Friday, October 15, 2010

Who 23: What’s Left

While there’s been some talk about a possible follow-up to Endless Wire, Pete and Roger have only embarked on the occasional tour and Super Bowl appearance. Pete takes his sweet time writing things these days, so the story of The Who may well have come to a quiet close.
With the BBC set, their catalog revamp was basically complete from the labels’ standpoint, and probably Pete’s too. There were some surprises to be had on the various Deluxe Editions of My Generation, Live At Leeds, Who’s Next, Tommy and Sell Out, but to this day a pile of once-available rarities are still buried. Here’s a look at some of those, many of which are certainly worthy of release.

  • “Substitute”: The American single mix had a different vocal to cover the possibly offensive (to racists) line describing the singer’s heritage. It appeared on a bonus EP included with the first edition of 2002’s Ultimate Collection, along with a rare mix of “I’m A Boy”, an alternate “Happy Jack” and another rare mix of “Magic Bus” that wasn’t the one people really wanted.
  • “Circles”: The Who recorded this twice—once with Shel Talmy as included on the My Generation Deluxe Edition, and again for the Ready Steady Who EP. All the other tracks from that EP were included on the A Quick One CD, but this was left off. It was even left off the stereo upgrade that snuck out in 2002.
  • “I’m A Boy”: The longer version included on Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy is a different recording than the single, complete with an additional verse. It also could have been included on the Quick One CDs.
  • “Run Run Run”: When A Quick One appeared on CD in 1995, this was the only album track included in stereo, the rest of the album being in mono. The aforementioned stereo upgrade kept the mono “Run Run Run” unavailable. All of which makes us wonder why they haven’t put out a Deluxe Edition of A Quick One, with the stereo album on one disc and the mono on the other, with whatever other nuggets they can find.
  • “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde”: This John Entwistle classic, a thinly veiled tribute to his road roommate Keith, was released in two separate but distinctly different versions—one on an American B-side and later included on the Magic Bus album, and the other as a British B-side. Neither mix is currently available.
  • “Magic Bus”: The absence of the long version of this song is another reason why Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy should have been included as is in the catalog rollout. Apparently you can find it on some recent (and pricey) Japanese CDs (and, as of 2014, The Who Hits 50!).
  • “Eyesight To The Blind”: A version with a lower-pitched vocal from Roger appeared on the Mobile Fidelity gold CD of Tommy. It certainly could have been included on the Deluxe Edition of Tommy, along with the other Mose Allison covers allegedly recorded at the time.
  • “Here For More”: The second of exactly two Roger Daltrey compositions in the canon was the B-side of “The Seeker”, and could have been included on any of the Who’s Next reissues, but was probably left off due to its lack of connection with the Lifehouse concept.
  • “When I Was A Boy”: This excellent Entwistle song was recorded during the Who’s Next sessions and used as a B-side. It should not have been left off the 1995 upgrade of that album.
  • “Pinball Wizard”-“See Me Feel Me”-“Jam”-“Baby Don’t You Do It”-“Summertime Blues”: Most of a performance from the Young Vic Theater was included on the Who’s Next Deluxe Edition, with the exception of these five songs. (“Bony Moronie” from this show is on the box set.) Their inclusion on this list is admittedly nitpicky.
  • “Goin’ Down”: Among the obscurities on Two’s Missing was this live trainwreck of a Freddie King cover. John’s liner notes say it all: “It was obviously something Roger and Pete heard but I hadn’t.”
  • “Wasp Man”: This Keith Moon opus features the same three chords repeated over “hilarious” vocals and rhythmic sniffing. It escaped as a B-side, presumably to get Keith some extra royalties. The updated Odds & Sods would have been the most obvious home for this.
  • “Join Together”: Apparently the original mix of this song ran over seven minutes, and it’s never been heard.
  • “Can’t You See I’m Easy”-“Ladies In The Female Jail”: The Who recorded an album’s worth of material in 1972 before Pete decided it sounded too much like Who’s Next and morphed some of the songs into the Quadrophenia concept. Some tracks came out as singles, and others appeared on Odds & Sods; these two were apparently recorded but have only been heard as bootlegged Pete demos.
  • “Dancing In The Street”: This Motown cover was recorded live in 1979 and later released as a B-side.

    If some of the songs above had been included on the CDs as suggested, that only leaves a handful of leftovers that, given some shuffling to eliminate repetition, should have been on the 1998 upgrade of Odds & Sods. And we can’t state enough that Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy should have been upgraded in the ‘90s too.
    Will these ever again appear officially (and cheaply)? Impossible to say. Meanwhile, no less than four official hits collections appeared over the first decade of the 21st century, with only slight variations in their track sequences amid the occasional single edit. (Even the genuinely exciting From A Backstage Pass, a Keith-era live retrospective available only as an expensive premium from their fan club, got plundered for the retail-available Greatest Hits Live, which sported a disc full of inferior highlights from Join Together and more recent recordings.)
    Live At Leeds recently came out again in a Super Deluxe Edition, including the 2000 two-disc addition, the never-released Hull concert from a day later, and in an annoyingly growing trend, a vinyl copy of the original, all in an expensive box. Somehow we get the feeling that instead of true rarities, most likely any future Who releases will consist of more of the same.

    1. Wow, you really know your Who rarities.

      I totally agree that Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy deserves reissue in its own right. It is one of those few handful of compilation LPs that really stands up on its own and is more than sum of its parts. It's a total classic and for many American listeners was their introduction to the greatness of the pre-Tommy Who.

      On a side note, I find the stereo remix of My Generation very hard to listen to. Some of Pete's solos were dubbed directly to the final mono track, so there are no existing multi-track tapes for them. Anytime I listen to the stereo version of "My Generation" my brain goes haywire when the song gets to the parts where the solos are missing. There's some stuff missing from the stereo remix of "Circles" too.

    2. The easy part is that most of the omissions are pretty glaring. I can forgive the occasional wacky mix, but "When I Was A Boy" and some of the other B-sides shouldn't be overlooked.

      MBB&B is such a no-brainer I don't understand why it wasn't upgraded. To an extent even Hooligans works as a sequel.

    3. Wardo - you're right but some of these have been re-issued already but on the recent Japanese only SHM series. My site should point you in the right direction if you want to get hold of them. My point with the site is, of course, that Trinifold should plan a FINAL re-issue of every studio variation of every track in a Neil Young-esque kind of way ensuring that mastering is tasteful (not overly loud, EQ'd and uniform) across the whole set as part of their 50th anniversary celebration.

    4. Wow -- I know where I'll be spending the next several days!

      I was aware of these Japanese reissues, but that's a whole hill I hesitate to roll down on this blog. The '90s Who reissue campaign was (mostly) successful, but with just a little tweaking, some of those key missing tracks could have been included the first time, so cheapskates like me don't have to buy the same album a third or fourth time.

      Meanwhile, I've got a new Who website to check out!