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Live At Leeds

Live at Leeds (1970) is The Who's first live album, and indeed is their only live album that was released while the band was still recording and performing regularly. If you like your rock & roll kind of raw, this is the album for you.

After releasing Tommy in mid-1969 The Who went on an extended world tour to promote it, and returned to England at year's end with a desire to release a live album from the tour. However, they balked at the prospect of listening to the hundreds of hours of accumulated recordings to decide which would make the best album, so they ritually burned the tapes (to prevent bootlegging) and scheduled two shows at Leeds University for the express purpose of recording and releasing a live album. In the event it was the Valentine's Day concert that made it onto the recording.

Perhaps because of these circumstances, perhaps because The Who were hyped up due to their international success with Tommy, or perhaps simply because The Who were a first-rate live act at the time, Live at Leeds turned out to be an astonishing good live recording. The music is loud and brash, but never sloppy; delicate studio tunes such as "Tattoo" and "Happy Jack" are carried just as well as the proto-metal sound of such rocking tunes as "Substitute" and "Summertime Blues". The listener is never treated to the feeling that the band is rushing through pro forma renditions of old warhorses.

The album cover is designed to look like the simple cover of a bootleg LP of the era: it is of plain brown cardboard with "The Who | Live At Leeds" printed on it in plain blue block letters as if stamped on with ink. The original LP's cover opened out butterfly-style and had a pocket on either side of the interior, with the record in a paper sleeve on one side and facsimiles of various memorabilia on the other, including a photo of the band from the My Generation photoshoot, handwritten lyrics to the "Listening to You" chorus from Tommy, a receipt for smoke bombs, and the early black "Maximum R&B" poster showing Pete Townshend windmilling his Rickenbacker in mid-leap. The label was handwritten (apparently in Townshend's hand), and included instructions to the engineers not to attempt to remove any crackling noise. (The recording is in fact very clean, except of course for the deliberate electronic distortion of the amplified instruments.)

Track List:

    Original LP and CD:   Remastered[?] CD:
      "Heaven And Hell"
      "I Can't Explain"
      "Fortune Teller"
      "Tattoo"
    "Young Man Blues"   "Young Man Blues"
    "Substitute"   "Substitute"
      "Happy Jack"
      "I'm A Boy"
      "A Quick One, While He's Away"
      "Amazing Journey"
    "Summertime Blues"   "Summertime Blues"
    "Shakin' All Over"   "Shakin' All Over"
    "My Generation"   "My Generation"
    "The Magic Bus"   "Magic Bus"

The remastered CD includes song introductions and other banter that was edited out of the original release. It is also available in a Deluxe Edition that eliminates "Amazing Journey" and adds a bit more chat between the songs, and then provides a complete performance of Tommy (including "Amazing Journey") on a second disk. At the concert Tommy was performed between "A Quick One, While He's Away" and "Summertime Blues"; the Deluxe Edition of the remastered CD apparently includes everything that was performed at the concert.

"Fortune Teller", "Young Man Blues", "Summertime Blues", and "Shakin' All Over" are R&B tunes that were a standard part of The Who's stage repertoire at the time. "Heaven And Hell" is by John Entwistle. All other songs listed above are by Pete Townshend.

"My Generation" is drawn out into a fourteen minute medley including "See Me, Feel Me / Listening To You", the instrumental riff from the end of "Naked Eye", and a number of other mostly unfamiliar themes. "Magic Bus" is drawn out to seven and a half minutes. The rest of the tracks are fairly straightforward renditions of the original songs, albeit with a consistent hard-rock power trio sound rather than any attempt to re-create the various studio sounds of their original recordings.

A similar concert from later the same year was released in 1996 as Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970, along with a film of the same even titled Listening to You: The Who at the Isle of Wight Festival. In general the Live at Leeds version makes a better listen for the non-Tommy material, though the performance of Tommy was better on the Isle of Wight recording.

Editions:

[1970] Track 2406 001 (in the UK), Decca DL 79175 (in the USA)
The original LP release. Released separately but almost simultaneously in the UK and the USA. Cover, inserts, label, and track list as described above. Produced by The Who.

[1990] MCAD-37000 / DIDX-353
The original CD re-release. Cover as described above, except no fold-out and no inserts. Standard MCA silver label with title and track listing. Tracks as on the original LP. No production credits listed.

[1995] MCAD-11215
The re-mastered CD. Cover as described above, exept with better inking on the simulated stamp (possibly a bow to contemporary marketing requirements). Custom label similar to the original LP, with the engineering notice changed to "Crackling noises have been corrected!". Extended track list as described above. The front insert is a 10 leaf booklet with notes by Chris Charlesworth[?], notes on each track, reduced-size facsimiles of all the original inserts, facsimiles of press clippings pertaining to the concert or the album, and photos of the band taken during one of the two Leeds University concerts. Producer: Jon Astley[?]. Executive Producers: Bill Curbishley[?], Robert Rosenberg[?], and Chris Charlesworth[?].

[2002] MCA -- no catalog number (ISBN 088 112 618-2)
Two-disk Deluxe Edition of the remastered CD. Cover similar to the original, but with the printing yet clearer still. The package is of paper, with a transparent vinyl slip case. Custom white labels with minimal text, some of which is still handwritten. Track list as described above, with the inclusion of a complete performance of Tommy. The cover opens to a facsimile of the LP and original inserts as they rested in the pockets of the original LP cover. It then folds out into four panels covered by reduced facsimiles of the original inserts. Inside one sleeve is a 14 leaf booklet with notes by Chris Charlesworth, notes on Tommy and each of the non-Tommy tracks, period photos of the band, and a very few reproductions of press clippings and inserts from the original LP. Producer: Jon Astley[?]. Executive Producers: Bill Curbishley[?], Robert Rosenberg[?], and Chris Charlesworth[?].

References:

  • For more information, see the inserts to either of the two remastered editions.



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