Tuesday 26th September
In the space of just seven years the Who grew up. It was just two years from the innocence, and some would say naivety, of Tommy. And yet here was Pete Townshend confronting the band with a batch of songs very loosely based around the idea of yet another Concept Album.
Pete called it the Lifehouse; based on Music being some sort of redemptive force but their manger Kit Lambert felt the sessions were going nowhere. Engineer Glynn Johns took over and re-recorded some of the songs along with a couple from John Entwistle. But the two songs the album hung on were the opener ‘Baba O’ Riley’ and the closer ‘Won’t \Get Fooled Again’. Powerful songs which were nothing like anything the Who had ever recorded before. Both songs are heavy with Synthesisers, which Pete had recently discovered. Almost symphonic the layers grow and grow to climaxes in both songs, with brilliant vocals from Roger Daltrey. The whole album simply flows, as if the Lifehouse Pete was searching for had emerged organically. The album became ‘Who’s Next’, probably their greatest album. Even the cover was brilliant, a play on words indeed.
But Pete wasn’t finished yet. Two years later he came up with ‘Quadrophenia’, another rock opera. About a teenager called Jimmy growing up in the Sixties, and becoming a ‘Mod’. I am not at all sure what it all means, and am still not a great fan. But there is no denying some great songs, even if the new sound of ‘Who’s Next’ was lost as they resorted to a more conventional sound.
They followed this up with ‘Who By Numbers’, The album is almost a record of Pete’s losing confidence in his own abilities, with songs like ‘However Much I Booze’ and ‘Imagine A Man’. But the single ‘Squeeze Box’ almost doesn’t fit on the record, it is far too upbeat.
Then three years later came ‘Who Are You’. Apparently the band were falling apart during the long recording process, especially Keith Moon who was drinking so heavily he could barely hold his sticks some days. And yet out of this came another Masterpiece. The title track is simply brilliant and has taken on a life of it’s own. But every track is brilliant and moved the band into new territory. One of the ironies is that the cover photo of the band amidst a pile of amps and cables has Keith sitting on a directors chair with the stencil ‘Not to be taken away’ on it. Sadly he was taken away a month after the album’s release. Four brilliant albums, but The Who would never be the same again…