Back Tracks: The Who
Were you left cold by The Who’s straightforward, inoffensive performance at The Super Bowl last night? Did you hear will.i.am’s pointless remix of “My Generation” and think about a time in which that song actually meant something? This installment of Back Tracks takes you through the deluxe editions of The Who’s discography, so you can focus on the glory days and not Roger Daltrey’s incredibly silly get-up.
And take heart: The Who’s back catalogue is probably one of UMe’s grandest war horses. There’s a lot in here after the jump.
My Generation (1965)
The band’s first album did get a deluxe album package in 2002 in classic UMe fashion – but purists should be wary, as the album is presented in a drastically alternative mix, stripping away some vocals and other overdubs. This remix extends even to “Circles” (the closer of the U.S. version of the record), and single A-side “I Can’t Explain.” (This is apparently a consequence of the album being recorded rather simply; all of the overdubs were simply recorded over the mono mix proper, and so the overdubs wouldn’t show up properly on the multitrack master.) The second disc has unreleased cuts and a few alternate mixes, including two mono masters from the LP (in their correct mix).
A Quick One (1966)
Reissued in 1995 with a bunch of bonus tracks, including covers of The Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann” and Neal Hefti’s Batman TV theme and the “I’m a Boy” B-side “In the City.” (Curiously missing: the original version of U.S. bonus track “Happy Jack.”) There is much discrepancy over the mixes on the CD; some pressings are in better stereo than others.
The Who Sell Out (1967)
A delightfully quirky entry into The Who catalogue that got a nice deluxe edition just last year. It presents both mono and stereo mixes of the record with a handful of bonus tracks to complement each.
Arguably the band’s best work, the immortal rock opera was reissued in 2003 with a bonus disc of demos and outtakes – but the real treat was for audiophiles, as the original album is a hybrid SACD listenable in 5.1 surround sound.
Live at Leeds (1970)
The band’s first live document was also one of the first Universal Deluxe Editions in 2001. It arranged the February 14, 1970 show into a more thorough double-disc set with a near-complete run-through of Tommy on the second disc. (Again, a warning to purists: some of these tracks were overdubbed by Daltrey in 1995, at the time of the first remaster.)
Who’s Next (1971)
Another deluxe edition from 2003, it added six bonus outtakes from the burgeoning Lifehouse project and added another disc of a live show at the Young Vic in London.
Odds & Sods (1974)
Intended to be two LPs of studio outtakes and rarities, that plan wasn’t fully realized until 1998, where an additional 12 bonus tracks were added to this rearranged reissue.
The Who by Numbers (1975)
Coming two years after another rock opera (Quadrophenia, which has never gotten a deluxe release), this was another relatively straightforward reissue, with only three live bonus tracks to offer.
Who Are You (1978)
This would be the last of The Who’s classic period, as Keith Moon would be dead a month after the LP’s release. The LP was remixed and reissued in 1996 with five new bonus tracks, including alternate mixes of “Who Are You,” “Love is Coming Down” and “Guitar and Pen.”
Face Dances (1981)
Another late-’90s reissue – 1997 to be exact – of Kenney Jones’ debut as Who drummer, with three outtakes and two live cuts.
It’s Hard (1982)
The “last” Who LP (until 2006′s Endless Wire) was also remixed and reissued in 1997, with four tracks from the band’s seemingly final show (until, you know, the 1989 tour and beyond).
Thirty Years of Maximum R&B (1994)
The first and only Who box set to date featured four discs of hits and rarities. Includes a lot of great live cuts, a few cuts by The High Numbers (a pre-success version of the band in mod disguises) and even audio of that infamous Abbie Hoffman incident from Woodstock.
Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 (1996)
A bit of an odd duck (as this is released on Sony’s Legacy, not a subsidiary of Universal like all the other entries in The Who discography), this is still a pretty ripping live double album recorded during the Tommy tour. A DVD version, released in 2004, is so-so (lots of audiovisual sync problems, for one).
BBC Sessions (2000)
Exactly what it says it is: a compilation of all the band’s BBC sessions from 1965 to 1973.
View from a Backstage Pass (2007)
Initially released to subscribers of The Who’s Web site (but later released in part on the Greatest Hits Live digital set from last month), this is a two-disc set of live cuts from all around the world from 1969 to 1976.