Posted in 1970s, Music, The Who

Happy 50th birthday, Live at Leeds!

Image used solely to illustrate subject for an album review, and consistent with fair use doctrine

On Valentine’s Day 1970, The Who played one of the greatest live shows of rock history at the University of Leeds Refectory, a venue which seats 2,100. On 23 May 1970, six tracks were released with an album cover intending to give the feel of a bootleg.

In February 1995, the album was remastered and released with fourteen tracks. This is the version I bought myself as a 21st birthday present in December 2000, from Amherst’s B-Side Records. Sadly, that store appears to no longer be in business. Since they mostly sold CDs, and had somewhat higher prices than Mystery Train Records and Newbury Comics, I didn’t go there too often.

In September 2001, almost the entire show was finally released on two discs. Fans call this version LAL+T, Live at Leeds plus Tommy, since they performed Tommy live (with a few songs left off). There have since been a 40th anniversary edition and a 2014 deluxe edition (neither of which I have).

As you can see from the above, the complete version (which finally includes “Spoonful”) arranges the tracks in performance order. Even LAL+T didn’t do this. They put the Tommy material on Disc Two, though the band played that in between their other songs.

I got LAL+T as a present from my surviving uncle in December 2001, a bit over a year after I bought the ’95 remaster. Leading up to this, I’d heard a lot of complaints about the sound quality from audiophiles on the Odds and Sods mailing list (which I later unsubscribed from due to its infamously out of control nastiness). Some of them were even quoted in music magazines like Ice.

Guess what, I found not a thing wrong with the sound quality! No tinny, muted sounds or any other problems whatsoever. And the only reason the sound is somewhat softer on the Tommy section is because they turned their instruments down! After that was over, they turned them back up.

After that fiasco, I never trusted a single word out of their obsessed mouths ever again. I was so embarrassed I believed them. These people aren’t audiophiles, they’re audiomaniacs. Who the bloody hell has the time, money, and interest to buy dozens of different versions of the same albums, invest in expensive stereos, and notice tiny differences in audio quality?

You’re not focused on the right thing about music if you seriously declare, “The blue vinyl from China on XYZ Label from 1985 sounds so much better than the picture disc from Brazil on ABC Label from 1970.” No one normal cares or thinks about that!

The leader of these audiomaniacs also has quite the nasty reputation, both on that mailing list and in real life. He’s stalked people, and sent nasty messages to Pete about how he chose to release his own musical catalogue. Amazingly, he asked for five million dollars when he sold his giant music collection.

LAL was my sixth Who album, and I instantly loved it. When I got LAL+T, I loved it even more. It’s right up there with Who’s Next as a quintessential must-have album for newbies, one of their undisputed all-time greats. If you’ve got the money, you should get the complete version.

Of the non-Tommy tracks, my faves are “Tattoo,” “A Quick One” (which Pete gives a wonderfully hilarious, detailed intro to!), “Heaven and Hell” (sung by John), and “Fortune Teller.”

Posted in Music

Why I stopped doing album anniversaries

This was originally written on my old Angelfire page in 2008. Starting in 2001, I joyously played my albums on the anniversary of the day I got them, writing journal entries about them as I did so. I had a number of double, triple, even quadruple anniversaries.

When I wrote this, I planned to retain certain anniversaries, but ended up discontinuing even those. I cut out the second half of the original post, since it discussed which albums I wanted to keep, and why. The final paragraph is significantly edited down.

***

I’ve decided, without much difficulty, to cease and desist from creating any further album anniversaries. The reasons for wanting to stop while I’m still somewhat ahead are many-fold:

1. I don’t want to clutter up the calendar with excess anniversaries. Why feel obligated to have an anniversary anyway? If you love the album enough, you won’t need a reason to play it, or can just play it without writing about it.

And, particularly lately, I’ve been journalling almost nonstop about something I’d prefer to keep journalling about with no interruptions [i.e., my then-nascent relationship with that loser Sergey]. There will also be times when I want or need to journal about something else, not have to devote the day’s entry, or several entries in a row, to album anniversaries. It’s a very positive step that now I don’t find it a big deal at all to have belated anniversaries, even by more than a day.

2. Though every album is special and unique in its own way, not all albums are held in the same regard. I’ve often commented how nice it is to sit down and play something again after a whole year of not having played it, get reacquainted with it, remind yourself it still exists, but the fact remains that there are still some albums you’d prefer not to revisit at all, or at least would prefer to revisit on your own time.

Why stretch yourself thin having anniversaries for every single album you’ve got when you can concentrate your time and energy on your very favourites? I get more out of an anniversary for an album I absolutely love and have a special relationship with than something I don’t play that often.

3. Why even bother to do an anniversary for an album I don’t like? I don’t get anything out of it. Sometimes I even have difficulty coming up with much of anything to say for an album I do like, such as Walls and Bridges or McVicar.

4. If I have an anniversary for every single album in my main artist categories, eventually they’ll all come to feel the same. If they’re few and far between, I’ll have more to say and will treasure them even more. And if you don’t start having anniversaries for the new ones, then the habit won’t start to begin with and thus feel harder to break.

I can’t imagine what I’d have to say were I to do an anniversary for Extra Texture beyond “Well, this album still sucks. I’m embarrassed just listening to it. It makes me want to fall asleep. At least it was only $3. I expect so much better from George than this horrible excuse of an album.”

5. Not having an anniversary, or not starting the habit at all, doesn’t make it any less special.

6. I started this practice when I had far fewer albums. Eventually you run out of things to say, apart from the big guns like Quad or Tommy.

7. It’s ridiculous to schedule your life around these anniversaries, or lug along a record player, the stereo, the big bulky headphones, and vinyl albums when you’re just going on a ten-day vacation, or even just a smaller CD player and its own equipment.

I had to put Psychoderelict onto an iPod for my recent Israel trip, since my six-year anniversary happened during the trip. That anniversary is shared with Double Fantasy and More of The Monkees, but since they’re on vinyl, I had to wait till I got home to have a belated anniversary.

Now that I no longer have this stupid worry, I don’t have to worry about having enough time to do an anniversary if I get home late at night, having to hold off on playing new albums all on the same day, or waiting till well after a period of several anniversaries in a row. I’d be getting more time freed up to spend with my most cherished albums.

Trimming the fat means I get more time to spend with my most special anniversaries.

Posted in Music

Summing up Pete’s solo catalogue

Looking back, it’s hard to believe I was so nervous about getting into Pete’s solo work. For the longest time, I was afraid of committing to an album of unfamiliar songs, and preferred to know all or most already from the radio. If I hated it, I’d have wasted my money.

When I queried the ladies on my estrogen Who lists, Chinese Eyes and Empty Glass were unanimously recommended as ideal starting points, and they were right. You can’t go wrong with either.

Pete’s solo work is so intensely personal, saying “This is who, how, what, and why I am, so love me or leave me.” I love how he wears his heart on his musical sleeve, and cares less if people deride him as pretentious or not commercial enough.

“And I Moved” is a quintessential example of why he got so many female and gay male fans as a solo artist! Pete has more guts in his pinky finger than most male artists for choosing to sing a song about a sexual encounter from a female POV after Bette Midler’s handlers rejected it without showing it to her.

Over eighteen years after I first heard that song, it still gives me goosebumps, particularly the lines “And I moved/And his hands felt like ice exciting/As he lay me back just like an empty dress.”

I used to play Empty Glass every single day! That’s how much I adore that album. And after almost two decades, Side Four of Another Scoop never fails to emotionally transport me back to being a heartbroken 22-year-old.

The order in which I got Pete’s solo albums:

All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, 21 November 2001. I later bought a vinyl copy on 24 May 2002.

Empty Glass, bought 1 December 2001, first listen 19 December 2001, after finally getting a record player as an unbirthday present to myself. (Long story about how the Residence Director of the UMass Hillel House totally forgot about my birthday, and I didn’t finally have a party till the Senior Service in May!)

ScoopAnother Scoop, and Rough Mix, 27 January 2002

Psychoderelict, 16 February 2002

Who Came First, 2 March 2002

White City, late July/early August 2002. I first listened to it on 3 August after winning it on eBay.

Rough Boy bootleg, 18 September 2002

Iron Man, 23 March 2003

Deep End Live!, 19 May 2003

Scoop 3, about the spring of 2019 (via Spotify)

I’d personally recommend White City after Chinese Eyes and Empty Glass. They’re the classic triumvirate of Pete’s solo style. Scoop and Another Scoop are good choices to round out your first five.

Psychoderelict is awesome, though some people prefer the music-only version and don’t like the radio play version. I personally can’t imagine it without the dialogues tying all the songs together, since they’re an integral part of the story, though others feel much differently.

I’d recommend Who Came First and Rough Mix for about this point in your journey into Pete’s solo work, since they were made before he started recording as a solo artist in earnest. It took awhile for WCF to fully grow on me, and RM is half Ronnie Lane’s album, not just Pete’s. You’re getting two for the price of one, and need to like Ronnie’s music too.

If you like Pete’s music enough to keep going, Scoop 3 might be a good addition at this point. Since many of the songs are instrumentals, of a more experimental nature, and not Who demos, it’s more geared towards serious fans of Pete’s solo career instead of newbies.

Getting certain albums too early can turn one off, even if the music itself is awesome. You need to be at a certain place in your fandom to love and appreciate them.

I was really disappointed by Deep End Live!, and would recommend it for last. It’s not so much bad music, just presented poorly. There were 27 songs at this show, with eighteen on the video, and those were the ten songs chosen for the album?!

Only four of those songs are what I consider standouts. The rest are so disappointing. The entire live show was finally released on CD in 2004, which I’m long overdue to listen to!

The much-derided Iron Man made a better initial impression on me! It’s hardly one of Pete’s greatest records, but it’s intended as a children’s story, not deep, timeless, adult music. You also don’t want to miss John Lee Hooker singing “Over the Top” and “I Eat Heavy Metal.”

For almost twenty years, Pete’s solo albums have meant so much to me, on top of his songs for The Who being one of the predominant soundtracks of my life. They hold up so well, and listening to them for the first time in a very long time last year felt like the first time all over again. (My LPs are in storage 900 miles away, so I have to use Spotify for almost everything!)

I’m so glad I took a chance and stepped out of my comfort zone to discover such a special catalogue.

Posted in 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, Music

A double album full of eclectic goodies

Image used solely to illustrate subject for an album review, and consistent with fair use doctrine

Released autumn 2001, Scoop 3 is the last of Pete’s double albums in this series, unless he decides to surprise us with a fourth installment after all these years. Owing to its fairly recent vintage, most of the material dates from the late Seventies through 2001 instead of mining the deep vault. Most of the songs are also from Pete’s solo career instead of Who demos or later revisitings of Who songs, and many are instrumentals.

As Pete explains in his liner notes, he wrote fewer songs with lyrics as of 2001, owning to not being under contract for either The Who or his own solo career. Thus, he had complete freedom to pursue a more experimental type of music, and different types of music than he had when he was obligated to produce albums.

He didn’t entirely stop writing lyrical songs, though. He simply chose to keep them unpublished in case he recorded with The Who or as a solo artist again. (To date, I’ve not listened to either of the albums Pete and Roger made after John’s passing, and have no desire to ever do so.)

Pete also started doing a lot more piano and keyboard music because he seriously hurt his wrist in a 1991 bicycle accident, and using those instruments was wonderful physiotherapy.

Amazingly, at least 27 of the 34 tracks were made in my lifetime!

Disc One:

“Can You See the Real Me” (1973)
“Dirty Water” (1979)
“Commonwealth Boys” (1984; later became closing track “Come to Mama” on White City)
“Theme 015” (1987)
“Marty Robbins” (1984)
“I Like It the Way It Is” (1978)
“Theme 016” (1987)
“No Way Out (However Much I Booze)” (1975)
“Collings” (2000)
“Parvardigar” (German version) (1971)
“Sea and Sand” (1972)
“971104 Arpeggio Piano” (1997)
“Theme 017” (probably 1983, given it was intended for the aborted final Who album Siege)
“I Am Afraid” (1990)
“Maxims for Lunch” (1983)
“Wistful” (1991)
“Eminence Front” (1995; obviously not the demo version!)
“Lonely Words” (1985)

Disc Two:

“Prelude 970519” (1997)
“Iron Man Recitative” (1993)
“Tough Boys” (1979; later became “Rough Boys”)
“Did You Steal My Money?” (1980 or 1981) (“The true story behind this doesn’t make anyone look good—especially me. It is not the time to tell it.”)

“Can You Really Dance?” (1988)
“Variations on ‘Dirty Jobs'” (recorded 1997, fully orchestrated 2001)
“All Lovers Are Deranged” (1983)
“Elephants” (1984)
“Wired to the Moon, Pt. 2” (recorded on piano 1997; strings and vocals added in 2001)

“How Can You Do It Alone” (1980) (“I quite liked The Who’s rendering of this song. Roger sang it really well. But it is probably one of those songs that needed my acidic tone to work without awkwardness. Whichever version is your favourite [and you may hate both of them] it’s good to be able to compare.”)

“Poem Disturbed” (1994) (“You can hear my phone ring. I knew who it was: my then girlfriend. These were strange times for me.”)

“Squirm Squirm” (1990)  (“At last, a song with a happy inspiration. One day I was holding my new-born son Joseph and singing him to sleep. It came into my mind that seen from high above we humans must look just like insects, or worms. As he wriggled in my arms I sang to him about the messages we all believe we get sometimes from above. At the time I was gathering material for Psychoderelict, which was—among other things—about the loneliness and collapse of a once famous and beloved rock star. The song seemed to contain and reflect both the peace and safety of this child in my arms, and the chaos and danger that surrounded us out there in the crazy world.”)

“Outlive the Dinosaur” (1990) (“The word dinosaur was of course first used to describe ageing rock stars with vicious irony and I use it here with vicious irony redoubled.”)
“Teresa” (1980; later became opening track “Athena” on It’s Hard)
“Man and Machines” (1985)

“It’s in Ya” (1981) (“Not much to say about this song. A woman I vaguely knew sent me a letter rightly complaining I was getting self-indulgent [after the release of the Who Are You album] and it later sparked this song about what makes the magic of rock ‘n’ roll. It isn’t the musician—it’s the listener.”)

I only listened to this album for the first time in 2019, on Spotify, despite how long it’d been out. I personally would recommend the first two Scoop albums to a new fan first, since a lot of these songs seem more geared to longtime, serious fans.

While I’ve not listened to Scoop 3 nearly enough to be familiar with all the songs, I’d count “Lonely Words,” “I Like It the Way It Is,” and the German “Parvardigar” among my favorite tracks.

Posted in 1990s, Music

A has-been in search of a comeback

Image used solely to illustrate subject for an album review, and consistent with fair use doctrine

Released 15 June 1993, Psychoderelict is, to date, Pete’s final studio solo album. Though he’s since released a number of other albums, they’re all compilations and live shows instead of new material. Most critics hated this album, though loyal fans have always held it as a criminally underrated masterpiece.

Many casual listeners also hated the radio play structure, with dialogues placed between songs and linking them together. To placate these whiners, Pete released a music-only version. That still wasn’t good enough for the unwashed masses, and sales continued to be poor.

Psychoderelict tells the story of washed-up Sixties rocker Raymond Highsmith (Ray High), who hasn’t had a hit in ages and is now an alcoholic recluse running out of money. His manager Rastus Knight is on his tail to produce something, anything, new, but Ray is convinced the public will hate it.

Ruth Streeting, a radio music critic whom Ray hates, comes up with a very dangerous plan to lure Ray out of retirement and into making new music. Rastus is delighted to hear this, and says they could shift millions if Ruth is successful. He’ll also cut her in on the deal.

Ray receives a letter from 14-year-old aspiring singer Rosalind Nathan, along with a naked photo of her on her mother’s grave. That definitely piques his interest, and he begins a penpal correspondence with her. Ray feels Rosalind is a kindred spirit, since “we both share complicated problems.”

He promises to tell her the secrets of stardom, so long as Rosalind doesn’t tell anyone what he says in his letters. In addition to very personal letters, Ray also sends her a tape of “Flame,” a song he wrote for his secret Gridlife project, telling Rosalind to prove her singing skills by recording it.

Scandal erupts when Ruth airs “the porno penpal story” and excoriates Ray as a nasty slimeball who took advantage of a trusting young girl who opened her heart to him and trusted him. She accuses Ray of soliciting the naked photo and using Rosalind “to test out his weird theories.”

However, the public isn’t that morally outraged, since Ray’s record sales immediately begin surging upon his catalogue’s rerelease. Rosalind’s début album, produced by Ruth, also becomes a huge hit.

Instead of being thrilled at his replenished fortune and being “back in calculator country,” Ray is outraged at Ruth for her role in the situation. When he goes to confront her, he discovers she’s having an affair with Rastus.

Will there be a happy ending to this story? And will Rosalind ever make an appearance?

Track listing (with dialogues running between all songs):

“English Boy”
“Meher Baba M3”
“Let’s Get Pretentious”
“Meher Baba M4 (Signal Box)”
“Early Morning Dreams”
“I Want That Thing”
Dialogue introduction to “Outlive the Dinosaur”
“Outlive the Dinosaur”
“Flame” (demo version)
“Now and Then”
“I Am Afraid”
“Don’t Try to Make Me Real”
Dialogue introduction to “Predictable”
“Predictable”
“Flame” (written by Pete’s baby brother Simon, a talented musician in his own right)
“Meher Baba M5 (Vivaldi)”
“Fake It”
Dialogue introduction to “Now and Then (Reprise)”
“Baba O’Riley” (demo)
“English Boy (Reprise)”

In 2006, the album was reissued with bonus tracks “Psychomontage,” “English Boy” (long intro), “Early Morning Dreams” (demo; alternate vocal), “Uneasy Street,” and “There Is No Message in a Broken Heart.”

I’ve loved this album since I first listened to it in February 2002. I was so excited to see it in the used CD section of Mystery Train Records! My fave tracks are “Now and Then,” “English Boy,” “Predictable,” “Don’t Try to Make Me Real,” and “Fake It.”

The dialogues have so many awesome lines, like:

“Rumour has it the sad old lush can’t do it anymore. I mean make records.”

“Only four nipples? Poor underprivileged kid.”

“That’s all it was, my life on the road, prostitution.”

“That cow wrote that I’m ugly.”
“Well, you are ugly.”

“If you must be introspective, at least do it in public.”

“Remember, you don’t have to bury the past or the pain. You can use it.”

“It’s her job to hate your guts. She’s a journalist.”

“Insecurity is the principle driving force we performers share.”

“Her disgust is the most powerful motivator of the artist in me.”

“Although Ray High’s albums have been rereleased this week, decent, normal people will be more interested in young Rosalind.”

“I can’t wait to see Ray’s face.”
“Well, I can’t wait to see Rosalind’s fucking face.”

“Careful what you’ll say, I’ll print it.”
“I don’t give a smorgasbord about that load of old bollocks you churn out.”

Longtime fans will recognise a lot of Pete’s own life in the story of Ray High, including the parallels between his magnum opus Lifehouse and Ray’s Gridlife. Eerily, there also ended up being parallels with “the porno penpal story” when Pete (along with thousands of other innocent people) was falsely accused of the unthinkable during the severely mishandled Operation Ore in 2003.

Since this album bombed so badly, Pete decided not to make any new albums. Ironically, many people have since pestered him for something new besides compilations. What did they expect would happen after panning so many of his solo albums as pretentious and not commercial enough!

Read more in Pete’s own words