’ songs that didn’t make the ‘Who’s Next’ album and sounds like a 'theme tune' of sorts with lyrics about the plot of finding the 'lost chord' and dreaming of a better future ('Lifehouse, unlike 'Tommy' or 'Quadrophenia', never had an overture or even an underture!) Fans heard this song first via the first Townshend solo album 'Who I Am' in 1971, but it's the Who’s outtake released in 1974 that caused practically all fans to think of this song as a favourite. Of all the ‘Lifehouse’ songs, this is the one that sheds most light on the concept, detailing one note or one chord that could save humanity or destroy it, depending on what we all really want in our hearts. Unlike many of the songs here this one is a hopeful composition and one clearly set in ‘our’ time, telling us that in years gone by mankind really did live in harmony with music allowing people to come together and unite and that even in the mess of the modern world he still has the power to change things for good or for ill. Max senses eternity in the ‘words’ and ‘guitar’ of the ancient music he plays over the Lifehouse which give him hope that life doesn’t have to be the way it is. Max imagines a crowd of people cheering, coming together to celebrate the sheer joy of being alive. The lyrics also touch on the idea that the further we get from the ‘source’ the more impure mankind gets, the more isolated and frustrated, as ‘all men are bored of other men’s lies’ and each has their own vision of the world around them. This is a rare song that juggles multiple human civilisations and all of humanity across time, with epochs crumbling and falling and coming and going and the tune reflects this: while there is a simple organ part that holds the song steady throughout, the melody is ever moving, twisting and turning this way and that, ebbing and flowing with each new attempt by civilisation to do something different. Throughout it all though dictatorships, democracies, societies and regimes all fall, all inadequate for that very real sense of belonging which is at the core of the human soul. This song though is the other side of the coin from ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ – mankind hasn’t been fooled yet and still has a chance to right the wrongs of past mistakes if only we can connect back with who we are, instead of who our leaders want us to be, reflected in one note pure and easy, flowing free like a breath rippling by. The middle eight, telling us that love ‘can knock down many walls’ and that happiness is open to everybody if they ‘fulfil your dreams’ rather than the dreams those around you want you to fulfil, is one of the most uplifting Who moments of them all, telling us how our future is safe and secure for humanity however horrible the generations suffer in an attempt to get there, before the song returns once more to the idea of there being ‘one note’ – that all our dreams, whatever they are, fulfilled side by side might lead to a new great chapter for humanity. The singalong infectious coda, which goes on forever on the ‘Odds and Sods’ version, is Max’s last desperate attempt to get the world to hear it’s call, repeating ‘there once was a note...listen!’ over and over, as if nagging us into submission. As you can probably tell, this song is integral to the ‘Lifehouse’ story and has left more than one reviewer shaking their head over how a song as fitting and developed as this could possibly have been left off the ‘Who’s Next’ album. Things become stranger when you learn that there are no less than three studio versions of the song knocking about (four if you count the live version from the Young Vic Theatre). The ‘Who’s Next’ bonus version is timid, obviously an early version with the band still getting to grips with the song and treating it more as a pop tune than anything (I can totally see this song as being picked as the ‘lead single’ the way  ‘Pinball Wizard’ was for ‘Tommy’). The ‘Odds and Sods’ version is the best, being much slower and more thoughtful and it has far more of the ‘polished’ sound Glyn Johns perfected for the ‘Who’s Next’ album, with much better placement in the mix between instruments. The third version is from Pete’s solo album ‘Who’s First’ and features the guitarist on lead. Without Roger’s punch, this third version is far more reflective than the other two and includes an interesting alternate ending that goes ‘excepting one note.....’, with the song dropping out to reveal just that one single keyboard line before returning to the opening ‘There once was a note...’, as if to mimic the cyclical nature of humanity. In any version, though, this is a truly mind-bogglingly gorgeous song that’s perfect for The Who, uniting so many ‘thematic threads’ on the healing power of music, the need for humanity to commune with one another and the search for identity that I think my head just exploded, the sort of graceful intellectual work that still manages to work as a glorious song even if you didn’t understand the lyrics and one of Pete Townshend’s very finest moments. With any other band this song would be celebrated as a masterpiece and one of their best-selling applauded achievements – it speaks volumes that in The Who canon ‘Pure and Easy’ exists purely as an outtake.
Plot: Preparing to broadcast again, Max gets ready and tries to be at 'one' with his audience, imagining himself speaking to one eager listener hanging on his every word – one who in the form of Mary just happens to be listening...Oh and by the way, if you’re reading this book in order congratulations because you’ve just reached our book’s infamous ‘middle song’ if you lay them all out in order. And what an apt one it is too!  ‘Gettin' In Tune’ is simpler still, Max sitting at his piano playing a note that reflects his inner turmoil and emotions and hoping that the vibrations might resonate with his listeners, if he has any. Another polemic about the power of music to connect with people like no other art form, it is a much more reduced version of the same idea, slowly growing from a cute breathy ballad into a Who production powerhouse stage by stage. The lyrics also explorte the key ‘Lifehouse’ idea that all beings have different frequencies and notes belonging to them personally and that searching gfor the right soul to spend your life with depends on finding someone who ‘resonates’ with you and with whom you can create beautiful harmonies from their blend of notes (which are rare, Max getting fed up of ‘having to say do you come here often?’) The song is also, though, about being in tune with the universe, of a Tommy-like need to listen to what is really going on without the distractions of everyday life. Each of us have days when things just work out perfectly – and others when everything seems to go wrong, as if we are out of harmony with the world for whatever reason. The resulting piece sounds like an early version of  ‘I’m One’ from ‘Quadrophenia’, both melodically and lyrically, with the narrator quietly confident in himself and finding his significant other despite the many problems he comes across and the lack of faith others have in him. There’s a metaphor about song construction going on too, with the narrator reaching out for the notes in the song simply because ‘they fit in well with the chords I’m playing’, reminding him about the harmony he feels within himself but doesn’t see in the rest of the world. Roger Daltrey is at his absolute best on this song, vulnerable and defiant all at the same time, with his voice unusually deep and sonorous on a track pitched lower than normal. The lyrics are strong too, being perhaps the best of the many ‘Lifehouse’ songs on this theme of being in harmony, but the tune’s a bit of a plodder alas and not quite up to most of the others on this album (personally I’d have released ‘Pure and Easy’ and dropped this song from ‘Who’s Next’). Everyone else in The Who are pitched slightly oddly too: Pete’s guitar and piano seem much wilder than they ought to be, John’s sour harmony vocals are that bit loud and this is surely a qunique Who song where Keith’s drum part feels a little over-played. Sadly the ‘Who’s Next’ version fades early, but an alternate take from the early ‘Lifehouse’ recording sessions with the original arrangement exists (released on the ‘deluxe’ edition) played at a slower tempo and with an absolute monster jam at the end that just runs on and on, an organ part now doubling the piano one as the track speeds up and Pete lazily plucks out some extra notes on his guitar. Alas all we have to savour now in 2071 are the official CDs (which are now certifiably unofficial, of course, having been outlawed by our beloved highness The Grand Lord Dictator Cameron).
Plot: The broadcast over, Max is on the run again and fleeing the authorities trying to stop him spread music and happiness. He escapes in his LifehouseBuggy, the transport used on the future earth to keep out the air pollution and escapes, reflecting on how much he enjoys being ‘outside’ when so many Lifehousers are trapped indoors…  ‘Goin' Mobile’ is another of ‘Lifehouse’s lesser songs and in retrospect I’m amazed that filler like this was substituted instead of, say, ‘Pure and Easy’ or ‘Join Together’. It’s a fun but not very deep song featuring Pete on lead vocal imagining himself as one of Lifehouse’s underground figures, a ‘hippy gypsy’ with transport that allows him to travel anywhere. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love this song’s central idea about travel and having everything along with you for the ride so that you never have to worry about being tied down – no joke now that we lead such a regimented existence thanks to the coalition cutting all the jobs and then making us work sweeping the streets for free. Pete’s demands to ‘keep me moving!’ are very Who-like while he seems to contradict  ‘My Generation’ as he cries to life to ‘keep me moving over fifty!’, realising that he’s going to be restless for change his whole life through, not just his adolescence. Alas though there’s something not very believable about this Beach Boys car track parody and for once The Who are using synths as weird bleeping noises in the middle section of the song (actually an ‘envelope follower’, a device a bit like a vocoder, attached to Pete’s electric guitar during the solo) rather than as a proper distinctive backing track as on ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ and ‘Baba O’Riley’. This effect does, at least, have the feeling of a totalitarian regime (sounding like a cross between a police siren and a fire engine wail) as Pete’s acoustixc guitar dodges and dives, evading the people in hot pursuit of him. The song also seems to give up a couple of verses and minutes in, until a final verse (‘I don’t care about air pollution!’) that seems tacked on. Pete’s admitted that this song was one of the ‘lighter’ pieces adapted from ‘Lifehouse’ and that it didn’t really further the plot much. Acoustic arrangements on Who songs are usually the highpoints of their albums (the later ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ being a case in point), but this acoustic arrangement track just sounds tinny, with Pete’s reedy vocal a pale copy of Roger’s at full throttle. Even this track is only poor by comparison to its siblings, however – on most earlier Who albums, this piece would still have been at least a minor gem and a strong performance from Pete, playing more or less solo with just Keith Moon’s thrashing drums to accompany him, just about rescues it as a song.
Plot: It's another boring day in Lifehouseville for Mary, who yearns to see the outside world even though she knows it's banned (admittedly, the line about 'playing the guitar' doesn't fit our plot and nor do the lines about walking down the beach; is it too late to change it forty-five years on or have we just got this one wrong?!) Anyway, every day feels the same and Mary yearns for something different...  ‘Time Is Passing’ is a curious little song that doesn’t sound much like The Who and was clearly in the ‘Lifehouse’ project more as plot-filler than a song in its own right with its country-rock stylings and reflections of boredom. Lyrically, though, this is another fine Townshend track with his writer’s eye working well, summing up in just a few lines the sheer joy of traditional family life used here as a distant evocative memory – exactly the sort of thing that was dying out when this song was written in 1971 and is long gone now. It makes me nostalgic for a time I don’t really believe ever really happened, with the narrator idly walking by the sea and getting drunk at a family gathering, safe in the knowledge that he is loved and that wasting time, if it was a pleasure, is never truly wasted. The country-ish backing doesn’t suit this song or the band, however, though having said that the track does come alive for the chorus which is full of yet more ‘Lifehouse’ imagery. This time around the ad hoc music that the family make in their backyard during the narrator’s flashback is a metaphor for the harmony they feel and in the present day the narrator knows that ‘only by this music’ – with feelings running well between him and his loved ones – can he find freedom. Things get even more eerie by the end, with ‘dead men in their graves’ desperate to return to earth to find the delights they all but threw away at the time without really noticing. Alas all of that community gets lost ‘beneath the waves’ as a new tidal pull of societal change make people scared of family and brotherhood and their own laughter. However, the great thing about music is that it lasts as a memory, recalling happier times when life was closer to rthe source of that mystical ‘one note’. Between ourselves I could have done without the ‘sea’ filled imagery in the second verse, though, which is far more effective when re-written as  ‘Sea and Sand’ on the next Who album ‘Quadrophenia’. ‘Time Is Passing’ is, ironically enough, little more than time-passing filler given the other great songs on the ‘Lifehouse’ project (and is one of the few songs they were right to drop from ‘Who’s Next’), but it is important to the plot and has a certain charm about it nevertheless.
Plot: There's a dark side to living life on the run as Max wonders if he really is right to defy the authorities so. He yearns for someone to keep him on the straight and narrow and tell him when he's 'wrong' while keeping him away from 'evil' pills... No such worries about  ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, one of the most devastatingly moving songs on the whole Lifehouse internet. Pete is meant to have written the track very much with ‘Lifehouse’ in mind, with the segue between the sweet and innocent opening and the hard, nasty tag mirroring the idea that the ‘Lifehouse’ one chord trick can be used for humanity’s good or ill, depending on what the majority of us think. But unlike some of these other songs it works equally well as a stand alone song and a believable one at that – indeed, Roger Daltrey was apparently overwhelmed when he first heard this song because Pete was, as he so often did, writing about the world through ‘his eyes’ and he felt the song very personally as his pal finally understanding his scarred background and former bullying nature (Pete’s eyes are brown you see and Roger’s are blue; It’s also common knowledge that Roger’s teenage years were a bit – shall we say – wayward and only the success of The Who calmed him down from being the tearaway he was). Roger is, in many ways, the perfect case study: Daltrey has often admitted that were it not for The Who he’d have ended up down the ‘wrong path’ in some criminal gang and probably prison long ago, because that’s what happened to people born where he was and made to act ‘tough’ in fear of getting beaten up. Pete acknowledges this, but also how angelic and good Roger could be and is when life heads down a different path. Early Roger is fated to ‘telling only lies’, but he only acts as if his conscience is ‘empty’ – really he feels everything so deeply, still haunted by dreams of how his life could be different and of a time when true feelings can be of ‘love’ not turned into ‘vengeance’. In terms of ‘Lifehouse’ this song is about people breaking away from the idea of a community, where when things go wrong ‘I blame you’ and people rely on each other for the wrong reasons, demanding a coat when they have made themselves shiver from the darker side of life themselves or sticking your fingers down someone’s throat when they have ingested too many pills.The three part harmonies of Roger, Pete and John at the start are simply gorgeous, showing a distinct CSN influence and an enveloping warmth that is missing from most of this deliberately cold and detached sounding record, with Roger’s lead part surely his very best of all, wrapping itself warmly round John’s bass and Pete’s acoustic guitar. It’s the perfect summary of that numb feeling when you’re past caring who you are or what people think of you after one hurt too many with a sound that could either be ice-cold or warm and felt too deeply all at once. Many Who songs are built on contrasts, but ‘Blue Eyes’ switch between the needy first section and the angry, out of control second is pure genius, The Who lulling you into thinking that they are going to stay vulnerable for a whole song before demonstreating that, actually, this sense of distance with the outside world is what causes the anger and frustration of most of their songs. This sudden violent section is the only part the world sees though, the narrator turning from set-upon victim into an aggressive monster who refuses to be hurt – cause and effect if you will. If only someone had played this song to the Coalition when they started all that bogus talk about the lower dregs of society – this is true evidence of how far a person can be pushed before he snaps. After all, the narrator is asking an unseen person to stabilise him in an up-and-down world (possibly the love interest in the ‘Lifehouse’ story; more likely Meher Baba again in terms of inspiration), holding him back when he wants to fight, calming him down when he feels elated and even sticking their fingers down his throat when he takes too many drugs. We all need a protector, nowadays more than ever, and this song sums up that dichotomy between acting on our overpowering emotions and not having any at all perfectly. The result is one of The Who’s most powerful, thoughtful songs, poignant and profound and with a scary beauty they never quite recapture as well again, floating mid-air like a drunk about to let out a swing at someone but secretly hoping that someone will stop them.
Plot: More doubt. Max is pleased to see the 'Lifehousers' responding on the illegal part of the 'grid' but he's frustrated that they only understand him on one layer when really he's made up of several 'notes'. The same goes for Mary, who knows she's due for more in life than the humble, narrow existence society has mapped out for her as she hears another song she deeply identifies with... Enter  ‘I Don’t Even Know Myself’. Many fans don’t seem to like this song, which did see release at the time but only as the B-side of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, but they’ve got cloth ears if you ask me – this very personal song of confusion is a great attempt at updating the first Who single  ‘I Can’t Explain’ for an older audience and its lyrics are among some of the best Pete ever wrote on his favourite theme. The song isn’t obviously a ‘Lifehouse’ era song, although its sentiments do tie in well with the confusion heard in ‘Naked Eye’, with a narrator who should be happy and contented, but patently isn’t, confused as to where he fits into a world he can’t comprehend. The song does date back earlier than most of the other songs here, being performed in concert as long ago as 1970 (you can hear a cracking version of it at the band’s Isle Of Wight show that year) and some of the lyrics would probably have been changed had the song made it to the originally planned two-disc version of ‘Lifehouse’ (especially the last, revealing verse that finds Pete agonising how to follow up his greatest triumph with the line ‘Tommy’ is the way I’m staying – and no one will ever know it!’) However, it still fits like a glove on a concept album about people hiding up their ‘real’ selves, the narrator admitting that he’s frightened beneath all his bluster and dismissive of those who write him off for being a Wholigan when he’s really just a messed up kid looking for love. Like many of Pete’s best songs, ‘Myself’ features a narrator whose outer confidence masks an inner turmoil, mimicked by the arrangement which varies from straightforward rocker to country and western as if it isn’t quite sure what sort of song this wants to be either, with the main character pleading to his creator that he doesn’t mind being unhappy sometimes as that’s a part of living – but why does he have to carry this empty feeling around with him all the time? The moment when this track suddenly becomes a full-on charging Who song though (‘Do you remember me? I don’t remember you!’) is well worth the wait, with the sudden charge of John and Keith in tandem before Roger unleashes one of his best screams (‘I’m just trying to fight my way out of this dream!’) is superb. Even with so many similar songs in his back catalogue, this track brings out the best in Pete’s observations as a writer too, with the character finding that the life he’d been aiming for for so many years is actually false and vapid by the time he gets there. Only one line lets this song down – the rather unconvincing ‘come on all of you big boys, come on all of you elves, don’t pretend that you know me when I don’t even know myself’, a line that presumably would have been changed unless Pete was seriously thinking about adding some, err, elfin types to his film script for ‘Lifehouse’! Even so, dig that melody which spends the whole song wandering around the chords in search of a home and yet ends up at the end as lost and confused as it ever was when it started. For once, though, Pete’s unreleased demo is better, navigating the different sections rather better with just two guitar parts and a piano to get it out of trouble.
Plot: Apparently the original intention for this song is Mary's farmer parents escaping their rural paradise for the bright lights of London. However that doesn't fit with anything else I've heard so, erm, err, umm, after a lot of thought it's Mary be-crying her loneliness and the 'teenage wasteland' that means she'll never be 'whole’ with her peers, feeling as dis-connected to them as she does. [126 ] 'Teenage Wastleland' would presumably have been replaced at some stage with 'Baba O'Riley' given that the two start off with the exact same lyric. However musically there are so many differences between them and given that Pete often liked to give his concept albums a ‘repeat motif’ we’re going to stick both songs here – perhaps woith the idea that one is Mary yearning to escape to a new world and one is her parents out looking for her? The opening verse is the same, but it's sung to a mournful and slow piano backing, similar to 'The Song Is Over', rather than the defiant robotic chords of it's successor. While the ‘famous’ version is much more like The Who’s normal frustration turning to violence, this version is so much slower and sadder, Mary stuck in one place as she’s forced to ‘get my back into my living’. The 'don't cry, don't raise your eye' middle eight is present too, but as a slow, depressive refrain rather than a song of frustration and power. The rest of the song is quite different and more like a track from 'Quadrophenia' as a wannabe hip teen worries that he lacks the right dress-code to be 'cool' and is fed up of the fact that his peers get to live somewhere posh and ‘we sleep together in a caravan’. I suspect this bit might be from the dad’s point of view as he too feels hemmed in, condemned to being an ‘ordinary man’. There are more plot points too relating to the original idea of Mary's family as farmers ('Hey you, don't work on the turnips!') and the fact that they live in a 'caravan' that's 'goin' mobile'. However the best moment is a part that suddenly kicks into a Daltrey type scream with the plea that ‘grief ain’t gonna break my heart!’ With so much talent passing her by, there’s nothing left for Mary and the other teenagers to do except get ‘wasted’, a very Who pun on why people take to addictions to fill a hole they can’t fill with anything meaningful in their lives. The song isn't quite as 'special' as 'Baba O'Riley' and wouldn’t have had anything as like the same impact, but even in this early different it's a quite beautiful and moving song about alienation, isolation and desperation as Mary tries not to ‘raise her eye’ and cry. It is also very much growing on me as I get used to the idea of the tune going in a different direction and there would certainly have been enough room on the album for two versions had Pete wanted it that way.
Plot: Ditto (this being virtually the same song).  ‘Baba O’Riley’ was the first track I heard and its strange impersonal bleeps rang so true with my own impression of the mechanical, unchanging world I lived in. Other Lifehousers had noted before me that this five minute track was originally part of a much bigger, longer track that erupted into the song proper only after several minutes of austerity, erupting into song only after the tune had found no other way out of its self-contained prison. But oh when the song erupted, when the original Lifehouser referred to as Roger Daltrey came screaming in with the first verse (I picked these colloquialisms up from the other Lifehousers) my head nearly exploded. Such a build up of tension had gone into the song that hearing this cold synthesiser erupting into the warmth of human emotion I thought had been long since dead was moving indeed. That synthesiser part was the main difference from the previous version, an incredible invention where as far as I can tell the recording of the world’s first digital synth becomes the perfect cold and unfeeling backdrop for such a warm song full of rage and need. The twin strands of DNA conjured up by Meher Baba’s ‘note’ (as Pete interpreted them) and the sort of pulsing keyboard swirls perfected by synthesiser pioneer Terry O’Riley combine to make a thrilling mathematical pattern that’s truly hypnotic (especially on the ten minute instrumental version released on one of Pete’s Meher Baba albums). The tired but unthinking worker, putting his back into living, suddenly realises just why he’s alive and what life is about, but he can’t communicate it to those around him (a common Townshend theme as I discovered later). The song erupts into yet another stage when something I’m reliably informed is an electric guitar comes crashing in for the second verse, lifting the song to yet another level and sounding like the very essence of human spirit railing against the cold, hard, mechanical world it found itself in. The attack doesn’t work though – despite his Hurculean effort the singer seems to tire, the song drops down and still that synthesiser beat carries ever onwards, broken only by the tired, defeated middle eight ‘don’t cry, don’t raise your eye, it’s only teenage wasteland’. The very words of this song chimed with our situation, the idea of ‘teenage wasteland’ with so much potential left unused and no chance to ever make anything of it, becoming just another nameless worker in a maze of human workers, an isolated note in a chorus of noise that just didn’t get heard or allowed to live to its fullest potential. There’s hope in the third verse, though, with the singer imploring us all to ‘get together before we get much older’, uniting in our need to all be of one chord (a battle cry turned into a full song that will be dealt with later on) and the introduction of Lifehouses’ sub-plot, a romantic journey taken by the narrator and ‘Sally’ (surely to be replaced by Mary if Lifehouse had been finished?) across ‘Southern Lands’ in search of the mysterious figure uniting everybody with the music pouring out of the Lifehouse. The song then ended on a last battle-cry, with the song’s riff joined by a far more human sounding fiddle player (guest Dave Arbus of the band ‘East Of Eden’), busking and improvising his way through the song’s many twists and turns fighting the system that traps it, the equal of its cold ticking mechanical heart until an epic race to the finish where the song gets faster and faster until both sides in the war crumple to a heap at the end, both destroyed (a mirror of what will happen to the worn out revolutionaries who just want comfort by the end of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’). I remember asking my new Lifehouse friends what the curious title was about and was told that it may have originated from Townshend’s early ideas for the album, when he was still intending to ‘re-intrepret’ all the members of The Who’s concert audience into sound and basing songs around their DNA or ‘life essence’. The song we have here is a combination of synthesiser pioneer Terry O’Riley, whose experimental work inspired this track’s lolloping synth licks and Townshend’s spiritual ‘guru’ Meher Baba, whose talk of peace as the only solution for humanity and not worrying about human frailties struck a chord with many Who fans too in the 60s and 70s. If rock and roll is at its heart the sound of ordinary gfeeling human feelings fighting against a cold rigid system then ‘Baba O’Riley’ must rate as one of the finest rock songs of them all and this is a track that has everything – power and purpose and fight yet still stumbling against a brick wall. It is also the single best use of synthesisers in the musical world everywhere – everyone else will use them for colour, noise or because its in ‘fashion’ but here The Who use it because there isn’t anything else that could possibly sum up this song’s fight against the unmoving concrete monolith of life as well.
Mary's been listening to 'Lifehouse' for a while now and wants things to change; she's obsessed with Max's broadcasts about uniting together and changing the world for the better and thinks it is time to stop talking and start doing...  ‘Let’s See Action’ is a single released after the event that was intended for ‘Lifehouse’ – although, interestingly Pete released a slightly superior version on his solo album ‘Who’s First’ in 1971, a year before most Who fans heard it. The ‘Lifehouse’ era is also the peak period for the interaction between Pete and Roger and few songs ever use their different styles as well as this one does. Roger’s aggressive desire to get involved in what he thinks will help society tempered by Pete’s more reflective philosophical section, commenting on religious imagery (that theme of water as redemption washing us clean crops up again here and will be used endlessly on ‘Quadrophenia’). This is notable in the plot as the Lifehousers all agree on change but disagree on the best way to do it: those who have been in the fight for a long time are tired and just want to live on the outskirts of society but the newer members like Mary want to doverthrow the regime and bring peace to everyone. Her elders, though, know how many people will be hurt if that’s what they do. The dichotomy between the two singers is powerful, as a double-tracked Roger is left literally chasing his own tail, powerless to move, Pete having already played his future out by poiunding revolutionary stages like a clown. The answer is another typically glorious period ‘round’ in which the lyrics all bleed into each other in a ccycle that can never be broken, Pete singing that ‘nothing is everything is nothing is everything is…’ over and over, before the band version sadly fades right there (Pete’s superior demo carries this magical moment on for a further thrilling two minutes). The idea seems to be that, no matter what we do as individuals, it will never be big enough to affect the world view in the way we want – and yet, at the same time, any small change in outlook makes a subtle difference to the world we live in. It’s a sobering thought I’ve pondered on many times during my slave labour under the Coalition and makes for a fine if unusual pop song that deserved to do so much better than #16 when released as as single, one of the most important Who songs that only true fans know.
Plot: Mary plucks up the courage to head out of her safe, protected life and meet Max. He’s overjoyed – he didn’t knowanyone was listening to him and at last he feels that his messages must be working if he has touched someone enough for her to risk her life and escape the Coalition. He falls in love...One of the most obscure songs from 'Lifehouse' – a track that doesn’t seem to exist except as part of a very lovely Townshend demo – is also one of my favourites. The ultimately abandoned and unloved [129 ] 'Mary' is, you see, one of the loveliest love songs Pete ever wrote. You can tell the songf means a lot to its author if only because he re-uses his tender acoustic playing that has run through everything since  ‘Pinball Wizard’, warm and tender compared to the alienation at the heart of many of Lifehouse’s songs. 'You are everything a man could want - and I want you Mary' is the refrain, while later lyrics have the narrator remain amazed at the amount of sacrifices she's made to be with him and the 'holes in her coat' or ‘Lifesuit’ despite the poisonous radiation outside. One interesting addition to the plot that doesn’t seem to have been picked up on anywhere else is that the pair used to be friends before Lifehouse separated their worlds: Mary is shocked that the voice she has been listening to is someone she used to know and Max remembers being a child and knowing her. The 'broadcaster' remembers being 'pushed away' because their similarities and their bond was too strong and their telepathy too scary, but vowed that one day ‘I’d land me Mary!’and suddenly his dream has come true. A nice acoustic opening similar to  'I'm One', suddenly grows into a bigger, electric song that would have sounded great with John and Keith playing at full power (though as always Pete's basic version of both parts is pretty stunning), before the song opens out into the flashy acoustic strumming that will end up in  'Who Are You' eight or so years later. A lovely song, this one deserved an 'official' release much sooner than the 2000 'Lifehouse Chronicles' box set. The broadcaster also realises just how lucky he is because 'the sun doesn't shine on every man', leading him to sing...
Plot: Contemplating his rough-shod existence, Max figures that all the dangers he's been through and all the risks have been worth it just to reach this one, truly magical being... Just as the song fades away in comes one of the most mournful licks I’ve ever heard played on a beautiful pedal steel guitar - and I’ve heard quite a few now, I’ve become obsessed with music these past few years – on a track called  ‘Bargain’. It's a fantastic assimilation of everything The Who stands for tied up into four majestic minutes that’s one of the very best things the band ever did. Musically the verses are The Who of old, running down everything in its path at 100 miles an hour with the band on classic rock interplay form and no fan of their early brash-worthy singles will be disappointed by it. Yet lyrically, peeking behind that front, this track is an uncharacteristically vulnerable love song, acknowledging that the narrator’s hard-done-by, hateful past is worth it just for the small amount of love he feels he is getting in the present. I’d never known what it was like to ‘yearn’ for anything, seeing as all of my life had been pre-planned for me on an hourly basis, but this song said so much whilst saying so little that it soon became one of my favourites. When it gets going this song becomes a typical Who rocker, angry loud and defiant, listing all the macho things the narrator will put up with to win his love and its impressive, with one of the best group performances on the record. The theme of human life being as easily converted to badness as goodness is another key Lifehouse theme, with both sides distilled into the proverbial soup of human conduct and life. It was the middle eight that broke my heart, however, with the song pulled back to reveal such a naked, vulnerable heart with the narrator admitting that he’s nothing without the love of his life there to guide him, pleading with her to get things back to the way they used to be. The moment when Pete tells us, fragiliy stepping out from behind Roger's angry sneer, how he’s ‘worth nothing without you’, is perhaps the single most moving thirty seconds in the Who’s canon, with Pete’s vulnerable vocal on this passage saying everything that Roger’s powerhouse of a character just can’t admit. One Lifehouser, whose comments were used in a book about the band, also equates it with the search of identity in a world of conformity, with the loved one giving the narrator the confidence he needs to stick his neck out and be himself, a concept that fits the original Lifehouse story about how human beings need other people well. The song then melts back into that aching pedal steel lick from earlier now played on a cold-hearted synthesiser suddenly turned warm, before the song rights itself back into its earlier rockier self. The result is an impressive combination that shows off the best sides of both The Who’s work – the sheer noisy directness and take-no-prisoners wall of sound that’s brittle and tough and the vulnerability underneath it all, the need to be loved and understood that underpins all these tough songs about frustration (it is very like the ending to ‘Tommy’ in fact and that’s no bad thing). Everything about this track is perfect, from John Entwistle’s ever-restless bass riff that seems to be doing its own ‘pleading’ throughout the song, running up and down the chords looking for a way out to Roger Daltrey’s defiant vocal to Keith Moon’s thrashing wild drums that still leave enough space for the sadness to peek in to, best of all, Townshend’s simply beautiful guitar-work that is full of such unspoken desire it’s hard not to cry. The balance of this track - the chaos contained within such a simple, direct tune – spoke to me vividly and I know its spoken of by many at The Lifehouse as summing up what they felt about going through half their lives on auto-pilot before discovering this world of emotions which mean so much to them that they would have gone through anything to find it. The song is clearly Baba-inspired as well (the 'you' in the song - this is on face value a love song but it's really a double-layered track about spiritualism too, in as much as George Harrison's best solo work was written for God as much as his wife of the time); as Pete put it in period concerts 'if you're alive right now you're getting a bargain' - there's no worries about what might come in the future, no doubts about what might go wrong, no guilt about the past, just acceptance and gratefulness for being alive and the chance to make his voice count in the pantheon of noise that is modern life. The Who are stretching their sound greatly on this album, making the listener fill in the gaps about what’s really going on in the heads of the various narrators, and none of these special tracks are more fleshed out than this perfect compromise between heavy rocker and subtle ballad which is also beautifully mixed – Glynn John’s work on ‘Who’s Next’ was rightly applauded but this is the song that deserves the accolades the most, with a perfect balance between roar and squeak. The result is a bargain, no matter how many deluxe editions we have to fork out for, one of the best I ever had. Who says love songs have to be sissy? Not The Who, that’s Who!
Plot: The pair have been together for a while now and are still very much in love, which ain't for keeping ya all!...The finished version of [131a] ‘Love Ain’t For Keeping’ was vastly inferior, I felt, to an outtake a Lifehouser had found buried on a curious titled collection of Who recordings named ‘Odds and Sods’. On that version Pete takes the lead for a fiery, raw rocker that uses its lyrics about the narrator being overwhelmed by the beauty of life around him as a musical metaphor for lust on which his guitar work and that of guest Leslie West is particularly strong. Listen out too for a largely instrumental coda that merely underlines the addictive nature of events for the narrator. The ‘finished’ version is a much more laid back acoustic country-rocker with Roger on lead and music that seems much more suited to celebrating the joys of family life, with the opening evocative lines about ‘new mown grass’ (whatever that might be – I only know about concrete in my dystopian universe) sounding casual and innocent rather than lewd as before as a couple escape the rain just long enough to enjoy the sun in the sky and the sensation of being alive and together (note too the ‘Lifehouse’ references to pollution and ‘black ash’ which the lovers blatantly ignore – was this meantg to be another plot point that got forgotten?) I was especially taken by the harmonies on the instrumental middle section in both versions - when I found out that that’s what they were – which were truly lovely and did much to rubbish some of the things I had heard said about The Who on ‘Lifehouse’ that they were a band that couldn’t do subtlety or beauty.After all, this song just aches beauty, the moment of grace when you have at last found the person you love more than any other and that you can at last combine your two fragile personal worlds as a glorious one. The babies are asleep, the work is all done and your responsibilities have been fulfilled, leaving you nothing to do except to enjoy each other’s company – another very baba-ish song about the thrill of living in the moment and counting your blessings. The result is a short but thrilling hymn to how wonderful it can be to be alive with a family of your own and the wonderfulness of love, which came as a shock to me in our times when relationships are prepared for you from birth, two notes combined and entwirled together. Why, I’ve even heard that in the past those of different classes even got to fall in loved with each other when the occasion allowed! How strange!
The time of unity is at hand, with Mary and Max convinced that they have enough material ready to broadcast to bring down the Government and unite the masses against them. For that, though, they need listeners to pass on what they've been hearing, even if it ultimately takes generations to fully be realised... The beating heart of ‘Lifehouse’ was the last song to be released from the project for years – as the third standalone single in 1972,  ‘Relay’. A more typically Who-like song than some others on the album, it is all about the power that people have when they come together rather than work alone, each extra point of view chipping away the harder corners of someone’s point of view until you get true democracy and something that benefits the most amount of people at any one time. Of course, most of the fans who heard the song as a single probably just enjoyed it as a typical Who style rock song, a sequel rather than prequel to ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ where ‘somethjing’s brewing’ and it needs word from the people on the street to pass the feeling of revolution on. The lyrics focus on the idea that, despite the status quo and the forces in power each generation, there will always be those on the fringes who understand the real ‘truth’ and essence in life (that one chord idea yet again) and that they in turn will pass those ideas down to the next generation in a kind of never-ending relay race. The trick is to get your word about how life should ‘really’ be alongside the people who live in the same ironclad institutions so that at least some hope will exist for the human race. The tune is fast and frantic, as if the Who know that they’re influence among the young is fading fast now that the 1970s are in full swing or in the context of ‘Lifehouse’ that the authorities could discover Max and Mary at any time. A strange choice as a single, this largely one note song could have benefitted from one of the band’s typically wistful Pete-sung middle eights to break up the pace a little bit and this is the weakest use of period synthesiser after ‘Goin’ Mobile’, but the lyrics alone make this a fine entry into The Who canon.
Plot: Everybody does come together and thanks to Max and Mart's broadcasts know where to meet and when, discovering to their joy that they can leave their homes and mingle. After all, there are far too many of them to arrest en masse... ‘Join Together’ follows on neatly, being the second standalone single released in 1972 and a surprising absentee from ‘Who’s Next’.To get the most out of this song you truly have to understand it as the pay-off to the whole piece: after being in isolation for most of their lives, Max and Mary are overjoyed to see people turning out and mingling in a communal area in defiance of the people who want to keep humanity apart because they are dangerous when they get together. This being The Who the most uniting thing in the world is music, Max urging people everywhere to come out of their hiding places and ‘join together with the band’. Even though it is as trick The Who had done a few times before, most notably at the end of ‘Tommy’, it works particularly well here as The Who become the source of identity for those who don’t have one and a voice for those who are powerless to say things themselves. The theme is that we are much more powerful when we work together than against each other and again the thrill here is hearing reformed school bully Roger using the words of his old victim to declare that he doesn’t care a fig for differenceds, ‘what you read or what you wear’ – all you need to belong is a need to belong. Though for some fans this is a pale re-tread of  ‘See Me, Feel Me’ it is the perfect turning point for ‘Lifehouse’, turning a dictatorship into a democracy with the power of nothing more than rock and roll. The tune borrows heavily from The Beatles’ ‘All You Need Is Love’ and its sentiments are similar, asking for everyone in the Lifehouse audience to join with the band as they attempt to discover the ‘one true note’. The lyrics are better than that makes it sound, though, with Roger screaming that there are no prejudices or categories as far as the band are concerned – they just want their audience to be themselves and add their ‘power’ or ‘persona’ to the music the band is creating, to be ‘fed’ into their machine so we can discover the one note that unites us all. The arrangement of this song is quite an experiment for The Who and might be why this catchy track didn’t sell better, featuring a long drawn in opening that doesn’t sound much like The Who at all and two mouthorgans from Roger. The tension leading into the first verse is incredinly powerful and is only finally punctured by an all out Who attack with Pete on especially good form playing one of his better guitar solos. The result is so powerful that I want to get up from my workstation and join them, getting my fellow workers to come along too, even though I know it will lead me into so much trouble. The only slight problem with this song is that, unlike ‘See Me, Feel Me’, the song has nowhere to go and it shrinks by the end rather than peaks. Even so, that’s because it isn’t quite the end of the story yet, with lesser writers ending things there but Pete more interested in exploring what happens to fill the vacuum of totalitarian regimes…Another much under-rated song.
Plot: The Government are overthrown (yep, just like that - maybe they had an EU referendum that wiped them out too?) so why aren't Max and Mary happy? Well, after years in isolation there are just too many people to look after and too much fame...  ‘Too Much Of Anything’ is a sweet little sermon from Meher Baba via Pete Townshend and Lifehouse’s characters about what happens next once a Government have been opposed. As with ‘Love Ain’t For Keeping’ writ large, to lead a successful and happy life we have to lead a balance – enough work but not too much, rest but not too much, lots of love but not to the point where it’s restrictive, etc. This song suffers from the opposite problem to most of these ‘Lifehouse off-cuts’, sporting a lovely yearnful melody but a rather boring production that sounds more like the solo Daltrey records I found on an obscure internet site I found one night when the powers that be weren’t looking and some weaker lyrics than usual for this period. There some nice moments too though on this song which had an unlikely inspiration – a newspaper report about a man who died from drinking too much orange juice, something that in the right quantities is good for you but which taken to excess can kill. In a repeat of ‘Tommy’ A weary Pete, now twenty-one, discusses how his hands have felt a lot and his eyes have seen a lot and his brain has thought a lot but that so much of it have been wasted, seeing and feeling and thinking without healing any of it the way human beings should to live a fulfilled life. There’s an interesting verse that doesn’t seem to belong to ‘;Lifehouse’ at all as Roger sings how he ‘can’t remember before ’49 though I know that ’48 was there; Pete would have been four in 1949, the age when most human beings start recording memories. The inference seems to be that we only really live when we learn things through trial and error and learn through our mistakes (or perhaps that because he was ‘living in the moment’ as a babgy and toddler the narrator was trfuly happy back then). I had to laugh at Pete’s own comments I found on an old website full of rock music quotes too: discussing how this song is anti-excess of any sort, Pete adds: ‘Realising at the last minute how totally hypocritical it would be for a load of face-stuffing drug-addicted alcoholics like us to put this out, we didn’t’. The Who obviously felt something for this simple little track, however, recording at least two different arrangements of it – the first, released on ‘Odds and Sods’, is lumpy and uncoordinated but the second, released as a bonus track on the ‘Who’s Next’ album is quite exquisite at times, with the band gelling particularly nicely on the harmonies. The result is a real grower: over-shadowed by noisier, more immediate songs from the period, after many years you find yourself yearning for this song’s quiet simplicity.
Plot: Just as with the end of 'Tommy', the fame goes to the couple's heads and soon Max and Mary are cynically demanding money from their followers to fund their new society before they 'wake up' and realise that the music didn't teach them to act like 'Gods' but to 'mirror' their fellow human beings... Debate rages about  ‘Put The Money Down’ – chronologically the only recording we know about belongs to the ‘Quadrophenia’ project, although some fans argue that Pete had written the song for use in the ‘Lifehouse’ project when it was still a double record and that he only recorded it later, with this piece almost always mentioned in listings for ‘Lifehouse’ (although it is notable by its absence from ‘Lifehouse Chronicles’). In some ways it fits, especially here when the Lifehouse heroes are in danger of becoming every bit as corrupt as those they have overthrown – however this song’s laidback cynical bark feels very out of place if you do listen to all the ‘Lifehouse’ songs together. It’s a slow, blues song more akin to the slow-burning covers the band were playing in their seminal ‘Live At Leeds’ days (not that I know what a ‘Leeds’ or a ‘university’ are by the way – although according to one ‘Lifehouse’ scholar Leeds is a place that used to exist somewhere in segment 43 of Great Britain and a university is a place of learning, closed by the coalition Government after riots by students over tuition fees). Roger tries his best to put his stamp on the song with a vocal recorded later especially for ‘Odds and Sods’ in 1974. Two and a half years after the backing track, but there’s not much here for him to get his teeth into except bark that ‘before I walk on the water, put the money down!’ My guess is that by 1971, after seven years of constant touring, the need to create and be poure and ‘real’ and honest versus the need to make money by endless touring and performing the same songs over and over again were really taking their toll. After all, few rock and roll bands came close to lasting that long at the time – most bands had broken up by now, jaded and insecure long before seven years were up. It wouoldn’t surprise me if Pete was equating what happens to rock bands (all that brotherly love, celebrating similarities and a shared enemy in the system) with what happens to political parties by the end (where the differences end up driving everyone apart once victories have been won and everyone becomes stuck repeating themselves and things that used to work but no longer do, while getting repeatedly sick of spending time round the same faces all the time). There’s a curiously long fade out too – most of the ‘Lifehouse’ songs end too quickly and could have benefitted from being longer (yes, even the nine minute ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’) but not this one, alas, which drags badly. Still, I’ll come out and say it: this track feels as if it belongs to me and is a core part of Lifehouse’s last quarter.
Plot: What's more, the 'new' Government that's been elected on promises of freedom and fairness are just as bad as the old regime, meaning that Max and Mary have ultimately changed nothing and are even being blamed for the continued suffering. No wonder this song ends with a scream... Surely the most famous moment from ‘Lifehouse’, so daring is  ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ it made me gasp out loud when I first heard it and it never fails to impress me on repeated listening. Certainly, it was the best known song from the album in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, taken as a rallying call against anyone in power and trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Out of context it’s just a Damn good rock and roll song – one that fights with power and anger for eight precious minutes over a classic cunrching riff and more throbbing synthesiser pulses back when the sound was new, only to end up in a scream and with a hangover, nothing ultimately changed after all. In context it’s the perfect semi-ending, as humanity goes back round in cycles, robbed once again of the chance to live a pure lifestyle under a regime that allows everyone to be themselves. The sad fact is that humanity just can’t sustain these ideas en masse – there will always be too many people polluting and corrupting the system and the best way of fighting it is not to take a regime down and leave a vacuum that’s unfillable but to ‘pick up my guitar and play’ and educate people as to how it doesn’t always need to be like this, to gain smaller kinder changes that make life worth living. Pete has said that this song, when heard as part of ‘Lifehouse’, is meant as a warning to the characters in the Lifehouse world that people trying to do good aren’t as straightforwardly heroes or villains as they make themselves out to be and comes with a sarcasm and bite missing from most of the rest of the work. This rallying cry of wild mayhem and fury, then, is actually at heart a song about being cautious. Very Who! Hmmm....I don’t care if this song came out in 1971 either – it’s definitely about the fabled villain Nick Clegg, the two headed monster our forefathers warned us about who sold out some mighty fine sounding principles in return for power. The killing lines about the masses swallowing the spiel given to them by each man in power across history, ‘we know that the hypnotised never lie’, is absolutely devastating, especially Pete’s plea after Roger’s nastiest line ‘do yer?’ All he can do, though, is peek out from behind the voice of the mainstream with the odd aside, as the institutions are just too big to break on their own. ‘The world looks just the same and history aint’ changed’ Roger smirks, telling us how people recycle the banners used ‘in the last war’ and how everyone gets back to business as usual, ‘smiling and grinning’ while the musicians have to go back to work fighting a whole new corrupt system over again. Everything about this song is leading us to be cynical and question everything around us – quite fitting for a hit single that sounds so completely different to the normal run of things (the lengthy running time, senselessly chopped when released as a single and taking out most of the good bits – particularly the glorious double-tracked Townshend guitar solo - and the uncompromising lyrics back in the days when all songs were about love in one form or another). This song is a close cousin too of ‘Baba O’Riley’ back where we nearly began with nothing changed, the same pulse of emotional electric instruments thrashing about against a cold harsh landscape of synths that just won’t be altered or stopped. The Who sound magnificent here, with some of Keith’s greatest drumming, Roger’s most devastating lead vocals and some thrilling cat-and-mouse bass from John that leads this song to physically dance, weaving and dodging the bullets from the synthesiser’s pull, but its that guitar burst that haunts you long after the song has stopped playing, a fight that can never be won. When the song drops out unexpectedly in the middle, leaving Pete to thrash wildly at a half-chord as if in defeat, it sounds like the world coming to an end and that those in power have truly won. The band soon hit into the song again, though, starting with Roger’s classic scream, but this whole ninety second coda isn’t about rallying the troops – it’s about how the whole of humanity is doomed to this same cycle. The only words in the whole of this second section is ‘meet the new boss – the same as the old boss’ - a chilling reminder that no matter how hard we fight, no matter how well intentioned the leaders of a successful revolution, power, corruption and the complexities of running a stabilised country will always suck in those who try to rule. The result ias a truly gloriously perfect song, exactly hat the world needed in 1971 and here in 2071, post-Brexit and Trump, a reminder that life really is a choice of voting in the less evil of two lessers rather than the lesser of two evils, an obvious hit song that also played a key role in the ‘Lifehouse’ concept, an ugly pay-off that re-writes and utterly improves on Tommy’s song  ‘Welcome’. Listen to this again in the context of what the Coalition have done in the sixty years since 2010 and then tell me The Who didn’t have a time machine...
Plot: Even the unbreakable bond between Max and Mary is being tested. On the surface they're still the 'golden couple' playing up to their role - but secretly 'it don't really happen that way at all'... ‘Naked Eye’ is the ‘Lifehouse’ song with the longest gestation, having started life as an improvisation played at the dend of  ‘My Generation’ across the 1970 tour as heard on ‘Life At Leeds’. Back then it was The Who’s troiumphant goodbye to the audience – but by the time it appears on album here it is a less than triumphant goodbye to someone you love, a song of personal failure. ‘Naked Eye’ fits the ‘Lifehouse’ concept well, though, with some very hard hitting lines about the loss of communication and respect between two people, with a relationship that seems cosy from the outside but crumbles when held up close to the ‘naked eye’, two notes that are out of tune and harmony with each other. Roger and Pete trade lines on this track, leading many Who critics to wonder if they are talking about themselves and the fragile state of the band on this song –if so it wouldn’t be the first time. But I think it more likely that this track is at one with the stormy songs of Pete’s from ‘Who Sell Out’, a fucked up love song about an unsuitable relationship taken further down the same road with someone with whom things are sometimes so great and sometimes so wrong it hurts. Why can’t they get in tune? The opening line finds the narrator tracing patterns in the stars that all seem to be connected and doing the usual things his peer group tell him to do to feel like a ‘man’ (get a car, take drugs, etc) only to find himself still confused and lost, wondering why he can’t find his own way in the way world when from the outside it seems so ordered. The song mirrors ‘Love Ain’t For Keeping’ as the narrator walks out into nature with a girl, but this isn’t love and a communion of souls, it is lust pure and simple and the narrator clearly feels nothing for the girl he is with. Like Jimmy at the end of Quadrophenia to come, he is high on pills and booze, the stimulamnts over-stimulating not just his body but his spiritual feelings, leading him to trace dots in the stars that have led him to this placed that really aren’t there at all and is all of his doing. The power he feels ‘when I fly’ is clearly false, an illusion of highness that doesn’t actually exist but which makes him feel bigger and more important than he really is. The joke played on him, though, is that the intoxicants make him feel more than ever what’s gone wrong, a ‘naked eye’ that tells a truth so strong he can’t shrink from it. His marriage contract is just a bit of paper, signed when he believed in something he didn’t really mean with someone who felt the same and now he can’t bring himself to have sex with the girl he lost love in but can with various strangers (for ‘you can cover up your guts, but when you cover up your nuts you’re admitting that there’s something wrong!) What the narrator wants, just as he did when the piece started, is love, but the love he reached out for has become a constant daily battle of Mary holding a gun as he clutches his wounds. By the time we finally wind down to where the ‘My Generation’ improv started Roger’s words to an audience hang mockingly in the air: ‘So very long, bye bye bye bye…’ Some reports about what Pete intended to do with ‘Lifehouse’ involve the sacrifice of at least one of the participants and usually Max. This song sounds like him at least contemplating suicide as he declares himself too fit to lead anyone when he can’t even keep it together himself. The Who’s band interplay is amazing on this track, best heard in live form from the ‘Young Vic’ concert included as a bonus track on the ‘Who’s Next’ CD, Roger sizzling with emotion on a character that really suits him like The Who’s earliest days, a loser trying so hard to be a winner that he ends up a loser all the same. Everyone sounds good though, with Pete’s solo guitar outbreak at the end amongst the best individual thirty seconds of the whole of the ‘Lifehouse’ tapes as he reaches through the structured plot and all the pressure on his shoulders by the time of the gigf to reach into the darkness for some of his darkest, reallest playing. In short, it’s a crying shame that ‘Naked Eye’ didn’t make the record in favour of lesser material.
Plot: A boozed-up max announces that we all need love in any form (or rather 'Water', love in spiritual love, and 'somebody's daughter', love in sexual form). I hope this one was broadcast after the watershed...  ‘Water’ conrtinues the theme and again sounds like the end of ‘Quadrophenia’ and  ‘Dr Jimmy’ in particular, as a loving sensitive soul is turned into a nasty lecherous unfeeling louse (which is after all very nearly the word ‘soul’ backwards) through pressure and friction. In many ways it’s a better song though, closer to the original Who sound of tearaway teenagers let loose, a Substitute Stones again in an era when even The Stones hadn’t done this sort of thing for years. ‘Water’ is another early song written for the project whose lyrics don’t seem quite as directly related to the plot as before. However these two songs were always played as a pair and always feature on lists of ‘Lifehouse’ material. Roger is at his lecherous best as he cruises the streets looking for ‘somebody’s daughter’ to make love to, while also longing for water to arrive in the polluted Lifehouse world to wash the human excess away so he doesn’t have to live feeling like this. What he is really crying out for though, in a prequel to  ‘Love Reign O’er Me’, is water – this being Pete’s first use of many of his favourite metaphor for love which can give love or kill it depending how it is used. This was the very last of the ‘Lifehouse’ tracks to be released, as late as 1973 (when it was the B-side of the ‘Quadrophenia’ track  ‘5:15’). As a performance, ‘Water’ is nicely tight, with the band working together well on a song that’s very bit the way Roger originally envisioned the band as an R and B power trio and with Pete truly dancing on top of John’s slinky bass grooves heading for as truly epic finale, although it still feels slightly like a backwards step for a band who have reached such huge heights on the rest of the work.
Mary splits to start her own broadcasts as Max wonders why he feel compelled to go after her despite enjoying his new-found freedom once more...[139 ] 'Greyhound Girl' is only the second song generally referred to as part of ‘Lifehouse’ that never got further than a demo and again seems like it would have been a big key part of the album. The song was never released under the Who name but did slip out as the B-side to Pete's solo hit 'Let My Love Open The Door' in 1980. The broadcaster knows with his head that his great love affair is over, but his heart won't let him stop thinking of Mary. He vows to break away, to start away with someone else, but he keeps finding himself called back to the girl whose musical notes so resonate with his. Every kiss has him determined it will be the last, every gesture he stores in his memory-banks as the final time he'll see her do it and every row they have he feels relieved they'll both soon be free of each other - except they can't ever be free of each other, they were meant to be with each other – and somehow they messed it up. Pete's interest in dog races continues after 1968 single [82a] 'Dogs' with this song that uses the metaphor about a 'greyhound girl' that has him chasing after her as surely as greyhounds chase after rabbits, a primal instinct he can’t kick no matter how much he questions it himself (‘I’m looking for reasons, but there ain’t a reason or why to wherefore on my Greyhound Girl’). The broadcaster admits he's always 'looking for reasons' to get back together - but he doesn't really need one as his heart is enough. Though lighter than most Townshend demos, without much happening, you sense The Who would have kept it this way for the final record as the song sounds really good like this, with a slow careful pulsating organ part keeping the ties between the lovers going, even whilst a stinging Townshend electric guitar solo tries to break them apart. Like 'Mary' this is a gorgeous under-rated song that deserved to be better known and loved by The Who community at large.
The 'Lifehouse' universe a mess and his broadcasts a shambles without Mary, Max realises that instead of bringing people together he's split from the only person who ever mattered to him. So he ends the broadcasts still hoping to inspire listeners with the idea of the 'pure and easy' single note to unite humanity left for a new generation to find, while hoping those who come after him will pick up the baton and try again, with more success at running a pure civilisation this time... ‘Song Is Over’ was surely intended to be the grand finale to ‘Lifehouse’ even if it ended up as merely the close to side one on ‘Who’s Next’ – it just has that feel to it somehow, a funeralaic air that things can never be the same again. In some ways this ambiguous song mirrors  ‘Listening To You’, the hopeful, bouncy end to the sad story of ‘Tommy’ and  ‘Love Reign O’er Me’, the simply startling song of redemption from Lifehouse’s successor ‘Quadrophenia’. This humble ballad has Pete sounding sad and lost, his plans in tatters, mourning the person who ‘tried to find me’ and who was ‘the first song I ever sang, but it stopped as soon as it began’. However there is also one last gasp of hope as the narrator is free to start again with someone else, to look for another note that sparks as well as his did with Mary while simultaneously beginning a whole new civilisation somewhere under an endless sky. The sighing tune is perfectly cast for such an edgy, regretful song and although Townshend’s lyrics about loss are for once not up to the tune they still do a respectful job of summing up the un-sayable. That’s especially true of the energetic middle eight that seems to come in from an entirely different song and jazzes the whole sung up a bit, with Roger butting in to explain that even in his hour of need he’s still reaching across the Lifehouse for a connection, some emotion that others can understand. This song is also surely meant to mirror ‘Pure and Easy’ and ‘Gettin’ In Tune’ at the start of this epic work, referring back to the idea of a ‘lost chord’ uniting humanity, with both of them also using songs as metaphors for relationships as a chord becomes one note again. Cleverly, in ‘The Song Is Over’ it really does feel as if we are getting two melodies that are breaking up before our ears, the two tunes running counterpoint to each other and represented by the guitar and Nicky Hopkins’ ever-lovely piano playing, having run out of things to say to each other until Roger’s last gasp of a reprise from ‘Pure and Easy’, the idea that out there is another note ‘rippling by’ gives us hope again accompanied by truly thunderous drumming from Moon. Notably the cold hard synthessier hasn’t bee around since the second act when the Lifehousers overthrew the Government but is back again here, perhaps the lure of another society far away that needs reforming too? Many fellow Lifehousers commentating on this album call this a ‘complex’ song, adding that The Who never performed it on stage so it must have been difficult (forgetting, perhaps, that even the highly complex  ‘A Quick One’ mini-opera became a live favourite, even with the twists and turns every verse or so), but it actually sounds quite simple compared to the other songs here combining just the two sections, one happy one sad, unlike the towering depths of conflicting emotion in, say,  ‘Love Reign O’er Me’.
And so here I am, now chief of the Lifehousers, taking on the responsibility of spreading knowledge to the next generation of those who want to make the escape. And if ‘they’ find me and stop me, I don’t care, for I know now that spreading this music, this enormous communication carrier of human emotion, this is the most important thing I could be doing with my life and I hope that whoever finds this note takes heed of it. Whatever century you are in, take ‘Lifehouse’ as a warning but bask in its glow as possible salvation, with music uniting the world and bringing us hope of better days. Rise against your oppressors and think for yourselves. I – [THIS SITE HAS BEEN CLOSED DOWN BY THE COALITION OF GREAT BRITAIN UNDER ECONOMIC PROSPERITY LAWS ARTICLE 21:56. INDIVIDUAL OPINIONS MUST BE OUTLAWED, THEY ARE A DANGER TO THE STATE. THE PURPETRATORS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS SITE SHALL BE DEALT WITH AND MADE TO RE-JOIN THE RANKS OF THE ISOLATED AND DESTROYED. DO NOT REVOLT. EVERYTHING THAT BRINGS HOPE IS TO BE EXTINGUISHED AS A DANGER TO OUR ECONOMIC BURDENS AND THE MASSES WILL BE PUT BACK IN THEIR PROPER PLACE IN ORDER FOR THERE TO BE A BETTER CHANCE FOR ALL. MUSIC IS DANGEROUS, REPEAT, MUSIC IS DANGEROUS AND CAUSES FALSE HOPE, BELIEF AND DREAMS THAT CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO BE FULFILLED FOR THE GOOD OF THE SYSTEM. ALL DANGERS TO THE COALTION’S MANAGEMENT SHALL BE DEALT WITH AS SOON AS DAVID CAMERON HAS FINISHED WITH HIS PIG. FORGET WHAT YOU HAVE READ AS IT WILL ONLY CAUSE YOU PAIN AND SUFFERING. RETURN TO YOUR DUTIES FORTHWITH. THE ONLY WAY OUT OF HARDSHIP IS THROUGH PROFITS. THE ONLY WAY TO MAKE PROFITS IS HARDSHIP. MESSAGE ENDS.]
The Album (Who's Next) (and 'My Wife'):
Suddenly here I am back in the present day again, clutching a record with a monolith on the front. Gone are those hazy, crazy dreams of instant communication among all men via some temporary future portal - instead the methods of instant communication in my day and age seemed to be used for sending pictures of cats being cute and people doing silly things to people. Slowly I come to my senses and realise that my path now is not to analyse what could be but what was instead: the Who's fifth LP 'Who's Next', rebuilt from the remnants of 'Lifehouse' with the addition of one new John Entwistle song. Along with follow-up ‘Quadrophenia’ and the mega success of 'Tommy' notwithstanding, “Who’s Next” is generally regarded as the closest-to-perfection of any of the Who’s eleven albums recorded between 1965 and 1982, The Who release with the least amount of filler and the best balance between high conceptual deep thought and down-to-earth rock and roll. Which is strange given the complexities of 'Lifehouse' and the fact that only about half the album is truly made up of the best material available from the original concept, but then this really is quite a different animal - if ‘Lifehouse’ was made chiefly for its creator and other deep-thinking minds who liked to think deep thoughts, then 'Who's Next' is the revised version that's intended to appeal to everyone and which simply loves to party. With only eight songs from 'Lifehouse' left intact and cleary jumbled up even if our version of it is way out, the plot is now nonsensical, with pretty much all the references to the 'lost chord', the 'Lifehouse' grid or the glory of rock and roll removed. All that's left are the sub-plots: the love stories, the growing anger as the old corrupt Government gets replaced with a shiny bright but still corrupted new one and a joyful song about escape in a 'mobile' - and with love, politics and cars being common features of many a rock and roll album in 1971, 'Who's Next' sounds closer to being a 'proper' average album of mis-matched songs than would have been the case if, say, the more plot-centred 'Tommy' or 'Quadrophenia' had been cut down to size. It's a testament to Pete's vision though that even the fans who'd never heard of 'Lifehouse' or read the newspaper reports about its creator's breakdown still sensed that there was 'something' other about 'Who's Next' and that this was at the same time much more than just another love/politics/car album. Close enough to the average to be acceptable as a pure rock album, but significantly better than most, 'Who's Next' is one of those album that comes as close any music made in a particular era can be to being timeless and there's a reason new fans keep discovering and coming back to this album even more than the deaf, dumb and blind pinballing kid or his younger mod brother.
One of the biggest reasons for the timelessness is producer Glyn Johns, who was brought in after the initial sessions for the album at Mick Jagger's 'Stargroves' house broke down (fittingly, the house where Sutekh The Osirian Destroyer lives in the 'Dr' Who episode 'Pyramids Of Mars' – seriously, Mick gave his permission for the location filming!) with only a solitary backing track for 'Won't Get Fooled Again' from these early sessions actually used on the album. This was Johns' first work for The Who and the production polish was a big relief after his recent, very different sessions for The Beatles' 'primitive' album 'Get Back' (which George Martin walked out on partway through). Johns, a former Beatles tape engineer, was much more interested in getting new and inventive sounds on tape and would in truth have been a far better fit for 'Abbey Road'. In The Who - and especially Pete Townshend's increasing love of new gadgetry and instruments - he finds a band that he can believe in whole-heartedly and he pulls out all the stops, going the extra mile with the set-ups and mixes so thast all the instruments sound beautifully placed and separated yet still part of an organic whole. 'Who's Next' is often greeted as simply an album of great songs but actually it's the sound of this album that makes it great and makes it sound like these often very different tracks belong together, with a polish in the production that somehow doesn't tame or tamper with the band's wild energy and where everything that usually rattles and rolls gets to shimmer at the same time. You only need to listen to 'Face Dances' 'It's Hard' and even reunion album 'Endless Wire' to hear how much later producers thought of this one album as The Who's 'de facto sound', but every later producer misunderstands how to get it, with The Who diluted and slowed down with all the extras piled on top; here it's as if a giant silhouette has been draped in splashes of colour rather than simply 'painted in'. Glyn apparently loved working with a band with the intelligence of The Who - but what he wasn't buying was the 'Lifehouse' concept. It was him as much as Pete's confused fellow band-mates who persuaded Townshend to drop the idea and instead concentrate on making the 'Lifehouse' songs as excellent as they could make them individually, without the confinements of a story to keep them together. However, it's interesting to note that almost all of the 'Lifehouse' songs were recorded, not just the eight that made the record (though 'Put The Money Down' was left till 1973 and 'Mary' 'Teenage Wasteland' and 'Greyhound Girl' never made it past Pete's demos).
The greatest sound on 'Who's Next' is clearly the synthesiser. Pete Townshend was always a lover of gadgets - especially anything to do with music (his 'Scoop' demo album sleevenotes are full of specifics of what was recorded on which machine in which setting) - and his new favourite purchase at the time was a Lowrey Berkshire Deluxe TBO-1, before upgrading to what I am told is an ARP. Where this differed from 'synthesised' music in the past was that it was entirely digital, with a 'clean' robotic noise that sounded quite different to all previous versions, which tended to use tape loops inside mellotrons, moogs and the 'chamberlain', which all generally had a much softer, more emotional sound (any Moody Blues album made between 1967 and 1972 features lots of them - especially 'In Search Of The Lost Chord' as it happens). What Pete could do for 'Who's Next' which no other musician had before was play the Lowrey in 'loops', inspired by classical musician Terry O'Riley (half of 'Baba O'Riley' for a reason) who played with similar long flowing note 'runs' on the piano (but who would have loved the synth). The idea is one that modern listeners would recognise as being a musical version of 'buffering' - a swirl of notes going round and round while seemingly searching for a 'connection' with something that they never quite find - which, spiritually, is exactly what is going on in both 'Baba O'Riley' (a song many people mishear as a song about getting 'wasted' - actually it's a song about escaping 'wasteland' and joining together) and 'Won't Get Fooled Again' (which is about cycles in politics and how 'they' always end up corrupt by having power over 'us'). It helps that this synthesiser sounds cold and placid, unbreakable, mathematics more concerned with the bigger picture of humanity than what happens to individual puny humans. Two unbreakable chains that are unrelenting and never broken make for the perfect backing track to tales of timeless motifs like isolation and greed and though a brand new and in many ways frightening back in 1971 the result was always going to be two songs that were instantly recognisable and universally adored. To this day no one has used a synthesiser better to my ears - including Pete, who got rather carried away with it on both the later Who albums and his own solo work (though 'A Little Is Enough' sounds pretty good too mind!)
However it wasn't all just Pete - at least not on 'Who's Next' as oppsed to 'Lifehouse'. Glynn also put the emphasis on this as a 'Who' album, encouraging a bigger role for Roger and Keith in the instrumental stakes, with some blistering vocals and thunderous drumming. He also encouraged the band to keep one of John's new songs for the album rather than wasting it as a B-side as per usual, which is how  'My Wife' became added to the line-up properly, John having been kept out of Pete's writing process this time around (unlike 'Tommy', though in a way ‘My Wife’ does reflect the marital gloom of ‘Greyhound Girl’ especially). This much loved song is one of its authors funniest, adding a comic element that this deadly serious album badly needs, although like many of the band’s ‘comedy’ songs it’s all played deadly straight. To the tune of a tinkling, energetic piano riff the narrator tells us how he is desperate to stay away from his partner who is making stuff up and paranoid about him being up to something - until she has calmed down enough for him to admit what he’s really been up to, which is probably worse. John was, I think, aiming for a caricature of male and female weaknesses and like many of his songs contains a ‘flawed narative’ where we can’t believe the person singing as the saint because she’s right to turn on him (if for all the wrong reasons!) The threat of the wife following in hot pursuit is magically recreated with the use of John’s beloved horns and Keith Moon’s fiercest drumming (how he kept it up for full 3:40 I’ll never know!) and sounds genuinely threatening, however witty and unlikely the lyrics are. The real Mrs Entwistle found this tale hilarious, apparently (much more so than the similar ‘My Size’ from John’s first LP) because it went so far against the reality of her and her husband's actually rather sweet courtship, though fans kept getting the wrong idea and meeting her backstage at gigs saying how 'sorry' they were for her being pilloried like this (luckily Alison had a big sense of humour herself or she would never have lasted twenty years with John!) A word too about Entwistle’s singing: the bassist known as The Ox never got that many chances to sing on his songs – Roger will end up singing most of them on The Who’s catalogue and he probably wouldn’t have been allowed this one if it had been recorded as anything more than a B-side at first – but he sounds pretty amazing here, full of all the dry pathos he needs to make the song work as a black comedy. The result might not have the depth or the wonderment of Pete's songs for the album, but it adds a welcome dose of both rock and roll and humour which helped make 'Who's Next' a far more versatile than the more solemn and sombre 'Lifehouse' would have been.
Pete having washed his hands of all responsibility, Glynn may also have been responsible for the running order, which fits together nicely for an album that turns what sounds it like it might have been 'Lifehouse's original order on its head. Though our guess is that 'Gettin' In Tune' and 'Pure and Easy' were the sort-of overtures, inviting the listener into the conceptual work, it makes perfect commercial sense to start the album with the catchy-yet-edgy sound of 'Baba O'Riley', a song quite unlike any that had ever been played on radio before. Those opening synthesiser swirls are irresistible, while the way the song sucks you in layer by layer is a key trick The Who will repeat on 'Quadrophenia'. The song moves on neatly to the push-me, pull-you of 'Bargain', which starts as a ballad and quickly turns into another rocker to encourage fans worried about talks of high concepts and art. For my money the 'wrong' version of the joyous 'Love Ain't For Keeping' is used, with Roger on lead and the mood acoustic rather than electric, but it's a heartfelt love song that works well as a contrast with successor 'My Wife', that Entwistle tale of the downsides of romance and marriage. Side one feels like it just has to end with 'The Song Is Over', a piece that in plot terms may well have ended the entire work and which included an added snippet of 'Pure and Easy' at the end, with one of the project's best songs relegated to a mere couplet, perhaps the biggest mistake of the final album. 'Gettin' In Tune' is a natural song to begin something and side two makes sense, while 'Goin' Mobile' is the one track that sounds out of place (there are far better songs from 'Lifehouse' that could have fitted here and two rockers together sounds wrong). 'Behind Blues Eyes' deserves, like many spookly atmospheric songs, to come nearer to the end to set a bit of drama and colour. 'Won't Get Fooled Again' - the pivot, in many ways, of 'Lifehouse and its story and the collapse from hope to disillusionment - is in commercial terms the perfect closer, with nothing able to follow Roger's scream. Had The Who swapped 'Pure and Easy' for 'Goin' Mobile' and the two versions of 'Keeping' around maybe 'Who's Next' would have sold an extra billion copies, who knows? Personally I would have added at least ‘Mary’ and ‘Join Together’ in there as well. However the album does slot together well considering it's been diluted and altered and the sequencing of the album - a forgotten and much under-rated art in making music - is I think a major positive in how 'Who's Next' was received.
'Lifehouse' wasn't easy to make though. In fact it was such a strain that Thre Who really struggled through the album sessions - not that you can really tell from either these recordings or the ones abandoned and left behind, but it was more than just a loss of confidence in the songs that meant Pete had something of a nervous breakdown that, apart from a slight reprieve during 'Quadrophenia', would leave the guitarist partly incapacitated for much of the next decade. Though not a serious 'breakdown' in the true Brian Wilson sense, this shouldn't be underestimated either: things will get very serious around the 'Who By Numbers' period in 1975 as Pete’s life falls apart in much the same way as ‘max’s seems to at the end of ‘Lifehouse’ and it is not for nothing that Pete refers to his ‘character trait’ woven into ‘Quadrophenia’ as a ‘hypcorite’, writing songs about purity and love while too smashed out of his face on booze to go home to his wife and kids. The 'golden boy' of 'Tommy' will never quite regain the confidence he had a good two-thirds of the way through this project ('Lifehouse' has been called The Who's 'Smile' occasionally, which is true as far as impossible-project-that-broke-so-many-rules-it-worried-their-creator projects go, but that would make 'Who's Next' The Who's 'Smiley Smile' made largely with other people's help and that comparison doesn't work at all!) The biggest change for The Who, though, is the loss of Kit Lambert to The Who story, with Chris also taking a back step in this period. A sensitive soul, underneath all the windmilling and violence and wisecracks on stage, Pete had come to look on Kit's opinions as the gospel truth: it was, after all, Kit who encouraged Pete to think 'big' and start writing 'mini-operas' as early as 1965 so to hear even his biggest champion say he couldn't do something when he was having his own doubts too helped kill the project off for Pete. Even though they shouldn’t have done: ‘Lifehouse’ may have a convoluted plot that leaves the listener to fill in a few holes, but no more so than ‘Tommy’ or ‘Quadrophenia’; a bit of love and support from someone (anyone!) and I still think we could have seen a doyuble-album of ‘Lifehouse’ in the shops in 1971, if not a feature film.
Thankfully Glynn kept that negativity out of the room for the album, one that all The Who seemed amazed turned out as well as it did given the headaches they had trying to create it. If you can hear the strain anyway anyhow anywhere, though, it's on the 'Young Vic' performance included on the deluxe edition of 'Who's Next' on what was meant to be the start of a series of audience interactions, perhaps the weakest idea behind the original ‘Lifehouse’ story (and yet one The Who just had to try, given how much the audience are interwoven into the original plot of ‘Lifehouse’). The Who play as well as they ever did and the audience are loving the new songs, but you can hear Pete's frustration as he acts out of character, gets cross, asks a chap in the front row to stop dancing while he struggles to remember the new songs (he invites him up on stage later to boogie during the hit songs he knows backwards, though it's not clear from the audio if he ever took up the offer!) and rather than play all new songs, with the audience breathing new life into them, The Who fall back on their old war-horses again and again. You can almost hear Pete's heart breaking as he realises his project of turning the crowd into musical notes just isn't going to work and that his grand visions for some celestial goddess of rock and roll to inspire the band to new concepts and creations just isn't going to happen and that he's going to be stuck playing ‘mere’ rock and roll for the rest of his life. After 'Lifehouse' Pete stops thinking of the future and either dreams of a better mod past, gets drunk in the present or angrily asks someone else to change the fate of music before him, because he can't do it alone. 'Who's Next' is a peak and most fans assumed The Who would just realise glossy albums of thoughtful-yet-hard rocking songs like this one for the rest of their days, but it's also an ending too as The Who will never again be quite so ambitious or assume with quite so much inner belief that anything they touch can turn to gold, even though any lesser band could have had hit records with 'Who's Next' soundalikes for the next twenty years easily.
Pete will return to his great unfinished work, of course - several times.It probably still haunts him, as unfinished works seem to always haunt their creators. 'Lifehouse' was such a big project that you can hear elements of it in nearly everything Pete will go on to write: the 'rock and roll is mankind's salvation' theme gets changed to 'mod' for 'Quadrophenia', while the novella that inspired 'Endless Wire' named 'The Boy Who Heard Music' is a less personal, not-quite-so futuristic take on Lifehouse's 'Grid', with added 'ether'. Then there's the radio play of 1999, which shrunk the story, emphasised the parts of Mary's mum and dad (who might not even have been in the original story), set 'Lifehouse' in the near-enough present day and all but ignored the 'Grid' - which is odd given that the then-brand new invention the internet was beginning to become a household name. The radio drama adds in several sub-plots that probably weren’t in the original version – the rock star visiting himself as a child, dreaming of the links he can make with mankind; the failed marriage and mid-life crisis of Mary's father which drives him to breaking point when he thinks his daughter has left because of him and the general feeling of destiny and pre-ordained concepts that runs through the play but isn’t actually a part of ‘Lifehouse’ bar the odd line and the cyclical politics of ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ (it's also notable that the writer of 'My Generation' should have swapped his allegiances across the decades, concentrating more on the guilty parent closer now to his own age than the freedom-loving children). Though the work has its moments (and features a couple of extracts from Pete's rather lovely demo for 'Behind Blue Eyes'), the project all felt a bit underwhelming - a work we could recognise from other things, rather than a masterpiece that broke new ground (as 'Lifehouse' surely would have done if released intact in 1971) or which more than vaguely tried to tell the same story we had been waiting for across twenty-eight long years. Then again, the sprawling epic six disc box set 'Lifehouse Chronicles' arguably took things a little too far: there was no plot and tracks were included seemingly at random, including a few that were 'inspired' by the 'Lifehouse' plot and an aborted re-make that concebntrated more on the one-note philosophy in 1978 such as  'New Song'  ‘Sister Disco’ and  'Music Must Change' (all three re-recorded for 'Who Are You') but which most definitely weren't around when 'Lifehouse' was being planned in 1970. Pete also included everything that he could think of (and could get copyright clearance for) that inspired him: classical music mostly with lots from his beloved 'mathematical' composers Purcell and Scarlatti, which are only really relevant for the opening surge of 'Baba O'Riley'. However you do need that set for Pete's blistering original demo for 'Baba' which carries on for some ten minutes and reveals that Pete's idea for 'feeding' the notes of his audience into a machine could have worked, given lots of time and better technology . The song doesn't really need anything else, even the world-famous lyrics and tune on top, its hypnotic enough as it stands and it makes you wonder if ‘Lifehouse’ ight not have run to a triple LP, padded out by other fascimating snippets of music taken from audience members and fed into the synthy computer bank. Equally Pete's demos for 'Lifehouse' released in the years since are amongst his most complete and riveting, including and especially the songs that didn't make the album like 'Pure and Easy' and 'Let's See Action', both of which truly beat The Who re-recordings for once. The Who also released a handful of their band outtakes on 'Odds and Sods' (adding more to the 1999 CD re-issue) and even released three of the songs cut from Who’s Next ('Join Together' 'Let's See Action' and 'Relay') as singles across 1972, with all three of them appearing on compilations (though not that often sadly, as none of them were particularly big hits, something that shook Pete's faith in his concept further). Perhaps one day we'll get a 'deluxe' deluxe edition of this album that includes the twenty songs from our 'Lifehouse' adaptation, a couple of discs of Pete's demos and the Young Vic show, without the extraneous extras of a loosely-linked radio play and an hour of Purcell like the ‘Chronicles’ box set (here's hoping - there have been four different 'Tommys on CD by now and three ‘My generations’ so why not a third 'Who's Next'?!) None of the 'Lifehouse' remakes have been anywhere close to being as successful as 'Who's Next' though, so maybe less really is best for once? Maybe too much of anything really is too much? (yeah, great time to work that out eh, a multiple thousand words into this article!)
Even in diluted form - perhaps especially in diluted form - ‘Who’s Next’ is special, containing everything that was great about the early Who (heavy uncompromising rocking, three very special musicians and one very special singer at the height of their powers, rock star posing but with the songs to match and the sheer oompah of it all) with the best of the 1970s maturer-style Who (lyrics stoked through with vulnerability behind the matcho posing, the sheer range of instrumentation on offer, the use of synthesisers before anybody else in the rock mainstream was using them and big concepts relayed in simple easy-to-follow terms). Everyone will know two if not three if not all of these songs, which have all become teenage anthems in the  ‘My Generation’ mould, even if the band were well into their twenties by this time with Roger about to turn thirty. The legacy lives on: ‘Baba O’Riley’ demolished the field in terms of soundscapes; ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ takes the concept one stage further, expressing the narrator’s feelings of helplessness and disillusion not as a personal annoyance but as a rally against the world, all held together with perhaps Pete’s ultimate rock and roll riff, the most complicated John Entwistle bass part yet, crashing Keith Moon drums and a – literally – screaming Roger Daltrey at his peak. ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ is less known to the public at large but worshipped by fans and ever so nearly a single – half ballad, half rocker, it’s spacey feel and troubled but snarling narrator perfectly captures the Who’s template sound and the harmonies swirling across the opening two minutes are the best on a Who record, matching the Beach Boys and CSNY in their complexity and other-worldliness. Those are just the best known songs too: 'Bargain' may be greater still, the ultimate meeting between rock anger and spiritual love as Pete comes to terms with his violent past and his Meher Baba-inspired peaceful side, simply agreeing to enjoy living in the moment. 'Love Ain't For Keeping' charms like few other Who songs, a pretty and personal song about enjoying married life and having 'fun' now the kids are in bed. 'My Wife' is the relentlessness of the traditional Who with a cutting wry humour even Entwistle hadn't used much before here. 'The Song Is Over' is a beautiful, haunting, reflective song that just about works away from the 'Lifehouse' plot. 'Gettin' In Tune' too is plot-bound but its musical metaphors work on some deeper level too. And even 'Goin' Mobile' isn't bad, just manic and out of place. If all albums had been as consistent as 'Who's Next' rock would have been in such a healthy place that Pete might not have needed to revisit the band's mod past on 'Quadrophenia' - instead 'Who's Next' remains one of those special kind of albums that's enjoyed by a majority and the people, like me, who usually hate the big-selling albums, hailed for its bravery amongst the crowd-pleasers, praised for the new ground broken amongst the familiar old and coming with a glorious vision and imagination, even when the concept that inspired it has been trimmed and pruned from something ethereal, other-worldly and life-changing to something that was 'merely' a rather splendid rock and roll album. In all, ‘Who’s Next’ is a fine album, as fine as any made in the 1970s and a worthy addition to any self-respecting collector’s collection if they have any taste in music at all, while Who fans will always have a special spot for this doomed-high-flying-album-that-never-quite-was and the grooviest-replacement-bus-service in music we got instead.
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