Then an almost three-year gap, where Townshend was grappling with a new concept, The Lifehouse (see T). Eventually this was half abandoned and some of the songs rescued for the next album Who’s Next (1971). Well, I was there at The Valley, Charlton’s football ground when they both shocked and amazed us by playing the then unheard album in its entirety. But what an album, and what a departure for the band – no longer pop but real rock music of the very best quality. The opening track ‘Baba O’Riley’ is an absolute tour de force and unlike anything ever before or since. Hard to analyse why this song captures the imagination – it should have been called ‘Teenage Wasteland’ and then it might have made more sense – however. Every song following is a classic and sung with both sensitivity and great emotion. This was their re-birth, their coming of age – and in my mind their best album. Other great tracks are ‘The Song Is Over’, ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ and of course the finale ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ It is and has always been my favourite of theirs. Quadrophenia followed in 1973. Another concept piece, which strangely I have never liked as much. There followed a film and many live recordings and even tours right into this century. I do like a handful of tracks – ‘The Real Me’, 5.15’ and ‘Love Reign Over Me’, but never my favourite record – though fans love it. Next came a much more normal Who album – 1975’s The Who By Numbers. Maybe their worst album cover, and the absence of any real rock anthems meant this sold relatively poorly. But I have always liked it – it has a slightly throwaway quality to it; and seems less strained and easier to listen to than it’s predecessor. Best tracks are ‘Slip Kid’, ‘Squeeze Box’ and ‘Blue Red and Grey’. Three years till their next – the superb Who Are You. One of the most infectious songs, featured in numerous films and tv series, it still has the power to amaze. But this is a really strong album; with songs like ‘Sister Disco’ and ‘Guitar and Pen’ proving they still had it. Sadly, a weird co-incidence; on the cover Keith Moon is sitting astride a chair with the words NOT TO BE TAKEN AWAY on it. He was taken away shortly after, another Rock and Roll excess victim. Kenny Jones, ex Faces drummer replaced Keith in the band, and although he was a competent drummer, he lacked the madness and touch of Keith. Face Dances came out in 1981; not a bad album, but not a great one either. Maybe the curse of the 80’s hit them, or they were just tired or bored or just not good enough at this point. I liked a few songs – ‘You Better You Bet’, ‘Don’t Let Go Of The Coat’ and ‘Another Tricky Day’ – but the rest of the songs leave me cold. Which was my reaction to pretty well the whole of their next, 1982’s It’s Hard. A bit of a downer, as the songs never seemed to really stick in the brain. And it seemed that that was that. The band continued with touring and long breaks but no new material emerged. Daltrey went off and did other stuff, John Entwistle died too early and Townshend was in the news because he went on-line to view some child porn, which he says was research, as he was abused himself. I saw them a couple of times in the nineties and early this Century. Great stuff, but heavily reliant on 60’s and 70’s songs. Then, after 24 years came a new album Endless Wire (2006). Well, what to make of it? Firstly, it doesn’t feel at all like a Who album, except for a couple of rockier tracks. The album is really a Pete Townshend album, sung by Roger Daltrey. A complicated record; songs attacking the Catholic church, and some which I have no idea what the son g is about at all. Overlong really but there are a few very good songs; ‘We Got a Hit’, ‘Endless Wire’ and ‘Mirror Door’. I have bought but not listened to yet, their latest simply titled Who. I also have two compilations Thenand Now and Ultimate Collection; both full of great songs. What a band; one of the leaders of the revolution in music in the Sixties.
As a teenager I loved the singles of the Who from the mid-sixties onwards. They were ‘Poppy’, but with a dangerous and rebellious edge – you always thought they might be on the point of exploding. The stuttering f f f in My Generation, a secret clue. My first album proper of theirs was a compilation on Track records, the fabulously titled Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy (1972). This had everything – almost all the singles ‘I Can’t Explain’, ‘Anyway, Anywhere, Anyhow’, Happy Jack’ and Pictures of Lily’ which I always knew was about wanking. As well as a few other not so well-known songs – I played the original vinyl to death. I bought a couple of earlier albums later. A Quick One came out in late ’66 – but I bought it much later. Rather pop than rock, and with some pretty bizarre songs – already Townshend was writing about the weirdest stuff – but this also included a few songs by Daltrey, Entwistle and even Keith Moon ‘Cobwebs and Strange’ and there are about 10 bonus tracks on this CD, not sure if they were ‘b’ sides or just stuff they recorded around this time. Best tracks are ‘So Sad About Us’, ’Boris the Spider’ and ‘Disguises’. An interesting glimpse back from the later glory years. As is The Who Sell Out (1967). A great cover and a great concept; while other bands were into psychedelica, The Who made an album of songs with commercials interspersed. Best are ‘Armenia City in The Sky’, ‘Our Love Was’ and ‘I Can See For Miles and Miles’ – there is also a mini opera ‘Rael’ which I don’t really like, and several bonus tracks again of varying quality. Then, of course, came the first BIG ONE – Tommy (1969). I bought this soon after seeing the film version by Ken Russell but knew quite a few songs from the radio earlier. What an album, and what an achievement – it puts Sargeant Pepper a bit in the shade really. This is pure rock music, but actually a very varied album. Daltrey’s vocals are superb, and he commands your attention. The whole thing is a product of Townshend’s fertile imagination, and unbelievable as the story is, it all makes some sort of sense. Tommy has had a life of it’s own – a film, orchestral arrangements, and many many live performnces by the band and various guest singers. But the original still stands supreme. Hard to pick a favourite from such a complex and unified piece but maybe ‘1921’, ‘Sally Simpson’ and of course – ‘Pinball Wizard’. I also have from mostly about this time The BBC Sessions – the band were regular guets at the Beeb in the Sixtiies and early Seventies. Most of the versions are pretty much as they appear on record – but a few rarities – ‘Just You And Me Darling’, ‘Man With The Money’ and a cracking version of ‘Dancing in The Street’.
Andy White – another in the long
list of ‘Artists Nobody Has Ever Heard Of’ – but why, when the boy is so
original and brilliant – ah, maybe that’s the reason. A Belfast kid, he emerged in the
mid-Eighties, though most of the albums I have are from this Century. He sings very autobiographical songs and
sometimes simply recites the words in a Northern Irish accent, which I find
most appealing. My first of his is from
1990 and called Himself. Some
great songs and quite good music too – Andy has a unique voice and style that I
find quite infectious and unaffected.
Best songs are ‘In A Groovy Kind Of Way’, ‘The Guildford Four’ and ‘Pale
Moonlight’ – but almost all the songs are great. My next is Out There 1992. Not quite so good, but not at all bad
really. Fave tracks are ‘Palace Full of
Noise’, ‘James Joyce Grave’ and of course ‘Speechless. Third up is Destination Beautiful (1994)
– another very good album, which includes the great songs – ‘Street Scenes From
My Heart’, ‘John’ ( a heartfelt pean to Lennon),’Many’s The Time’ and ‘The
Government Of Love’. A very pleasant
record. Speechless itself
followed in 2000, and included new recordings of a couple of songs, especially
the title track. Quite a long album,
about 20 tracks, which makes it a tad tedious to listen right through. However, some pretty cool songs – ‘Religious Persuasion’,
‘Between A Man And A Woman’ and ‘Jacqui’ stand out. Next, I have his self-titled album Andy
White (2000) – which seems strange given this was about his tenth solo
album, but it is quite good anyway. Best
are ‘Let Me be Free’, ‘Jesus In A Cadillac’ and ‘Coz I’m Free’. A true rare talent, who doesn’t seem at all
affected by Fame or Fortune – just happy to continue writing and singing songs.
White Mansions (1978) – this was a concept album by Englishman Paul Kennerley. It is a story of the tragedy of the American Civil War, from the perspective of the defeated South. Wow, what an album – with a stellar cast of singers acting out the story in song. Every song is brilliant, almost impossible to name a favourite, but ‘Southern Boys’ rocks along, ‘Union Mare’ and ‘Confederate Grey’ is a poignant tale, and ‘The Southland’s Bleeding’ is fantastic. Written in a new Americana style, with a country twang, the whole album has to be listened to as a piece of work that is simply brilliant. Paul almost repeated the achievement two years later with The Legend Of Jesse James, which follows on historically from the defeat of the South. This record features Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris among others and is almost as good; though the story is more callous, you still feel sorry for Jesse. Best songs are ‘Heaven Aint Ready For You Yet’, ‘The Death Of Me’ and ‘One more Shot’. Johnny Cash’s voice dominates but this is again an ensemble piece and was released a double album with White Mansions in 1999. A unique little slice of American History on one CD. Great stuff.
Jeff Wayne – famous for one superb
double album War Of The Worlds (1978). To my knowledge he hasn’t
released any other albums…not that he needs to, having sold 15 million
copies. And with good reason, it is
simply brilliant. Great music
throughout, with recurring leitmotifs and several guest singers, and the late
great Richard Burton as narrator. My
favourite tracks are Julia Covington singing ‘No No Nathaniel) and David Essex
singing ‘Brave New World’ and of course Justin Haywood’s ‘Foreever
Autumn’. A triumph and a well deserved
success, even toruing the album with special effects live.
Gillian Welch – An American
singer-songwriter specialising in ‘Bluegrass’ and ‘traditional American’ folk
styles. A very sparse sound, which gives
plenty of room for her voice and words.
Only one album, 2001’s Time (The Revelator). Well. It is almost one long song, slight
variations in melody but much the same all the way through. A very distinctive
voice and great picked guitar – but I am still not sure that I like her. Best songs are ‘I want to sing that Rock and
Roll’ and ‘Elvis Presley Blues’.
Paul Weller – I was never that big a
fan, either of Jam or Paul solo – though I quite liked some of the Jam
singles. But, reading the music press as
I do, I bought Wild Wood (1993) – and was not hat overimpressed. Not a
bad album, but hardly any of the songs really caught my ear. Best are ‘Country’ and ‘Holy Man’ – but even
these are not that sparkling. I took one
other dip into his stuff with 2008’s 22 Dreams – billed as some sort of
psychedelic renaissance, but again, though it was a varied album with different
moods and styles, I am not sure of the record; too long and too many unfocussed
tracks. Best songs are the very good
‘Sea Spray’, ‘Invisible’ and Where ‘ere ye go’. I also have a compilation of Paul solo
and songs from his time
with The Jam and The Style Council’ called Hit Parade, and quite good it
is too. Of course, I prefer the
earlier stuff but not a bad listen.
WhiskyTown – This was Ryan Adam’s band before he went solo (see A). This was a pretty country Americana outfit, and maybe he should have stayed with this band, as they were excellent. Just two albums – Faithless Street (1995) is up first, and was their debut. Ryan’s weary country voice dominates and is great: I especially love ’16 days’, ‘Hard Luck Story’ and ‘Excuse Me While I Break My Own Heart Tonight’. 1997 saw Strangers Almanac – another brilliant album, not a poor track on this collection. Hrd to choose favourites – but ‘Everything I Do’, ‘Losering’ and ‘Not Home Anymore’ stand out. They did release an album of offcuts in 2001 but I haven’t got it.