(4 / 5)
This legendary British band are partly responsible for the fact I have spent almost 40 years in the music business in some capacity – journalist, photographer, music manager, record producer, concert and tour promoter, agent, publicist, DJ and various other roles across these past four decades.
It’s been one heck of a ride so far, and I ain’t done yet! So, turn back the clock to the mid-1970s and a mate of mine was a fanatical Who fan. He asked me if I wanted to go with him to see them at a local major venue, which was at that time a run down roller-disco skating rink where as young teenagers, me and my mates used to go to chat up girls and show ourselves up, when we more often than not, fell over on our arse as poor skaters! Not cool at all!
It doubled as a live music venue for major touring acts, and that venue had seen everybody play there over the years; The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Quo, Roxy Music, The Police…. oh man, everybody. Sadly, it is now part of a Rugby stadium’s car park after it was bulldozed to the ground. All that history, gone.
This mate had bought two tickets as soon as they went on sale, the huge capacity gig selling out in minutes. I agreed to go and bought one off of him. I had not ever seen a big name band in the flesh before, but had been bonkers about music and collecting records, since I was about 10-years-old.
Doing paper rounds morning and night in all weathers, digging gardens, running errands for the old folk in my village, shopping for them in the snow, farm work…anything to save up some pennies and go to town on a Saturday on a 16-mile each way bus trip, to trawl the record stores and buy new music. Plus usually, a bunch of flowers and a magazine (The Lady) as a prezzie for my Mum, and a fish and chip lunch and some fizzy pop as a treat for myself!
So I was very excited to see this band, my first proper gig and such a huge band. I could not wait. It was Sunday 19th October in 1975. I was 16-years-old. The ticket cost £2.20 inc. VAT! When we got there and there were so many people, such volume, all those lights and pyrotechnics. This massive drum kit – which was actually made in a factory about 10 minutes walk from my house – and there was the fabulous Keith Moon sat behind it. Pete Townshend leaping in the air and then smashing his guitar against the amp at the end of the show.
It was an awe inspiring sight and sound for me, and I left there buzzing – not because of booze as I was too young to buy a legal pint back then – and wanting much more live music. So very soon after that at the same venue, I went with this same guy to see Rainbow and Bad Company concerts.
A special moment for me, was in 1978, when I was at that huge venue not as a punter, but on an official press pass to shoot photographs of Rod Stewart on his “Blonde’s Have More Fun” tour. Abba were there as unannounced guests to watch the show, and I had a glass of champers with them.
Back to the Who’s show, I still recall how brilliant the opening act was, The Steve Gibbons band. After seeing The Who, Rainbow and Bad Company there, all in a few weeks, followed by Eric Clapton at another local venue soon after, it all whetted my appetite for much more live music and I realised back then, I just had to be involved in music in some way. I interviewed Paul Rodgers not so long ago and told him that seeing his amazing band Bad Company when I was 16, was one of the main inspirations for me to do what I do now.
So, The Who as a band have always had a soft spot reserved for them in my heart. Songs like “My Generation”, “Substitute”, and “I Can’t Explain” are timeless. I love “Baba O’Riley”, and the brilliant “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. I also liked some of the solo work Townshend did, and one of my favourite albums in my collection is the one he did with Ronnie Lane, “Rough Mix” in 1977. Fave Who albums: “Who’s Next and “Who Are You”.
I remember being in a country house one afternoon with a bunch of musicians, where there was a bit of a jam session during a break from recording, and everyone was drinking beer or wine and nicely chilled. Suddenly someone said: “Let’s go to the pictures to see ‘Tommy’ and get some food first”. So everyone piled into a dodgy old Transit van and a few battered cars and off we went. It was the Ken Russell film. I really enjoyed it, and thought Daltrey was genius in it and ‘Moon the Loon’ made me laugh.
Today, that Pete Townshend-penned rock opera is still a treasured piece of work, and it recently had a resurrection with a performance live for the first time ever, at the iconic Royal Albert Hall by the Who; the two surviving members Daltry and Townshend.
Eagle Vision have released the DVD film of the show and a live album recording from that Royal Albert Hall spectacular, for the Teenage Cancer Trust. It captures all of the first ever live performance of Tommy. More than two hours and 20 minutes of content. They also treated the sold-out audience to a batch of Who classics at the end of the night. The DVD includes “Pinball Wizard”, “I’m Free”, “Amazing Journey”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “I Can’t Explain”, “Who Are You”, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “I Can see For Miles” and many more.
It was filmed in April 2017, and while previous Who shows had included two or three songs from Tommy, this charity was to perform all of them. With a backdrop of specially created animations on a huge screen above the stage, and some creative lighting, the show told the story of the deaf, dumb and blind kid who “sure played a mean pinball”.
As well as the entire show filmed on that night, the DVD includes some bonus content; a behind-the-scenes featurette, full screen animations of both The Acid Queen and Pinball Wizard with the live performance audio. The double CD features 31 tracks; 24 on disc one and another seven on the second CD – the full “Tommy” set list.
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’