The Who and Pete Townshend
Reviewed on this page:
My Generation - A Quick One - The Who Sell Out -
Tommy - Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival, 1970 -
Smash Your Head Against The Wall -
Who's Next - Who Came First - Quadrophenia - Odds And Sods -
Tommy: Original Soundtrack Recording -
King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents John Entwistle - Two Sides Of The Moon -
The Who By Numbers - Rough Mix - Who Are You - Empty Glass - Face Dances - All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes - It's Hard -
Scoop - Who's Last - White City -
Under A Raging Moon - Another Scoop - The Iron Man -
Join Together - Psychoderelict -
Live: A Benefit For Maryville Academy
Who bassist John Entwistle died of an apparent heart attack at age 57 in Las Vegas on 27 June, 2002, just before the start of the band's summer tour of North America.
Surprisingly, Daltrey and Townshend say the tour will go on; Pino Palladino may take over on bass.
Although the Who spent the 60s in the shadow of the Beatles, Stones, and Hendrix, were inconsistent and occasionally formulaic in the 70s, and sporadically reunited for pointless cash-in tours through the 80s and 90s, they were still a first-rate band. Unlike the Beatles and Hendrix, they persisted and even improved after the 60s came to an end; and unlike cock-rockers Jagger and Richards, Pete Townshend - their leader and main songwriter - never gave up trying to be innovative, incisive, introspective, and, well, funny. If you're not familiar with their albums, pick up a copy of Who's Next and proceed from there.
Fans will notice that I have included most of Townshend's solo records here. I've made the effort to do so because: 1) they're good, 2) good Townshend records continued to be appear after the last original Who studio albums came out, and 3) the Who were never much more than his backup band, despite all the hype to the contrary. For three decades now, Townshend has continued to experiment and rock out as hard as you can imagine, while at the same time losing none of his solid commercial instincts. But as for the rest of the band, singer Roger Daltrey had a lot of personality but not a lot of raw talent; John Entwistle was one of the best rock bass players of his era and wrote quite a few good tunes as well, but saved a lot of his material for solo albums; and even though Keith Moon's maniacal, completely idiosyncratic drumming has inspired a huge fan following, he was, after all, just a drummer.
A note on compilations: the Who's catalog has been subjected to a remarkable number of permutations in the form of greatest hits and rarities records.
Rather surprisingly, these compilations have not yet been made fully redundant by the continuing series of beefed-up CD rereleases of the band's original LPs.
Although I have not reviewed them formally, I discuss four of the most important compilations, and the fate that befell each of their tracks, at the bottom of this page.
One classic compilation album (Odds And Sods) has been remastered and expanded, so I've reviewed the original version that I happen to own.
Although I have every studio album the Who and Townshend ever released, I still
have gotten many complaints about incomplete reviews on this page. Before you decide to remind me yet again that the Who are the greatest thing since Swiss cheese and that not having a couple of their live records makes me a babbling idiot, please consult our flame writer's FAQ. I am actively looking for Who records that I don't have, but the recent re-issues are expensive, so give me a break.
The Who's mailing list has collaborated on an extensive multimedia Who site with all the plain facts on their recording/performance career. (JA)
We have reviewed Dave Marsh's tome on the Who on our Book Review Page.
Lineup: Roger Daltrey (vocals); John Entwistle (bass, horn, some vocals); Keith Moon (drums); Pete Townshend (guitar, synthesizers,
Moon died, 1978, replaced by Kenney Jones, lately of the Faces.
Band split, 1982, reformed occasionally for tours.
Entwistle died of an apparent heart attack, 27 June 2002.
My Generation (1965)
Produced by Shel Talmy of Kinks fame, this was recorded far too quickly.
Parts of it are a naive, clumsy R & B workout so heavily influenced by James Brown that one wonders how the Who managed to metamorphose themselves into a full-blown acid rock act with such amazing rapidity - they deliver two different Brown covers ("Please, Please, Please"; "I Don't Mind"), and Daltrey's macho posturing is downright Neanderthalish ("Out In The Street").
The title track is a classic, of course, and so are a few other early Townshend numbers that milk his distorted, chaotic rhythm guitar playing for all it's worth ("The Kids Are Alright"; the confessional "Circles").
But despite some signs of the band's humor and creativity ("It's Not True"; "A Legal Matter"), there's more padding here like the instrumental "The Ox," and too often Townshend's love song lyrics are just plain primitive, even when the tunes are engaging ("The Goods Gone"; "Much Too Much").
Fans should work their way backwards to this one, realizing that they won't be entirely satisfied with it. Talmy brought in veteran session pianist Nicky Hopkins, but fortunately the band didn't have to suffer the humiliation of having other people play their instruments, as did happen to the Kinks. (JA)
A Quick One (1966)
After dumping Talmy in a bitter, public dispute, the Who recruited manager Kit Lambert as their new producer. Despite their new-found freedom, the band was still working too quickly in the studio - Townshend just didn't have enough material to fill an LP. The result is a "mini-rock opera" (title track) that pads the second side. It's just too sloppy and tongue-in-cheek to be listenable, with a silly, heavy-handed sailor-comes-home plot that recaps folk songs like "John Riley."
There are other low moments (the silly "Don't Look Away"), but some gems as well: Entwistle's hysterical "Boris the Spider," with a great bass line, and Pete's tinny ballad "So Sad About Us." Like the following record, this one has been re-released with a slew of bonus tracks - so avoid the original, bargain-basement CD release (the only catch is that the new version is in mono). (JA)
The Who Sell Out (1967)
An almost accidental acid rock masterpiece, this is the Who's capable, but light-hearted answer to Hendrix and Sgt. Pepper's. Townshend used cute little link tracks, such as BBC promotional spots, to paste together crafted singles (the acid rock masterpiece "I Can See For Miles"; "I Can't Reach You"), psychedelic indulgences ("Armenia"), comedy numbers ("Odorono"; the almost-serious "Tattoo"), and half-baked studio experiments ("Rael," which was partially recycled for Tommy). The result is a blast, and it's guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. The second side drags a bit, though, despite the magnificent, painfully sincere acoustic ballad "Sunrise." The numerous bonus tracks on the new CD release are a let-down, many having been released earlier ("Melancholia"), and even the most-touted being uneven ("Glow Girl"; "Jaguar") - and Dave Marsh's smug, long-winded, and virtually content-free liner notes are a disgrace. (JA)
Too much has been said about this famous double LP. To me, the hype seems slightly excessive. Less narratively explicit but better concept albums were released years before (Pet Sounds; Sgt. Pepper's; We're Only In It For The Money), and Tommy's thin plotline doesn't add much to the record's interest.
I freely admit there are plenty of heavy Who classics on the endless track listing ("Acid Queen"; "Pinball Wizard"; "I'm Free"; "We're Not Gonna Take It"), and even the minor efforts are amusing ("Cousin Kevin"). But the production is muddy, and the Who's occasional lack of musicianship and limited stylistic range is dangerously highlighted by the record's long format ("Overture"; "Underture") and need to cover "plot" developments (throwaways like "Tommy Can You Hear Me"; bathos like "Sally Simpson").
Entwistle's horn parts and frequent piano contributions by Nicky Hopkins don't exactly make it a Phil Spector production.
Despite all this, Tommy stands as one of the few truly great rock records of the 60s. Unlike the other LP's from this era, this one was reissued on CD without bonus tracks but on a single disc, which makes it a great buy. (JA)
Live At Leeds (1970)
Fans swear by this, claiming it to be the greatest live record ever.
I finally got a copy of the 1995 re-release, which has more than twice as many tracks as the original and promises to be an amusingly head-banging indulgence. Beefing the record up made a lot of sense, because most of the original consisted of well-known Who standards like "Magic Bus" and and an extended version of "My Generation," and other live cuts from this era that have surfaced elsewhere show that the band had plenty of tricks up its concert sleeve (see "Goin' Down" and "My Wife," from the compilation Two's Missing). The most noteworthy track on the original record is the band's ear-shredding version of "Summertime Blues," the album's A-side.
Thanks to Drew Wann for the disc. (JA)
Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival, 1970 (rec. 1970, rel. 1996)
This two-CD behemoth includes a complete performance of Tommy, and believe me, you won't regret indulging yourself. The thin and somewhat cut-rate studio production undersold Townshend's concept, but the band's furious, peak-period live energy fully redeems it.
They sound like an unstoppable four-headed monster as they charge through the entire piece without a break, and even Daltrey's vocals are sleek and powerful.
The framing mini-sets are decent too, mostly standards like "Can't Explain" and
an extended "My Generation," but also some more obscure contemporary numbers like an enthusiastic "Heaven And Hell," the fine Lifehouse reject "Naked Eye," and a raging nine-minute version of "Water." Not to mention some covers like "Young Man Blues" and "Summertime Blues" (both reprised from Leeds) and an unexpected medley of "Shakin' All Over/Spoonful/Twist And Shout."
The only catch is that with just four instruments, the band could no longer replicate Townshend's increasingly sophisticated studio arrangements.
So they end up reducing just about everything to the same leaden, pounding, and still extraordinarily entertaining hard rock formula.
Recorded at the same festival that witnessed Jimi Hendrix's last major public appearance. (JA)
Smash Your Head Against The Wall (Entwistle: 1971)
Entwistle's quirky, labored solo debut still offers a lot of creative experiments and occasional Who-style thunder.
Half the tunes would have worked on a Who album, including the stately acoustic guitar/piano ballad "What Are We Doing Here?", like a melancholy "Hey Jude," and the joyous sing-along "You're Mine," propelled by a rollicking piano line.
The two centerpiece rockers are among his best compositions ever: the swaying, strutting "My Size," and the philosophical "Heaven And Hell," where he recreates the Who's standard live arrangement, but switches to a druggy, slowed-down tempo.
Entwistle dubs horns and piano onto most tracks, and he's helped by Humble Pie drummer Jerry Shirley and Pie/Who roadie Cy Langston, who's an effective, understated guitarist, even able to ape Townshend ("Heaven And Hell").
Entwistle's bass playing is as awesome as ever ("You're Mine"), his lead and harmony vocals are warm and even pretty (the deceptively sunny funeral ballad "Ted End"), and although the tunes don't always hold together ("Pick Me Up (Big Chicken)"), there's always something interesting going on: baroque horn riffs ("What Kind Of People Are They?"), psychedelic mantras ("You're Mine"), a bizarre percussion break featuring Keith Moon and Bonzo Dog Band members Neil Innes (the future Rutles mastermind) and Viv Stanshall ("No. 29 (External Youth)," otherwise standard fare).
And he ends with a hysterical parody of John Lennon's "God" ("I Believe In Everything").
A must-have if you enjoy Entwistle's contributions on contemporary Who records.
The CD includes an outtake cover of "Cinnamon Girl" that's remarkably close to the original. (JA)
Who's Next (1971)
With the Who having made a full and final transition from arty acid rock to ear-blasting, arena-friendly hard rock, they promptly produced their one truly great album.
Repeated listenings do highlight the band's greatest weakness - disarmingly simple chord progressions. Like every Who record, it sometimes seems as if every damn track is in the same key (and often it is). We're not talking Stevie Wonder here, but rock opera or not, this is Townshend's absolute peak - in terms of lyrics (sympathy for the devil on "Behind Blue Eyes"); catchy hooks ("Goin' Mobile"); devastating rhythm guitar ("Bargain"); and dramatic instinct ("Baba O'Riley," which builds from an insidious synth part to an ear-splitting crescendo).
On top of that, Entwistle gets in his best song ever: the hysterically paranoid "My Wife." Next was assembled from the shards of an unfinished double album called Lifehouse; enough of the rest has surfaced elsewhere to show that it would have been even more of a classic than the released version is ("Naked Eye") - and there's a brand-new CD reissue that includes many of these tracks, although not all of them. It's on my shopping list, but I have never seen it for a reasonable price. (JA)
Whistle Rhymes (Entwistle: 1972)
Peter Frampton fills in on guitar here.
My first take on it is that it's less inspired and less Who-like than his debut record. (JA)
Who Came First (Townshend: 1972)
The "official" version of two earlier, widely bootlegged Meher Baba tribute albums that saw very limited release (Baba, already dead at this point, was Townshend's guru). Townshend really got carried away, playing everything and recording at his home studio - although a couple songs are by other artists ("Evolution," a re-recording of Ronnie Lane's "Stone"; "Forevers No Time At All," featuring Caleb Quaye, Elton John's lead guitarist).
Townshend's material is a lot more carefully done than a mere collection of demos like Scoop, but without Entwistle and Moon, the sound is thin; and the religious numbers are somewhat annoying ("Parvardigar"), which drowns out some good raw material ("Content"). The better cuts are cast-offs from the Lifehouse project ("Pure & Easy"; a rambling take on "Let's See Action"), or pure larks (the homesick but chipper "Sheraton Gibson," with its refrain "Cleveland ho!"). The recent CD re-release includes a half-dozen bonus tracks (e.g., Townshend's fine version of "The Seeker"), making it a must for Townshend/Who addicts. (JA)
Daltrey (Daltrey: 1973)
Roger's first solo album, apparently cluttered with ballads and fabricated by outsiders like Leo Sayer. The singles "Giving It All Away" and "I'm Free" were both substantial hits in the UK. (JA)
Pete's second completed rock opera, and perhaps his most ambitious. The best material is definitely first-rate: the haunting, echoey "The Real Me," where Entwistle overplays like crazy; "5:15," the rocker that had us all out of our brains; and especially the magnificent ballad "Love Reign O'er Me," with Townshend's famous "raining" piano intro. But I'm just not thrilled by the rest.
There are too many lackluster instrumentals, too many repeated themes, and far too few musical advances on the earlier records: just the same old ear-busting power chords, undulating synths, watery pianos (sometimes courtesy of Chris Stainton), Entwistle's decorative French horn, and Moon's galloping drums.
It all falls apart on monsters like the pompous, eight-minute "Dr. Jimmy" that rummage lifelessly amongst a pile of sections but only a handful of chords.
I just don't think it's as innovative, eclectic, energetic, or entertaining as Tommy; the intended effect is symphonic, but ends up being dull and repetitive, with only a half-dozen fully-finished tunes and a ton of filler. My apologies to the half dozen people who urged me to buy this record, but please don't bother writing yet another flame saying that I'm a moron for dissing it. (JA)
Rigor Mortis Sets In (Entwistle: 1973)
This one features a bunch of 50's rock cover tunes. (JA)
Odds And Sods (1974)
The name says it all - this is a compilation of mostly unreleased studio tracks going back to 1964 ("I'm The Face," the band's debut single), although most of it dates from 1968 - 1972.
Entwistle put it all together while the band was temporarily on hiatus, and the serious stuff is first-rate: the classic, cleverly sarcastic anthem "Long Live Rock," the slightly goofy ballad "Too Much Of Anything," and the Who's powerful version of "Pure And Easy."
Plus the not-nearly-serious stuff - and there's a lot of it - is far from slap-dash: the early anti-cancer jingle "Little Billy," Entwistle's whimsical travelogue "Postcard," and "Now I'm A Farmer," the Who's tribute to gourds and their marvelous uses.
Occasionally, however, the band does sound unfocused (the rocker "Naked Eye").
The 1998 re-release has been augmented with a ton of bonus tracks, but I don't have it. (JA)
Tommy: Original Soundtrack Recording (1975)
Townshend's woefully misguided, elaborately re-arranged re-recording of Tommy is so embarassing it's unintentionally funny (or intentionally funny, as with Moon's spotlights "Fiddle About" and "Tommy's Holiday Camp").
A lot of it does feature him, Entwistle, and Moon, but they're lethargic ("Overture From Tommy") or just going through the motions ("Sparks").
Elsewhere Townshend plays all the instruments ("Welcome"), or more often works with pickup studio bands ("Sally Simpson").
He lays tinkly, cheap sounding, bizarrely arranged synth lines onto almost everything, which alone ruins several cuts ("Amazing Journey"; "Cousin Kevin").
Several tunes are new ("Champagne"; "Mother And Son"; "T.V. Studio"), but they're just no good.
The biggest problem, though, is the unbearably mannered Broadway-style vocals by Daltrey's film co-stars, the annoyingly precious Ann-Margret ("Christmas") and Oliver Reed, who's got no range, no pitch control, and way too much personality ("Bernie's Holiday Camp").
The only good news here is a trio of great guest performances: Eric Clapton and Entwistle funking their way through "Eyesight To The Blind"; Tina Turner tearing the roof off with "Acid Queen"; and Elton John using his classic band to give "Pinball Wizard" his classic sound.
Oh, and then there's Jack Nicholson's laughably uptight take on "Go To The Mirror"...
Nicky Hopkins and Kenny Jones energize a lot of the tracks ("I'm Free"), and a pile of 70s scenesters show up: Caleb Quaye, Phil Chen, Tony Newman, Mick Ralphs, Fuzzy Samuels, Chris Stainton, Ron Wood. (JA)
Ride A Rock Horse (Daltrey: 1975)
At a point where the Who seemed close to dissolving, all the members except Townshend released solo albums. Daltrey had no success with singles this time. (JA)
Mad Dog (Entwistle: 1975)
Entwistle had formed a band called Ox at this point, and they appear on the record. (JA)
King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents John Entwistle (Entwistle: 1975)
Recorded during the Mad Dog promotional tour, this is a dull, workmanlike live set.
Entwistle's "Ox" backing players seem unmotivated: guitarist Robert Johnson (not that Robert Johnson) is just another chorus pedal-pumping twiddler; drummer Graham Deacon is faceless, nothing like Moon; Mike Decan (keyboards) and Jeff Daily (occasional honking dribbles of sax) add absolutely nothing.
Worse, Entwistle's voice is hoarse, and he shares some leads with Johnson, who has a generic tenor ("Who Cares?").
And all best numbers are recycled Who songs like "Heaven And Hell," "Boris The Spider" and "My Wife."
It is interesting to hear some of these tunes live - "Whiskey Man" wasn't exactly a Who concert staple - but Entwistle's solo material is remarkably weak (the boogie-woogie road song "Cell Number Seven"; the dull Little Richard/Jerry Lee Lewis sendup "Give Me That Rock And Roll").
Of these "new" songs, only the leaden "My Size" (from Smash Your Head Against The Wall) is any fun.
Still, there is some interest here for Entwistle fans: he turns the old Buddy Holly standard "Not Fade Away" into an unrecognizeable vehicle for his thunderously melodic bass playing, and he's as brilliant as ever on the Who standards. (JA)
Two Sides Of The Moon (Moon: 1975)
Moon's only solo record, and you can hear why: all of the songs are covers and donations; the production is erratic; the drumming (like most of the instrumentation) is handed over to a succession of studio players (including Ringo and Jim Keltner); and although Moon's gentle baritone is much better than you'd expect, it's really nothing special.
Despite all of this, the end product is infinitely better than Bill Wyman's similar, roughly contemporary solo effort, which likewise featured an endless parade of guests
(few of them the same: Dick Dale, Spencer Davis, Jay Ferguson, Flo and Eddie, Jim Gilstrap, Bobby Keyes, Clydie King, John Sebastian, Klaus Voorman, and a guitar battery of Jesse Ed Davis, Danny Kootch, and Joe Walsh).
The difference is Moon's easy sense of humor, which brings life to everything from romantic 50's rock (Jerry Lee Lewis' "Teenage Idol") to sloppy country-western ("One Night Stand") to entirely sincere surf music ("Don't Worry Baby").
Even Moon's earnest gospel arrangement of "In My Life" and Harry Nilsson's silly, steel drum-fortified "Together" are entertaining.
I'd be embarassed to recommend this to anyone but a serious Who fan, but that said, it's harmless fun.
Beatles assistant Mal Evans produced the basic tracks but was fired before the album was completed.
CD bonus tracks include three from a slightly later session that were produced and mostly written by Steve Cropper ("Naked Man" is Randy Newman's fault), and feature Ringo, Voorman, David Bowie and Ron Wood. (JA)
The Who By Numbers (1975)
At this point Townshend was exhausted, depressed, and sick of the rock hero game, and it shows.
The lyrics whine and mope, and the power ballads are so pedestrian they make the Who sound like a lesser band trying to imitate the masters of crunch ("Dreaming From The Waist" and "In A Hand Or A Face," both of which flop despite Townshend's engaging harmony vocals; the paranoid "How Many Friends," with a bizarrely homophobic verse).
Glyn Johns' production doesn't really help: two tracks with amorphous tunes and cascading Nicky Hopkins piano parts slide into squishy bathos ("Imagine A Man"; the John Denver-like "They Are All In Love").
Ironically, the group only rocks out convincingly on the cynical rock star parody "Success Story," whose intentionally dumbed-down chord progressions are nonetheless embarassing.
Townshend does get in solid lead vocals on two of the better tracks (the remarkably confessional, up-tempo "However Much I Booze"; the old-timey "Blue Red And Grey," where he's accompanied only by strummed ukele and Entwistle's stately horn).
And two songs are classics: the manic, impishly smutty hillbilly romp "Squeeze Box" (a Top 40 hit), and the tightly arranged, goosestepping "Slip Kid," where the whole band shines.
But don't move on to this until you have the earlier 70s Who records; even the new reissue is hardly worth the trouble, since the bonus tracks are just three live cuts. (JA)
One Of The Boys (Daltrey: 1977)
This is apparently more of a rock record than his earlier efforts. Rod Argent is among the session players. "Written On The Wind" was the key single, but wasn't much of a hit. (JA)
Rough Mix (Townshend with Ronnie Lane: 1977)
A gem, but perhaps not widely known because Ronnie Lane's chief claim to fame is "backing" both Steve Marriott (in the Small Faces) and then Rod Stewart (in the Faces), when in fact Lane was a solid songwriter in his own right. He's in good form here, meaning that his quavering voice mostly stays on key, as on the gentle acoustic ballad "Annie." And Townshend throws himself into the project with gusto, dragging Eric Clapton in for some laid-back guitar work, crafting a lengthy, heavily orchestrated masterpiece based on that same damn Townshend chord progression ("Street in the City"), and delivering some excellent, anthemic Who-style rockers for good measure (the upbeat "My Baby Gives It Away"; "Heart To Hang Onto," a textbook demonstration of Townshend's hit record formula). (JA)
Who Are You (1978)
The last great hurrah for the Who, although no one may have realized it at the time. Plenty of the I-IV-V guitar crunchery that Townshend is known and loved for ("New Song"; title track), with some genuine, raucous enthusiasm on several tracks. Pete's darling synthesizers are kept in their place, if just barely (the waltzing "Music Must Change"), and there's also some good orchestration (the high-powered "Had Enough"). It never really goes much beyond the group's earlier triumphs, and a couple of tracks are tedious (the space opera sound effect-laden "905"; the multi-part, Queen-like "Guitar And Pen," with Daltrey sounding weak and ragged).
But at least it's more crafted and consistent than their previous record - fans will just love it. Rod Argent appears as a session player on a couple songs. The reissue includes a half-dozen bonus tracks, but they're just alternate mixes and takes, so they're of minimal interest. Shortly after this, Keith Moon finally managed to kill himself and was replaced by the eminently qualified, but somehow uninspired Kenney Jones, lately of the Faces. (JA)
The Kids Are Alright (1979)
The double album soundtrack of the fine documentary film that covered the Who's entire career.
Five tracks are greatest hits (mostly from the late 60s), and one three-song jam (a 1975 live recording) was omitted from the single-disc CD version.
However, the remaining 11 cuts are compiled from a variety of live performances and are mostly not available elsewhere, including two tracks recorded specially for the film ("Baba O'Riley," with a childish harmonica solo in place of the original violin part; "Won't Get Fooled Again"), a pretty good Tommy mini-set from their Woodstock performance ("Sparks/Pinball Wizard/See Me, Feel Me"), and some other odds and ends like their infamous exploding drums TV performance of "My Generation."
With the material mostly being over-recorded to start with, I'd hardly rank it as an essential purchase. But I spin my copy pretty frequently anyway - and I'll finalize this review sometime. (JA)
Empty Glass (Townshend: 1980)
This is not only excellent, but a real achievement compared to the pathetic, over-commercialized, out-of-touch garbage that Townshend's rock dinosaur contemporaries were already putting out by 1980. Apparently the source of the frequent accusation that Townshend was saving all his better songs for his solo records at this point, Empty Glass has as many A-side quality rockers as either of the two Kenney Jones-era Who albums ("Rough Boys"; "Let My Love Open The Door"; "Gonna Get Ya"), but a rawer, more sincere sound.
Cleverness abounds - just look at the wild synthesizers on the sexually ambiguous "And I Moved" - and the lyrics avoid the self-indulgence and bathos of other late-era Townshend efforts, as on the rock critic slam "Jools And Jim." "Rabbit" Bundrick returns on keyboards (he'd appeared on Rough Mix,) and the rhythm section consists of Tony Butler (bass) and Simon Phillips (drums), although Phillips is replaced by Kenney Jones on "Rough Boys" and by Mark Brezicki on "A Little Is Enough." Butler and Brezicki went on to join flash-in-the-pan guitar-rock band Big Country. (JA)
McVicar (Daltrey: 1980)
This is a soundtrack album that included two flop singles ("Free Me"; "Without Your Love"). (JA)
Face Dances (1981)
There's a long string of well-known AOR hits here, and they're good, especially the first three tracks: "You Better You Bet," which leads in with one of Townshend's signature sequenced synth parts; the cryptically forlorn ballad "Don't Let Go The Coat"; and "Cache Cache," a bizarre ode to homelessness with an even more bizarre "there ain't no bears in there" refrain. Ironically, Entwistle pulls out the best rocker on the whole record ("You"). And there's other memorable stuff like the baroque album closer "Another Tricky Day," with its gorgeous minor-key middle, and the loping collection of character sketches "How Can You Do It Alone."
Everywhere the sound is agreeably close to Empty Glass, but it's just not as solid. The four-minute version of "Cache Cache" here is less fun than the demo version on Scoop, and Pete's lyrics are often weak, especially on several By Numbers-like rock star whiners like "Did You Steal My Money" and "Daily Records." As for Kenney Jones, he's professional here but doesn't display any of the energy he gave to his earlier bands, and as a result he, unlike Keith Moon, has nothing to add to the Who's sound. Golly, do you think the title has something to do with a Face having joined the group? (JA)
Too Late The Hero (Entwistle: 1981)
Joe Walsh apparently was heavily involved with this one. Entwistle's last solo album for almost two decades, as far as I know. (JA)
All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (Townshend: 1982)
Solid, but nothing brilliant. The liner notes, the overuse of synthesizers, and some of the lyrics are pretentious enough to be slightly annoying, even marring quality tunes like the catchy "Stop Hurting People" and the anthemic "Somebody Saved Me." The studio musician rhythm section (Butler, Phillips, and Brezicki return; Chris Stainton is around too) is dull and predictable in an early 80s way, even if always professional. Despite all this, most of the songs themselves are entertaining or even memorable, like "Face Dances Part Two"; "Exquisitely Bored," with a refrain featuring one of Pete's most beautiful melodies; and the rocking hit "Slit Skirts." (JA)
It's Hard (1982)
This time around some lackluster performances, uninspired songwriting, and pointless attempts to make the sound "current" dilute most of the Who's usual thunder. Daltrey's voice seems tired. Townshend seems to just be going through the motions, coming up with synth and guitar parts that are mere window-dressing compared to his similar efforts in the 70s. And Entwistle contributes a couple of tunes that just aren't among his most memorable. Some of it's headbanging fun anyway, including the hits "Athena" (a middling ballad) and "Eminence Front" (featuring an extraordinarily repetitive synth line); the title track, a generic rocker; and "Cry If You Want." But you can see why Townshend threw in the towel shortly afterwards. Andy Fairweather-Low guests on Entwistle's "It's Your Turn," and Tim Gorman adds synth on about half the tracks. (JA)
Scoop (Townshend: 1983)
A double album, often available on a single CD, that compiles surprisingly well-fleshed out home demos spanning Townshend's entire career. In addition to a predictable batch of Who classics ("Magic Bus"; "Bargain"; "Love Reign O'er Me"; "Squeeze Box"), there are a few unreleased might-have-been Who classics (the peculiar mid-60s number "Melancholia"; "Mary," a sparkling love-song out-take from Next), plus some amusing instrumentals (the pleasing acoustic jazz guitar solo "To Barney Kessel," and innumerable synth experiments). A must for serious fans, although of course it's too wildly uneven. (JA)
In early 1984 Daltrey released a single that didn't make it to his album the next year ("Walking In My Sleep"). (JA)
Who's Last (1984)
A mediocre but harmless live double album on one CD that documents the Who's nominal "farewell" tour of 1982 - well, at least it was Kenney Jones' farewell tour.
The lengthy track listing is quite predictable, with a lot of Tommy and Next material, and concert standards like "My Generation," a perfunctory "Boris The Spider," a predictable 10-minute "Won't Get Fooled Again," and "Summertime Blues"; the only weak choice is "Dr. Jimmy," and the only big surprise is an encore cover of "Twist And Shout," which you can hear on Isle Of Wight anyway.
The performances aren't much more imaginative - they basically rehash the same classic, extra-loud arrangements they'd used in concert for a decade or more, and Tim Gorman (innocuous keyboards) is the only extra player.
That puts too much focus on Daltrey's weaker-than-ever vocals and some sloppy, dispirited playing.
The good news, I suppose, is that new material from the last few studio albums is scrupulously avoided; 1978's "Who Are You" is the only post-Quadrophenia composition.
Beginners won't get any sense of the band's greatness from this workmanlike dollop of hits, but diehards will want to see how it compares to their earlier and later live albums. (JA)
White City (Townshend: 1985)
This was the soundtrack for a film I haven't seen, and I'm not sure it got a theatrical release. The record leads off with the routine, but clever and danceable hit "Give Blood," which drags at five minutes plus. There are two other radio hits, namely, the bizarre, ska-like "Face The Face," with frenetic horns and a funky groove; and "Second Hand Love," with ominous, mechanical, repetitive piano and percussion parts.
The whole record is like this, really, breaking with Townshend's signature hard rock sound in favor of a more diversified, more self-consciously modernized pop approach (e.g., "White City Fighting," which also got radio play). Novices might want to start elsewhere, but fans will get a blast out of it. More or less the same Brzezicki/Bundrick/Butler band here as on Chinese Eyes, although there are a lot of guests including Phil Chen, Pino Palladino, Simon Phillips, and David Gilmour. (JA)
Under A Raging Moon (Daltrey: 1985)
This will interest Who fans more than Daltrey's other solo work because it includes a new Pete Townshend composition ("After The Fire").
The song's good, but Townshend isn't on it, and its Who-like elements - exciting dynamics, layers of riffs, imaginatively introspective lyrics - only make the rest of the record seem drab and pedestrian.
Daltrey gets some co-writes, but mostly he's willing to scrounge tunes from any and all sources: two songs by Bryan Adams, one by Russ Ballard, one by producer Alan Shacklock, and so on.
It's the same kind of medium-voltage AOR that filled the Who's last two studio albums.
Adams' "Let Me Down Easy" and the Bad Company-like "Satisfy Me" are stomping fun; the title track successfully steals Townshend's trademark sequenced synths and three-chord anthem formula; and none of the songs are really embarassing despite the lame lyrics.
But unless you find Daltrey's on-the-edge vocals absolutely thrilling, you're not going to spin this disc too often.
The band is Shacklock and/or Nick Glennie-Smith (keyboards), Robbie McIntosh (guitar), John Siegler (bass), Mark Brzezicki (drums), and a trio of backing vocalists, with very few guests except Tony Butler on "After The Fire" and a packload of drummers on the title track (Roger Taylor, Cozy Powell, Carl Palmer, Stewart Copeland, even Zak Starkey). (JA)
Deep End (Live) (Townshend: 1985)
A live record with the White City backing band and David Gilmour. (JA)
Another Scoop (Townshend: 1987)
There are a lot of tasty tidbits here, but in the end it's less nutritious than the last scoop. Having depleted much of his catalogue, Townshend was forced to concentrate on three jarringly disparate resources: demos of early, over-familiar Who hits ("Substitute"); interesting, but uneven out-takes from a failed 1978 orchestral album ("The Ferryman"); and synth-laden home recordings from the early 80s ("Holly Like Ivy").
The rest is just odds and ends, such as two demos from Tommy ("Pinball Wizard"; "Christmas"); two from Face Dances ("You Better You Bet"; "Don't Let Go The Coat"); an uninspired blues ("Driftin' Blues"); and a reject from By Numbers ("Girl In A Suitcase"). In sum, this is yet another treat for fans, but a possible turn off for the uninitiated. It's a shame that Atco was unable to package the double record on a single CD, as they did with Scoop - apparently the track listing was just a little too long this time around. (JA)
The Iron Man (Townshend: 1989)
Townshend's pretentious "I AM AN ARTIST" attitude had finally gotten the better of him by this point. Some would say that it already had back when he did Tommy, but I find this effort to be the first serious artistic mistake of Townshend's career - not just another weak record. The problem is that many of the tracks feature guest vocalists and scads of studio musicians, and the libretto is based on a modernized children's book. Hence, there's precious little of Townshend himself in this tepid rock opera.
Instead, you get bombastic arrangements and lyrics targeted at the kindergarten set.
Guests like Nina Simone and the gravelly-voiced John Lee Hooker just don't mesh with Townshend's material, and the story itself just isn't all that interesting. The good news is that the briefly reunited Who appear on a couple of 70s-style rock numbers that do liven things up a bit ("Dig"; "Fire"). Elsewhere the band is Chucho Merchan (bass) and Simon Phillips (drums), both of whom had appeared on earlier Townshend records. (JA)
Join Together (1990)
After telling everyone for years that he'd sooner jump off a bridge than allow a Who reunion tour/record, Townshend finally went ahead and did it anyway (and he's since done it over and over again). I've read that Entwistle and Daltrey were both perfectly happy to cash in the Who's name.
The resulting double album is weak, with the same glossy, generic sound Townshend delivered on his last album. Both he and Entwistle are so drowned out by the band, which includes three backing vocalists, a five-man horn section, two drummers, a lead guitarist, and a keyboard player, that it sounds nothing like the Who's great live performances of the 70s.
The first CD is a lifeless, note-for-note performance of Tommy, now rendered superfluous by the marvelous version on Isle Of Wight.
But the other disc is at least eclectic, with the oldie-but-never-moldie "I Can See For Miles," late-period tunes like "Trick Of The Light" and "Eminence Front," Townshend's solo numbers "Face The Face" and "Rough Boys," the Who's Iron Man reunion tune "Dig," and the hard-to-find title track (a 1972 Top 40 single), all of which are sandwiched in among the usual Who's Next standards.
Unfortunately, the performances are so rote that the entertainment value is absolutely minimal.
Avoid this unless you're desperate for more Who product. (JA)
Psychoderelict (Townshend: 1993)
A frustrating missed opportunity. The music itself is great; Townshend rocks out more than in years ("English Boy"; "Don't Try To Make Me Real"), largely saves the lead vocals for himself, and makes some of the production downright inventive. I'd even venture that the songwriting is his best since Face Dances - and it helps that Pete included several loud, crazy, and inspired instrumentals left over from the 1971 Lifehouse tapes.
The middle of the track listing does break from the high-voltage, early 70s Who-like sound of rockers like "I Want That Thing" with intricately harmonized ballads like "Early Morning Dreams," but even those songs have driving beats and super-cool bass lines ("I Am Afraid"; "Fake It"). Unfortunately, Pete couldn't resist dressing things up with a dull, self-centered, self-pitying "play" whose lines are delivered by actors in between - and frequently during - the musical tracks. It's disastrously distracting, and I've penalized him a full star for it (sorry, Pete). If you can find one of the rarer, wordless versions of the album, buy it; but if you see the original instead, save your $4. (JA)
Live: A Benefit For Maryville Academy (Townshend: 1999)
A live record released to benefit a charity, produced by keyboard player Jon Carin and recorded in Chicago.
There's a lot to bitch about: Townshend's vocals are ragged; he mostly strums on acoustic, and his electric solos are erratic; he digs out some forgettable obscurities like Quadrophenia's "Drowned"; the band slow-jams several tunes to death ("Magic Bus"); bassist Chucho Merchan is nimble ("A Little Is Enough") but can't replicate Entwistle's thunder ("Won't Get Fooled Again"); backing vocalist Tracey Langran is distractingly polished; and keyboard player Jon Carin's production values are dubious - he uses programmed drums most of the time, and he slaughters Townshend's solo reading of Dylan's "North Country Girl" (mistakenly credited to Townshend) with a distracting synth line.
But if you're a serious Townshend fan, you might enjoy the record's spontaneous, good-natured feel and studious avoidance of Who-ish clichés - they heavily rearrange the big standards like "Won't Get Fooled Again," and although the results are sometimes almost unrecognizeable ("Anyway Anyhow Anywhere"), at least it's food for thought.
Plus there are some interesting diversions like a grinding arrangement of Canned Heat's lurching blues standard "On The Road Again" and odd song choices like "I'm One" (also from Quadrophenia) and "Now And Then."
The other players are Peter Hope-Evans (bluesy harmonica) and Jody Linscott (percussion); Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder appears on a two-track bonus disc ("Magic Bus," again; "Heart To Hang Onto"). (JA)
Left For Live (The John Entwistle Band: 1999)
A live record with some new tunes, some solo material like "Too Late The Hero," and some Who standards like "Young Man Blues" and "Had Enough."
A deluxe version with twice as many tracks was later released. (JA)
Music From Van-Pires (The John Entwistle Band: 1999)
A studio record released at the same time and with the same band as the live disc, but apparently recorded in 1997.
It's a soundtrack album for an animated TV show that was cancelled before the tracks could be used.
Entwistle has a credit on every tune save one written by drummer Steve Luongo; the other band members, and especially Luongo, often have co-writes. (JA)
Lifehouse Elements (Townshend: 2000)
After nearly three decades Townshend suddenly decided to release a reworking of his Lifehouse concept album - a truncated version of which became Who's Next. Much to my annoyance, instead of releasing the original double album he had in mind he instead put out (a) a six-CD box set that he's selling only on the Web, and (b) this one-CD version, which includes some Who's Next tracks (a couple of them re-recorded) and a bunch of other really well-known songs from the same period - but it's not a complete version by any stretch of the imagination.
Seems to me like the recent bonus track-fortified CD release of Who's Next is a much better deal. (JA)
The Blues To The Bush (2000)
A live record drawing on the Who's 1999 tour (they also toured in 2000 with a stripped-down lineup). (JA)
What about those odds and sods?
The recent MCA reissues of the Who's classic albums have dispersed many of their lesser-known recordings as bonus tracks, which you'd think would make some of their older compilation albums obsolete.
But it hasn't: the following lists show what happened to each of the tracks on the four most important compilation albums, and they prove that many of these tracks remain in limbo.
Take note of the following: 1) an astounding total of 26 tracks are as yet unaccounted for, easily enough to fill a full CD; 2) some of this material is very strong, including classics like "Happy Jack," "Magic Bus," "Pictures Of Lily," and "Substitute" that you can now only get on otherwise worthless "Best Of" greatest hits sets; 3) only about half of these tracks appeared on the 1994 box set; 4) I have not even included a significant number of "new" tracks that did appear in the box set or on other compilations, including "The Relay"; and 5) most of these tracks would have fit naturally onto the CD rereleases that already have been completed.
In sum, these lists suggest that the CD rereleases have been very poorly thought out. At the moment, any fan who really wants to build a thorough collection of 60s Who recordings will be forced to buy not only all the standard releases, but old copies of Who's Missing and Two's Missing, plus the box set.
Note: according to original Who producer Shel Talmy's web site, he has finally won a legal dispute over the band's early master tape and is planning a 24-track, stereo rerelease of the Who's debut LP My Generation.
If such a release does occur as planned, I estimate it will include about 9 of the 26 "missing tracks" on my list.
Another note: I have gotten some useful feedback about this feature, but I'm still open to suggestions from serious Who fans.
Magic Bus (1968)
|"Disguises"||A Quick One
|"Run, Run, Run"||A Quick One
|"Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde"||?
|"I Can't Reach You"||Sell Out
|"Our Love Was, Is"||Sell Out
|"Call Me Lightning"||?
|"Someone's Coming"||Sell Out
|"Doctor, Doctor"||A Quick One
|"Bucket T"||A Quick One
|"Pictures Of Lily"||?
Meaty, Beaty, Big & Bouncy (1971)
Note: U.K. track listing. U.S. version omits "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" and "I'm A Boy."
|"I Can't Explain"||My Generation
|"The Kids Are Alright"||My Generation (original LP)
|"I Can See For Miles"||Sell Out
|"Pictures Of Lily"||?
|"My Generation"||My Generation (original LP)
|"Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere"||My Generation
|"A Legal Matter"||My Generation (original LP)
|"Boris The Spider"||A Quick One
|"I'm A Boy"||?
Who's Missing (1985)
Note: U.K. track listing. U.S. version omits "I'm A Boy" and "Bargain."
|"Shout And Shimmy"||?
|"Lubie (Come Back Home)"||My Generation
|"Anytime You Want Me"||My Generation
|"Leaving Here"||Odds And Sods and My Generation
|"Barbara Ann"||A Quick One
|"I'm A Boy"||?
|"Mary-Anne With The Shakey Hands" (alternate version)||?
|"I Don't Even Know Myself"||Who's Next
|"When I Was A Boy"||?
|"Heaven And Hell"||?
|"Here For More"||?
|"Bargain" (live, unless I'm mistaken)||?
Two's Missing (1987)
Note: U.K. track listing. U.S. version omits "Goin' Down," "Heat Wave," and "My Wife."
|"Bald Headed Woman"||My Generation
|"Circles" (alternate version)||My Generation (unless this will include the original version)
|"Daddy Rolling Stone"||My Generation
|"Goin' Down" ||?
|"Dogs, Part Two"||?
|"Heat Wave" ||My Generation (original U.K. LP)
|"I'm A Man"||My Generation
|"The Last Time"||?
|"Motoring"||My Generation (assuming this is Talmy's "Motor-vating")
|"My Wife" (live, if I'm not mistaken)||?
|"Under My Thumb"||Odds And Sods
|"Water"||Odds And Sods
The missing tracks: songs that didn't make it to the rereleases
* Available on the 1994 box set Thirty Years Of Maximum R & B (total: 13 tracks)
|"Anytime You Want Me"||1965
|"Anyhow, Anyway, Anywhere"||1965 *
|"Bald Headed Woman"||1964
|"Call Me Lightning"||1968 *
|"Circles" (alternate version)||1965
|"Daddy Rolling Stone"||1965 *
|"Dogs, Part Two"||1969
|"Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde"||1968
|"Happy Jack" **||1966 *
|"Heaven And Hell"||1970 *
|"Here For More"||1970
|"I Can't Explain"||1964 *
|"I'm A Man"||1965
|"I'm A Boy"||1966 *
|"The Last Time"||1968 *
|"Lubie (Come Back Home)"||1965
|"Magic Bus"||1968 *
|"Pictures Of Lily"||1967 *
|"The Seeker"||1970 *
|"Shout And Shimmy"||1965
|"When I Was A Boy"||1971
** Previously available on the American version of A Quick One, but replaced on the rerelease by an acoustic version