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Monday, 30 October 2017
The Who: Live/Solo/Compilation/Rarities Albums Part Five 1991-2000
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!
Daltrey "Rocks In The Head"
Who's Gonna Walk On Water?/Before My Time
Is Up/Time's Changed/You Can't Call It Love/Mirror Mirror/Perfect World/Love
is/Blue Man's World/Everything A Heart Could Ever Want/Days Of
the drums stop beating, until the crossroads burn out, I ain't a man until I done
eight solo album - and his final work of new material for over twenty years -
finds the singer forgetting that he used to be in The Who and assuming that he
was a member of Bon Jovi (maybe those rocks fell on his head?) Noisy formless
rock, without the passion or depth or erudition of The Who, this album even
more than Roger's other solo spots signals just how average he might have
become had he not had Pete Townshend writing in the same band. Sadly Roger's
once poetic purr has become a bark across almost the full album and his backing
band - which mostly consists of co-writer Gerald McMahon - play at such a high
volume at noise that you wonder if Roger ought to have filled one of those
'hazardous noise at work' forms. After
hearing the album in one go you want to throw rocks at somebody's head alright
- and yours probably feels as if someone already has.
there are as always a few saving graces to be had. Roger's lyric writing has
come a long way since the singer was handed a sheet of paper and told to
writing something to earn some royalties back in 1966 and though his words
often get lost in the sheer scream of the music this is another album worth
reading, if not necessarily listening to. Roger is at his best when opening up his
heart and expressing his feelings - which is an unusual technique for a band
who were all about searching for identity and who found they 'can't explain'
but gives these songs a revealingness that only came late to the band as a
whole. The best song by a country mile is the one true ballad here 'Everything
A Heart Could Ever Want', which is dedicated to the singer's then six-year-old
daughter Willow and finds Daltrey very much at peace with the world and glad
that he didn't die before he got old so that he could relish watching his
daughter grow (she and her brother Jamie sing backing vocals too). It's a very
un-Who like moment, but then this is a very un-Who like album that was simply
marketed as if it was with talk of 'heavy rock' and 'take no prisoners' performances
- in truth it's the quieter, gentler, reflective moments that sound more like
'real' Who with Roger working best on the 'vulnerable' passages that in olden
times Pete would have been given to sing. The album is far from worthless then
and is worth persevering with for the nuggets of beauty but the relentless
aggression, the endless shouting and macho posturing and the tinny
late-1980s-even-though-it's-1992-production-sound will put fans off long before
they realise that buried treasure does lie here on this album underneath the
'Whose Gonna Walk On Water?' is the first of three solo credits to McMahon on the album and
perhaps the best of the trio, with a rock swagger that suits Roger's leery
singing style even if the boastful lyrics don't really promise much in the end.
'Before My Time Is Up' has a nice splutter of keyboards that offer beauty while the
rest of the Daltrey band (including the singer) are going for noise. Roger's
narrator wants to achieve something with his life, to make 'the whole big bang'
sound as if it was necessary to lead him to this point and promises to do
something - even though in truth noisy tuneless songs like this hurt his
reputation rather than helped.
Changed' is the worst moment here though, with Roger telling us to drop the
timeless beauty of the 1960s and start strutting in a posing 1980s faceless
rock band kind of a way. I think I'll stick with 'Who's Next' thanks!
'You Can't Call It Love' is prettier, as Roger sings about a relationship that's been
together so long it can't 'burst into flames' anymore - and yet at the same
time it's too strong and been through too much to 'go out'. Even though this is
an incredibly middle-aged kind of a song (the antithesis of the original Who)
it's one of the better moments here with heart as well as head-banging and
Roger sounds mighty good, perhaps because this is one of his co-writes.
'Mirror Mirror' is a folkie McMahon song that on the positive side isn't quite
as noisy as most of the other album songs, but on the other still sounds like a
big 1980s production powerhouse when by its very nature this song should be
small and intimate. Those 1980s drums sap any energy out of the song and even
Roger has problems screaming for quite so much of the time.
'Perfect World' is one of the better songs, with a synth riff that sounds like
1980s Pete Townshend and some nice lyrics about how the '1960s revolution'
isn't dead but taking a break - a 'stay of execution' - and the current trend
for greed an materialism will be over soon. Even though I'm still waiting,
there's enough hope in this song to believe in.
probably not the sound of Roger singing gruffly and a U2-style throbbing guitar
part (well, not unless you're really unlucky in your love choices) but that's
what you get on this forgettable one note song on which the drums pound with
all of the power of Moon but without any of the skill.
'Blues Man's Road' is more ugly huffing and puffing too, with Roger reduced to a
hoarse shout about generic things going wrong in his life while a sarcastic
chorus intone 'shoo shoo shooby doo'. Even by this album's low standards, this
track is tough going and Daltrey doesn't sound like the same vocalist at all.
'Everything A Heart Could Ever Want' is the one song worth owning the album for though - a gorgeous
song about family life as Roger realises just how much his daughter is turning
out like his 'good' bits and he's revelling in being able to teach on his loves
to her (with Willow Daltrey reminding him of all his favourite 'oldie' songs
he'd forgotten about). Roger pays tribute the best way he can, by praising his
daughter for being 'a true free spirit in a jaded world' and wanting to 'admit
mistakes' as he learns how to be a parent at the same time she learns how to be
a human being. It's the most philosophical Townshend-style lyric on the album
and it's clear that songs like this is where Roger's heart truly lies. Willow
and son Jamie sing backing vocals - which ought to be a big no-no for a band
with the street cred of The Who - but it somehow seems to work as you can tell
Roger means it without being sickly sweet. The slower tempo and actual singing
rather than shouting is a definite plus too.
'Days Of Light' tries to go for 60s harmony pop and almost succeeds if you judge
this song by the album standards rather than true 1960s harmony pop (ie The
Who). One of those songs praising the weekend and 'release'. Roger is probably
going back in time to his days as a metal sheet worker for this one.
album closes with 'Unforgettable
Opera' - no, it's unforgettable and no sadly it's not a 'rock opera',
just another generic love song about suddenly spotting the love of your life
and all the drama created by that. It might just be that the noise of the album
is wearing me down, but this sounds like quite a strong finale despite falling
into all the traps of the other songs here and Roger manages to sing a cut
above the material.
though, 'Rocks In The Head' is what you might call a lost opportunity: Roger
isn't the right singer for this band or material and while he is writing
something worth hearing, the way the material's presented is only worth hearing
if you're a masochist in search of a headache. Loud, thunderous and relentless
may be words to describe the original Who as well as this album but that's
where the comparison largely ends: a couple of really genuinely moving songs
aside, Roger must have had rocks in the head himself to let this monstrosity
(Atlantic, June 1993)
English Boy/Meher Baba M3/Let's Get
Pretentious/Meher Baba M4/Early Morning Dreams/I Want That Thing/Dialogue
#1/Outlive The Dinosaur/Flame/Now and Then/I Am Afraid/Don't Try To Make Me
Real/Dialogue #2/Predictable/Flame #2/Meher Baba M5/Fake It/Dialogue #3/Now and
Then #2/Baba O'Riley (Demo)/English Boy #2
CD Bonus Tracks: Psychomontage/English
Boy (Unedited)/Early Morning Dreams (Demo)/Uneasy Street/There Is No Message In
A Broken Heart
you've got beauty or talent then one day you'll going to wind up involved in
prostitution - but one way or the other my story will be told"
last album of new work until The Who's
inextricably intertwined 'Endless Wire' thirteen years later - and his
last solo work of all so it looks like from the passing years and wry cryptic
comments to the press - is, alas, his weakest project. The first out-and-out
'story' album since 'Quadrophenia' (albeit with an honourable mention for
'White City'), this tale of a boozed-up washed-up rocker named Ray High finding
true love with a young fan and true hate with a meddling newspaper columnist
out to be right up Pete's alley. Ray High is exactly the sort of troubled,
vulnerable and confused
narrator Pete should be writing, perhaps what Tommy grew into when he swapped
pinballs for guitars or Jimmy if he turned his love of mod into career. He is,
clearly, the last great Pete Townshend character to hide behind, albeit someone
much closer to real life than his predecessors, with a far more believable back
story (although things get weird in 'sequel' 'Wire and Glass', the mini-opera
released as part of Who comeback 'Endless Wire', where Ray dies, goes backwards
through time and manages his own rock and roll band from beyond the grave!)
What's more, Ray's story then was very much Pete's story at the time. He'd
split from wife and childhood sweetheart Karen after nearly thirty years of
marriage to be with a much younger partner and classical writer and conductor,
Rachel Fuller who shocked The Who community not so much by daring to interfere
with Pete's life as much as admitting that she'd never actually liked The Who
before meeting her future boyfriend (and still didn't like them much!) Pete's
confusion, fears and doubts run through the record more than ever before and
told as a straight, pure love story 'Psychoderelict' is a success: his tale of
awe and fears over their age gap is explored to beautiful effect on 'Now and
Then', perhaps the greatest love song in the Who canon (there aren't all that
many!) and Ray's flaws are explored successfully on songs like 'English Boy'
and 'I Am Afraid'. Had 'Psychoderelict dealt with this half of the material
over half the length, it would have been right up there amongst Pete's best.
the full album is hard to follow, with too many sub-plots seeing Ray through
the eyes through a cynical hack desperate to dig up the dirt on him (the
newspaper is never named but is surely The Daily Mail, no other newspaper in
Britain is made with such needles venom) that are never really counter-acted:
she never gets her come-uppance and he never gets to 'prove' her wrong. We also
never quite find out if her 'trick' (posing as a pretty fifteen-year-old fan
who sends Ray a picture of herself naked posing on her mother's grave and
asking for help and bringing out his paternal side he didn't even know he had)
is a case of someone nasty trying to fool somebody kind, or whether Ray really
was trying to take advantage of a vulnerable girl all along (in turn he
forgives the reporter for making it up and sleeps with her - but is she then
nasty for betraying him and printing the story anyway or is it him for being
stupid enough to fall for her? And why is Ray working on a revived version of
'Lifehouse' complete with references to a 'grid' - is this to 'prove' to the
loyal fans that Ray is meant to be Pete or a shameless cash-in chance to re-use
a bit of the - admittedly wonderful - 'Baba O'Riley' demo?) The Meher Baba
links are confusing too - is Pete laughing at himself and his guru for being
exactly the sort of thing a washed-up no-talent like Ray would believe in - or
is he trying to show us that, whatever we think of rockstars and their gurus,
they offer an escape from the seediness of real life and pull people like
Pete/Ray to a higher level?
the light of future events when nearly
everyone in the media seemed to have it in for the guitarist (Pete's arrest for
child pornography charges - a naive but genuine attempt to research a future
album) it's a real shame that Pete doesn't slam all his critics down here for
good and show just how different the 'truth' and the 'media opinion' can be. We
also don't need another 'Who By Numbers' style album full of woe about how
drunken, lost and unconfident Pete/Ray feels - especially as, unlike that album,
the music isn't as inspired the lyrics aren't as brave and just sounds like
someone moaning. The spoken passages between each song, while well performed
and the sort of thing The Who always used to use better than anyone, really
break up the flow of the music and are hard to follow, changing style and angle
with nearly every track. Some of the music, too, is simply shallow and
uninspired by Pete's highest standards with songs like 'I Want That Thing' and
'Let's Get Pretentious' so simple they're beneath Pete's usual standards and
multi-layers while the Meher-Baba named instrumentals are no more developed
than the abandoned ideas on the 'Scoop' CDs and twice as irritating given that
this is meant to be a more 'complete' set. This is also easily Pete's hardest
story to follow - and unlike 'Tommy' 'Quadrophenia' or even 'Lifehouse' you
don't quite care enough for the characters or the idea to bother.
end result, then, is an album that's disappointing and frustrating mainly
because the main idea and the best standalone moments from this album suggest a
narrative that could have added up to so much more - a case of the right tasty
ingredients being turned into the wrong sort of cake. Pete said in a recent
interview that he'd 'lost the power to connect with his audience lately' and
didn't know why. The answer is a work like 'Psychoderelict, which is a tale of
rockstars' empty little lives and people out to drag them down - something
which is less vital to the Who fan out in the streets than the spiritual thirst
of Tommy (the only person who doesn't think he's a rockstar) or the need to
belong of Jimmy (the only person who can save himself). 'Psychoderelict' should
have been a tale of love, of how Ray is the only person who doesn't believe in
his own talents and who finds them all through the love of another, even if
it's another who started off as a made-up vulnerable teen fan and ended up
being a reporter trying to trip him up who ends up falling for him anyway. Instead
it's hard to know just what on earth this tale is all about or what we should
make of it, with Pete so far away from 'listening to us' that we can't follow
him down this particular path even though from the outside so much of this
album looks beautiful and worthy of the Townshend name.
very much sets the album line: Ray/Pete starts off as a hero and end up a
villain as he gets sucked in by the trappings of fame and goes from being
someone who brings comfort and love to the world and becomes a sex-craved
brain-addled chump. 'I'm a lost soul, I'm a pig, I'm a thug, I got nowhere to
go but down!' screams Pete with real joy in his voice on this 'By Numbers'
style song. Media comments, meanwhile, only make him feel worse by kicking him
when he's already down (Ruth the reporter's best line of the whole record:
'life's a bitch - and so am I!') Making out that he's both special and average
(just another 'English Boy') this is such a Townshendesque song it overcomes a
slightly dodgy jazzy backing track that's a little too much like 'Face The
Face' for comfort.
'Meher Baba M3' is a short instrumental loop that sounds like a heavy metal
version of an advert and even though it's the most substantial of the four on
this album at three whole minutes, it's arguably the weakest.
'Let's Get Pretentious' tries hard to laugh at Pete and everything his kind of
naval-gazing rockstar stand for, but it lacks the humour of 'Misunderstood' and
is delivered without the same wry smile. Without them this song just sounds,
well, pretentious as Pete demands 'I don't know much but I know what I like!'
is a second instrumental with Meher Baba's name attached that sounds a little
like the synth opening to 'Who Are You' but with added drums.
'Early Morning Dreams' returns to the 'grid' of 'Lifehouse' and is a quick utopian
insert that has Ray believing the world really wake up a better place one day,
complete with Beach Boys style harmonies (or in the past - the 1960s are
revealed in the last verse to be this same utopia). However the song is second
to the narrative as a so-so ish song keeps being interrupted by talk and weird
vocal effects that have Ray joining with the voice of his 'grid' advertiser.
'I Want That Thing' is a clumsy and ill-advised song looking at consumerism that
starts off like 'Let My Love Open The Door' and ends up sounding like Iron
Maiden. A noisy, unfocussed song about a fussy teenager working hard and
wanting to enjoy their money, this is too nasty a view of the typical confused
and violent Who consumer for comfort, Pete's cynicism - so welcome when turned
against the world - turned against the very people he usually 'listens' to for
advice and inspiration.
'Outlive The Dinosaur' has become quite a popular song, perhaps because it's cool jazz
leanings really catch the ear and the song makes sense outside the album story.
However this update of 'My Generation' and the idea that every era has its own
eras to latch onto is once again clumsy and written in large generalities
rather than moving details.
narrative mostly, with Ray reading out his 'last' fan letter to his fifteen
year old while she croons away on a demo tape behind him. Thankfully we can't
hear it any detail because, let me tell you, this Adele-style warbling wouldn't
make me fall in love, no sirree!
'Now and Then' is what a love song should sound like: moving, heartfelt and
ever so slightly vulnerable. In Pete's best work in a decade or more he tells
us, through Ray's eyes, his shock at realising that he's fallen in love just
when he was least expecting to. Putting it down to fate ('now and then you see
and you fall in love, you can't do a thing about it') he writes to his fan
about 'recognising' her pain through her words (ain't it funny how we all write
the same?!), his shock as slowly their lives 'become entwined' and his worry
that, as the older partner, she doesn't really love him and is about to leave
him just when her youth makes him feel young himself - and his shock as he
realises that just isn't true. Played with just the right amount of wisftulness
and burst of aggression, with a
perfectly judged vocal just the right side of dreamy and urgent. A gorgeous
melody, some moving words - this clearly autobiographical song is a cut above
anything else here, written from the heart as well as the head.
'I Am Afraid'
is a less convincing song about Ray worrying that he isn't worthy of his new
partner, but in a very jazz lounge early 1990s setting where nobody seems that
fussed about anything. The sweeter, simpler demo released on 'Scoop 3' was much
'Don't Try To Make Me Real' is better, an 'I Don't Even Know Myself' howl of pain where
Ray/Pete tells us that he'd rather hide behind a character and his own
imagination and doesn't want to be the figure people want him to be. The most
Who-like number on the album, it's good to hear Pete going back to the
'identity' issues that have plagued him since first putting pen to paper.
is a short sting of joy on a largely unhappy album, with a bluesy feel (similar
to the live Who arrangement of 'Drowned') and is really about being 'reliable'
than 'predictable' as after years of being unsure whether he could 'test' his
lovers, Ray knows this love is for real.
bit more of 'Flame'
comes next - frankly I wish someone had been talking through this version as
it's noisy brainless squawky pop sung with full 1980s power. Pete's younger
brother Simon co-wrote the song with many others - but not the guitarist
'Vivaldi' version of
the 'Meher Baba' theme comes next, sounding like it's being played on an
accordion. More link than lyrical loveliness, it rather breaks up the storyline
just as it's (finally!) got going.
is an ugly song that copies 'A Little Is Enough' as Pete as Ray sings that he
doesn't care if love is faked, as long as he 'feels' it. Sensing that his fan
might not be all she seemed to be, he prefers to hide in his imagination -
which seems a strange request for someone usually so passionately, impressively
concerned with being 'real'.
album then features an unnecessary reprise of 'Now and Then' with different dialogue and a longer
instrumental passage. Basically this bit is here to tell us that Ray is fine
now, happy that the extra publicity over his life has re-boosted his sales and
re-inspired him afresh. Which is all well and good but why hear this over this
song , even if the reporter is more on his side this time.
minute extract from the finale of the original demo for 'Baba O'Riley' comes next, over jokey dialogue
about how this piece is going to 'save the world'. Which it might well do if
you all shut up and listened to it! (You can hear the full version on either
the Meher Baba tribute album 'I Am' or the 'Lifehouse Chronicles' box set of
album then ends with a reprise of 'English Boy' - an uglier, more angular, bluesier version with Ray
reflecting on everything he's learnt. It sounds like a 'farewell' song in more
ways than one, with Pete trying to sum up his career before he dies as an
'English Boy' who tried to do right despite circumstances being stacked against
him. Final line? 'Whatever happened to all that hippie shit?!' A good question
indeed given the unfortunate then-modern sound of this recording.
on which copy of the album you own, you'll either get two nice but inessential
period live recordings of 'Now and Then' and 'English Boy' or a raft of demos,
of which a demo for 'Early Morning Dreams' is the most convincing. Overall,
though, all these reprises and false endings rather detract from what little
power the story has.
then, is a confused album. The story is hard to follow, for the first time ever
on a concept work Pete struggles to write enough decent compositions to work as
music in their own right rather than just tell a story and the interrupting
dialogue quickly becomes annoying. Overall, this might well be Pete's weakest
album - it's certainly his most confused and least interesting on a
song-by-song basis. However at times - on 'English Boy' 'Don't Try To Make Me Real'
and especially the poignant 'Now and Then' - the concept inspires Pete to a
height that's worth sitting through all the lows for. Both psychotic and
derelict on different occasions, this record is also a brave work reflecting
the ups and downs of Pete's life at the time and deserved to do better even if,
ultimately, it's the sort of flawed minor album only a truly committed fan
Original Cast Recording"
(RCA Victor, '1993')
Overture/Captain Walker/It's A
Boy-We've Won/1921-What About The Boy?/Amazing Journey/Courtroom Scene/Sparks/Amazing
Journey (Reprise)/Christmas-See Me Feel Me/Do You Think It's Alright?/Fiddle
About/See Me Feel Me/Cousin Kevin/Sensation/Sparks (Reprise)/Eyesight To The
Blind/The Acid Queen/Pinball Wizard//Underture/It's A Boy (Reprise)-There's A
Doctor/Go To The Mirror!-Listening To You/Tommy Can You Hear Me?/I Believe My
Own Eyes/Smash The Mirror!/I'm Free/Strets Of London-Miracle Cure/Sensation
(Reprise)/I'm Free (Reprise)/Tommy's Holiday Camp/Sally Simpson/Welcome/Sally
Simpson's Question/We're Not Gonna Take It/See Me Feel Me (Final Reprise)
you think it's alright to turn this gritty album about betrayal, disability and
resolution into a joyless singalong musical? Yes I think it's alright!"
years after the album, eighteen after the film and four since the reunion tour
performance of it Pete Townshend revives 'Tommy' all over again as a Broadway
Musical. 'Tommy' should, on paper, be well suited to the stage: it is, after
all, a work about uniting characters and audience as one at the end and Roger
was always too old to play the 'young' Tommy convincingly. Being performed by
'real' people again, rather than boozed up celebrities, feels closer to where
Tommy should have been heading with his life in middle-age. However there's an
artificial air about this interpretation which makes it sound like the worst
excesses of Ken Russell's interpretation and the worst of Broadway musicals as
a whole: no one really cares what's happening, everything is spectacle and
drama rather than pure emotion and feeling the way 'Tommy' always was on stage
and the poor Broadway band, unused to playing rock and roll, sound about as far
away from The Who as it's possible to get. The cast try their hardest and so do
the band, but this is a mis-casting in the extreme, as both halves try their
hardest to enter a world that they were never going to understand and for Who
fans there's far too much 'tidying up' of the story and characters going on.
Also, the ambiguities, always one of the more audience-friendly parts of the
original work so that listeners could put their own stamp over things, have
become facts and dates which isn't the same thing at all. To be fair, though
Pete's name is on the work and though he gave his approval, this wasn't his
idea at all but Des McAnnuff's, a Broadway director who loved both film and
album and wondered if Pete might be persuaded to share his vision. Townshend
did, but quite what persuaded him to pass over custody of his beloved baby is
open to question.
feels messed around with and not for the better. 'Captain Walker' is a 'round'
sung by multiple characters after each other with none of Pete's anger and
helplessness. 'It's A Boy' is now
surrounded by gunfire and effects to make it more obvious this is set during a
war, while the midwives sing it as a happy song, missing the point of the
original and the weight Tommy already carries with him at birth. 'Amazing
Journey-Sparks' is horrific, played on tinny guitar and limp drums with trumpets
instead of psychedelic mayhem and sung for laughs not drama. 'Christmas'
becomes a stuttering 1980s operatic production number. Uncle Ernie and Cousin
Kevin go from loveable rogues taking things a bit too far and turning nasty to
dizzy relatives with no comprehension of the harm they do. 'Eyesight To The
Blind' is no longer low-key 'real' blues but a big production number. 'The Acid
Queen', though one of the better interpretations here, is no longer scary but
just demented. 'Pinball Wizard' is now a little jealous boy rather than an
egotistical star applauding at a new rival. 'I'm Free' is just shouting, no
longer a revitalising life-changing moment of escape and release. 'Tommy'
Holiday Camp' is more like an oompah band than an edgier version of 'Hi-De-Hi'.
'Sally Simpson' is no longer our representative, the fan who believes in this
stuff so much she'll risk life and limb to be with her idol, but some
irritating brattish kid. Only the finale of 'See Me Feel Me' really gets going
and then only because it turns the audience into a mass singalong, someone in
charge finally realising what the power of 'Tommy' is - that he's a 'mirror' of
our own insecurities, infirmities and egos and that only together, as star and
audience, can we overcome our respective issues. And even then it takes a few
minutes. Poor Tommy sounds during the whole night as if he's badly in need of
an intervention as a middle-age crisis leads him to become everything he should
never have been in the first place: insincere and stupid (some of the new
dialogue makes him out to have a low IQ as well as being deaf, dumb and blind).
Few fans really liked this work and even fewer casual Broadway goers, who
didn't know The Who, enjoyed it. We're not going to take it, gonna shake it,
gonna break it - maybe forget it, better still?
not entirely. Despite the long list of complaints in this article, the musical
soundtrack CD (now sadly rather rare) is worth tracking down if you get the
chance. Pete is given a third chance to revisit his work and now he's has the
benefit of a few extra decades of living has had the chance to think about what
he was trying to say a bit more. While most of the extra dialogue in this work
is clunky in the extreme, some of it is fascinating and adds new layers to the
story we've never heard before - especially for Tommy's mum, who is softer and
kinder in this version (sample: 'How can we share all the sights you are
seeing? Hear the glorious music you're hearing? Can we be a small part of your
being? Why do you still feel so alike when we're near?' Tommy: 'The point isn't
for you to be more like me - the point is that, finally, I'm more like you!'
Cousin Kevin also gets a bigger part, going to the papers with his cousin's
story and pretending to be his 'protector'!) There are a few snippets of songs
added here again - none are as substantial as in the film but they do make for
interesting hearing: There's an earlier version of 'Sensation' back when Tommy
is still 'trapped' in his own world in which he nervously, hopefully, timidly
promises his worried parents that one day he will make then proud that's really
quite affecting. 'I Believe My Own Eyes' is a sweet ballad between mum and dad
just before they smash the mirror as they make it clear the destruction is more
out of frustration and worry than anger and spite. 'Sally Simpson's Question'
has the girl trying to connect with her idol and feeling disappointed when
Tommy turns out to be 'ordinary'. 'We're Not Gonna Take It' additionally has a
'new' opening verse - 'I think I now know why you're here, you want to be like
Tommy? I'm glad you're not, I hope that's clear!' None of this makes 'Tommy'
the musical a strong essential work for Who fans or even anywhere close to
being a good idea, but Pete's opportunity to revisit his old familiar tale does
at least give him the chance to flesh out a few characters, clarify a few
points and add a bit more emotion. Had this all been better sung by a cast of
hungry teens low on theatrics and big on emotion, had it been directed by a rock
fan first and Broadway director second and had a real Who tribute band been
playing on stage this could have worked and worked very well, but in the end
Tommy and his amazing technicolour dream-coat is as misunderstood as he ever
was when he was blind, deaf and dumb.
Townshend "Live At BAM"
(Eel Pie Records, Recorded August 1993,
Released August 2003)
CD One: Intro/English Boy/Meher Baba
M3/Let's Get Pretentious/Meher Baba M4/Early Morning Dreams/I Want That
Thing/Intro/Outlive The Dinosaur/Gridlife 1/Flame (demo)/Now and Then/I Am
Afraid/Gridlife 2/Don't Try To Make Me Real/Intro/Predictable/Flame/Intro/Now
and Then/Baba O'Riley (Demo)/English Boy (Reprise)
CD Two: Pinball Wizard/See Me Feel
Me-Listening To You/Let My Love Open The Door/Rough Boys/Behind Blue Eyes/The
Kids Are Alright/Keep Me Turning/Eminence Front/A Little Is Enough/You Better
You Bet/Face The Face/Won't Get Fooled Again/Let's See Action/Magic Bus
by silence, spiked by noise, I hold my son, I plan his toys"
first 'electric' shows post-Who had him sounding much more like his old self,
with as good a substitute for Roger, Ox and Moon as it was possible to find. As
with the other Townshend archive live shows the joy comes from hearing familiar
songs performed with a different vocalist with Pete's sometimes-angrier,
sometimes-calmer take on his own compositions often sounding very different to
the final products. Though some of the time you just miss Daltrey, there are
moments when this show really comes to life in a way even the Who gigs hadn't
post-1975 such as a poignant 'Behind Blue Eyes' and a more upbeat take on 'You
Better You Bet'. The shows were held to promote his last 'Psychoderelict' album
which was heard here near complete and even contained the original dialogue,
which made more sense on the live stage with a cast of actors making it clearer
what was going on, with some moving performances of such lovely under-rated
songs as 'Outlive The Dinosaur' and 'Now and Then'. Filmed initially for Pete's
own archives, a full double CD and DVD set were finally, erm, rush-released to
public demand twenty years later when most of the fans privileged enough to be
there were still talking about it as one of the best shows they'd seen. The
only sad part is that so few fans ever got to experience the full onslaught of
a Pete Townshend live show - the guitarist didn't perform all that many gigs in
1993 with this band (fifteen in all) and even on CD this show is hard to track
down, being only currently available through Pete's online 'Eel Pie' website
(sadly now shut). A shame because it's a good one with an intelligent track
listing, some sensitive re-recordings and Pete proving once and for all that he
doesn't need Roger alongside him to put on a top show.
Daltrey "A Celebration: The Music Of Pete Townshend and The Who"
(Continuum, February 1994)
Overture/Pinball Wizard/Imagine A
Man/Dr Jimmy/The Song Is Over/The Real Me/Baba O'Riley/After The Fire/5.15/The
Sea Refuses No River/Who Are You?/Won't Get Fooled Again
let me get to the master panel, let me get my stash"
1994 Roger had come to the conclusion that he worked best as a singer when
singing Who songs and that he had a real magical connection with Pete
Townshend's work which he'd never been able to replace. Of all the band Roger
most enjoyed the reunion tour of 1989 and being back in a 'gang' again after
years of working on his own and he longed to make another record that way.
Pete, though, wasn't so sure announcing that the Who were 'dead' and that the
tour had been solely financial (though it wasn't revealed at the time quite how
destitute John Entwistle was and how much his colleagues had done that tour to
rally around him). If The Who wouldn't come to Roger then Roger decided to go
to The Who and launched an unusual album whereby he re-recorded all his
favourite songs from the old catalogue in a new musical setting for two shows
at Carnegi Hall (thsi set being an amalgam of both) to raise money for a
premature baby unit in Columbia. The occasiona also doubled as a 50th birthday
present, of sorts, to fans pleading with the band to reunite permanently. Like
most such exercises in this sort of thing the result is pointless - why
re-record timeless songs in a period setting so tightly linked to their era?
Plus Roger wasn't quite as strong and youthful a singer as he had been the
first time he recorded these songs. It seems odd too that Roger should hand so
much of the stage over to singer Linda Perry (perhaps her awful screech through
'Dr Jimmy' is here at proof that Roger was meant to sing these songs, not
anyone else). Pete himself turns up to play guitar and sing lead on 'Who Are You'
which is an odd idea - this isn't an album called 'Roger and a little bit of
Pete sing Pete' is it? Plus his gruff, angry vocals seem out of place amongst
all the oprchestral beauty on offer here. Sinead O Connor, who performed on
'Baba O'Riley' at one of the original shows, has been cut from the album in
favour of Roger solo which is a shame as she cuts closer to the bone of the
track than Pete or Linda and which seems to have been made for licensing
reasons (though weirdly she is on the tie-in video released in 1998).
'Overture' is a new orchestral medley of solo Townshend songs in the style of
Tommy's orchesrral opening number, which seems particularly pointless and falls
particularly flat. However the results are occasionally interesting, both for
Roger's personal track listing which features a bunch of unusual songs
including 'Imagine A Man' from 'Who By Numbers' which had never been heard live
before and 'The Song Is Over' from 'Who's Next'. The orchestra too is better
handled than ever it was on the 'classical' interpretations of 'Tommy' and
'Quadropehnia', there for colour and power rather than to replace the sheer
noise of the originals or make them sound a bit 'posh'. Roger also tackles two
unusual songs, reviving Pete's 'After The Fire' first recorded on Daltrey's
'Under A Raging Moon' LP and 'The Sea Refuses No River', one of the best
Townshend songs of the 1980s which sounds really good in Roger's
blustering-but-mournful tones. You'd never take any of these recordings over
what the origoinal had to offer, but this was meant to be a reminder rather
than a replacement and on that strength it works well proving both that no one
could deliver material more suited to Roger's strengths of powerful
vulnerability and trimid strength than Pete - and that equally nobody could
sing Pete's songs better than Roger. Meet the new boss - same as the old boss.
Years Of Maximum R and B"
(Polydor/MCA/Geffen, July 1994)
Disc One: Pete Dialogue (Long Beach
1971)/I'm The Face/Her 'Tis/Zoot Suit/Leaving Here/I Can't Explain/Anyway
Anyhow Anywhere/Daddy Rolling Stone/My Generation/The Kids Are Alright/The Ox/A
Legal Matter/Pete Dialogue (Leeds)/Substitute (Leeds)/I'm A Boy/Disguises/Happy
Jack (Jingle)/Happy Jack/Boris The Spider/So Sad About Us/A Quick One While
He's Away/Pictures Of Lily/Early Morning Cold Taxi/Coke (Jingle)/The Last
Time/I Can't Reach You/Girl's Eyes/Bag o'Nails/Call Me Lightning
Disc Two: Rotosound Strings (Jingle)/I
Can See For Miles/Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand/Armenia (City In The
Sky)/Tattoo/Our Love Was/Rael/Rael 2/Track Records (Jingle)/Premier Drums
(Jingle)/Sunrise/Russell Harty (Dialogue)/Jaguar/Melancholia/ Fortune
Teller/Magic Bus/Little Billy/Dogs/Overture/The Acid Queen/The Abbie Hoffman
Incident (Dialogue)/Sparks (Woodstock)/Pinball Wizard/I'm Free/See Me Feel
Me/Heaven and Hell/Pete Dialogue (Leeds)/Young Man Blues (Leeds)/Summertime
Disc Three: Shakin' All Over (Leeds)/Baba
O'Riley/Bargain (Live)/Pure and Easy/The Song Is Over/Dialogue/Behind Blue Eyes/Won't
Get Fooled Again/The Seeker/Bony Maronie (Live)/Let's See Action/Join
Together/Relay/The Real Me/5:15/Bell Boy/Love Reign O'er Me
Disc Four: Long Live Rock/Life With The
Moons/Naked Eye/University Challenge/Slip Kid/Poetry Cornered/Dreaming From The
Waist/Blue Red and Grey/Life With The Moons #2/Squueze Box/My Wife/Who Are
You?/Music Must Change/Sister Disco/Guitar and Pen/You Better You Bet/Eminence
Front/Twist and Shout/I'm A Man/Dialogue/Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting
you want to complain there's no one to stop you, but when the music proclaims
there's no one can top you!"
eleven years of 'Maximum R and B', another seven of 'Minimum R and B' and
another twelve of resting! (The choice of release date is also interesting,
suggesting The Who count their birthday as being not when they were formed
circa 1960 or when their first single as The Who came out in 1965 but from
their year as 'The High Numbers'). Released at a time when The Who's albums
weren't widely available on CD (or at all in the case of the first album and
the last handful), this set was a welcome and much-loved one for many with
several songs recordings released for the first time (with the lengthy batch of
outtakes for 'Who Sell Out' in 1967 gaining a particularly large amount of
coverage). This set was certainly a labour of love, with no less than three
record labels involved in the making of it and copious sleevenotes that contain
more notes and photos than most of the actual books out on the band. There are some pretty neat
and detailed touches for the fan all round, usually 'inserts' into the main
action whether in the booklet or the music, with familiar recordings
interrupted by brief sections of outtakes, ad libs or in the case of 'Behind
Blue Eyes' a mass break out of coughing, as well as four Keith Moon radio skits
from 1973 and some of the funniest Pete Townshend on-stage jokes that sums the
band up well (the box starts with the guitarist in 1971 telling the crowd at a
Who gig to shut up - 'This is a fucking rock and roll concert not a fucking tea
party!' - in the middle has Abbie Hoffman being literally booted off-stage by
Pete at Woodstock when he tried to interrupt rock and roll with politics and
the entire set ends with the immortal Townshend line 'Play some rock and
roll?!?' What did you think that lot just was, bleeding Mantovani?!') In short,
if you were a Who fan in 1994 and your vinyls were beginning to wilt after
being played at maximum speed for thirty years and you'd just bought a CD
player then this set was for you.
now that we are coming up to another thirty years on (assuming that you're
reading this before 2024) this box set sadly represents less than maximum value
for the modern collector. All the really interesting things have now found new
and much more suitable homes on the many album CD re-issues and deluxe sets out
there - particularly 'Who Sell Out' and 'Who's Next' where the majority of the
once-exclusive tracks once came from (there's comparatively few from the other
Who albums). That happens with box sets sadly, which tend to date far quicker
than most compilations do, but most can
still be used as valuable lengthy compilations long after the collector
has bought up all the 'new' stuff at least three times over. The sad fact is
that 'R and B' doesn't make such sense there either: record company shenanigans
means that we only get the very basics from the Brunswick 'Sings My Generation'
era, random live recordings come and go interrupting the flow of the largely
studio bound material and there are just too many important songs missing:
shockingly the classic single take of 'Substitute' is, well, substituted by the
impressive but still inferior 'Live at Leeds' cut, 'Tommy' gets reduced from
twenty tracks to just three, 'Quadrophenia' gets reduced from seventeen to four
and 'Face Dances' and 'It's Hard' (deserving of re-appraisal by long-termers
even if they were never likely to be casual fans' favourite moments on this
box) get cut to ribbons.
collectors still need this always-pricey set for a few minor moments that have
yet to come out in any other form. You don't really need to hear The Who
covering polar opposite Elton John unless you have a very wide musical palette
(although 'Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting' is dressed up to sound
impressively Who-like) or the band's final encore of an Entwistle-screeched
'Twist and Shout' from the last Canadian show in 1982 (even if it is a fitting
historical finale) though a storming live version of 'Bargain' from 1971, an
almost as good cover of 'Bony Moronie' from the same era and even a menacing
1980s take on 'I'm A Man' ('I'm way past 21!' Roger quips) are all essential
purchases, maybe the Keith Moon skits too as a worthy representation of what a
quarter of the band, at least, were all about. Maximum? No. A band the size and
importance of The Who deserve a second one that's even more maximum than this
one, especially now that so many hard-to-find live recordings (included on the
rare website subscribers 'Backstage Pass' set ) and Townshend demos (on the
nearly impossible to get 'Scoop' series) have come to light. But there is still
much about this box that set a standard for other similar compilations to come,
from the generous and informative sleevenotes to the then-generous sampling of
outtakes and the little nuggets of gold hiding between the songs.
Quick One While He's Away" (CD Re-Issue 1995) Bonus Tracks:
T/Barbara Ann/Disguises/Doctor Doctor/I've Been Away/In The City/Happy Jack
(Acoustic Mix)/Man With Money/My Generation-Land Of Hope and Glory
Who Sell Out" (CD Re-Issue 1995) Bonus Tracks:
2/Glittering Girl/Melancholia/Someone's Coming/Jaguar/Early Morning Cold
Taxi/Hall Of The Mountain King/Girl's Eyes/Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand (US
Next" (CD Re-Issue 1995) Bonus Tracks:
and Easy/Baby Don't You Do It!/Naked Eye/Water/Too Much Of Anything/I Don't
Even Know Myself/Behind Blue Eyes (Alternate Version)
Who By Numbers" (CD Re-Issue 1996) Bonus Tracks:
Box/Behind Blue Eyes/Dreaming From The Waist (All Live At Swansea 1975)
Are You?" (CD Re-Issue 1996) Bonus Tracks:
Road Romance/Empty Glass (Demo)/Guitar and Pen (Early Mix)/Love Is Coming Down
(Early Mix)/Who Are You? (Unedited)
Dances" (CD Re-Issue 1997) Bonus Tracks:
Like Nightmares/It's In You/Somebody Saved Me/How Can You Do It Alone? (Live
1979)/The Quiet One (Live 1982)
Hard" (CD Re-Issue 1997) Bonus Tracks:
Hard/Eminence Front/Dangerous/Cry If You Want (All Live 1982)
feel me coming, a new vibration, from afar you'll see me, I'm a
Who's re-issue on CD of almost their entire catalogue in 1995 (debut 'The Who
Sings My generation' was still being held up by the Shel Talmy court case) was
a thing of beauty, amongst the best of the AAA bunch even if it was slightly
unevenly balanced. The original packaging was included, with front and back
sleeves from the UK and US plus numerous unseen photos inside each disc,
generally informative sleevenotes and a mini-essay for most of the albums
(oddly not 'Quadrophenia' or the later albums) and for most albums a whole run
of bonus tracks which were chosen sensibly and with care. 'A Quick One' for
instance features the whole of the 'Ready Steady Who' EP released a month
before that album, every conceivable period B-side and an impressive run of
unreleased material that's probably better than the album, including a
thrilling harmony-driven rendition of The Everly Brothers' 'Man With Money' and
a gloriously revolutionary medley of 'My Generation' and 'Land Of Hope and
Glory', which beats The Sex Pistols' 'Rule Britannia' by thirteen years and an
even greater sense of anarchic spirit. 'The Who Sell Out' is even better and -
despite the name - is surely the best value for money Who disc out there with
another 40 minutes of glorious unreleased material all cleverly sequences with
unused 'jingles' between all the 'new' songs, plus exhumed missing verses for
'Odorono' and 'Rael' cut for timing reasons. 'Who's Next' too is even more
glorious thanks to an impressive run of extras mostly intended for 'Lifehouse',
although there were in fact many more that could have been added (and still
could, despite the later release of an inferior 'deluxe' edition). Jumping
ahead, 'Who Are You' really gains from the stunning unreleased demo for a band
version of 'Empty Glass' (later the title track of Pete's solo album in 1980)
and the charming 'No Road Romance' which Pete should have returned to but never
did, along with some not-that-interesting extras (although the title track does
gain a missing verse chopped from the original album edit). 'Face Dances',
perhaps the weakest album of The Who's original run, is much improved too
thanks to three completely unreleased songs which are all arguably better than
much of the LP (especially a first go at the lovely ballad 'Somebody Saved Me')
and two live recordings that are the last live who tracks in chronological
terms where they sound really good, a pounding, pulsating punkish thrash
through 'How Can You Do It Alone?' that knocks spots off the studio version and
an angry, snarling 'The Quiet Ones' where John Entwistle has never sounded so
gloriously loud. All are highly recommended, even over and above the lengthier
but pricier 'deluxe' sets out there.
other albums don't fare quite so well though, at least in their 1990s run:
'Tommy' is so long it barely fits on one CD anyway so there are no extras there
and the sleevenotes aren't quite as good; 'Quadrophenia' re-creates the
original massive booklet but still splits the album across two discs and
charges accordingly even though at 80:14 in total you're basically paying
double the price to own thirty seconds' worth of opening 'sea and seagull'
sound effects! (Oh well, you can always get the 'film soundtrack' version for
less I suppose, although it's a surprise that known outtakes like 'Long Live
Rock' and 'We Close Tonight' weren't on there somewhere); Finally 'Who By
Numbers' and 'It's Hard' only feature period live recordings - some pretty
wonderful ones, admittedly, with a particularly thrilling 'Dreaming From The
Waist' and 'Eminence Front' on the two CDs respectively, but all these are
amongst the runts in The Who's re-issue litter. One additional point too: The
Who released some of their most interesting and hard-to-find work in 1968 which
was just plain ignored for this release, with 'Who Sell Out' from 1967 and
'Tommy' from 1969 packed to the rafters. Even now there's a lot from this era
that deserves a higher profile release. Overall, though, there are more good
apples than bad ones in this bunch and - in the 1990s at least - The Who's
catalogue had never sounded better, brighter or offered better value. All this
just in time for Britpop too - The Who hadn't been this popular since the mod
revival of 1979 and at long last reviewers began to talk about them in the same
breath as The Beatles and Rolling Stones again, something well deserved.
- The Best Of Pete Townshend"
Rough Boys/Let My Love Open The
Door/Misunderstood/Give Blood/A Friend Is A Friend/Sheraton Gibson/English
Boy/Streets In The City/Pure and Easy (Solo Version)/Slit Skirts/The Sea
Refuses No River/A Little Is Enough/Face The Face/Uneasy Street/Let My Love
Open The Door (Remix)
am such an ordinary star!"
fans snigger at the unprounounceable title, but actually it makes perfect sense
in context - the lines come from 'Misunderstood', an oh-so Townshenesque tale
from 'Rough Mix' about a weedy kid who longs to be a pop star and thinks he's
acting 'cool'. In context of Pete's awkwardness at becoming a 'solo star' and
stepping outside the use of Roger as a frontman, it's almost like he's laughing
at himself with this title. The front cover, too, is a glossy
head-and-shoulders shot which is just so un-Who-like it's clearly meant as
parody and it even emphasises the largeness of Pete's nose. As for the
contents, this single disc best-of has been rather superceded by the plethora
of compilations since and you really don't need such a short set when the
two-disc 'Pete Townshend Anthology' is out. However the contents are arguably
superior to either 'The Best Of' or 'Truancy', containing as they do a larger
selection from each of the 'main' Townshend solo albums and less of the
extra-curricular demo albums. The set does lose a couple of points for the
wayward running order and the rather odd electronic re-mix of 'Let My Love Open
The Door' exclusive to this set (why bother? The original was plenty good
Pete Townshend "Live At The
Recorded April Released October 1996)
My Love Open The Door/English Boy/Drowned/The Shout/I Put A Spell On You/Cut My
Hair/Sheraton Gibson/I'm One/Heart To Hang On To/O Parvardigar/A Legal Matter/A
Friend Is A Friend/I Am An Animal/All Shall Be Well/Slit Skirts/Eyesight To The
Blind/Driftin' Blues/Now and Then/Rough Boys/I'm A Boy/Magic Bus
"I ain't seen a sign of my heroes
- but I'm still diving down for pearls"
More archive windmilling from Pete only made
available through his Eel Pie website (and now, sadly, unavailable) with the
difference in this set coming from the fact that Pete is playing for the first
time as part of a duo, providing the guitar and vocals to friend Jon Carin's
keyboards (on loan from Pink Floyd's 1980s touring band). It's an interesting
excuse for more re-arrangements and Carin's synth parts do bring out an extra
quality out of some of the Townshend songs and the audience re-act to the new
level of intimacy in a big way, going nuts in a way they didn't even do on
'Live At Leeds'. However this halfway house between the pure acousticness of
the 'Maryville Academy' set and the full band shows of 1993 falls a little
between two stools and is perhaps the least interesting out of the three. The
set listing throws in enough surprises to keep this set interesting and
entertaining even so though, with welcome revivals of Quadrophenia's 'Cut My
Hair' , the solo improvisation 'Sheraton Gibson' (played on a Sheraton
Gibson!),moving 'Empty Glass' highlight
'I Am An Animal', Who single 'I'm A Boy' with Pete singing everything instead
of just the first verse and - most unexpectedly of all - a clattering 'Legal Matter' never performed
on stage before and last heard way back on 'The Who Sing My Generation' in
1965. The one exclusive song to this set, a cover of Nina Simone's 'I Put A
Spell On You', is a bit of a struggle to sit through (Pete goes for gruff barking
rather than subtle hypnotic seduction!) and the semi-rare 'Driftin' Blues'
isn't one of his better ideas either, while a jazzy discordant 'English Boy' is
as close to being unlistenable as Pete Townshend ever got. By and large,
however, this is another sweet concert that offers quite a few extra bits even
the other endless archive Townshend shows don't possess and The Who magic is
still very much in the air - most of the time at least.
Generation - The Very Best Of The Who"
I Can't Explain/Anyway Anyhow
Anywhere/My Generation/Substitute/I'm A Boy/Boris The Spider/Happy
Jack/Pictures Of Lily/I Can See For Miles/Magic Bus/Pinball Wizard/The
Seeker/Baba O'Riley/Won't Get Fooled Again/Let's See Action/5.15/Join
Together/Squeeze Box/You Better You Bet
call me the seeker, I been searcing low and high, ain't going to get what I'm
after till the day I die!"
last a compilation that makes The Who come over as the rock Gods they are. The
front cover features their four heads in profile looking like the presidents on
Mount Rushmore (only cooler). The white-on-black format makes the artwork seem
like something 'important' rather than another hastily thrown together
compilation. The track listing puts everything in the right order so that you
can hear The Who progress from their early 'Can't Explain' days of confusion,
through to the rock opera moments when the band finally know who they are,
though to the late period when they realise that nobody really knows who they
are (and I don't even know myself). The set includes 'The Seeker' for the first
time, the band's relative flop single from 1970 which is rightly heralded as
one of their best works today. Also this set came out when The Who albums had
all just been re-mastered (bar the contractual struggles over the debut) so the
songs even sound good here - or at least as good as they had up to this point.
It is, in short, the best single-disc introduction to The Who that you can buy
at present, with a good mixture of the 1960s hit singles and 1970s album
tracks. What it doesn't provide is the shading: this is a very black-and-white
set in all senses of the phrase, with no room for 1960s album favourites (not
even from 'Tommy' - 'Pinball Wizard' is all you get, not even 'See Me Feel Me/Listening
To You'!), not enough room for 1970s album favourites ('5.15' is the only song
off 'Quadrophenia', though 'Who's Next' fares better), no live recordings (not
even 'Summertime Blues' or 'Young Man Blues') and only the two hit singles from
1975 onwards. That is, in the biggest underestimate since somebody said The
Spice Girls weren't as good or as girl-power friendly as The Supremes, a shame.
Sadly it looks as if The Who are the sort of band who can't be embraced fully
on the single-CD compilations that the world and his gramophone-using dog
insist on these days and getting a full flavour of this band from just the hit
singles and a couple of extras isn't enough. However at the time of writing
none of the two or four disc sets have got things right either, leaving 'My
Generation' as the best of the sets for now, while all the others can just
f-f-f-f-f-fade away. Fans, who'd been waiting for a decent Who set on CD for
about a decade by now, bought enough copies of this album to make #11 in the UK
charts even with minimal promotion from what was left of the band themselves -
hopefully some curious new ones who found enough to love to stay the course and
buy up all the albums too.
Entwistle "The Rock"
(Griffin, Recorded 1985-1986 and 1996,
Released August 1996)
Stranger In A Strange Land/Love Doesn't
Last/Suzie/Bridges Under The Water/Heartache/ Billy/Life After
Love/Hurricane/Too Much Too Soon/Last Song/Country Hurricane
2005 Re-Issue Bonus Tracks:
Casualty/Light In The Dark/Break Your Heart/Love Doesn't Last (Demo)/Heartache
it looks like the party's over, lose the feeling and you head for cover"
Ox's first album of new material in fifteen years (though much of the album had
been recorded within five), sadly 'The Rock' also became his last significant
work before his death. Or perhaps that should be semi-significant because,
rather than a 'proper' farewell overflowing with all the things John had been
burning to say during his fourteen years away from the public 'The Rock' is a
disappointingly average album, low on John's morbid humour, quirkiness and even
his vocals and songwriting. The 'problem' seems to have stemmed from John's
perennial problems with his finances: needing this work to be a huge success he
tailored it to sound as much like period heavy metal rock albums as he could,
even hiring a 'singer' for his band for the first time and allowing himself to
replace his usual distinctive writing style for something far more generic.
Even then he couldn't get a record label to touch it and it was only after
finishing off the work in the mid-1990s (when Britpop and the Who CD re-issue
series meant the band were semi-big again) that the album came out of
mothballs, by which time it had aged rather badly with that tinny, aggressive,
thin and very 1980s sound. The result is an album so bland and so
familiar-sounding it could have been by anybody and considering what this album
is called it's ironic that its biggest trouble is that it doesn't come close to
'rock', switching between noisy aggressive blasts of noise and limp weepy slow
tempo ballads. The Who it isn't - but then Entwistle albums were never about
sounding like The Who; what's worse is that this album doesn't even sound like
it's five predecessors but something decidedly wetter and more boring.
are, at least, a few saving graces that give this record at least a couple of
stars. John's chosen his new band with care and is the first member of The Who
to hire Ringo's son Zak Starkey, who as well as being Keith Moon's God-son is
arguably the player out there closer to the loon's natural style. Henry Small,
singer with Canadian rockers Prism, sounds enough like Daltrey to be compatible
without sounding like a bad tribute act. Some of the songs - generally the ones
John had a hand in himself - show promise, especially 'Bridges Under The Water'
(John's only straightforward love song?) and the moving 'Last Song', which it
pretty much was. Too much of this album sounds like a noise though and not a
nice Who-style noise either but an un-co-ordinated thrashing of limbs getting upset about nothing very much
happening at all, with John's always-thrilling bass mixed way too low in the
mix. If this was 'The Rock' Jimmy the Mod was clinging to for life in
'Quadrophenia' then he'd have drowned, not been re-born.
Thomas Whitlock is most famous for writing 'Take My Breath Away', the Top Gun
theme song that was everywhere for about five years. Sadly 'Stranger In A Strange Land'
will only take your breath away by being so utterly inaudibly atrocious you
wonder whether John is teasing you and had any hand in this godawful mess
John's own 'Love Doesn't Last'
is better, thanks to the slower tempo and the emphasis on his powerful bass
playing. Henry Small sings the Entwistle lyrics about loneliness and an
inevitable split with panache, though there's still a slightly strained and
stilted air to what could have been a fine regretful love song.
wretched, angry aimless shouting against a background so 1980s it's practically
wearing shoulder pads.
'Bridges Under The Water' is rather sweet lyrically, if a tad generic musically. John's
experienced too many heartbreaks, 'too many just good friends' and he wonders
whether his latest love with jet-back hair will be the love of his life or
another learning experience. In John's raw hands this could have been quite
moving - alas the players turn this into just another bland 1980s love song.
growls with a great bass riff but otherwise sounds like just so much howling at
the moon - and a moon filled to the sea of tranquility with 1980s synths at
the cigarette-puffing lad of Who in yesteryear but an old man wondering 'where
did the time goes?' Good question: John has never sounded more middle-aged than
'Life After Love' is another highlight, another Entwistle co-write about love and
loss that snarls like a panther - albeit one that comes in 1980s musical
deely-boppers. It's odd to hear John open his heart so much about how lonely he
is after so many decades of being 'quiet' but the lyrics to this song are as
moving and affecting as anything Pete came up with; it's just the music that's
comes with a 'woo-hoo' chorus and is clearly written as the all-singing
all-dancing catchy hit single. Except that it sounds too much like every other
1980s hit single to stand out in the charts and everyone is trying so hard to
be 'cool' that they come off as awkward instead.
'Too Much Too Soon' has a fierce bass 'n' drum battle, but not much else to
recommend it with a wandering riff that never goes anywhere and a standard
lyric about being taken for a ride that The Who would never reduce themselves
to (well, not until 'Endless Wire' anyway).
is the album highlight, with an 'It's Your Turn' bass riff and an Entwistle
lyric about how his life has never been planned but instead 'I go where the
music takes me' every single time. A life motto, it would have been better
still left in John's hands rather than Henry's, but there's a swing and an
enthusiasm to this one that overcomes the bland setting.
album ends, though, with 'Country
Hurricane', a funny band parody of 'Hurricane' played in a hokey country
fashion. Good fun, but at 45 seconds long hardly the most substantial farewell.
the money, John persuaded WEA to keep re-issuing this album every time it
stopped selling, sometimes with alternate track listings and often with
numerous bonus tracks. Given that they were never intended as part of the 'Rock'
album the first time round we haven't included them all here, but a demo of
'Love Doesn't Last' (with more Entwistle) is the best of the bunch.
Entwistle "Thunderfingers - The Best Of John Entwistle"
(Rhino, October 1996)
My Size/Pick Me Up (Big Chicken)/What
Are We Doing Here?/You're Mine/I Believe In Everything/Who Cares?/Thinkin' It
Over/I Wonder/Apron Strings/The Window Shopper/I Found Out/I Feel Better/Made
In Japan/Roller Skater Kate/Mad Dog/Drowning/Fallen Angel/Too Late The Hero
memories of what we had left will return, the present remains - the past is
is the alternate nickname Who fans started using when they didn't want to
simply use 'The Ox'. That's a fitting name for a compilation of Entwistle Who B-sides,
but no - this is just the solo songs around again and newcomers will find
disappointingly little thunder and lightning here, just a kind of drizzle. The
best songs on this set come from John's rock and roll parody songs, tracks like
'Roller Skate Kate' (a tragedy on two wheels!) or 'My Size' (about feeling
really small). The rest of the songs here just don't have much oomph, with a
surprising emphasis on the ballads like 'Drowning' and 'Too Late The Hero',
which sound about as much like The Who as Bill Wyman's solo records sounds like
the Stones. The large se;lection of songs from the most inward looking of the
albums, 'Smash Your Head Against The Wall', also makes this feel more like a
muted singer-songwriter set than arguably the world's best bass player from the
world's greatest rock band. Even as an attempt to stretch Enwtsitle's palette
too many of the best songs in similar veins are missing (such as Who party
story 'Cell no 7' and the poignant 'I Believe In Everything'). The end result
is a disappointment: there is a terrific single disc collection of John's solo
highlights to be compiled by somebody one day, but this really isn't it.
Dalrey "Martyrs and Madmen - The Best Of Roger Daltrey"
One Man Band/It's A Hard Life/Giving It
All Away/Thinking/World Over/Oceans Away/One Of The Boys/Avenging Annie/Say It
Ain't So Joe/Parade/Free Me/Without Your Love/Waiting On A Friend/Walking In My
Sleep/Parting Would Be Painless/After The Fire/Let Me Down Easy/The Pride You
Hide/Under A Raging Moon/Lover's Storm
I try to keep the beat it seems I'm walking in my sleep"
updated version of Roger's 'best bits' seems a much better bargain - more songs
(with a CD length running time rather than a vinyl one), more albums to choose
from and everything included in the proper chronological order. The album
thankfully includes most of the really interesting material - as well as the
obvious ('Giving It All Away' 'One Man Band' and 'Say It Ain't So Jo') the
record includes the better and most Daltrey-like songs from the 'McVicar'
soundtrack and the two most talked about moments from the Who tribute LP 'Under
A Raging Moon' - Roger's autobiogrphical title track and Keith tribute plus
Pete's song of wondering hat happens next, 'After The Fire'. The result is
still far from perfect (I'd have included more songs from both 'Daltrey' and
'Rock Horse' and it's a shame that even 'Orpehgus Song' didn't make it onto
this album from 'Lizstomania', but this is still a mostly good summary of a
mostly good body of work with most of the bad bits missing.
Townshend "A Benefit For Maryville Academy"/"Magic Bus"
Recorded August 1998 Released September 1999)
On The Road Again/Anyway Anyhow
Anywhere/A Little Is Enough/Drowned/Now and Then/North Country Girl/Let My Love
Open The Door/Won't Get Fooled Again/Magic Bus #1/I'm One
Bonus Disc (Encores): Magic Bus
#2/Heart To Hang On To
The album was re-released in 2004 as
'Magic Bus - Live From Chicago" with a shorter track listing:
On The Road Again/Drowned/You Better
You Bet/Now and Then/North Country Girl/Let My Love Open The Door/Magic
Bus/Heart To Hang On To
man never stands as tall as when he stoops to help a child"
Pete started playing solo shows from 1995, some
thirty years after he first came to fame with The Who, although it took another
three until he was comfortable enough on stage to contemplate a 'big event'
gig, held to raise money for the abused children's charity Maryville Academy.
Freed of the need for speed, Pete slows down the tempos of many of his band and
solo classics and performs with an intimacy rare for The Who and though few of
the arrangements approach the power of the originals the guitarist is clearly
relishing the chance to revisit forgotten material and perform them in a slightly different way.
Quipping that 'tonight is easier for me than you - you had to pay to get in!',
Pete is in a cheerful mood throughout, telling the audience at the gig (and
those of us at whom who bought the CD and raised funds) that 'we did good
tonight!' Pete did pretty good too, going far above and beyond simply
performing a Who gig without The Who with some excellent re-workings of old friends
including a bluesy, more desperate take on 'Anyway Anyhow Anywhere' (last heard
circa 1965!), an acoustic uptempo blues version of 'Drowned' and a fiery 'I'm
One' (both of which were last heard circa 1973!), a knockout live version of
the sweet 'Now and Then', the only inclusion here from Pete's latest work (at
the time) 'Psychoderelict' and a moving finale of 'A Heart To Hang On To' with
special guest star Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder performing the 'Ronnie Lane' bits
(a song never heard before in concert!) There are a couple of unique rarities
too: who else but Pete would start such a prestigious gig with a cover of a
song never associated with him before (Canned Heat's 'On The Road Again') and
the traditional ballad 'North Country Girl', who is much prettier than the
version on 'All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes' LP. Not everything is in rude health: 'Magic Bus'
is an improv too far that lacks the spooky production values of the original
even though Pete is having so much fun he plays it twice and a thirteen minute
synth-heavy version of 'Won't Get Fooled Again' rambles with all the fire of a
cabinet meeting as Pete escapes the need to scream like Roger by going for slow
steady sobbing rather than angry cynical stabs. By and large though this is a
great gig by a great performer released to raise money for a great cause and
perhaps the best live Who-related album since 'Live At Leeds' where, even
though Pete is older and less energetic, he still has the same guttural anger
and violent emotion flowing through his veins. The longer original two-disc
version is the one to get by the way - the later 'Magic Bus' version may be
cheaper but loses much of the 'magic' while having way too much 'Bus'!
Townshend "Live At The Empire"
Recorded November 1998, Released September 2000)
On The Road Again/A Little Is
Enough/Pinball Wizard/Drowned/Anyway Anyhow Anywhere/You Better You Bet/Behind
Blue Eyes/Baby Don't You Do It/English Boy/Mary Anne With The Shaky
Hand/Sheraton Gibson/Substitute/I Am An Animal/North Country Girl/(She's A)
Sensation/A Friend Is A Friend/Now and Then/Let My Love Open The Door/Who Are
You?/The Kids Are Alright/Acid Queen/Won't Get Fooled Again/Magic Bus/I'm One
so lucky I'm around!"
'Maryville Academy' the warm-up event and a cameo return to 'Woodstock' under
his belt, Pete set out on his first proper UK tour. Thankfully a mobile
recording unit and a number of engineers went with him and Pete's home-coming
gig to Shepherd's Bush was taped for posterity. The gig is another good one
with a handful of surprises even compared to 'Maryville' - the set is much
longer now and has clearly been designed with passionate Who fans in mind, Pete
perhaps aware that he wouldn't sell to more casual fans as a solo act. The new
band keeps to the same generally acoustic format but includes a much more
powerful electric sound too, thanks to the presence of old friend John 'Rabbit'
Bundrick and new friend Peter-Hope Evans who provides bluesy harmonica
throughout most of the set. Both musicians enhance the sound no end - but
unfortunately we also get the half-assed rapping of short-lived star Hame to
sit through (to be fair, teaming up with an old fogey who didn't die before he
got old probably didn't help the youngster's career much either). This is still
very much Townshend's gig though as Pete is clearly enjoying the chance to tell
his 'own' stories for a change and he's in superb voice all night, as well as
providing some excellent guitarwork (including some bluesy parts for 'On The
Road Again' not usually related to his style).
are many highlights: an energetic 'Pinball Wizard' which should sound awful
without Roger and co but actually sounds brilliant and about as noisy as an
'unplugged' song can; a bluesy 'Drowned' which sounds like an entirely
different song to the one on 'Quadrophenia' ; a 'bossa nova version of 'Anyway
Anyhow Anywhere' which sounds even better than it did in Maryville thanks to
Hope-Evans' mouth-harp; a passionate and emotional 'Behind Blue Eyes' in stark
contrast to the detachment of the Who version; a punky acoustic 'Substitute', a
powerful and tribal 'I Am AN Animal' never before heard in concert and a
celebratory retro 'The Kids Are Alright'. Only 'A Little Is Enough' sounds like
the band-match is rough and 'A Friend Is A Friend' and 'English Boy' sound
pretty ropey in any version, while the rapping on 'Baby Don't You Do It' is
utterly cringe-worthy ('This is about a song with a plan about a band and a
woman and a man...' sheesh, more like 'this rap claptrap is crap and me and my
AAA posse are so pleased it didn't make a comeback at any of the stacked packed
stadium pacts, pete should have given this rubbish the axe!') Most curious song
choice: a cover of Eddie Cochran's 'sellout' pop song 'Three Steps To Heaven'
which Pete remembers as a major influence. Most curious original choice: a
deadpan 'Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand' which even The Who weren't brave enough
to sing on stage! So no, like Maryville this gig isn't perfect, but it's also
far better than the largely non-singing guitarist on his first 'proper' solo
tour nearly a quarter century after he first arrived in the music business has
any right to be, played with love affection and - rapping aside - consummate
care. A very different listening experience to Who live shows, but a rewarding
Century Masters - The Millennium Collection"
My Generation/Happy Jack/I Can See For
Miles/Magic Bus/Pinball Wizard/Squeeze Box/Behind Blue Eyes/Who Are You?/Join
Together/Won't Get Fooled Again
and sixpence every day just to drive to my baby"
sensible, safe collection of Who favourites to help the band last into the 21st
century (as if they needed any!) The order is almost chronological and most of
the songs a newbie would need are here (even 'Squeeze Box' for once), which
makes this low budget one of the best value for money Who compilations out
there. However be warned: this must surely be the only Who set to ever miss out
big seller 'Substitute', while other usual suspects like 'I'm A Boy' 'Pictures
Of Lily' 'Love Reign O'er Me' and 'You Better You Bet' are missing too. Of
course, by the time you've got to know all these tracks you'll want to track
the whole Who canon down anyway...
Entwistle Band "Left For Live!"
(J-Bird, July 1999/'2001')
Original Version 1999: Horror Rock/The
Real Me/Darkerside Of Night/Success Story/905/I'll Try Again Today/Under A
Raging Moon/Endless Vacation/Too Late The Hero/Had Enough/Shakin' All
Over/Young Man Blues
Deluxe Re-Issue 2001: Bogeyman/Horror
Rock/The Real Me/Sometimes/My Size/You/Darkerside Of Night/Love Is A Heart
Attack/Success Story/Trick Of The Light/Cousin Kevin/Under A Raging Moon/Boris
The Spider/905/Had Enough/Endless Vacation/I'll Try Again Today/Whiskey Man/Too
Late The Hero/Young Man Blues/Shakin' All Over/Heaven and Hell/Summertime
bogeyman will get you - he'll come and drag you away"
closest thing to a heavy metal album in The Who canon, most of 'Left For Live'
is an unholy racket that sounds more AC/DC than the Ace Face. The last
officially sanctioned release of The Ox's lifetime, it's not the way most fans
would wish to remember their hero, with merciless renderings of Who and solo
classics that are driven into the ground. It's not just John's fault either:
this line-up of the Entwistle Band (including another guitarist named Townsend
funnily enough, though Godfrey is no relation to his bigger-nosed namesake),
but had been touring together for four
years by the time this live album was laid to rest but you wouldn't know that
from the endless noodling or uncomfortable jam sessions which often sound more
like a first rehearsal. In theory the chance to hear John sing tracks usually
performed by Roger should be great: in practice it just sounds like a bad Who
tribute act with John so distracted by the need to sing that he doesn't even
play bass that well. At least if this set has one thing going for it though then
it's the track listing which throws in plenty of surprises: 'The Real Me' from
'Quadrophenia' (horrid), 'Success Story' from 'Who By Numbers' (good fun!) '905' and 'Had Enough' from 'Who Are You'
(which are toughened up so much from the originals they sound like they've been
through the Charles Atlas course with dynamic tension!), revived Leeds
favourites 'Shakin' All Over' and 'Summertime Blues' (tolerable) and best of
all a unique cover of Roger's own tribute to Keith 'Under A Raging Moon', which
John always loved and pushed to sing at Live Aid in 1985 before the powers that
be insisted on a Who track everybody knew. Performed with love and attention to
detail as well as the pure noise and aggression of the rest of the album, it's
a triumph of commitment over precision the rest of the album could benefit
solo songs though were always a mixed bunch and sound just as mixed here,
ranging from the witty autobiography of 'Endless Vacation' ('I hope I get old
before I die!') to the slow painful trudge through an even weaker 'Too Late The
Hero'. Though to be honest not many fans were overjoyed by this
Entwistle-By-Numbers set, the CD sold enough and John was destitute enough to
stick it out a second time two years later with double the track listing,
adding Who favourites 'Whiskey Man' 'Boris The Spider' 'Cousin Kevin' 'Trick Of The Light' 'Heaven
and Hell' and 'My Wife' to the running order. This is clearly the version of
the album to get if you're an old Who fan and - typically - many of the songs
dropped from the first version sound so much better than the ones that got
through (especially 'new' opening track 'Bogeyman' where an adult John waits,
terrified, with a baseball bat for the bogeyman his mum promised would get him
one day if he misbehaved). However now that John is long gone and buying this
album won't help him out at all there is no longer any reason for Who fans to
club together and buy this reminder of just how noisy the band's quietest
member could be. Too late for this hero's legacy, 'Left For Live' is a sad
place to say goodbye and far from an essential purchase given the many
shelf-fulls of Entwistle/live Who recordings out there.
To The Bush"
Recorded November and December 1999 Released April 2000)
CD One: I Can't
Explain/Substitute/Anyway Anyhow Anywhere/Pinball Wizard/My Wife/Baba
O'Riley/Pure and Easy/You Better You Bet/I'm A Boy/Gettin' In Tune/The Real Me
CD Two: Behind Blue Eyes/Magic
Bus/Boris The Spider/After The Fire/Who Are You?/5.15/Won't Get Fooled
Again/The Kids Are Alright/My Generation
get a little tired of having to say 'do you come here often?'"
emotional homecoming for The Who available only through the online site
www.musicmaker.com that, without the visuals, just sounds like every other Who
reunion concert. Better than 'Who's Last' 'Join Together' and 'The Vegas Job'
without being quite as good as 'The Royal Albert Hall' or 'Greatest Hits Live',
it does it's job as a souvenir or a special event but doesn't really offer much
new or revealing. The exceptions are the highlights, with the first live 'Pure
and Easy' and 'Gettin' In Tune' since 1971, the first 'The Real Me' heard
outside the full 'Quadrophenia' piece and the only full band performance of
'After The Fire', a Roger Daltrey song about the band first heard on his 'Under
A Raging Moon' LP (the title track tribute to Keith would have been a better
My Generation (Jingle)/Anyway Anyhow
Anywhere/Good Lovin'/Just You and Me Darlin'/Leavin' Here/My Generation/The
Good's Gone/La-La-La-Lies/Substitute/Man With The Money/Dancing In The
Street/Disguises/I'm A Boy/Run Run Run/Boris The Spider/Happy Jack/See My
Way/Pictures Of Lily/A Quick One While He's Away/Substitute #2/The Seeker/I'm
Free/Shakin' All Over-Spoonful/Relay/Long Live Rock/Boris The Spider (Jingle)
Bonus Disc: Pete Townshend Talks
Tommy/Pinball Wizard/See Me Feel Me/I Don't Even Know Myself/I Can See For
Miles/Heaven and Hell/The Seeker/Summertime Blues
happy when life's good and when it's bad I cry"
great British institution full of intelligence, wit and stimulating
conversation meets...The BBC! The Who were never a natural fit for the nation's
airwaves to lay sweet songs over tea-time the way so many of their peers did
and yet, for all their reputation, The Who seem to have behaved enough to have
been invited back to perform for the radio on quite a number of occasions. This
latest AAA BBC set sits somewhere in the middle of the complete list of the
ones we've reviewed here: like most bandsThe Who mainly needed the Beeb during
their early years so almost half of this set features the early and primitive
Who back when they were mainly a covers band doing the odd Pete Townshend
single on the side. Given the one-take nature of some of their performances
they don't sound quite as good as they do on the albums and the BBC engineers
especially struggle to work out how to record Keith Moon's drums (the solution
seems to have put him a million miles away from the others down a corridor,
which doesn't exactly make for easy listening!)
the plus side, though, this set features quite a few exclusive recordings or
studio takes of songs the band only ever performed live and many of them are
rather good (better than the covers on 'My Generation' anyway). That old Rudy
Clark standard 'Good Lovin' has a real swing to it, James Brown's 'Just You and
Me Darling' features a much greater attack than 'Please Please Please' or 'I'm
A Man' and Pete really nails the laidback but strutting solo, a rather dull
version of 'Shakin' All Over' from a month after 'Leeds' livens up no end when
Willie Dixon's 'Spoonful' gets stuck on the end in a medley and we get rare hearings
for the jumpy Motown classic 'Leaving Here' (unreleased till the 1993 box set)
and The Everly Brothers' gorgeous 'Man With Money' (unreleased till the CD
re-issue of 'A Quick One' in the mid 1990s). Better yet we get two jingles
unheard since broadcast in the 1960s and which are both clearly prototypes for
the ones on 'Who Sell Out' but even funnier, with a hilarious reading of 'My
Generation' changed to 'My Favourite Station' ('their new approach is
f-f-f-f-fresh and bold!') and ten seconds of John Entwistle in his best 'Boris'
voice croaking 'Ra-deee-ooo Oneeeeee!'
this set doesn't provide is consistency. The Who fluff several recordings here
- including the 'proper' 'My Generation' which is performed without the fun of
the jingle, an out-of-tune 'The Good's Gone', a messy 'Substitute' (both
versions, four years apart), a
frustratingly lengthy seven minute 'A Quick One' that's not quick enough and
performed at a disinterested plod and 'Dancing In The Street' is so soft and
un-Who-like it trips over early on and never gets upright again. The recordings
of 'Relay' and 'Long Live Rock', cheekily included because they were broadcast
on BBC TV as The Who mimed on 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' in 1972, are
basically the originally recordings, just in lesser sound and with a 'new'
vocal added alongside the old one - you can hear one Pete giggle during the
'takes his pants off' line while the 'real' one doesn't at one point. Surely
something better could be found in the vaults than this? (oddly The Who's BBC
sessions haven't been bootlegged anywhere near as often as their contemporaries
so it's hard to work out just exactly what exists - surely there's more than
this though and the bonus disc, generally superior to the main course, really
should have been on the original instead of much of what's here). Which is a
shame because there's so much here which is good: 'Anyway Anyhow Anywhere' is
impressively controlled-yet-dangerous for a new band on only their second live
session, 'Disguises' lacks the bass and brass but if anything sounds even more
threatening and subversive than the 'Ready Steady Who' cut and both 'Happy
Jack' and Roger's rare 'See My Way' come with more whallop than the rather
lightweight originals. Even so, that's less great moments than you'd expect
from a band as used to performing live as The Who - maybe it was the fact the
band couldn't see the whites of their audience's eyes in a 'Listening To You'
type manner that had them performing under-par so much, while reduced to
recording cut-length 'highlights' rather than a full show The Who were never
going to shine. More than just a curio, without really being definitive, this
BBC set is a god but not great reminder of two very English yet very different
institutions that does little to help or hurt the band's reputation either way.
Townshend "Lifehouse Chronicles"
Disc One (Lifehouse Demos): Teenage
Wasteland/Goin' Mobile/Baba O'Riley/Time Is Passing/Love Ain't For
Keeping/Bargain/Too Much Of Anything/Music Must Change/Greyhound
Girl/Mary/Behind Blue Eyes/Baba O'Riley (Instrumental)/Sister Disco
Disc Two (More Lifehouse Demos): I
Don't Even Know Myself/Put The Money Down!/Pure and Easy/Gettin' In Tune/Let's
See Action/Slip Kid/Relay/Who Are You?/Join Together/Won't Get Fooled Again/The
Song Is Over
Disc Three (Themes and Experiments):
Baba M1/Who Are You? (Live 1998 Edit)/Behind Blue Eyes (1999 Re-Make)/Baba
M2/Pure and Easy (Demo Reworked 1999)/Vivaldi (Baba M5)/Who Are You? (Live 1998
Uncut)/Hinterland Rag/Pure and Easy (1999 Re-Make)/Can You Help The One You
Really Love? (New Recording)/Won't Get Fooled Again (Live 1998)
Disc Four (Arrangements and
Orchestrations): One Note-Prologue/Fantasia Upon One Note/Baba O'Riley
(Orchestral Version)/Sonata K212/Tragedy/No 4 Aria/No 2 Giga/No 6 in D Minor/No
3 Adagio and Allegro/Hinterland Rag/Sonata K213/The Gordian Knot Untied
(Overture-Allegro-Air #1-Rondean Minuet-Air #2-Jig-Chaconne-Air
#3-Minuet-Overture Reprise)/Tragedy Explained/One Note Epilogue/Fantasia Upon
Discs Five and Six: Lifehouse - The
overloaded on my way, bye bye you better keep in touch, I think your ears hear
a whole lot of music and like me you've heard a bit too much!"
epic box set, officially released only through Pete's own website (and sadly
now unavailable) should have been the last word on 'Lifehouse', containing as
it does six whole discs to tell a story Pete knew he couldn't tell in one.
Sadly despite the length this still doesn't feel like the last word on the 'Lifehouse'
saga, with the material rather thrown together if it has any link to the piece
at all rather being re-thought and re-worked as per that other great lost AAA
album, Brian Wilson's 'Smile' (both of which share a lot more in common than
most fans realise). As well as the music you really need (which is almost all
on the first two discs) you get unnecessary modern re-makes of the material
from the late 1990s, demos of later Who songs that were never part of the
original concept even if 'Lifehouse' was still 'inspiring' Pete through to 'Who
Are You' in 1978, classical snippets that basically consist of Pete messing
around and trying to study his heroes Purcell and Bach (the guitarist makes a
far better first-rate Townshend than he does a second-rate classical music
copycat) and the 1999 radio play, which actually has less of the original
'Lifehouse' story and themes in it than the butchered diluted 'Who's Next' ever
did. Given how high our hopes were raised, this set is ultimately a
disappointment and an expensive and exasperating way of trying to untangle the
'Lifehouse' Gordian Knot - and finding ourselves in an even bigger mess than
when we started.
his credit, though, Pete released this set not as a big all-singing all-dancing
fan-baiting way to make money but as an 'extra' on his website - admittedly
rather an expensive extra as it turned out, but at least it was something made
directly for fans he knew would be interested in a collection of odds and ends
rather than a poor misguided casual Who fan who only wanted the hits. This is
apt in so many ways: 'Lifehouse' was, even more than 'Tommy', a project mostly
about Who fans (albeit Who fans from several centuries in the future) and the
internet - then brand new - appeared to be so like Pete's original vision of
'the grid' connecting all likeminded people across the globe even when they
never left their own isolated homes as to be positively scary. 'Lifehouse' is a
work that was always ahead of its time and around the millennium, with the
internet ecological scares and a growing movement of fan forums around,
'Lifehouse' couldn't have been revived at a better time.
of the unreleased music, too, is truly essential for any Who fan. Admittedly
probably about half an hour's worth out of the eight that are here, but that's
still half an hour more than we ever had before. 'Baba O'Riley' especially has
never sounded as good as it does here in three separate versions: the 1999
remake is the only one to compare to the 1970s model, while the mesmerising
rarely-heard nine minute instrumental demo (first released on the rare 'I Am'
album for Meher Baba in 1972) is hypnotic and vibrant even without the words,
while 'Teenage Wasteland' is a chance to hear the song as originally intended -
as a slow worthy but wordy ballad. The unheard demos of the tracks Roger once
sang are also impressive: 'Won't Get Fooled Again' sounds more 1950s rock and
roll than the finished version (though it's impressive just how much of the
song is in place including the synth part - only Roger's scream is missing!),
'Bargain' is more laidback but somehow even more agonising and heartfelt (with
an added weary 'O-oh' that just makes the song!) and the till-now unreleased
'Mary' is a smashing song that really should have come out long before this. Not
a lot for your buck perhaps and this set would have been a lot better received
if Pete had put most of the songs mentioned here on the single disc 'Lifehouse
Elements' sampler instead of so many 1990s re-makes and Purcell soundbites you
really don't need, but somehow it makes sense that a work like 'Lifehouse'
still makes most sense as a sprawling incomprehensible behemoth. Though we
still don't get any closer really to untangling the work the way fans have
always longed to since the release of 'Who's Next' in 1971, with this box set
we did at least come a tiny bit closer. Too much of anything though, even a
work as strong and powerful as 'Lifehouse', really is a little bit too much for
me - probably you too! It's still a
bargain though, one of the best we ever had.
Townshend "Lifehouse - Elements"
Entertainment, February 2000)
One Note-Prologue/Baba O'Riley
(Orchestral Version)/Pure and Easy (Demo)/New Song/Gettin' In Tune
(Demo)/Behind Blue Eyes (1999 Version)/Let's See Action (Demo)/Who Are You?
(Remix)/Won't Get Fooled Again (Demo)/Baba M1/The Song Is Over (Demo)
song is over, I'm left with only tears, I must remember, even if it takes a
single CD reduction of the epic six-disc online-download-only box set detailing
the ideas intended for and inspired by the abandoned 'Lifehouse' project of
1971, as so often happens with The Who the grander the gesture the better the
statement - somehow this sampler feels a little small and sorry for itself. As
so often happens with these sets the better moments seemed to end up being left
behind. For example, there's no nine minutes of looping synths on 'Baba
O'Riley' here, just the drippy 'orchestral version' which is sonically
impressive but emotionally pointless compared to the relentless futuristic
angst of the more famous version. Equally the gruffer, sappier 'Behind Blue
Eyes' re-cut in 1999 bears about as much resemblance to the original as
Boyzone's cover of 'Father and Son' does to Cat Stevens' original. Elsewhere a
rather clumsy demo for 'New Song' appears exclusively to this set rather than
the box and while its tale of searching for a new sound fits thematically, it
wasn't actually written until seven years after the other songs here - ditto
'Who Are You' which was also released in 1978 although that song makes even
less sense (unless the Lifehouse universe of the future also has a place called
Soho with a club and a kind-natured policeman, which seems unlikely given the
dystopian future portrayed on the project's other songs).
the demos for 'Pure and Easy' and 'Let's See Action' sound as great as they
ever did - but you can buy those with better bedfellows surrounding them on a
CD re-issue of 'Who I Am'. 'New' demos for 'Gettin' In Tune' and 'The Song Is Over',
meanwhile, sound a little flat and ordinary compared to your average Townshend
demo with too many spaces not yet filled by the rest of The Who. The only major
addition to The Who canon here is a thrilling nine minute demo for 'Won't Get
Fooled Again' -surprisingly left off the 'Scoop' sets - which may be more
inhibited and less groundbreaking than the Who re-recording but still packs a
punch and like most Pete demos has everything in place already including the
false ending, instrumental break, synthesiser throb and bloodcurdling scream.
Our advice is if you're obsessed with 'Who's Next' and the ideas that spawned
it then get the multi box set - and if you're not obsessed then leave this
particular never-ending itch well alone and stick with the deluxe CD re-issue
which is plenty good enough. Let's hope that's it on the Lifehouse story unless
something genuinely fascinating new turns up to warrant our attention - even us
Who fans won't be fooled again every time...
Townshend "Live At Sadler's Wells"
CD One: One Note/Purcell (Quick
Movement)/Teenage Wasteland/Time Is Passing/Love Ain't For Keeping/Goin'
Mobile/Greyhound Girl/Tragedy/Mary/I Don't Even Know Myself/Bargain/Gettin' In
Tune/Pure and Easy/Baba O'Riley (Orchestral)
CD Two: Baba O'Riley/Hinterland
Rag/Behind Blue Eyes/Let's See Action/Sister Disco/Relay/Who Are You?/Join
Together/Won't Get Fooled Again/Tragedy Explained/The Song Is Over/Can You Help
The One You Really Love?
time we ride out I say we'll never ride out again...but my little greyhound
girl, you got me running down the track"
fascinating concert that's clearly made with mega-fans in mind rather than
casual ones. Inspired by his recent 'Lifehouse' box set Pete returns to several
of his 1971 batch of songs but performs them in a whole new way - like the
demos, with Pete rather than Roger singing obviously, but also an orchestra and
a slower, more languid pace. Sometimes this really works: 'Greyhound Girl' was
always a sweet but understated song but here it's a gorgeous song about
obsession and slow-burning love, while 'Mary' is slower and more world-weary
and played with such poignancy that Pete has clearly spent many a long time
thinking of his own personal 'Mary' and the early prototype of 'Baba O'Riley'
still sounds mighty fine as the more dramatic ballad 'Teenage Wasteland'. This
is where Pete's musical (as opposed to romantic) relationship with partner
Rachel Fuller makes perfect sense - she manages to tease out arrangements that
encourage her boyfriend to be slower and more intense, interested more in
telling a story than in putting on a show. Sometimes all it takes is a single
'humming' orchestral line and Pete is transformed, gone from the bouncy
guitarist trying to distract our eyes from Roger Daltrey at the side of the
stage to a genius narrator telling us a story we can't keep our ears and eyes
away from. However the songs that Who fans know really well still feel like
there's something missing: 'Baba O'Riley' itself is horribly lumpy without the
weight of The Who behind it, 'Bargain' offers poorer returns than any other
version out there and 'Relay' and 'Join Together' are less about togetherness
and unity than several musicians fighting against each other in messy
counterpoint. Great as Pete's new band are on the slow, subtle numbers they
can't rock to save their lives - or that of the Lifehouse characters, which is
more or less what's going on in the original work. The backing singers also get
in the way a bit, especially on the few songs they sing lead on, which when
you've got Pete in the room is just a waste. So the overall result is a mixed
blessing that could perhaps have been trimmed back from two discs to one but at
its peak it offers a whole new glimpse into just how wonderful 'Lifehouse'
might have been - and still might be, if Pete can ever find a way of merging
the rockier songs with Roger singing and his own beautiful glossy ballads the
way they're performed here.
Pete Townshend: Live At Sadler's Wells
At The Royal Albert Hall"
Recorded November 2000 Released June 2003)
I Can't Explain/Anyway Anyhow
Anywhere/Pinball Wizard/Relay/My Wife/The Kids Are Alright/Mary Anne With The
Shaky Hand/Bargain/Magic Bus/Who Are You?/Baba O'Riley/Drowned/Heart To Hang On
To/So Sad About Us/I'm One/Gettin' In Tune/Behind Blue Eyes/You Better You
Bet/The Real Me/5.15/Won't Get Fooled Again/Substitute/Let's See Action/My
Generation/See Me Feel Me-Listening To You/I'm Free/I Don't Even Know
Myself/Summertime Blues/Young Man Blues
heart is like a broken cup, I only feel right on my knees"
2000 The 'Orrible 'OO returned for a good cause - a teenage cancer charity
supported by Roger that the others agreed to help - after four years away since
their last tour with 'Quadrophenia' (sadly the only reunion tour so far for
which there is no live album, assuming of course that there is one from the
'endless' farewell tour the band are on at the time of writing). Compared to
the reunion gigs of (1989 ('Tommy') and 1996, this one was special: instead of
just a half-set of encores taken from standalone songs The Who would deliver a
whole 'greatest hits' tour and they played many songs live for the first time -
remarkable given that The Who toured constantly from the bitter beginning in
1965 to the even more bitter end in 1982. What's more, in Zak Starkey they've
found a replacement drummer Moony would have approved of and who is arguably
the most fitting of all their 'spare' members down the years, with 'Rabbit'
Brundrick doing his usual strong stuff on keyboards too. The joy of this gig is
of hearing three founding members play, for the first and only time, such
delights as 'Relay' (where the band sound fine but Roger is under-rehearsed),
'My Wife' (where John is sadly over-shadowed by Roger), 'Bargain' (which is
wild and raw) and 'Magic Bus' (which goes on for hours - well, ten minutes
that's close enough - with an extended grunge section). The lows of this set
tend to be the guest stars who merely try to do what Roger does but not as well
(those Who songs are harder to sing than people think and far more
complicated!): Paul Weller fares about the best on a suitably Mod-ish 'So Sad
About Us', while Bryan Adams nearly ruins 'Behind Blue Eyes', The
Stereophonics' Kelly Jones clearly hasn't got a clue just how subversive
'Substitute' really is, Nigel Kennedy screeches his way through the violin
finale of 'Baba O'Riley', Pearl Jams' Eddie Vedder reprises his recent gig at
the Maryville Academy with Pete and stays on stage way too long and most
depressingly of all Noel Gallagher is nearly inaudible on 'Won't Get Fooled
Again'. The band should have stuck with, you know, their regular singer - The
Who really aren't a 'with special guests' kind of a band and all the hoo-hah
about who might or might not be turning up robbed the band of their mystique
and reputation somewhat in true music circles. However this set is far from
awful and the band occasionally surprise, sometimes in a big way. With all
deference to Roger, who sings well night, the highlight of the gig is clearly
Pete's solo acoustic spot at the start of disc two where he revisits 'Drowned'
(which is bluesy and ballsy) 'Heart To Hang Onto' (which is very very pretty, perhaps
the highlight of the entire set), 'So Sad About Us' (which is a little raw and
rather depressed-sounding) and 'I'm One' (which is mutedly triumphant). Perhaps
an all-acoustic show would have been an even brighter idea? Most interesting
for fans is the 'deluxe' version which includes a few bonus selections (i.e.
the only four songs not already played at this one) from John's last gig with
the band on February 8th 2002, four months before his death. It's not the best
way to remember The Ox, but the bass solo on 'I'm Free' is as impressive as
ever and a revved up and angry cover of 'Young Man Blues' with far more passion
than the band have played it in a long time is a fine way to end. Overall,
though, this reunion gig still isn't the best Who CD out there by a long shot
and while an improvement on 'Join Together' this is still a decidedly patchy
and generally passionless affair. The main gig is also available on DVD if you
really really have to buy it this is probably the best way to get it (clue: you
Entwistle "Music From Van Pires"
Horror Rock/Darker Side Of
Night/Sometimes/Bogey Man/Good and Evil/When You See The Light/Back On The
Road/Left For Dead/When The Sun Comes Up/Rebel Without A Car/Don't Be A Sucker/Endless
Vacation/I'll Try Again Today/Face The Fear
beast of a thousand eyes was just a peacock in disguise"
the millennium The Ox needed work so badly that he took everything offered his
way - including making the soundtrack for a bonkers US children's TV series set
in the future with the very 'Lifehouse' storyline of teenagers transforming
into, well, Transformers basically in as close as copyright limitations would
allow (and saving the world from the evil 'Van-Pires' of the title. The series was a notorious flop
and was cancelled after thirteen episodes and the resulting soundtrack album
was never going to be a big seller but, needing the money, John made sure it
got released all the same. Maybe the producers intended to get Pete Townshend
first and really wanted the Who song 'Going Mobile'? By and large the album continues the long slow
decline of 'The Rock' by having John sounding like anybody and everybody around
in 2000 and barely touching his bass across a series of ordinary instrumentals,
plus a couple of songs with new guest vocalist Leslie West (from 1970s rockers
Mountain). However there are far more highs on this album than its predecessor,
such as the retro 1980s-tinged power ballad 'Darker Side Of Night' (which
sounds like Jefferson Starship from the period when they were good but with
John's macabre Halloweeny style humour), the comedy piece 'Good and Evil'
(which has John using electronic effects to sound like 'the devil') and the
sweet ballad 'Back On The Road', which is John's best song in years even though
it has nothing to do with the 'plot' and everything to do with John himself and
his boredom at sitting at home twiddling his thumbs compared to being back on
the road where he feels safe. The most interesting song here for Who fans is
the original c.1970 demo of 'Bogeyman' (a song eventually released on 1971's
solo album 'Smash Your Head Against The Wall') complete with a very
recognisable drum part from Keith Moon. Though not quite as polished or
'complete' as the finished version, it's a good archive find with John in good
voice, Keith in good drum and with much more keyboard extras this time around
before things descend at the end with some 'comedy' brass. The end result is
another Entwistle album that's far from essential and yet has more things of
interest on it than most. Is it enough to spark a revival of the series?
Probably not, but there is a cult following of 'Motor Vaters' out there and if
this album introduces The Who to them then job done.
A complete collection of Who reviews:
'The Who Sing My Generation' (1965) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/the-who-sing-my-generation-1965.html