Monday, May 4, 2009

Who 17: Who’s Last, Who’s Missing, Two’s Missing

After Pete’s statement saying the band was done, there were rumors of a live album in the works that would encompass the band’s career. Instead, the following Xmas saw the release of Who’s Last, which despite occasional moments—such as the rockabilly coda to “Long Live Rock”—proved to be about as inspired as its title. Instead of a retrospective, it consisted solely of performances taken from the 1982 farewell tour. And since it was on MCA, nothing from the ‘80s was included. Most of the tracks are padded front and back with audience noise.
This is the showbiz Who, going through the motions, Pete playing the Schecter Telecaster copy that always sounded like his chorus pedal was jammed. It takes balls to include songs already perfected on Live At Leeds, but at least Entwistle gets the last word with his rendition of “Twist And Shout”, and throughout the album, Kenney Jones plays with more fire than he demonstrated on any of his Who recordings.

The following year, Who’s Missing arrived with little fanfare, but actually did collectors a favor. Most of the songs had not been released in the US, and the rest were truly rare. A pile of songs from the earliest Shel Talmy sessions start it off, followed by a couple of single takes and such. Side two is the keeper, with four key B-sides from the Who’s Next period—two of which (“When I Was A Boy” and “Here For More”) have shamefully yet to appear in the reissue program—and a blistering live “Bargain”. Pete’s notes were typically pensive.

Two’s Missing followed with even less fanfare within 18 months. While the first was somewhat chronological, this was in more of a crazy order, but boasted more in-depth notes from John. More tracks from the Shel Talmy sessions are balanced by such nuggets as the Stones covers “Under My Thumb” and “The Last Time”, the rare singles “Dogs” and its “Part Two”, and a couple more B-sides. Some ponderous live tracks made for weird listening, but it still rated a spot in the rack. (Like its predecessor, it arrived in the wake of a Townshend solo release. MCA may have been dumb, but they weren’t stupid.)

With the advent of Classic Rock radio in the ‘80s, the Who were still a commercial entity, and while these mopping-up efforts were convenient, they also underscored how confusing the catalog had been all along (particularly since the UK got two different volumes of what constituted rarities over there). Meanwhile, fans old and new who purchased the MCA albums on shiny new compact discs weren’t very impressed by the sound quality. The Who’s legacy deserved better—and, some would argue, so did the fans.

The Who Who’s Last (1984)—2
The Who Who’s Missing (1985)—3
The Who Two’s Missing (1987)—

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