The idea of listening to (Or watching) something “As the artist originally intended” has always obsessed me. Leading to me doing things like forking out wodges of cash for the rare original CD version of Guns ‘n’ Roses ‘Appetite For Destruction’ (With the banned cover). Because in my mind, the album would be somehow sullied by listening to it while holding the sanitised cover in my hands (Although logically speaking, I’d have to concede it sounds exactly the same). Another example is me tracking down two rare import CDs of The Smiths’ ‘Meat Is Murder’, one for the correct sleeve art and the other for the correct track listing (I combined both into my ultimate replica version!). I even compiled a rough mix of The Beach Boys’ ‘Smile’ and was pleasantly surprised to find (When Brian Wilson got round to finally releasing it) that it was quite close to the actual track listing. I also adore painstakingly restored/reconstructed film masterpieces like Leone’s ‘Once Upon A Time In America’, ‘A Fistful Of Dynamite’ and ‘The Good The Bad & The Ugly’ as well as Samuel Fuller’s ‘The Big Red One’ and Ridley Scott’s ‘Kingdom Of Heaven’. Almost without exception when a project is returned to it’s origins, it’s a vast improvement. Philosophy wise, I’m basically the anti-Lucas.
It was nearly ten years ago when I purchased the first remastered version of ‘Who’s Next’ (The Who’s 1971 masterpiece). I instantly loved it, Keith’s furiously inventive Drumming, John’s peerless Bass playing, Roger’s exhilarating Vocals and of course Pete’s explosive Guitar playing. It documents a band at the peak of their powers and perhaps Rocks finest moment. I was also fascinated by Pete Townshend and John Atkins’ liner notes talking about the aborted ‘Lifehouse’ project/double-LP/film/Rock-Opera/live-show that had been the basis for the truncated ‘Who’s Next’ LP. In brief, Pete was forced to abandon this grand multimedia project when it became to unwieldy to finish to his satisfaction. It became Pete’s version of ‘Smile’, though thankfully he emerged out the other side with his sanity relatively intact (Unlike poor Brian Wilson). When I listened to the generous selection of bonus tracks (From the same sessions) I was struck by how good they were and crucially that they were not half formed demos or partly recorded instrumentals but infact fully functioning Rock ‘n’ Roll beasts that were sonically cohesive with the other tracks. I yearned to hear the ‘Lifehouse’ album “As the artist originally intended” but I thought no more about it, content to listen to the existing album while playing windmill air-Guitar to ‘Baba O’Riley’ (Incidentally, if you’ve never done this, I suggest you’ve never truly lived – Watch this bedroom rockstar on YouTube).
Fast forward and I’ve spent the best part of the last year idly trying to put my attempt at ‘Lifehouse’ together. The chief difficulty lies in the fact that unlike Pete’s earlier ‘Tommy’ the songs from ‘Lifehouse’ contain a minimal amount of the narrative (This was intended to be imparted in an accompanying film). I found the “Rosetta Stone” to understanding ‘Lifehouse’ was The Wachowski Brothers 1999 film ‘The Matrix’. Always keeping this film in mind makes the ‘Lifehouse’ plot easy to digest. Of course Pete’s story came nearly three decades ahead of ‘The Matrix’ and years ahead of the internet. So here’s a basic plot outline (As I understand it/it makes sense to me):
In a distopian/totalitarian future Britain pollution/radiation is everywhere so the population of Britain sit plugged into ‘Lifesuits’ that simulate life (Like ‘Virtual-Reality’) so that no one need leave their homes. The suits are all connected to ‘The Grid’ (Like the internet) and they provide food/water/entertainment to the user. Up in the Scottish countryside the pollution isn’t as bad, so the food that sustains the Lifesuit users is grown there (‘Baba O’Riley’). One oppressed farming family (‘Water’) hears about a secret concert/festival in London called ‘Lifehouse’ (‘The Relay’) designed to bring back Rock music and awake the masses (‘I Don’t Even Know Myself’). They and others travel to this gig (‘Let’s See Action’, ‘Going Mobile’). Along the way there are various subplots involving romances starting/ending (‘Bargain’, ‘Love Ain’t For Keeping’, ‘Baby Don’t You Do It’, ‘Naked Eye’). At the concert the band (The Who themselves are the group) take vital-statistics from the people and feed them into a computer/synthesiser to generate music in the hope of generating the perfect transcendental note (‘Join Together’). Most embrace this new philosophy (‘Time Is Passing’, ‘Pure & Easy’, ‘Getting In Tune’) but some become disillusioned with the movement the band are starting (‘Too Much Of Anything’, ‘Put The Money Down’). Eventually the authorities surround the “Lifehouse” and try to shut it down. The Leader of the authorities takes to the stage and appeals for the concert goers to leave (‘Behind Blue Eyes’). The band grab the microphone back and defy the Leader (‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’) and when the concert reaches it’s crescendo they succeed in playing the perfect note (Because the people have become at one with the music and the band themselves) and everyone at the concert ascends to a higher plane and escapes the authorities (‘The Song Is Over’).
Once I’d got the plot fixed in my head it was a lengthy but enjoyable task of placing the songs in the correct order within the narrative. I can’t tell you how many times I’d come to a track listing I’d called “Finished” only to re-order it a week later after spotting a lyric that seemed out of place. Here is the running order that I feel holds together best:
1. Baba O’Riley (From the original LP. Recorded at Olympic Studios, May 1971)
2. Water (From the ‘Odds & Sods’ Compilation. Recorded at Eel Pie Studios, May 1970)
3. The Relay (From ‘The Who’s Greatest Hits’ Compilation. Recorded at Olympic Studios, 26th May 1972)
4. I Don’t Even Know Myself (Bonus Track from the 1995 Re-Issue of ‘Who’s Next’. Recorded at Eel Pie Studios, May-June 1970)
5. Let’s See Action (From the ‘My Generation’ Compilation. Recorded at Olympic Studios, May-June 1971)
6. Going Mobile (From the original LP. Recorded at Olympic Studios, May 1971)
7. Bargain (From the original LP. Recorded at Olympic Studios, April-June 1971)
8. Love Ain’t For Keeping (From the original LP. Recorded at Olympic Studios, May 1971)
9. Baby Don’t You Do It (A thrilling cover of a Marvin Gaye song which was a bonus Track from the 1995) Re-Issue of ‘Who’s Next’. Recorded at The Record Plant in New York, 16th March 1971)
10. Naked Eye (From the ‘Odds & Sods’ Compilation. Recorded at Eel Pie Studios, May 1970)
1. Join Together (From the ‘My Generation’ Compilation. Recorded at Olympic Studios, 22nd May 1972)
2. Time Is Passing (From the ‘Odds & Sods’ Compilation. Recorded at Olympic Studios, 12th April 1971)
3. Pure & Easy (From the ‘Odds & Sods’ Compilation. Recorded at Olympic Studios, May 1971)
4. Getting In Tune (From the original LP. Recorded at Olympic Studios, May 1971)
5. Too Much Of Anything (Bonus Track from the 1995 Re-Issue of ‘Who’s Next’. Recorded at Olympic Studios, 12th April 1971)
6. Put The Money Down (From the ‘Odds & Sods’ Compilation. Recorded at Olympic Studios, 6th June 1972)
7. Behind Blue Eyes (From the original LP. Recorded at Olympic Studios, May 1971)
8. Won’t Get Fooled Again (From the original LP. Recorded at Stargroves Studios, April 1971)
9. The Song Is Over / Pure & Easy (Reprise) (From the original LP. Recorded at Olympic Studios, May 1971)
The original tracks have been retained (With the obvious exception of the John Entwistle penned ‘My Wife’). Four of the additional eleven tracks were recorded at the same May 1971 Olympic sessions that the majority of the original LP songs came from. The rest were variously recorded at Pete’s own Eel Pie Studios (A year before the Olympic sessions), at The Record Plant in New York (Immediately Prior to the Olympic sessions) and three were only layed down in 1972 after ‘Lifehouse’ had already been shelved in favour of ‘Who’s Next’. Most of the tracks can be found if you get either of the re-issues of ‘Who’s next’ (The second Deluxe re-issue is preferable, since you get a bonus contemporaneous live concert recorded at The Young Vic, to give you the live ‘Lifehouse’ experience).
So in conclusion, here is a Zip file containing all the elements you need to “Extend” your copy of ‘Who’s Next’ into something that isn’t quite ‘Lifehouse’ but is a whole lot closer than the original release. I’ve included alternate artwork I’ve made (Pictured above), this unwieldy essay and of course the eleven mp3s to add to the eight you’ve already got. What’s that I hear you say, you haven’t got the original eight tracks, well… go buy a copy! (And no before you ask, I won’t be posting them, blow the cobwebs off your wallet!) You can print the artwork and burn off the two CDs or simply create a virtual copy in iTunes (You could even give it to your dad for Christmas). Enjoy!
Here are some notable links:
Here are some decent quality clips of The Who performing tracks from ‘Lifehouse’ back in the day:
Baba O’Riley (Shepperton Studios, 1978)
Water (Isle Of Wight Festival, 1970)
The Relay (Old Grey Whistle Test, 1973)
I Don’t Even Know Myself (Isle Of Wight Festival, 1970)
Naked Eye (Isle Of Wight Festival, 1970)
Join Together (Top Of The Pops, 1972)
Behind Blue Eyes (Hammersmith Odeon, 1979)
Won’t Get Fooled Again (Shepperton Studios, 1978)
Whilst browsing YouTube I came across this dude who is quite simply Keith Moon born again (Zak Starkey leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion).
Drumming along to ‘Baby Don’t You Do It’
Drumming along to ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’
The Who liner notes Website (An essential resource).
WhiteFang’s Who Info Site (The sleeves of seemingly every record!).