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The Who’s Pete Townshend, shown looking a bit tired in
1971, did all of the work on “Lifehouse” singlehandedly. He not
only wrote the music and dramatic script, but also played all
of the instruments and handled the mixing chores.
(Continued from El)
farmer unoccluded by the techno-
Occasionally, a digital pirate —
known, ironically, as “The Hack-
er" — would cut in on these
broadcasts and urge people to cre-
ate their own beauty and life.
His main message, however,
revolved around “coming to the
Lifehouse to create the music.”
The story’s concept was not
only ahead of its time as a form of
rock music, but also projected
what today have become common-
place realities —- the Internet, a
world dependent on computers for
everything from work to enter-
tainment, and the use of this
technology to dominate and con-
trol the lives of a helpless popula-,
tion living in a polluted world.
“My future phobias in the 1971
‘Lifehouse’ was that we might all
become like spiritually perfect
cyborgs and perhaps be content-
ed,” Townshend said in 1999.
“But, our hearts would be empty.
“We would owe it all to some-
one like Rupert Murdoch.”
Townshend spent countless
hours writing a script and the
songs for the project way before
he incorporated The Who into the
musical part of the project.
And, from the success of “Tom-
my” he had a possible deal that
would produce a dramatic movie
interspersed with concert footage
of the band.
But, after recording the music
with The Who and negotiating
what he thought would be a
movie deal with Universal Pic-
tures, his management convinced
the studio that “Lifehouse” was
an unworkable project and tried
to spotlight “Tommy” exclusively
The album, recorded prior to
film negotiations, was released as
“Who’s N ext” and would eventual-
ly go on to be known as one of the
group’s best collections of music.
Yet Townshend viewed the
project as a failure and spent the
next 20 years trying to complete
what he described as “a genuinely
good idea for the ﬁrst genuine
rock musical film.”
Enter the present and “The
As the 19905 grew to a close,
the 55-year-old Townshend felt
the time was right to resurrect
Ray and his 29-year-old phobias of
a future we practically reside in.
Townshend remixed and tin-
kered with his original recordings
of the project and adapted the
script into a contemporary play.
The six-CD set, which was only
made available in England and
sold through Townshend’s Eel Pie
Recording Co., features four discs
of music and a copy of the “Life-
house” play broadcast Dec. 5,
There are four discs of music.
Two of them are complete Town-
shend — he handles all of the
instrumental and vocal aspects of
the music. The third music CD is
of alternate recordings and live
performances, while the fourth is
a complete score of orchestrated
Discs One and Two (or L and I
as they are labeled) are ﬁlled with
some of Townshend's original
Contained therein are the ﬁrst,
and probably the purest, versions
of “Baba O’Reilly.” “Relay,” “Who
Are You,” “Goin’ Mobile,” “Behind
Blue Eyes” and “Won't Get Fooled
Joining the well-known
favorites are the songs that didn’t
make it to “Who’s Next,” such as
“Time is Passing,” “Greyhound
Girl” and the beautiful “Mary.”
The music is at times elabo-
rate, like the intermixing of key-
boards on “Baba” and the
interlocking bevy of “Who N oises”
on “Relay,” “Who are You” and
and blending of digital keyboard
and synthesizer is, at times,
It is very easy for one to get
lost in the lush layer of sounds he
On the same token, the music
is also basic and raw with a quiet
beauty echoing Townshend’s abil-
ity to portray fragility and loss.
Perfect examples are “Love
Ain’t for Keeping” and “Behind
Disc Three features newer ver-
sions of the songs, recorded both
live and in the studio between
1998 and 1999.
It is an excellent example of
Townshend reproducing his work
with a fresh approach — just as
The Who had done with “Tommy”
during the band’s 1989 tour, and
like “Quadrophenia” in 1996 and
A song of interest is a 1998 live
version of “Won’t Get Fooled
Again” on which a narrator prac-
tically “raps” the lyrics.
No worries here, though. The
music is Grade A and the singing
isn’t really all that bad.
Disc Four ties the last three
discs together as the orchestral
score for the radio play and is real-
ly worth listening to if only for the
dynamics orchestrated by Town-
shend, Phillip Dowling, Rachel
Fuller and Sara Lowenthal.
The music is performed by the
London Chamber Orchestra.
Adapted for radio by J eff Young
and directed by Kate Rowland,
“Lifehouse” became the dramatic
opus Townshend envisioned
thanks to BBC Radio Drama.
All of the story’s characters
(Ray; Sally, his wife; Mary, their
daughter; Rayboy, Ray as a child;
the Hacker, and Ray’s imaginary
childhood friend, the Caretaker)
are well cast and create and per-
form their roles with a ﬂourish
despite the lack of a stage or film.
As well as strong acting, the
play features great effects and
background — you can almost feel
yourself as part of the story when
scenes unfold in front of a back-
drop of weather or the din of the
Interspersed in the drama is
the music, both Townshend’s
songs and the score weave in and
out of scenes to give the listener
the chance to grasp the real
meanings of the songs.
To Townshend, the play is “the
deﬁnitive” version of the project,
and he hopes to soon secure either
a motion picture or Broadway
version of the story — things that
already have been realized with
“Tommy” and “Quadrophenia.”
For Who fans, “The Lifehouse
Chronicles” opens a door to a new
world of both the band and Town-
shend the artist.
It has been a long time coming.
This collection, however, has
made it worth the wait.
“The Lifehouse Chronicles” is
available exclusively from Eng-
land at www.eelpie.com, Town-
shend’s recording and marketing
Because the six-CD set was
made available only in England
and in limited quantities, a hefty
shipping fee will be attached to
your order. The total will be shown
on your screen in English pounds
(54 total), which will translate on
your US. credit card statement to
between $92 and $96.
Townshend does plan on
releasing a scaled-down 16-song
collection in the United States in
May, while summer tour plans
with The Who have been
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