Happy 50th birthday to The Who Sell Out!

Image used solely to illustrate the subject for the purposes of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use Doctrine

The Who’s third album, released 15 December 1967, came into my own life on 6 December 2000, and is one of my absolute favorites of theirs. They always had a new sound and themes with each album, in spite of the so-called fans who rant and rave about how they dared not do Who’s Next for their entire career.

This, unlike the most overrated album of all time, is a shining example of a consistent concept album. While the concept kind of fizzles out in the middle of the original album, it’s unique and cohesive. The CD remastering improves the concept’s flow.

Sell Out is a spoof of Radio London, a pirate radio station which operated from 23 December 1964–14 August 1967, from a ship anchored in the North Sea. In addition to songs advertising real products, there are also little jingles running between the songs.

The album ended with an instrumental version of a Track Records ad in a locked groove. The CD remastering changed it to a vocal jingle.

Track listing and lead vocals, with stars by bonus tracks:

“Armenia City in the Sky” (using the pronunciation Ar-men-EE-yah, not Ar-MEEN-ee-yah) (written by Speedy Keen and sung by Roger)
“Heinz Baked Beans” (John)
“Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand” (Roger and Pete)
“Odorono” (Pete)
“Tattoo” (Roger)
“Our Love Was” (Pete)
“I Can See for Miles” (Roger)
“I Can’t Reach You” (Pete)
“Medac” (John)
“Relax” (Pete)
“Silas Stingy” (John)
“Sunrise” (Pete)
“Rael” (Roger) (the name of my sixth journal)
“Rael 2” (Pete)*
“Glittering Girl” (Pete)*
“Melancholia” (Pete; famously previously released on Scoop, with the hilarious commentary, “I’m pretty sure The Who never heard this one”)*
“Someone’s Coming” (written by John but sung by Roger)*
“Jaguar” (written by Pete but sung by Keith)*
“Early Morning Cold Taxi” (written and sung by Roger)*
“In the Hall of the Mountain King” (instrumental; written by Edvard Grief)*
“Girl’s Eyes” (Keith)*
“Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand” (U.S. Mirasound version)*
“Glow Girl” (Roger and Pete)*

The album reached #13 in the U.K., and #48 in the U.S. “I Can See for Miles” reached #10 in the U.K., and #9 in the U.S. This was their only Top 10 song in the U.S., and the first Who song I was consciously aware of hearing, back in ’93. Since they were an active band till I was three, I probably heard them on the radio, but “ICSFM” was the first I specifically remember hearing.

My favorite songs are “ICSFM,” “Sunrise” (which a lot of guy fans hate and bash), “Our Love Was,” “I Can’t Reach You,” “Rael,” “Rael 2,” “Glow Girl,” “Tattoo,” and “Silas Stingy.”

Back in the days of Yahoogroups, the main estrogen Who list was called Glow Girls. It contains the genesis of Tommy, with the music that became “Sparks” and “Underture,” and the outro verse “It’s a girl, Mrs. Walker, it’s a girl,” as the girl in the song dies in a horrific plane crash and is reincarnated. “[O]nly of course Tommy was a dear little boy.”

Many people have seen parallels between “Rael” and Israel, both because 1967 was the year of the Six-Day War, and lines like:

“My heritage is threatened/My roots are torn and cornered”
“Rael, the home of my religion/To me the centre of the Earth”
“The country of my fathers/A proud land of old order/Like a goldfish being swallowed by a whale”

The album has received many positive reviews, both then and now, and is widely considered one of The Who’s very best. Interestingly, Roger only sang lead on five of the original tracks, the same number as Pete. Roger still didn’t have the greatest range or vocal confidence yet. Touring Tommy all over the world was what turned him into a vocal powerhouse.

I highly recommend this album!

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Happy Duran Duran Appreciation Day! (Rio at 35, Part II [Behind the scenes])


“My Own Way” was the very first Rio single to be written and recorded, in October ’81. It was released as a single the next month, in a very different style from the album version. The other eight tracks were recorded in early ’82, produced and engineered by Colin Thurston, at London’s Air Studios.

The massively overplayed “HLTW” was the second single, released 4 May 1982. “Save a Prayer” became the third single on 9 August 1982, and the title track was released as a single on 1 November.

In September 1982, record label EMI released the EP Carnival, featuring the Night Versions (extended dance remixes) of some of the band’s hit singles. The Dutch and Spanish version contained “HLTW,” “Rio,” “Planet Earth,” and “Girls on Film,” while the Canadian and U.S. version had “HLTW,” “Girls on Film,” “Hold Back the Rain,” and “My Own Way.” The Japanese version had “Rio (Part II),” “Hold Back the Rain,” “My Own Way,” “HLTW,” and “New Religion.”

Carnival was very successful, leading Capitol Records to start marketing them as a dance band instead of New Romantics. Seizing the moment, the band compelled Capitol to re-release Rio in the U.S. In November, they got their wishes, and this new version (with the first five tracks re-mixed by David Kershenbaum) went to #6.

The international success of the album and its four singles was due in huge part to the newly-mainstreamed artform of the music video. While music videos had been around for quite a long time, they were typically done only as promotion prior to MTV. They weren’t a carefully-considered artform in the old days.

Who could imagine any Eighties band, artist, or song without the music videos? They’re such a quintessential aspect of my childhood decade. While music videos are still being made (shocking as it is to discover), the modern ones are nothing like the classics from the Eighties.

Music videos were made for the title track, “HLTW,” “Lonely in Your Nightmare,” and “Save a Prayer” in Antigua and Sri Lanka. Also filmed was a very weird music video for “Nightboat,” from their first album.


Warning: Video NSFW or under 18!

A video album was released in 1983, featuring the four singles from Rio, plus album tracks “Lonely in Your Nightmare” and “The Chauffeur.” Also included were four songs from their début album and the March 1983 single “Is There Something I Should Know?”

The album cover was designed by Malcolm Garrett and famously painted by American artist Patrick Nagel, and went on to become one of Nagel’s best-known images. His alternate version of the cover was finally used in 2001 for a limited edition remaster. Most of his works were female figures in a style inspired by Art Déco and initially based off photographs.

Copyright EMI or Patrick Nagel’s estate; used solely to illustrate the subject and consistent with Fair Use doctrine

Rio frequently makes those incessant “best-of” albums lists, for British albums, Eighties albums, and greatest albums of all time. The album has not only remained popular and relevant over the last 35 years, but also influential on many other musicians. It’s not an album anyone could go wrong buying.

Rio at 35, Part I (General overview)

Released 10 May 1982, Rio was Duran Duran’s sophomore album and reached #2 in the U.K. and #1 in Australia. Initially, it didn’t do well in the U.S. (far from the first time a British band has been much more successful in their native land than across the pond). Only in 1983, after Durandemonium broke in the U.S., did it reach #6 on Billboard.

This is one of those quintessentially perfect albums, the album by which all other releases from an artist or band are judged. While I personally have grown to prefer their eponymous 1981 début, there’s no denying Rio is an absolutely perfect album from start to finish.

This is also my cold weather album for the car stereo. When I hear Eighties songs, I automatically picture the music videos. Thinking of the music videos in warm climates like Sri Lanka and the Caribbean makes me feel at least psychosomatically warmed up.

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks on the 2009 two-disc CD version:

“Rio” (#9 in the U.K. and Ireland, #3 in Canada, #14 in Finland, #36 in New Zealand, #14 on U.S. Billboard, #5 on U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock, #14 on U.S. Cash Box Top 100)
“My Own Way” (#14 in the U.K., #10 in Australia, #20 in Ireland, #1 in Portugal)
“Lonely in Your Nightmare” (my favourite track)
“Hungry Like the Wolf” (#1 in Canada and on the U.S. Billboard Top Rock Tracks; #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100; #4 in Ireland, South Africa, and New Zealand; #5 in the U.K. and Australia; #25 in Poland; #32 in Italy; #36 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play; #50 in The Netherlands)
“Hold Back the Rain”
“New Religion” (another favourite)
“Last Chance on the Stairway” (also love this one)
“Save a Prayer” (final line on the album version shorter than the music video version) (#1 in France, #2 in Ireland, #2 in the U.K., #56 in Australia, belatedly #16 in the U.S. in 1985)
“The Chauffeur” (such a sexy, sensual song and music video, back when “sexy” wasn’t synonymous with, pardon the misogynistic expression. “video hos” bumping and grinding in next to no clothes, accompanied by lyrics about horniness and cheap, tawdry sexual exploits)

“Rio” (U.S. album remix)*
“My Own Way” (Carnival remix)*
“Lonely in Your Nightmare” (U.S. album remix)*
“Hungry Like the Wolf” (U.S. album remix)*
“Hold Back the Rain” (U.S. album remix)*
“Last Chance on the Stairway” (Manchester Square Demo)*
“My Own Way” (Manchester Square Demo)*
“New Religion” (Manchester Square Demo)*
“Like an Angel” (Manchester Square Demo)*
“My Own Way” (original 7-inch version)*
“The Chauffeur” (Blue Silver) (early version)*
“My Own Way” (Night version; i.e., an extended dance remix)*
“Hungry Like the Wolf” (Night version)*
“Rio” (Night version)*
“New Religion” (Carnival remix)*
“Hold Back the Rain” (Carnival remix)*
“My Own Way” (instrumental version)*
“Hold Back the Rain” (alternate remix)*

I absolutely love this album, as obscenely overplayed as the title track and “HLTW” are. Everything holds up unbelievably well after 35 years, both the songs themselves and the incredible music videos.

I got it on vinyl in 2007 because it was only $2 and I wanted to indulge my Eighties nostalgia. It didn’t do much for me at first, which wasn’t helped by how I thought they were just a bunch of prettyboys who were only around in the Eighties, a boygroup like NKOTB or Backstreet Boys.

The respective sparks created by both my Eighties childhood and listening to this album a few times finally burst into a beautiful flame when I became a Duranie in early 2011. I can’t believe it’s already been six and a half years since I fell in love with this band!

Happy 50th birthday to A Quick One!

aqo-cover

Image used solely to illustrate the subject for the purposes of an album review, and consistent with Fair Use doctrine

Released 9 December 1966, A Quick One was The Who’s sophomore album. From my experience in the fan community, this seems to be one of those things which is largely judged differently along sex-based lines. A lot of guys tend to hate it or think it’s junky bubblegum, while female fans are more forgiving and are even known to like it more than a little.

This isn’t one of the greatest albums of all time, but it’s not the worst either. It’s a typical 1966 album, in that there are a few hits and radio favorites padded out with a bunch of filler. For the most part, I find the filler fun and cute. One guy on the old album reviews section of thewho.net claimed he wanted to throw up every time he played it. As I said in my own review, why would someone play any album he hates so much it makes him want to throw up?

Track listing, with stars by the bonus tracks:

 “Run Run Run” (written by Pete)
“Boris the Spider” (written by John)
“I Need You” (credited to Keith but probably 90% written by John)
“Whiskey Man” (written by John)
“Heat Wave” (cover of the Holland-Dozier-Holland song)
“Cobwebs and Strange” (instrumental) (credited to Keith but probably 90% written by John)
“Don’t Look Away” (written by Pete)
“See My Way” (written by Roger)
“So Sad About Us” (written by Pete)
“A Quick One, While He’s Away” (written by Pete)
“Batman”*
“Bucket T”*
“Barbara Ann”*
“Disguises”* (written by Pete)
“Doctor, Doctor”* (written by John)
“I’ve Been Away”* (written by John)
“In the City”* (written by John and Keith)
“Happy Jack”* (written by Pete)
“Man with the Money”* (cover of an Everly Brothers’ song)
“My Generation/Land of Hope and Glory”* (first part written by Pete; second by Edward Elgar)

As per the custom of the era, the album was repackaged for the American market, and retitled Happy Jack. The U.S. version removed “Heat Wave,” and added “Happy Jack” between “Cobwebs and Strange” and “Don’t Look Away.”

The album failed to chart in the U.S., though it reached #4 in the U.K. The only successful single was “Happy Jack,” which charted at #3 in the U.K. and #24 in the U.S. “Boris the Spider” became one of John’s most popular songs, one of the songs most associated with him. “So Sad About Us” also became very popular, as well as the original closing track.

By 1966 standards, “A Quick One, While He’s Away” is a complete anomaly, particularly on an album full of songs ranging from 1:53 to 3:04. It clocks in at 9:10, and, true to what Pete admits is his own pretentious nature, it was billed as a mini-opera. The subject matter is also pretty risqué for 1966, since it’s clearly about an affair and cuckoldry. It consists of six parts:

“Her Man’s Been Gone”
“Crying Town”
“We Have a Remedy”
“Ivor the Engine Driver”
“Soon Be Home”
“You Are Forgiven”

Pete wanted cellos in the concluding section, but since The Who didn’t exactly have the type of budget as The Beatles did, they had to sing “Cello cello cello cello cello cello cello” several times.

The band were under a contractual requirement to write at least two songs each, though Roger only wrote one. Pete was always their predominant songwriter, though John showed a real talent for songwriting already at this early point. I love the dark, twisted humor in his songs. Roger did go on to write some pretty nice songs, but I think we’re all glad he chose to stick primarily to singing.

It’s fun, cute bubblegum pop, not the hard rock The Who became known for, but that just makes it different, not wretched and inferior. Too many so-called fans seem to think they had to sound a certain way for their entire career, instead of God forbid trying out different musical styles and evolving over time. It’s fine to have a personal preference, but not to bash them for failing to measure up to that preference every single time.

Happy 50th birthday, Revolver!

Revolver

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Revolver, one of my favoritest albums and one of the greatest albums of all time, turned 50 on 5 August. This album has been in my personal Top 5 for years and years, and I can’t see it ever not having one of those most coveted top spots. It’s just absolute perfection, a timeless classic.

The album spent seven weeks at #1 on the U.K. Albums Chart, and 34 weeks on the chart altogether. In the U.S., it spent six weeks at #1 on the Billboard Top LPs chart. This was the last proper album to be repackaged by Capitol, and like its predecessor Rubber Soul, the name and cover were left alone.

Whereas RS has been called The Beatles’ pot album, Revolver was their acid album. Trippy sounds are all over the album, like backwards tape loops, sitars, and varispeeding. So many of the songs are lightyears away from their early offerings, with such mature, complex, surrealistic, and, yes, drug-induced themes. They’d moved beyond only doing simple love songs.

Track listing:

“Taxman”
“Eleanor Rigby” (one of only two songs, the other being “In My Life,” which John and Paul significantly disagreed on the authorship credits of)
“I’m Only Sleeping”
“Love You To”
“Here, There, and Everywhere”
“Yellow Submarine”
“She Said She Said”
“Good Day Sunshine”
“And Your Bird Can Sing” (the throwaway)
“For No One”
“Doctor Robert” (about the dentist who gave John and George their first acid trip)
“I Want to Tell You”
“Got to Get You into My Life”
“Tomorrow Never Knows”

Unusually, George got three songs (“Taxman,” “Love You To,” and “I Want to Tell You”). He’d really begun coming into his own as a songwriter by this point.

Also by this point, the four Beatles’ personalities were showing through most loud and clear in their songs. Even if you haven’t heard the songs but just read the lyrics, it’s pretty obvious which is which, and that each had distinctive interests and themes.

The album met with huge critical acclaim, and has continuously been praised over the ensuing decades. Many folks, myself included, consider it The Beatles’ very best. It holds up incredibly well over time, and doesn’t sound dated like a certain other Beatles’ album surrounded by massive hype. Revolver has more than enough substance underneath the acclaim. It’s not just a bunch of trippy noises with a classic album cover, more famous for being famous than for timeless, outstanding musical merit.

I absolutely adore this album! Even the throwaway, “And Your Bird Can Sing,” is listenable.