May 5 – The Turntable Talk, Round 2 – Who Knew Live Music Better Than Pete?

Today we continue our second instalment of Turntable Talk. We hope you liked the first one we ran last month which dealt with why the Beatles were still relevant. This time around, we’re pleased to have six guest writers discuss The Live Album. Some people love ’em, some hate ’em. Some musicians put out some of their best work in live, concert recordings, others seem to use them as a stopgap to fulfill contractual obligations and little else. So we’ve asked our panelists to discuss live albums, however they see fit. Do they enjoy them? Do the records live up to the experience of seeing an act play live? What are their favorites?

Today, we have Max, from Power Pop blog, one of our favorites. He looks at rock and pop of the ’60s through ’90s as well as some great vintage TV shows there daily, so we encourage you to have a look. Here, Max talks about one of his favorite bands:

First of all…Thank you Dave for hosting Turntable Talk and coming up with the different talking points we all appreciate it. 

Now to Dave’s question. Is there an act that actually come out better on live releases than studio ones?

First, let me say…overall I’m more of a record guy…I usually like the studio version of songs but yes there are some bands that can come off better live. I would say The Who, Allman Brothers, Cream, The Grateful Dead, Aerosmith, The Stones (1969-1972), and Bob Dylan’s “1966 tour” fit that description. However, there is one condition to this.

I think you have to take into consideration the era you are talking about with each band or artist. If we are talking about the peak years then yes. The Rolling Stones for instance…for me it would be 1969 through 1974. When they had Mick Taylor on guitar…they had a huge raw sound live they haven’t had since. With Dylan, the ’66 tour for me was the top and I could listen to those versions all day. The Who it would be 1969 through 1976 when they were untouchable live.

When The Who took Tommy on tour I think the live recordings beat the studio album by a long shot. That leads me to…my favorite live album of all time.

The Who: Live at Leeds. If you are a rock and roll fan, a rock fan, or even a heavy metal fan…everyone can find something on that album. This is guitar rock at its best. Listening to the sound of that record, it’s no telling how loud they played. They weren’t the loudest in the Guinness Book of World Records for nothing! When Pete hit a power chord you could almost feel your eardrums retract in and out like a speaker.

It’s not being loud though that makes it so great. Personally, I’ve never heard a band as tight as they were during this tour. They wanted to release a live album and soundman Bob Pridden had 38 shows taped. Pete wanted Pridden to go through all of the shows and tell him which one was best. Because of constant touring Pridden could never get through all of the shows. The day came and Pete asked him ok…which shows. He couldn’t give Pete an answer.

They had a show at Leeds and Hull coming up on the schedule. In a move he’d later label one of the stupidest decisions of my life,” Townshend told Pridden to burn the tapes so that they’d never wind up in the hands of bootleggers. So, instead of more shows from that era…we have very few.

So…now the tapes were burned and the Leeds and Hull concert was coming up. They had a lot of pressure to get it right for the live album.

Pete Townshend: “I played more carefully than usual and tried to avoid the careless bum notes that often occurred because I was trying to play and jump around at the same time. The next day we played a similar set in City Hall in Hull. This was another venue with good acoustics for loud rock, but it felt less intense than the previous night.”

They played most of the Tommy album and their “oldies” on this tour which at the time were songs only around five or six years old. The original Live at Leeds didn’t have any Tommy songs on it. This album was like a marker for the pre-Tommy Who coming to an end. The deluxe re-released version had the complete show full of Tommy material

The recordings had a few clicks in the tape and Townshend tried to maneuver around them.

Townshend tried slicing out the clicks with a razor blade and quickly realized it would be impossible to get all of them. But subpar-sounding bootlegs were flooding the market at this time, so the band just added a note to the label saying the clicks were intentional! The album cover was a faded stamp reading The Who: Live at Leeds on brown paper, mirroring the look of illegal vinyl bootlegs of the era. Later on, Aerosmith had a similar live “bootleg” album cover (which Deke looked at a couple of days back here!)

What impresses me is the only overdubbing on the album was the backup vocals because they were poorly recorded. John Entwistle and Pete did the backup vocals in one take in the studio to stay true to the live album. What you hear on the album is what the good people at Leeds heard that night. No massive overdubbing to tighten anything up. 

By 1970 The Who had been touring almost non-stop since 1964 and it showed on this album. After the album, the band didn’t tour as much as before. They worked in the studio on more complex albums Who’s Next and Quadrophenia. Their tours were not the marathon tours of the sixties.

This was before “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Baba O’Riley”, and  Quadrophenia‘s complex music that required backing tapes live. This album was The Who as nature intended… a very loud tight rock band and possibly the best live rock album.

BTW…Bob Pridden worked as The Who’s soundman until 2016 when he retired. 

Here are three examples. “Young Man Blues”. Listen to Moon and Entwistle intertwine with each other. You also have “Summertime Blues” and “A Quick One, While He’s Away”.

The Who : Maximum R&B at it’s best.



12 thoughts on “May 5 – The Turntable Talk, Round 2 – Who Knew Live Music Better Than Pete?

  1. thanks for that, Max! And you didn’t even get to mention that drumming going on… You’re probably right that The Who might be a rare band who (no pun intended) come across better on live recordings than studio ones. By the way, always figured their take on ‘Summertime Blues’ was maybe the best of the many covers of it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Badfinger (Max)

      For me the best example off of this album is Young Mans Blues…which I’m posting tomorrow lol. As far as guitar rock…this is the pinnacle. They never sounded the same again because of the use of tapes in Won’t Get Fooled Again,Baba O’Riley, and etc… and their music got really complicated…a great thing because Won’t Get Fooled Again must be heard live to appreciate it.
      I’ve listened to this album twice more this week…it’s still great. If I was going to a deserted island…this is the live album I would take…if I could take two…the other would be the Allman Brothers Live at Fillmore East.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent recount, Max. I have to say, I really like The Who up to ‘Tommy.’ And having seen them ‘live’ in ’76 (not as a’ fan’ as such) I’d have to say it still ranks one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. ‘Live at Leeds’is indeed a classic of the ‘live album’ set. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Badfinger (Max)

      Thank you! I’m so jealous…you got to see them with Moon… I’ve seen them twice…the last time with Zak Starkey on drums which he was great. They were reproducing the songs when I saw them…back in the 60s and 70s they were living them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Aero Live Bootleg was my game changer as is The WHO for Max. I can’t believe The Who had a soundman for all those years. Wonder if Bob has any hearing left Max lol. Great writeup Pal!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great pick, Max! Admittedly, I haven’t listened to “Live at Leeds” in its entirety for many years. But I think only with those three tunes you called out, it already would be worth the price of admission.

    Tomorrow, I’m actually going for the first time to the office of my current employer where I started in July 2020 – kind of incredible if you think about it! Anyway, the reason I’m mentioning it is my commute includes a 1-hour bus ride to Manhattan – plenty of me time to listen to music and a perfect opportunity to revisit “Live at Leeds”! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There you go, silver lining! I didn’t know you lived in the NYC area now, though I did notice you’d seen quite a few shows in that area. My wife is still working at home, has been since around St. Patrick’s Day 2020… the company is starting to re-open her office building but so far she’s not been told to go back there and one supervisor said she expected it would likely only turn into a one week in office, three weeks at home routine when finished. It’ll be a new world in a lot of offices, which I think is a good thing.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yep, I’ve actually lived in New Jersey for about 14 years and before that in New York for approximately 10 years.

        I agree it looks like this pandemic has changed the professional world forever, especially for jobs you can easily do remotely like PR (my line of work).

        Coming in today was an exception. While the office of my agency has officially been open for six months or so, coming in is completely voluntary. You can only come in if you’re fully vaccinated.

        Most folks still work from home. Eventually, I think the policy is going to be one to two days in the office and the remainder remotely.

        If anything, many folks seem to put in more hours when working from home. On balance, it’s probably a good thing for the agency!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I predict we’ll see a huge glut of cheap office space in the next couple of years as more and more companies realize the working remotely is working ok and that they probably can get by with workers “in” one day a week instead of five… so why have a room for 200 workers if they’re only going to have 40 in at a time?

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: Who – Live At Leeds – PowerPop… An Eclectic Collection of Pop Culture

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s