October 24, 2020

2000-02-20 – The Philadelphia Inquirer

2000 02 20 The_Philadelphia_Inquirer_Sun__Feb_20__2000_

Sunfley, February 2.01 2000

Live from BBC,
it’s primal Who

FOR THE INQL'IRER

t some point in the let
Acentury, rock will

undoubtedly go the way of
the dinosaurs, and archaeologists
will be able to learn about the
species only from the fossilized
droppings left behind.

The lucky ones will find The
Who’s BBC Sessions (MCA
tttt), a 26-track collection of
previously unreleased Radio One
performances that contains the
Jurassic artifacts of a vanished
rock-and-roll animal: Pete
Townshend’s windmilling power
chords and peerless rhythm
playing, Keith Moon’s
falling-down-a-flight-of—stairs
drum fills, John Entwistle’s
' boombastic bass salvos,
and Roger Daltrey's
singing like there’s a
riot goin' on.

A worthy bookend to
the band’s Live at
‘ Leeds, BBC Sessions,

i which came out
Tuesday, is flush with
sterling live takes of
classic Who material,
rare covers, and
interesting odds and
sods. (Check out the
stinging beehive of
guitar that Townshend
kicks up on
“Disguises,” a

' rawboned obscurity
from 1966.)

The performances,
done between 1965
and 1973, cut so close
to the bone that often

the only hard evidence
that these are live broadcasts is

that annoying practice of DJs
doing smug voice-overs during
instrumental introductions to the
songs. The reverb-chambered

. harmonies and visceral guitar
kick of “Pictures of Lily” and “A
, Quick One (While He’s Away)" ——
both arguably superior to the
studio versions — are nothing
short of a miracle considering
the dry politeness of most BBC
broadcasts.

Girding the high-shine clarity
of the recordings and
jump-out-of-the-speakers
immediacy of the playing is the
timelessness of Townshend‘s
i songwriting: cheeky character
‘ studies about navigating the
vagaries of the modern world.
Songs such as “Substitute,"
“Happy Jack" and “I‘m a Boy"
have an almost Dorian Gray
quality. And no seven words
have ever expressed the essence
of rock and roll better than
“hope I die before I get old,"
even if, in the end, The Who
1 could only mouth those words,

‘ not live them. (For the record,
though only 31, Keith Moon died
‘ an old man.)

i By Jonathan Valania

But back in ’65, when The
Who first played on the BBC,
the members were almost as
smart as they were young, and
the fact that a nice pop song
could get you on the radio was
not lost on these brash,
ambitious Mod boys. As
Townshend tells an interviewer
near the beginning of BBC
Sessions, the Mersey Beat
sweetness of “Can’t Explain"
was just a Trojan horse to sneak
the band’s maximum rhythm
and blues past the gatekeepers
and into the ears of the nine
million pop-starved teenagers
who tuned into shows such as
Easy Beat and Go Man Go!, from
which these tracks are culled.

Once they had a foothold on

The 26nd collection is a worthy companion to
“Live at Leeds,” for both the immediacy of the
playing and the timelessness of the songwriting.

the charts, The Who unleashed
the lunging, overdriven sound
that inspired legions of skinny
white boys to pick up a guitar.
Abetted by the astonishing
technological advancements of
the day — amps got bigger and
louder while guitars remained
relatively cheap and breakable
— The Who eventually morphed
from bouffant pop art dandies
into magnificent, high-decibel
beasts.

The front end of BBC Sessions
is sprinkled with the mildly
engaging R 81 B covers that were
the meat of the band’s early pub
sets, but the later stuff, with its
colossal, stadium-sized acoustics,
actually sounds more dated. As
always, Townshend is the
linchpin. 0n tracks such as
“Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere”
and “Run, Run, Run" you can
almost see the blur of
Townshend's hands as he thrums
a caterwauling medley of
squealing pick slides, stuttering
tremolo, anthemic
hyper-strumming, and the
pealing feedback that gave voice
to the bluesy confusion of a
young man who ain’t got nothin'
in the world.

Long live rock, indeed.