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My Own Private Audio-Episode 8-The Who, Long Live Rock

Hello Vinyl Friends,

Thank you all for keeping us busy with our Music Boxes. Your incredible letters of happiness with our Vinyl Storage Boxes always make me smile. However, writing time is difficult, but I cannot neglect your vinyl needs. And so...

As I often do, I occasionally get caught in a spiral of one particular artist or genre for a period of time. I'll dip back into my record collection and wonder why I haven't been spending enough time with this record or that record, and then I get to thinking...

Perhaps it was the recent release of the stellar archival live recording of the Who  1968 at The Fillmore East that prompted me to listen to more Who, and then even more Who. Who knows? (I will make every effort to stop with the "Who" puns)

I've been a fan ever since I watched the Woodstock VHS tape and saw them utterly destroy the entire line up with their patented blend of melody and sheer ferocity. So, it was with great pleasure that I accidentally picked up a copy of 'Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy', thinking it was just any old album they put out. 

"This must be the greatest band in the entire world! Every song is a hit.", I naively thought to myself.

And, as with all newcomers, I quickly realized my mistake, which in no way altered my previous thought. I went through their catalog; Who's Next, Odds and Sods, Quadrophenia, By Numbers, and Tommy. Then I saw the amazing documentary, "The Kids are Alright", where, again, the footage of them at the Rolling Stones Rock n Roll Circus proved to be a bloodbath in the titanic power the Who were capable of. So much so, that I have read that the Rolling Stones shelved the whole enterprise because they knew the Who obliterated them completely with 'A Quick One While He's Away'.

This exposure to their untempered ferocity lead me to Live at Leeds, and then many years later to an expanded Live at Leeds, with the full inclusion of Tommy live (Which in my opinion is the absolute best way to hear Tommy) Its close, but I think I have listened to Live at Leeds more than any other album I own. The songs, the performance, and the recording are all second to none in the Who catalog. 

And now we have this new document of the Who, recorded 2 years prior to Live at Leeds, so sans Tommy, but chock full of delights performed with the subtly of a meth addict looking for a score. To me, it is a proper bridge to where the Who would ultimately refine or shall I say contain, the beast they were able to conjure up in future live incarnations. 

I am not the first to make the connection between the Who and the punk rock aesthetic of the 70's, but if Live at The Fillmore East doesn't convince you then you may have a serious condition. The attitude, the pace, the in between banter...it's all there.

Now for the million dollar question: Is it better than Live At Leeds? Tough one.

Having listened to the aforementioned Leeds album for so long, it would be unfair of me to judge. But, being a fan and trusting my own ability to evaluate unbiased I will say that, no. It isn't as good. But I am splitting atoms. 'As I said the fury on Live at The Fillmore is unbridled, sometimes too much so and the recording is excellent, but a few notches down from the Leeds (of Hull or wherever it was actually recorded).

By the time they recorded the Leeds record, The Who, were a well oiled machine firing on all cylinders. They had won at Woodstock, they had recorded Tommy, Roger Daltrey alone had become as essential as any member of the group, and they learned to control the beast they created live (Moon-just barely). The 1968 recording reveals a band on the cusp of something, that perhaps even they were not aware of. Primal, emotive, explosive rock songs that could take over an entire planet. Transitioning.

The Who are on the Mount Olympus of rock for a reason. They are dangerous. They are sensitive. They are searching. If your exposure to them is My Generation (which is certainly undiluted awesome), then go deeper. The perfect spot would be the 1974 collection, Odds and Sods, it is an incredible album of castaway tracks from their early days, through the aborted Lifehouse project. 

Had I picked up that album first, I would have still thought they were the greatest band in the entire world!

Happy Listening

Philip Doucet

 


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