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.”

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.”

Spiritual solo sounds

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In celebration of the one and only Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend turning 75 this month, I’m devoting May’s posts to reviewing his solo albums which I haven’t previously reviewed. Let’s kick things off with Who Came First, his first official solo album, released October 1972. The review I originally wrote for my old Angelfire site around 2002 is in bold. My edits are fairly minimal.

This is a very spiritual album that reflects a large influence by Meher Baba. Unfortunately, soon after I got this album, my backup record player temporarily went to pot (the sound got worse than usual; it was a child’s Cabbage Patch player, after all, and a real waste of money), and I wasn’t able to play any of my records for another month or so.

Even then, it still took quite a number of listens to kick in, really kick in, and I was able to start enjoying all of it, not just some of it. People who aren’t into spiritual music probably won’t like it that much. That said, once it grew on me, I really liked the songs, esp. the spiritual ones.

I sound like a broken record, but Pete’s version of “Let’s See Action” is worlds better than The Who’s. Different lyrics, it’s longer, and it’s softer and slower. He never should’ve surrendered that song to them or changed the lyrics!

“Pure and Easy” is also slightly different from the band’s version, softer and slower, with some changed lyrics. They both sound way more spiritual here.

There’s also his version of “Time Is Passing,” which for many years was the only version available. The Who’s version was on a badly damaged tape that (as of 1995) was too corrupt to operate on so it might be included as a bonus track on the remastered Who’s Next. It was saved, however, and in 1997 was issued as one of many bonus tracks on the remastered Odds and Sods.

It all depends on your outlook. If you like underrated and spiritual stuff, you might like to bring this into your collection early on. This was my seventh solo album of his, and even then I was a slight bit nervous about acquiring it, as I hadn’t heard much about it, either good or bad.

It’s not well-known like Empty Glass or Psychoderelict, but it has a lovely spiritual dimension you won’t find in any boygroup monkey’s “solo career.” And because of the underrated nature of this album, coupled with the fact that it was just done on the side in a recording interim, most people don’t feel Pete’s solo career began with this album, but rather with Empty Glass in 1980, eight years later.

Prior to WCF, Pete released solo work on collaborative albums Happy Birthday (February 1970) and I Am (1972), both of which were tributes to Meher Baba. Due to poor-quality bootlegs of the limited-run, privately-distributed LPs, Decca asked Pete for permission to publicly release them.

Always one to beat to his own drum, Pete instead significantly overhauled the track listings and transformed those two albums into his first real solo album. Also on WCF were Lifehouse demo tracks and some new songs.

Pete recorded the songs in his home studio, which was one of England’s most advanced at the time. One dollar from each sale went to charity.

Track listing:

“Pure and Easy”
“Evolution” (written and sung by Ronnie Lane of The Small Faces)
“Forever’s No Time at All” (written by Billy Nicholls and Kate McInnerny; sung by Mr. Nicholls)
“Nothing Is Everything (Let’s See Action)”
“Time Is Passing”
“There’s a Heartache Following Me” (written by Ray Baker)
“Sheraton Gibson”
“Content” (co-written with Maud Kennedy)
“Parvardigar” (Meher Baba’s beautiful Universal Prayer)

2006 bonus tracks:

“His Hands”
“Sleeping Dog”
“Day of Silence”
“The Love Man”
“Lantern Cabin”
“Mary Jane”
“I Always Say”
“Begin the Beguine” (written by Cole Porter)

2017 bonus tracks:

“His Hands”
“The Seeker”
“Day of Silence”
“Sleeping Dog”
“Mary Jane” (Stage A, alternative take)
“I Always Say”
“Begin the Beguine”
“Baba O’Riley” (instrumental)
“The Love Man” (Stage C)
“Content” (Stage A)
“Day of Silence” (alternative version)
“Parvardigar” (alternative take)
“Nothing Is Everything” (earlier take)
“There’s a Fortune in Those Hills”
“Meher Baba in Italy” (instrumental)
“Drowned” (live in India)
“Evolution (Stone)” (live at Ronnie Lane Memorial, Royal Albert Hall, 8 April 2004)

My favorite tracks are “Content” (so ethereally gorgeous!), “There’s a Heartache Following Me,” “Let’s See Action,” and “Parvardigar.” I used to have the words of “Parvardigar” taped up on my dorm doors.

Happy 50th birthday, BOTW!

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Released 26 January 1970, BOTW was Simon and Garfunkel’s fifth and final studio album, and was almost the next-last album I listened to in this lifetime. I played it the night before my August 2003 car accident, and when I was finally able to sit in a chair by my record player again, that was the first LP I put on the turntable.

Ever since then, hearing any of the songs can set something off in my psyche and give me a feeling akin to body memories, with my throat getting tighter. It’s not a PTSD trigger, but it brings back memories of those almost being among the final songs I ever heard.

S&G’s last album, Bookends, was released in April 1968, and recording for BOTW commenced in November. However, a long delay arose in January 1969—the filming of Catch-22, in which Art plays Nately. (This is a dreadful, dreadful movie, taking way too many liberties with the classic novel!)

When the duo got back to business in the studio, they had to decline a number of invitations, including Woodstock. Crafting their new album was top priority. In the end, they selected eleven songs. Several other songs, among them “Feuilles-O,” “Groundhog,” and “Cuba Si, Nixon No,” were left in the vault.

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” (#1 in the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, and New Zealand; #2 in Australia, Ireland, and Spain; #3 in Germany; #4 in Austria and South Africa; #5 in Switzerland and The Netherlands; #7 in Norway; #23 in Belgium)

“El Cóndor Pasa (If I Could)” (written by Peruvian commposer Daniel Alomía Robles in 1913) (#1 in Belgium, Australia, Austria, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland; #6, #11, and #18 on different U.S. charts; #14 in New Zealand)

“Cecilia” (my third journal’s namesake song) (#1 in The Netherlands; #2 in Spain, Canada, and Germany; #3 in Belgium and Switzerland; #4, #31, and #1 on different U.S. charts; #6 in Australia and Austria; #9 in Belgium; #19 in Rhodesia)

“Keep the Customer Satisfied” (later covered by Gary Puckett as a solo artist)
“So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright” (not a fan of the overly long fadeout!)

“The Boxer” (#1 and #3 on different Canadian charts; #2 in Austria and The Netherlands; #3 in South Africa; #4 and #7 on different U.S. charts; #5 in Sweden; #6 in the U.K.; #7 in Ireland; #8 in Australia; #9 in New Zealand and Norway; #10 in Spain; #13 in Zimbabwe; #19 in West Germany)

“Baby Driver”
“The Only Living Boy in New York”
“Why Don’t You Write Me”
“Bye Bye Love” (cover of The Everly Brothers’ original)
“Song for the Asking”
“Feuilles-O” (demo)*
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” (demo take six)*

The album reached #1 in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Spain, and Norway. In Italy, it was #4.

While I truly enjoy this album, I don’t rank it in the same territory as PSR&T and Bookends. It’s a little too hit and miss. A truly classic album shouldn’t have so much filler!

Besides the four singles, my favorite tracks are “The Only Living Boy in New York” and “Song for the Asking.”

I originally rated it 4.5 on my old Angelfire site, but now I’d honestly give it 4 stars.

Forty years ago in Cincinnati

Happy heavenly 101st birthday to Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn!

One of the greatest tragedies in rock music history unfolded in Cincinnati on 3 December 1979, the day before I was supposed to have been born. Had I been born on schedule instead of two weeks later, the headlines on my birthdate would’ve been dominated by news of this preventable tragedy.

My favourite band, The Who, were in the final month of their 1979 world tour, which began on 2 May. They were then in their second U.S. leg of the tour. On 3 December, they played at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum (now Heritage Bank Center). Though the show wasn’t set to start till 8:00 PM, people began congregating outside as early as 1:30. Not just a few diehard fans, but a large crowd.

There were so many people so early because a radio station said festival seating ticket holders would be admitted at 3:00. Of the 18,348 tickets sold, 14,770 were for festival seating (first-come, first-served). Anyone could get a front-row seat if s/he were determined enough.

People expected every door to open simultaneously, but only a pair of doors on the far right to the main entryway opened on schedule. While some concertgoers entered those doors in an orderly fashion, the crowds in front of the other doors continued building.

By 6:30, the crowd had grown to an estimated 8,000. The doors weren’t set to open till 7:00, but many people mistook The Who’s soundcheck for the start of the actual concert. Additionally, it was only 36 degrees, and the windchill from the Ohio River made it feel even more frigid.

The concertgoers wanted in, and now.

People at the back of the line began pushing forward, but this was a short-lived panic (for the moment), as concertgoers quickly realised the doors weren’t open and the concert hadn’t begun. Then people at the head of the lines began pressing forward again and knocked on the doors.

Pandemonium broke out as the crowd heard the Quadrophenia film playing in lieu of an opening act. The mass of humanity began stampeding towards the doors, and many people were trampled, pressed along, swept off their feet, and/or asphyxiated. With only two of 106 doors open, there was nowhere to go but forward, relentlessly forward.

As people in the back continued pushing against the crowd and shouting, they had no way of knowing people in the front were piled up on the ground. Shamefully, the cops refused to do anything, even when begged for help. Some of the doors were guarded by cops with billy clubs.

By the time the so-called lucky ones found their way inside, the crowd was still piling up. People were shoved in through the turnstiles, and ticket-takers seemed to think nothing were amiss. Some people entered through the tops of the doors. Bodies, shoes, clothes, purses, and personal effects worth thousands of dollars were strewn everywhere.

The cops found the first body at 7:54, after about an hour and a half of this horrific stampede. They finally realised just how serious this situation was after the fire department, ambulances, TV crews, the mayor, the fire chief, the city safety director, the Flying Squad from the Academy of Medicine, more cops, and many other people arrived.

Mayor Ken Blackwell, who’d only started his job that day, decided the show must go on, for fear of a riot breaking out inside Riverfront Coliseum. The Who’s manager, Bill Curbishly, also feared a riot and a stampede back out through the plaza. Cincinnati’s fire marshal concurred.

Curbishly knew eleven people had died by the end of the show, and told The Who to be snappy with their encore. When he broke the news after the show, Roger burst into tears.

Many people had previously called out Riverfront Coliseum’s festival seating, which had caused prior stampedes and bottlenecking. Security and fire safety had also previously been found severely lacking. Additionally, there had been calls for gates opening directly into the stadium instead of 106 glass doors.

Mayor Vincent Cianci of Providence, Rhode Island cancelled The Who’s upcoming concert out of fear of more fatalities, despite the fact that the Providence Civic Center had assigned seating. In 2012, Pete and Roger finally returned to Providence and honoured those cancelled tickets.

Cincinnati and many other cities banned festival seating, though Cincinnati later brought it back.

The eleven victims were:

Walter Adams, Jr., age 22
Peter Bowes, age 18
Connie Sue Burns, age 21
Jacqueline Eckerle, age 15
David Heck, age 19, from Kentucky
Teva Rae Ladd, age 27
Karen Morrison, age 15
Stephan Preston, age 19
Philip Snyder, age 20
Bryan Wagner, age 17, from Kentucky
James Warmoth, age 21

May their memories be for an eternal blessing.

“Rock & Roll Tragedy: Why 11 Died at the Who’s Cincinnati Concert,” Chet Flippo, Rolling Stone, 24 January 1980