The Who – later stuff
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 Then and Now and Ultimate Collection; both full of great songs. What a band; one of the leaders of the revolution in music in the Sixties.