Monday 25 September 2017

The Who: The Best Unreleased Recordings

You can now buy 'Gettin' In Tune - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of...The Who' in e-book form by clicking here!

Unlike some AAA bands who keep their unreleased and discarded works under lock and key, The Who have always been quite open about the songs that didn't quite make it -just as they've always been open about revisiting their past on later works. As early as 1974 (and after just six albums worth of material) they were pining for the old days so badly they released 'Odds and Sods', one of the better compilations of unreleased material. The Who have since had great fun in the age of the compact disc, re-issuing their albums in deluxe, super deluxe and deluxe deluxe deluxe editions with unreleased bonus tracks at such a rate most fans (me included) can't keep up with them all. Even Pete Townshend's demos have been pretty much comprehensively covered thanks to no less than three double-disc sets of his 'Scoop' series (although there is still easily enough tapes around for a fourth volume one day - probably a fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth too). In addition the six-disc 'Lifehouse Chronicle' box set released through Pete Townshend's website also mopped up ever-so-nearly everything from 'Lifehouse', The Who's most prolific period for unreleased songs and outtakes, while 'Tommy' can be heard nearly complete in demo form now on the 'super deluxe' set and 'Quadrophenia' can also be bought as a  set of demos. As a result there isn't quite the prime collection of Who outtakes for our regular column of unreleased classics as you might expect - pretty much everything that used to be the domain of the bootleggers is now out on some disc or internet download, usually in far better sound than it ever used to be. There are of course a whole load of live recordings out there made by the many Who fans and occasionally by the band themselves (the best of them being a 1971 show in San Francisco mooted as a possible sequel to 'Live At Leeds' before the band reckoned it was 'too soon' - a shame as it features a rather glorious collection of 'Lifehouse' songs, while a 1979 radio broadcast from Paris is easily the best the Kenney Jones era of the band ever sounded). However we've decided to skip these from our article because there are so many official live recordings out there from almost every era around now and the unreleased gigs aren't that different to what's out there, just occasionally better. So, instead, enjoy a further collection of Townshend demos not yet included in the 'Scoop' series, plus the odd revealing alternate mix with the guitarist dominating our list!

1.        My Generation (Demo 1965)
It seems nothing short of a travesty that the first ever recording of The Who's most famous song isn't out yet - especially as it's fabulous! Performed halfway between the roar of the famous single version and the earlier arrangement sometimes heard in concert that was more like a blues, three Pete's sing across a bass-heavy acoustic guitar part with the echo turned away up high. Less cynical and acerbic than factual and telling-it-like-it-is, this song even features an early go at the vocal mannerisms Roger would later add to the record (with not just a stutter, but Pete blowing through his teeth and making sucking noises, while the line 'awful c-c-c-c-cold' makes him sound as ig he's clearing his throat). There's a bass overdub too, though Pete doesn't try for a solo. Basic as this demo is, this song already sounds glorious!

2.       Don't Look Away (Demo 1966)
This charming demo for a 'Quick One' song presumably never made 'Scoop' because it's in comparatively poor condition. We Whooligans don't care about though, especially when the demo is one of the ones that differs so much from the finished version. Shorn of most of the harmonies and the rockyness of the backing, this song reveals more of its country-and-Western beginnings and sounds much sweeter and more heartfelt rather than just being another Who pop song. I think I prefer this version actually, with Pete sounding much more as if he had someone in mind when he wrote this song about a disappearing girlfriend.

3.      I Can See For Miles (Demo c1966)
Clearly a cut above the other songs Pete was writing in 1966, the guitarist said later that he'd kept this song back for when The Who were struggling in the charts because he was sure it would be an 'instant smash' (which it wasn't, peaking at only #10 in the UK). You can hear why from the demo, which also sounds like a work of genius, with the incredible tension already there from the basic sound, even if this song doesn't have the criss-crossing psychedelic guitars just yet (the part we do get is very much like Link Wray actually, at least until a glorious solo when Pete doesn't so much play as rattle his guitar!) Pete's softer tones make this more a song about love than danger as per the Roger Daltrey version too. All in all, one of the greatest - and most different - demos Pete ever made. So why wasn't it on the first 'Scoop' never mind volumes two and three?!? That's what you get for deliberately hiring a non-Who fan to compile them for musical not historical value I guess...

4.    Lazy Fat People (Demo 1967)

This 'Sell Out' era song was given away to The Barron Knights, perhaps because it sounds more like an Entwistle B-side than Pete's usual fare for the band. The Knights didn't really suit this song either and they didn't get a hit with it despite their bigger band setting, but the song is still ripe for re-discovery on the very next 'super super super deluxe' version of 'Sell Out'. A giggling Pete, notoriously skinny, really takes it out on obese people, calling them a 'terrible sight to see' and laughing at how they always get sunburn. Sung without Pete's usual big heart softening the blow in there somewhere, it's odd to hear Pete being so purely cynical. This is also the only Who-related demo to sport a swannee whistle solo!

5.      To Kill My Appetite (Demo 1967)
Sounding not unlike 'La La La La La Lies', this simple Townshend demo apparently dates from the 'Sell Out' period although it sounds like dates from much earlier. Clearly written for Roger's leer and sneer, this oddball love song has the narrator trying to take his feelings of lust with 'some salt and pepper bayeeeebeeee!' The nearer he gets to his 'meal' (sexual innuendo probably intended), the more he realises what an awful girl he's fallen in love with and wishes he'd just slept with her instead of trying to wine and dine her first! The highlight of the song is a marvellous ringing guitar solo.

6.      That Motherland Feeling (Demo 1967)
Another truly oddball demo from the 'Sell Out' period. The Who have just come back from their first American tour and this track has a distinctly stateside feeling, with more country and western/blues stylings. The main character is a wanderer in true Who fashion, but unlike 'Anyway Anyhow Anywhere' he still feels the pull of home, tradition and friendship and family calling him back again. This song is quite different to anything else Townshend ever wrote and not altogether successful, although the narrator's need to belong somewhere, even if he only discovers that when he's away from home and the schizophrenia he feels about it all is a clear nod to the later 'Quadrophenia' album.

7.        King Rabbit (Demo 1967)
Mind you, I don't think any Townshend song was ever as weird as this one  - The Who equivalent of Syd Barrett's 'Effervescing Elephant' as Pete offers us an equivalent of the 'Just So' Rudyard Kipling stories. It's a little like Jethro Tull's tale of 'The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles' from 'A Passion Play' too, as  vein and greedy king of the lupine community learns to treat his community properly and 'does a very grand thing', at least until he dies at the end. The guitar chords are not all that unlike 'Pinball Wizard', just slower and Pete clearly spent a long time on this demo, with multiple overdubs instrumentally and vocally.

8.      Dogs (D emo 1968)
A dogs dinner of a demo in many ways, but too important a part of The Who's evolution not to be released in demo form. Pete is a far more convincing cockney newlywed than Roger and is having a ball betting on a number of greyhounds with daft names at the end of most of the verses. Pete plays piano too, for the first time as far as I can tell from the demos that have surfaced, and this demo's switches from heavy Who-style thundering to cutesy lightness is far more impressive than on the record.

9.      The Lone Ranger (private Townshend film with soundtrack 1968)
In 1968 Who fan and film student Richard Stanley got in touch with Pete through their mutual friend Speedy Keene (the drummer in Thunderclap Newman and composer of 'Armenia City In The Sky') and asked him to 'star' in his student film project. An unusually helpful Pete not only agreed to help but also provided a three minute song for the soundtrack of the twelve minute film with Speedy, which sounds like 'Armenia' re-cast for a blues harmonica at times before moving onto a funkier version of the 'Overture' from 'Tommy'. The film isn't up to much - it's basically a 'day in the life' story of a chap named 'Beaky', a joke about Pete's nose that probably didn't go down very well - and Pete's acting in this short reveals why Ken Russell didn't give him a part in the film version of 'Tommy' alongside Roger and Keith. However everyone is clearly having fun and Pete's main scene (at a table, interrupting his 'dad' trying to read the paper) is enough like later song 'Cut My Hair' to surely be more than coincidence. Odd, but interesting and more than worthy of release. The teacher clearly liked the film too, because it was entered for the '1968 International Student Film Awards', but didn't win.

10.   Bargain (Demo 1971)
A surprise absentee from the 'Lifehouse Chronicles' box set, this demo of the second song from 'Who's Next' isn't as different as some of the others. Pete sings rather than Roger of course and gives the song - and indeed the 'bargain' - a much jollier rather than hard-earned feel, while Pete's impressions of John's bass is improving all the time.

11.     Girl In A Suitcase (Demo 1971)
A 'Lifehouse' song that didn't get any further than a demo, this is a rawer and more basic version of the sweetened demo Pete released on the B-side of his 'Let My Love Open The Door' single (and advertised as 'coming from beneath the Eel Pie Floorboards'!) Goodness only knows where it fitted into the 'Lifehouse' plot (I admit it, I chickened out of including it in the 'Lifehouse' review proper!) as the narrator is pleased at how his girl has always chosen to support him wherever life has taken him, as dependable as his suitcase. The weakest song Pete wrote in 1971 maybe, but even this simple track has a certain charm.

12.    Won't Get Fooled Again (Guitar Only Mix 1971)
The release of the 'Rock Band' game featuring several 're-mixed' versions of old friends was a great day for bootleggers who seized on the 'isolated' versions of instruments that had been created from the original masters to better signify what you heard when you did/didn't play along. Though bass and drum and isolated vocals all exist for Who contributions 'Won't Get Fooled Again' and (unusual choice this) 'Sea and Sand', this is the most interesting: a focus on Pete's howling guitar, so primal and yet controlled and his mixture of Eric Clapton and Chuck Berry. The ringing chords will stay in your ears for much time to come, even if you have to sit through a whole two minutes where the synth instrumental should be and Pete's punkish return into the song makes you jump and drop things, every single time, no matter how many times you hear it and know it's coming.

13.   Behind Blue Eyes (Vocals/Backing Track 1971)
This alternate mix is more inventive, starting off with the purest set of angelic vocals The Who ever recorded (John particularly sounds gorgeous here!) before the rest of the instruments come in one by one (starting with an organ part so low in the mix you could barely hear it anyway). By the 'rockier, second half we just get the pure backing as we hear The Who lock into one of their tightest grooves over and over, with Pete's guitar flying. Not as The Who ever intended, but anything that offers new insight into an old friend can only be a good thing. Other fan mixes are out there.

14. Can't You See I'm Easy? (1972 Demo)
Reportedly the second song written for the 'LOng Live Rock!' concept album of 1972 before the album turned into 'Quadrophenia', this is a very dramatic affair, closest in The Who canon to the film soundtrack songs for 'Tommy'. In this song the rockstar narrator pleads for love and promises to do better from now in a relationship, while pleading with his loved one to see how much pain he's in and how easy it would be to woo him back. he also argues that actually he was 'right in every song', which makes me wonder if this song is less about wooing a girl back than Pete woo-ing Kit Lambert after their row during 'Lifehouse' the year before. A strangely 'cowboy' guitar part makes this song stand out against anything else Pete was writing at the time, while a 'Baba O'Riley' style synth swoops in the background.

15 Riot In The Female Jail (1972 Demo)
Pete may have just invented TV series 'Tenko', with his tale of studying how the fairer sex can go bad. Pete's narrator is hit by a brick with a message asking him to let a bunch of girls out of the prison. In a gender reversal a bunch of sex-starved girls patrol the town 'looking for men' while Pete - presumably in a song he'd gave given to Roger to sing - stands by the gates 'hoping to be the first one raped!' The song also includes the memorable line 'Don't worry about the screws, they're waiting to get screwed too!' A bonkers song that will probably never see release given the subject matter, it's an odd monologue-style track that never quite comes off although the 'siren' that runs throughout the song is quite effective.

16 Amoureuse (1974 Live) - Pete plays Veronique Sanson!
Pete's first concert at the Roundhouse for Meher Baba converts was a special gig for many, thankfully captured for posterity on an 'archive' CD. Certain songs were cut to fit the set down to a single disc, though, including this unique Townshend performance of a song by Veronique Sanson, in this period about to become Stephen Stills' first wife. Pete turns in a passionate performance as he offers to give his everything to hold the woman of his dreams 'for just another day' and discussing that 'love is something you can never regret' even when it goes wrong.

17 Broken Nails (c.1978 Demo)
A bootleg favourite, this unfinished song from around the 'Who Are You' period is a little like 'No Road Romance' (another song that didn't make it until the CD re-issues) but less formed and more emotional. Pete remembers a day when he fell in love by 'sharing his pain' with his lover and appreciating the warmth of her response. Now, though, the fire has gone out and neither of them can quite 'explain' why, as Pete sounds as lost and confused as he did on 'Who By Numbers'. The song's finale is more hopeful though: broken as the bond may be 'there's still a part of me in you and you in me'. The Pete Townshend song that most sounds like a Hazel O'Connor recording!

18  New Song (c197 8 Demo)
Pete's demo for the opening track on 'Who Are You' has so far yet to appear on a 'Scoop' compilation, because perhaps it isn't a million miles away from the finished version. However you do get to hear a surprisingly upbeat Pete sing his acerbic words rather than Roger and a much longer synth-heavy opening. The song was clearly written from Pete's point of view not Roger's anyway ('My hairline ain't exactly superstar...I've been bashing my guitar') and on that score alone makes perfect sense as a Townshend demo.

19 Who Are You (Guitar Only Mix 1978)
More fun with Pete's guitar, isolated from the other instruments as a 'download paid for extra' on the 'Rock Band' game. Hearing Pete's guitar alone like this allows you to hear anew just how cleverly he alternates between playful see-sawing and really angry attacks on the same two chords. The song also sounds more complicated than you might suppose just grooving along to the record, if a tad repetitive. The sudden glorious burst of anarchy and mayhem at the end is worth seeking this mix out alone!

I Believe My Own Eyes (Demo c1993)
When 'Tommy' re-opened as a Broadway musical, a heavily involved Pete was asked if he could add a couple of extra songs to help clarify the plot. Pete could have simply re-used the 'linking' songs from the 1975 film version (when Ken Russell asked him to do exactly the same) but instead he returned to his attic and his tape recorder to see if he could come up with something Tommy-ish twenty-five years on. Most fans ignore the piece, which rather passes you by in the musical sandwiches between 'Tommy Can You Hear Me?' and 'Smash The Mirror' and don't care much for this version of The Who's most popular work anyway. But hearing Pete sing a demo, crafted like so many of his 1990s 'Scoop' demos as a spoken monologue with synth backing, is a whole different prospect as Tommy's parents (both sung by Pete in 'high' and low' voices) discuss their own fading marriage and their hopelessness at Tommy never speaking, hearing or seeing. It's a lot less 'South Pacific' than the version performed in the actual show and though not an 'essential' listen exactly is worth seeking out.

21 Uncertain Girl (c2000s Demo)

A rare demo from the 21st century from the early 'Endless Wire' era, this sweet unfinished track was broadcast as part of the 'Attic Sessions' hosted by Pete's partner Rachel. 'You're proper rock and roll' she jokes as Pete loses the middle page of his notes and tells him off for an old tape of The Who she was watching where he was 'sooo badly behaved!' The song itself is a very pretty one, a rare love song without a sting in the tail as two passing strangers meet and fall for each other. As the song puts it, he tries to ask her out and 'she doesn't close the shutter that had beat for so long over her heart'. The Attic Sessions are well worth seeking out for Petemaniacs, with several busked versions of old songs although this is, so far, the only unreleased song played for the show. 

A complete collection of Who reviews:

'The Who Sing My Generation' (1965)

'Sell Out' (1967)

‘Tommy’ (1969)

'Live At Leeds' (1970)

'Lifehouse' (As It Might Have Been) (1971)

'Who's Next' ('Lifehouse' As It Became) (1971)

'Quadrophenia' (1973)

'The Who By Numbers' (1975)

'Who Are You' (1978)

'Face Dances' (1979)

'Empty Glass' (Townshend solo 1980)

'It's Hard' (1982)

Surviving Who TV Clips 1965-2015

Non-Album Recordings Part One 1964-1967

Non-Album Recordings Part Two 1968-2014

Pete Townshend “Scoop” 1-3

The Best Unreleased Who Recordings

Live/Solo/Rarities/Competition Albums Part One 1965-1972

Live/Solo/Rarities/Competition Albums Part Two 1972-1975

Live/Solo/Rarities/Compilation Albums Part Three 1976-1982

Live/Solo/Rarities/Compilation Albums Part Four 1983-1990

Live/Solo/Rarities/Compilation Albums Part Five 1991-2000

Essay: Who Are You And Who Am I?:

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