Posted in 1970s, Music, The Who

Happy 50th birthday, Live at Leeds!

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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 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, Music

A double album full of eclectic goodies

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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 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, Music

A double album of gourmet chocolate and fine wine

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Released 8 July 1987, Another Scoop is the second of Pete’s three double-albums of demos, outtakes, and unreleased songs, both for The Who and his own solo career. I bought it the same day I bought Scoop, in late January 2002, on the $2 wall at Mystery Train Records in Amherst.

Though I love both albums, I’ve always slightly preferred Another Scoop. Whereas the songs on Scoop have a really fun, cute feel, like candy and soda pop, Another Scoop feels more mature and polished, like fine wine and gourmet chocolate.

As with the first installment, Pete wrote liner notes for each song, some very funny. Unlike the first album, Another Scoop provides dates for every song. Ten of the 25 tracks were recorded in my lifetime.

Pete dedicated this album to the memory of his dad, jazz musician Cliff Townshend (28 January 1916–29 June 1986).

Track listing:

LP One:

“You Better You Bet” (1980)
“Girl in a Suitcase” (1975; a rejected Who by Numbers track)
“Brooklyn Kids” (1978)

“Pinball Wizard” (1969; infamously written and recorded only to butter up music critic Nik Cohn. Mr. Cohn, a huge pinball fan, had panned a sneak preview of Tommy, and Pete wanted to ensure a much better review upon its official release.)

“Football Fugue” (1978)
“Happy Jack” (1966)

“Substitute” (1966) (“Interesting that in eulogizing two of my most important influences [and ripping off a few ideas] I should end up with one of the most succinct songs of my career.”)

“Long Live Rock” (1972) (“At one point I had a whole concept album planned called LONG LIVE ROCK, UGH. This is an innocent, bouncy little demo that contains enough cynicism to make it bearable.”)

“Call Me Lightning” (1964) (“The song is a very clear example of how difficult it was for me to reconcile what I took to be Roger’s need for macho, chauvinist lyrics and Keith Moon’s appetite for surf music and fantasy sports car love affairs.”)

“Holly Like Ivy” (1982) (“Written and recorded in Dallas after a post-show party at some restaurant at which a girl called Holly shook hands with me. I received a very large shock of static electricity at the same time. I think I stood on her hair.”)

“Begin the Beguine” (1969; written by Cole Porter)
“Vicious Interlude” (Pete warns one of his daughters not to put something on the wall and says she has a mischievous look in her eyes)
“La-La-La-Lies” (1965)
“Cat Snatch” (1982–83; instrumental; planned for the aborted last Who album, Siege)

LP Two:

“Prelude #556” (1982; instrumental) (“This short prelude was written, recorded and mixed in Florida while the other guys in the band were playing hockey with a load of schoolgirls. I felt superior at the time. After all, I was writing a prelude. This should really be described as a fanfare:
‘… for the entry of Roger Daltrey in a gym-slip!'”)

“Baroque Ippanese” (1982; instrumental)
“Praying the Game” (1978)
“Driftin’ Blues” (1981; always been my least-fave track; written by Charles Brown, Eddie Williams, and Johnny Moore)
“Christmas” (1968)
“Pictures of Lily” (1967)
“Don’t Let Go the Coat” (1980)
“The Kids Are Alright” (1965)
“Prelude: The Right to Write” (1983; instrumental)
“Never Ask Me” (1977; intended as an alternative ballad for Who Are You)
“Ask Yourself” (1982–83; planned for Siege)
“The Ferryman” (1978; written for an amateur production of Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha)
“The Shout” (1984)

Side Four, which begins with “Prelude: The Right to Write,” took on great emotional evocation for me after my third love Jason broke my heart in October 2002. From that first haunting, insistent, pounding piano note, I’m gripped by an aching, yawning heartache that lasts through the last song, as though I’m back in Massachusetts and a heartbroken 22-year-old again. Every single time for almost eighteen years.

Pete’s music is that powerful, truly a soundtrack of my life.

My fave tracks are “Girl in a Suitcase,” “Brooklyn Kids,” “Football Fugue,” “Holly Like Ivy,” “Praying the Game,” and the abovementioned Side Four.

Pete turns 75 tomorrow, 19 May. May he have many more happy returns and continue blessing us with such wonderful music!

Posted in 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, Music

A double album of musical candy and soda pop

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The day I got back to Amherst after winter vacation, in late January 2002, I walked down to Mystery Train Records in the hopes of finding some awesome new vinyl for my collection. Among the loot I found were both of Pete’s Scoop albums, Scoop and Another Scoop, on the $2 wall. I finally had a record player, and I couldn’t wait to listen to them!

Though Scoop was released in April 1983, it contains material from as far back as 1965. Since all my records are sadly still 900 miles away in storage, I can’t pull it out to review Pete’s liner notes, but thewho.net thankfully transcribed them.

The 26 songs are demos Pete made for The Who, as well as discarded solo songs. It was quite strange at first to listen to him singing songs I was so familiar with Roger singing. On some of them, Pete is clearly straining to reach notes Roger hit with no problem, since he didn’t write those songs for his own voice.

Track listing:

LP One:

“So Sad About Us” (1966; opens with a spoken intro)
“Brr” (instrumental)
“Squeezebox” (“…a poorly aimed dirty joke….Further incredulity was caused when it became a hit for us in the USA”) (1975)
“Zelda” (recorded during the making of Face Dances, about Pete’s niece; I named my ninth journal after this song) (1981)
“Politician”
“Dirty Water” (also recorded during the making of Face Dances) (1981)
“Circles” (1965)
“Piano: Tipperary” (instrumental)
“Unused Piano: Quadrophenia” (instrumental) (1973)
“Melancholia” (Pete’s comment “I’m pretty sure The Who didn’t even hear this song” became infamous after the song appeared on the boxed set Thirty Years of Maximum R&B. His memory lapses are legendary and hilarious!) (1967)
“Bargain” (1971)
“Things Have Changed” (1965)
“Popular” (later became “It’s Hard”) (1982)
“Behind Blue Eyes” (1971)

LP Two:

“The Magic Bus” (1968)
“Cache, Cache” (retch, retch) (1981)
“Cookin'” (“A chauvinistic little ditty, but I’m chauvinistic towards men as well so it’s OK isn’t it?”)
“You’re So Clever” (1980)
“Body Language” (a discarded track for All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, using the fusion of “streamed poetry with straight lyrics” also found on “Communication”) (1982)
“Initial Machine Experiments” (synthesizer instrumental, with a very trippy, spooky feel)
“Mary” (one of the two namesake songs of my current and twelfth journal) (1971)
“Recorders” (instrumental; 1973)
“Goin’ Fishin'”
“To Barney Kessell” (instrumental; always been my least-fave track)
“You Came Back” (the album’s crown jewel, in my opinion)
“Love, Reign O’er Me” (1973)

Pete released this album to try to put a stop to people bootlegging, stealing, and copying his demos, noting that such fans would welcome this addition “to their stockpile of obsessive memorabilia.” More than that, he liked how it testifies to the power of home recording to evoke moods and music which could be created in no other way.

Above all, writing and recording music gives Pete real joy, particularly when created away from the prying eyes of the public and demand to be as polished and refined as possible. He wanted to share that joy with others.

Though Who fans will recognize eleven of the songs, they sound much different than the band’s versions. Not only is there a different vocal, there are different arrangements and stylings as well. It’s kind of like how Charles Chaplin described each viewer bringing one’s own outlook to the viewing of a silent film, no two people imagining the same words for the scenes without intertitles.

These songs are so cute and fun, hence the descriptor “candy and soda pop.” They’re also a contrast with the songs on Another Scoop, which feel like gourmet chocolate and fine wine (more about that on Monday).

My favorite songs are “You Came Back” (which is about reincarnation), “Zelda,” “Cookin,'” “Mary,” “Politician,” “Circles,” “So Sad About Us,” and “Unused Piano: Quadrophenia.”

Posted in 1970s, Music

An underrated collaboration

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Released 16 September 1977, Rough Mix reached #44 in the U.K. and #45 in the U.S. It was recorded during a hiatus for The Who, and after Ronnie Lane’s band The Faces (who evolved from The Small Faces) split up. Ronnie originally wanted Pete to produce his next solo album, seeing as how Pete’s home studio was one of England’s most advanced at the time. He also wanted to co-write songs with Pete, but that idea was met with disinterest.

Ronnie was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis during the making of the album, which he didn’t publicly reveal. Since Pete had no idea what was going on with his mate’s health, he thought Ronnie was coming to the studio drunk, and really chewed him out about it. They also once had a fight related to Ronnie’s emotional issues regarding MS. When Pete discovered the truth, he felt really bad about how he’d treated poor Ronnie.

Sadly, both of Ronnie’s brothers and his mother also had MS. As a child, doctors assured him it wasn’t hereditary, but when he was diagnosed at 31, the doctor allowed that it tends to cluster in families. Ronnie passed away at only 51, in 1997.

The eleven songs sound neither like The Who nor The Faces, but British folk rock. In addition to Pete and Ronnie, Rough Mix also features John Entwistle, Charlie Watts, Ian Stewart, and Ronnie’s band Slim Chance. Pete’s then-father-in-law Edwin Astley also did some of the orchestral arrangements.

Though the album only had modest chart success, critics generally rated it positively. Robert Christgau of The Village Voice praised some of the songs as Pete’s “keenest in years.”

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

“My Baby Gives It Away” (Pete)
“Nowhere to Run” (Ronnie)
“Rough Mix” (co-written instrumental, one of the rare times Pete co-wrote anything)
“Annie” (Ronnie)
“Keep Me Turning” (Pete)
“Catmelody” (Ronnie)
“Misunderstood” (Pete)
“April Fool” (Ronnie)
“Street in the City” (Pete)
“Heart to Hang Onto” (sung by both)
“Till All the Rivers Run Dry” (written by Don Williams and Wayland Holyfield; sung by Pete)
“Only You”* (originally released on Ronnie’s final solo album, 1979’s See Me)
“Good Question”* (instrumental; also found on Pete’s 1983 double album Scoop as “Brr”)
“Silly Little Man”* (originally released on Ronnie’s third solo album, 1976’s One for the Road)

A 1996 collection of Pete’s greatest solo hits takes its title from a line in “Misunderstood,” coolwalkingsmoothtalkingstraightsmokingfirestoking. (Yes, that’s supposed to be all one word.) “Street in the City” is also, hauntingly, famous as one of three songs Pete wrote in this era with lines about jumping or falling off of a ledge (the others being “Love Is Coming Down” and The Who’s version of “Empty Glass”).

My favorite tracks are “Annie,” “Keep Me Turning,” “Street in the City,” and “Heart to Hang Onto.”