Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Who - Lifehouse (2 CD)


It occurred to me as I was getting ready to put this post together that 2011 is the 40th anniversary of Who's Next, surely as timeless an album as you'll find from the "classic rock era". Yet while even the doltish teens of today must begrudgingly recognize such songs as "Teenage Wasteland", "Yeeeaaaaahhhhh" or "That One Limp Bizkit Covered", I wonder how much anyone outside of the devout Who fanbase (a.k.a. a bunch of deaf geezers) really knows about the concept that spawned this almighty warhorse: Lifehouse.
If you're confused about what Lifehouse was supposed to be or ever was to begin with, you're not alone. I've been following The Who for going on twenty years now, and I still don't understand the plot any better than I did when I first read about it in Richard Barnes' Maximum R&B book back in my early teenage-hood. And for once this isn't just a case of me being retarded. None of my other Pals In Whodom can extract anything other than the basic premise that there's a guy living in some sort of future dystopia where everybody is plugged into a giant grid, and who loses his daughter and goes looking for her at a rock concert where a band is playing a show striving to achieve the universal note that will unite society, and... Yeah, do I really have to go any further here?

Cover to the Lifehouse lyrics booklet, included with the LP

Okay, so what if Lifehouse's plot makes Tommy look like the world's most concise narrative by comparison? The music is still amazing, and that's all I'm after really. THE POINT BEING: If Who's Next is a perfect album, and Lifehouse is a double album containing almost every song off of Who's Next plus a bunch of other great shit, then isn't Lifehouse really the greatest album ever? That's called math, people!
Anyway the decision is yours, mister listener guy. I will just lay down a few of the basic parameters of track selection that I used, and then you can be on your merry way. All songs were recorded at or around the initial 1971 sessions for Lifehouse, with a few being tracked as late as 1972. The sequencing is supposed to be that of a double LP, with five songs per side on disc one and four a side on disc two.
As you will see, side three is comprised of live performances from the Young Vic and the San Francisco Civic Auditorium. This is the "concert" part of the story. Also, please note that we do not consider this a replacement for Pete Townshend's Lifehouse Chronicles set, but rather a companion release that should be made available to the public someday. Okay then?

What else to add? Can't think of anything really. Just listen to the dang thing and let me know what you think of it. Did I come close to what your estimation was of what Lifehouse should be? How would you have done it differently? Is Donald Trump really a viable candidate for the Tea Party in 2012?
Lebenhaus

27 comments:

  1. Back in the day I was totally obsessed with Lifehouse and read every scrap I could find about it. I'm not so clear on the Who Are You-era reworking or any subsequent versions, but I was mainly interested in the wellspring that produced the Who's Next material. I'd have loved to discuss this stuff with other fans, but no matter how much they dug the music I never found any interested in talking about the story! Anyway, there's a good distillation of what Townshend said on the topic here.

    I've always been disappointed that the Who never recorded "Mary" -- come to that, Pete never even finished the demo -- because I could never imagine what it would have sounded like in a full group arrangement.

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  2. Yeah, three of my favorite songs couldn't be included here because (as far as we know) The Who didn't record them: "Mary", "Greyhound Girl" and "Teenage Wasteland". Similarly, "Time Is Passing" still hasn't seen an official release in its complete form.

    Not that the album suffers without these songs necessarily. To me, there was enough recorded to release a satisfying, "complete" version of Lifehouse, as compared to say SMiLE, which has missing vocals and songs that were never completed.

    It's interesting to consider how rock music may have changed had Lifehouse been released in lieu of Who's Next!

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  3. Hmm…if it were Tommy followed by Lifehouse followed by Quadrophenia, three high concept double album rock operas in succession…punk rock might have been invented five years earlier in rebellion against all the muso pretentiousness! I mean, by that point we'd all have been dying for a band to just release a catchy goddamn single instead of the next Tales from Topographic Oceans.

    (Now, SMiLE is my big obsession these days, between the 2004 version and the upcoming release of the original sessions, and I'm endlessly fascinated by the question of how that album might have changed music. I think there's a halfway decent chance it would have taken the place of Sgt. Pepper and become the biggest album of all time…or it could have been perceived as too much too soon, and become a commercial failure only appreciated many years after the fact. Either extreme seems equally plausible…)

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  4. Yeah, it's too hard to say what sort of an impact SMiLE would have had on the general populace. I'm guessing it would have gone over bigger in the U.K. than the U.S. I almost think it would have received mixed reviews here. It was just too far ahead of its time. (And look at the beating Smiley Smile took in the press-- to me that's one of their best albums!)

    Funny that The Who always seemed to be the one "dinosaur" band that groups like the Pistols still respected. Those guys were old enough to have appreciated the impact of "My Generation" when it was initially released. But you can see The Who's influence extend to more current bands such as Green Day, and even new groups like Call Me Lightning. When I saw Green Day a few years back at a club show here in Oakland, they encored with "A Quick One" in its entirety.

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  5. Thank you for posting this. It's not exactly as how I Imagined the 'Lifehouse' double album to be, but pretty damn close! Good to have this one.
    (What's the story with the Ox compilation? I just can't get it downloaded)
    Anyway, THANX!

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  6. Love the Who and this is a good post...any idea at all when the very,very long delayed Rock Box set is coming out?? (I remember contacting Ian Zamboni..when he bothered answering comments !!..when it was coming out and he said by Christmas..and this in about May Or June last year !!)..if you are still trying to get something from Ebay or whatever how about asking on here if anyone has the relevant missing tracks...Mikel

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  7. FDR, thank you for your kind words! I probably screwed up the link to that comp. I'll fix that for you ASAP.

    Mikel, sorry for the delay. As with all things in life, people get sidetracked, priorities get shifted, etc. All I can tell you is it's nearly done and its coming, along with its own blog. If you look at the recommended blogs on the right, you can preview the new blog and catch the liner notes for disc one to whet your appetite.

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  8. Being ancient & lucky enough to have experienced the WHO live - especially during their many 1969 - 1972 American tours... it is a joy to have this fine compilation to add to my library. Mahalo.

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  9. Hope you dig it, and feel free to let us know your impressions!

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  10. Also, the link to the Ox compilation should be working now.

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  11. The Who DID record "Mary" and also supposedly "Greyhound Girl" in 1971. The reason that they have gone unreleased is because the tape that they were on (the same one as "Time Is Passing") was damaged. That is why "Time Is Passing" was only released in mono (or maybe faux-stereo)...because one of the channels on the tape had been damaged.

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  12. Can't seem to get the download to work for this one (or Weezer's Green album) might just be a problem on my end but is there any chance you could have alook and see if you can fix it?

    Downloaded all the other Who stuff and love it can't wait to hear your take on Liehouse

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  13. This box set is fantastic! All the music together as it should be, at long last, plus extras on disc two that prove Brian Wilson was the master of his domain, the world of pop music. Brian's Smile album in 2004 was also wonderful music, but I believe this tops it, just because the musicians and the voices of the Beach Boys were the best ever, better than anyone else in history.

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  14. Looks great, any chance of a re-up? Please, thank you.

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  15. Looks great any chance of a re-up?

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  16. Thanks for your comments everyone! I've been away from the blog for awhile, but I will try to get everything re-upped by February.

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  17. What was the track listing for your version of Lifehouse?

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  18. Hi, I am unable to download this as the link has expired but I've read all the notes and comments. I've just released a version of Lifehouse (click my name) and think including tracks like Greyhound Girl, Mary and Teenage Wasteland is absolutely fine. In the same vein as Blue, Red & Grey it's fine for Townshend to do a number (or two) on a "Who" album. I think, to be honest, Lifehouse is greater now than if it ever got released because the fans all have their own version! It's like an interactive build your own concept album! :)

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  19. Very cool, Seeker! My version has just been officially re-upped for you all. Enjoy!

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  20. Hi J, Downloaded everything Who now from here and will enjoy as soon as possible! Lifehouse seems to be only part 1 though and RAR says ends unexpectedly.

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  21. Definitely try it again. I just downloaded it myself to test it, and both discs unzipped with no problem. I'm guessing your download session got cancelled before everything had a chance to transfer.

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  22. Hey J

    What do you think of my friend's tracklist for Lifehouse?

    http://pastebin.com/CHT6QgAT

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  23. I think it's very cool, and probably much closer to summarizing PT's narrative than my version, which is comprised solely of stuff recorded by The Who during the original sessions for the album.

    The only thing that seems odd to me is the inclusion of "When I Was a Boy", which as far as I know was never intended for Lifehouse.

    That's the beauty of re-creating unfinished albums, though. There's really no right or wrong way to do it!

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  24. But it gives some characterization for Bobby...

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  25. I'm not saying it's wrong to include it, but if your friend is trying to create an "authentic" Lifehouse, then "When I Was a Boy" probably doesn't belong on there any more than "My Wife" does. To the best of my knowledge, they were but two in a slew of JE songs he was writing during an incredibly prolific period for him.

    My best guess is that The Who recorded them to give John his customary slot on an album or in this case a b-side. It probably had to do with his expectations in what he was to receive in writer's royalties, despite the fact both are excellent songs.

    If you haven't had a chance, I'd really advise checking out both Smash Your Head Against the Wall and (especially) Whistle Rhymes. John had his own this going on ca. '69-'71, quite far removed from Tommy or Lifehouse.

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  26. Thanks for this. Put the money down is not a great recording so I would leave it out personally (and it seems quite inferior to all other Lifehouse era tracks), and unsure why Time is Passing isn't included - best version being live at the young vic. I would put Bargain much earlier on. My opinion I would only go for Time is passing, water and naked eye as live versions. Also Long Live Rock seems to be mentioned as a lifehouse track and wonder if that would be good at the very end, I am going to try that before making my definitive track list.

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  27. Sorry I missed your post! Yeah, unfortunately spacial limitations meant one track had to be the odd man out, and that was "Time Is Passing". As far as I know, "Long Live Rock" was never to be part of Lifehouse. Rather, their was initially to be a follow-up album to Who's Next called Long Live Rock/ Rock Is Dead on which that song would have landed. Mahalo.

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