Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Who 20: Isle Of Wight and BBC Sessions

Following the box set, The Who’s labels got down to redoing the catalog, improving the sound and adding extra tracks. Live At Leeds was the first remaster, followed by second and third chances for most of the albums. In the middle appeared My Generation—The Very Best Of The Who, a single-disc replacement for what should have been Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy, adding to a growing list of missing tunes.

Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970 came out on another label in 1996, thanks to a legal hurdle that had been jumped. This was the Who six months after Leeds, with a cache of new songs that were supposed to be the next album. “I Don’t Even Know Myself” and “Water” are lengthy expansions, and “Naked Eye” has developed into a full-fledged song out of the “My Generation” improvisations. “Shakin’ All Over” goes into “Twist And Shout”, yelled by John. More importantly, it includes Tommy in sequence, but split across two CDs. It’s a more confident show, if a little muddy, and still no substitute for Leeds.

By the end of the decade, most of the catalog rejigging had been completed, with the exception of My Generation, held up in litigation with the original producer, who wasn’t going to let the tapes go for less than a fortune. While waiting for that mess to pan out, the record industry’s BBC fixation took over.
Like all struggling British bands, The Who made several appearances early in their career on the BBC’s pop radio programs. Many—but not all—of those recordings are included on BBC Sessions, which had already been beaten to certain shelves by some very comprehensive bootlegs. Still, there are some exclusive songs and some powerful versions of familiar songs before spinning to an abrupt end. “Good Lovin’” appears nine months before the hit version by the Young Rascals, while “Just You And Me, Darling” is another homage to James Brown. Even stranger, “Dancing In The Street”—yes, the Motown classic—gets a runthrough as well. Two versions of “Substitute” are here, one in the original single arrangement, and a later one in the shorter Leeds style. The disc ends with a pair of performances from BBC television, a funky take on “Relay” (a current single) and the then-unreleased “Long Live Rock”, where Pete blows the third verse. (The Best Buy chain had an exclusive bonus CD, containing an interview and some more BBC recordings of dubious origin, including a take of “I Can See For Miles” with a new bass line mixed up high.)

The Who Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970 (1996)—3
The Who BBC Sessions (2000)—3

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