Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Who 27: Fillmore East

The term “long-suffering fan” doesn’t usually inspire much sympathy. The artists these people adore don’t owe them anything, and if they’ve shelled out their hard-earned cash on numerous occasions for duplicates or sub-standard material, it’s not like they were forced to. Buy the ticket, take the ride. Or don’t, it’s up to you.
So when a band like the Who, after literally decades of teases, overlooks, and bad editing, comes out with an official version of a classic bootleg that might actually surpass the legend, there is cause for celebration. Live At The Fillmore East 1968 finally presents a nearly-complete document of one of their appearances that year at said venue, in terrific sound, with no dodgy edits, overdubbing, or fly-ins. With the exception of the first two songs from the night apparently beyond salvage, this is the show as performed, with dialogue and mistakes left in.
1968 was something of a lost year for the band; they recorded lots of songs and released a few singles, but a new album evaded them until Pete happened on the idea of a sensory-deprived kid who played pinball. Meanwhile, they played tons of gigs on several continents and became an incredible live act. Their managers, always on the lookout for a gimmick, thought a live album might fill the racks, and so recorded two nights at the Fillmore East.
World events caused a change in schedule; instead of performing two shows a night, they played one long one for each. Inspired by some of the more experimental bands of the time, the Who began to mix their quick, radio-friendly singles with lengthy explorations. “Relax”, a groove from Sell Out, manages to extend to 12 minutes; “A Quick One” goes nearly as long in a version that comes close to the definitive take from later in the year. Amazingly, even for them, “My Generation” runs for 33 minutes, and is assigned to a disc on its own.
They also relied on covers to fill their allotted time. “Summertime Blues” was already in the set, and two more Eddie Cochran tunes (“C’mon Everybody” and “My Way”) lead into “Shakin’ All Over”. This is also the first appearance of their arrangement of “Fortune Teller”, somehow folding into “Tattoo”. It managed to work, and they would still play it that way two years on.
It’s impossible to say how this album would have been received had it been released back then. The beloved original bootleg came from an acetate compiled from both nights, so we don’t get to hear Roger and John sing different verses of “Boris The Spider” simultaneously, nor do we hear Pete telling someone in the crowd to “get stuffed”. But to finally hear complete songs, without fade-outs or fade-ins, is truly exciting. Here’s hoping they’ll finally approve the Woodstock performance for its golden anniversary.

The Who Live At The Fillmore East 1968 (2018)—4

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