Live at Leeds Complete

This has been an unbelievable stretch for Who fans like myself that are interested in the Keith Moon era. First, we were given the Isle of Wight video and compact disc and now, courtesy of Midas Touch bootlegs, we have "Live at Leeds Complete." I recently acquired the double CD of the complete show MD 61521/2. They have also issued a single compact disc of just the Tommy portion of the show.

This set is truly amazing. It is, as the cover says, stereo soundboard. It appears that when the latest Leeds reissue was done that somebody managed to lift a copy of the master tape. I would be interested in hearing how this was done if anybody has heard any rumors.



It does appear to contain the complete show. Side 1 clocks in at 70:48 while side 2 is 62:08. Every song is there - however, there are a few breaks where it is possible that between song chatter might have been removed. The songs themselves seem complete and unedited (finally). Only after listening to this boot do you realize how much the legitimate issues were not only edited but also cleaned up. For example, many years ago there was an acetate of three songs from the show for a planned EP that was never released. One of the titles was "I Can't Explain." In the opening bars Daltrey (or Townshend) sings "alright." This was apparently deleted from the regular releases but does appear on the bootleg. Both "Magic Bus" and "My Generation" have large sections that did not appear on the regular releases. A lot of the vocals from "My Generation" that are very evident on the bootleg were either removed from the regular issues or buried in the mix.

The bootleg does suffer from a lot of crackling noise, some of which can be heard on the first release of the album. This appears to be on the master tape and this was left as is. There are also a few sections where a couple of seconds of material is missing.

There has been discussion of whether the Tommy portion of this show would ever be released. It seems unlikely with the release of the Isle of Wight material.

It has been pointed out on the Who mailing list (Odds and Sods) that this bootleg does run 1/2-1% slow and that the left channel is too low. If this is indeed the case, it appears to be minimal to my old ears.

All in all, this bootleg is a must have and is well worth the expense. It is probably the best Who bootleg I have seen in twenty years of Who collecting. I thought this was one show we would never see in its completeness - now we have it!



Following is an excellent article from the Guardian Unlimited.

'It was complete, visceral excitement'

At a nondescript student cafeteria in Leeds in 1970, the Who recorded what came to be seen as the most explosive live album ever. As the band go back on tour, Dave Simpson returns to the scene

Friday June 16, 2006
The Guardian



Now and then ... The Who performing last year, and the cover of their 1970 concert recording. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA
 

Susan Hoxton is a cleaner at Leeds University student union. She works in the refectory, and she's done the same job for nearly 40 years. She's middle-aged now, but still remembers a young man who caught her eye back in 1970: a London lad, square-jawed, with long blond curly hair and blue eyes.

She met him at work when he walked into the cafeteria: he was the singer in a group that played a concert in the refectory on Valentine's day. After the show, she trailed him to a local nightclub, where she got chatting and told him: "You're good, you!" She didn't realise then that Roger Daltrey had just made what would be regarded as the best live recording of a rock band - any rock band - ever heard.

Now, 36 years on, she has just found out the band are returning to the refectory to begin their latest world tour at rock's least likely legendary venue.

The Who came to Leeds in 1970 with the specific purpose of capturing the power of their live show for an album. They were fresh from a US tour that had made them a huge draw there, and included a festival-stealing slot in the middle of the night at Woodstock (where the "Yippie" leader Abbie Hoffman invaded the stage mid-set for some impromptu sloganeering. Ignoring the peace-and-love ethos, Pete Townshend instructed Hoffman to "get off my fucking stage!", then lamped him with a guitar when his instruction was not immediately obeyed). The band had recorded hundreds of hours of performances, with the intention of culling a live album from the tapes, something that would convince the UK there was more to them than just another 1960s band hanging around and overstaying their welcome.

But they were too lazy to listen to the American tapes - in fact, legend has it that Townshend instructed a roadie to burn them. It was easier just to schedule a show at a smallish UK venue - the refectory - and record that.

From that night, clad in a brown paper sleeve that made it look like a bootleg, came the definitive record of the Who in their pomp: Live At Leeds.

The people who saw the band on that winter's night 36 years ago insist the show was more than the source of a memorable recording. It might, they suggest, have been the greatest concert ever. "In terms of energy and excitement I think it could be," says Simon Brogan, who, as the union's entertainments secretary, booked the band. "It was one of those rare events where everything came together." He also brought peak-era Led Zeppelin, Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones to Leeds, and thus saw much of the Who's contemporaries.

Paul Goulden, now a 53-year-old anaesthetist at Dewsbury Hospital, was in the audience that night. He remembers "solo after solo. Townshend was whirling his arms around, but the stuff he was playing was astonishing.

"If you wanted a vision of what a rock star should be like, Roger Daltrey, at that point, was it. Buckskin jacket, long blond hair, whirling the microphone around."

Goulden had already seen bands such as Deep Purple, has seen hundreds of bands since and has kept in touch enough to know all about the Arctic Monkeys. But he insists the Leeds show remains "the greatest thing I have ever seen. It was just complete, visceral excitement."

Bob Pridden - their sound man then, and their sound man now - reckons the Who were glad to be back in England, playing an intimate venue where "you could see the whites of their eyes". The release of pent-up energy at the Leeds show was, he suggests, an "explosion of relief". Pridden has seen enough Who shows to note that they knew Leeds was "a really good one". He believes Live at Leeds is the greatest live record because it "captured the essence" of a band who even then were "continually being voted the best live band around".

The crowd that night were crammed in. The refectory is not a huge hall anyway - it's just a student cafeteria, seemingly unsuited to rock music - but it was made smaller by a partition halfway down the hall. Between the screen and the stage, 2,000 fans were piled on top of each other. It was like "the sweatiest club you've ever seen," Goulden says. "Because it was February, people had gone in full dress. Sweat was literally dripping off the ceiling."

To capture the event, Pridden had set up mobile recording gear in the refectory's kitchen, surrounded by the stoves and fridges, pots and pans. The technology was basic - he was working with "just a bunch of boxes. Very archaic and antique, but I think that was the secret. We did very little overdubbing. It was all raw live." To avoid sound leakage - where one instrument can be heard on the track reserved for another - Pridden used far fewer microphones than usual, with a single one suspended above the audience to capture "the ambience". His trickiest task was recording drummer Keith Moon, a violently unpredictable eruption of percussion. Pridden placed mics around Moon's drum kit, but far enough away that he couldn't knock them over or break them in a fit of destruction.

Only six of the 34 songs played that night appeared on the finished album, including a 14-minute version of My Generation, during which the band explode into snatches of other songs and innumerable tangents. Goulden remembers the moment as being like "everything was exploding. That everything you thought about music - and everything else - was being taken to pieces there and then."

But if the show was that good, why did the Who not release more of it? There were so many pops and crackles on the tape that the vast majority of the recordings were unusable (they have since been cleaned up, and Live At Leeds was expanded to 13 tracks in 1995, and 33 in 2002).

It might not even have ended up as Live At Leeds, Pridden says. "We actually recorded the following night at Hull, but the bass didn't make it on to tape. It could easily have been Live At Hull. It doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it?"

That serendipity extended to the sleeve, which has become almost as famous as the music. The original idea had been for a live shot, but the band gave the job of taking the cover image to a 17-year-old schoolboy photographer, Chris McCourt, who had gone to the band's office to show off his portfolio. He was paid 50 and went along armed with his dad's 1959 Pentax. He found himself "gazing up at their nostrils, right next to the speakers with things going zap in my head". He says that every time he hears the Leeds sleeve described as a "post-modernist, anti-establishment statement", he shrieks. The reason for the sleeve coming out the way it did "was because they sent a not-very-good photographer who didn't come up with the goods." He now works in the furniture trade.

The album was released in May 1970, rising to No 3 in the charts and establishing the Who as a rock band of lasting importance and popularising the idea of colleges as rock venues - previously, venues had been so scarce that even big acts would play cinemas, often on the same bill as the film. But after Live At Leeds, other bands decided to see if the refectory could work its magic on them, too. The Stones came on March 13 1971, and recorded their set, but only one track - Let It Rock, the B-side of Brown Sugar - was released. Brogan has heard a tape of the concert and says "it just didn't match up".

The refectory has barely changed since the Who first came: there's been a coat or two of paint and, according to DJ Andy Kershaw, who was the union's entertainments secretary in the 1980s, a new fire door. Students still eat there, and Susan Hoxton still cleans there. And how does she feel about the return of Roger Daltrey? "I'm looking forward to meeting him again," she smiles. "To saying, 'Remember me?'"

Why I love Live At Leeds

Andy Burrows, Razorlight

"It's an unbelievable live record; it captures something I've not heard anywhere else. When I was very little, my dad had the original vinyl, and I imagined this amazing concert inside my head. They wrote fantastic hit singles, but live there was a huge gap between them and their contemporaries. When I was 11, I remember listening to Live At Leeds with the sleeve opened out in front of me, and deciding there and then I wanted to be a drummer in a rock band. Recently, Roger Daltrey sang with us at the Albert Hall for the Teenage Cancer Trust. We played Summertime Blues in the style of Live At Leeds. There he was, swinging the mic stand and I have to confess I tried to play a bit like Moon. It was a dream moment."

Ian Ball, Gomez

"When my parents started dating, my dad's idea of a date was to take her to see the Who. She absolutely hated it. She said it was the loudest thing she'd ever heard. I'd say the original six-track Live At Leeds is the greatest live album of all time. During the My Generation-Magic Bus combo it sounds like there are 100 songs exploding. Essentially, you've got a bass player who is constantly soloing, but he's somehow holding things down because Keith Moon is constantly soloing, too. The closest musical comparison would be some sort of psychotic jazz band. To pull that off, musicians need a nod or a wink or something. But if you watch videos of the Who they don't seem to be looking at each other. It's as if it's magic."

The Who's world tour begins at Leeds University tomorrow. Wire and Glass, the first new Who single since 1983, is out on July 10.


Following is an article that appeared in the March 1999 issue of Musician magazine. I don't necessarily agree with some of the statements made:

Live at Leeds
The Who
(MCA)
By Michael Gelfand 

Few, if any, live albums have done a better job of hitting the listener right between the eyes with the full force of a rock band performing at its peak than the Who's epochal Live at Leeds.  The original Leeds album contained only six songs - "Young Man Blues," "Substitute," "Summertime Blues," "Shakin' All Over," "My Generation," and "Magic Bus"- but who cares? Those six songs delivered more than enough high-testosterone ferocity to fill the 1,500 capacity hall with a devastating sound that clearly defined the band's "maximum R & B" style.

After many attempts to record the band live to two-track during an extensive tour of the States in 1969 (all of which were deemed failures by Pete Townshend and, for the most part, quickly destroyed), sound engineer Bob Pridden recorded the Who's Feb. 14, 1970 show onto eight-track, 1" tape machine that had been set up in the kitchen beneath the auditorium at Leeds University.

Unfortunately, as with any early live recording, glitches were common, and Leeds had its share. According to Pridden and Jon Astley (who remixed and remastered 1995's extended fourteen-song reissue of Leeds with Andy Macpherson), some of the split-fed "leads" running from the stage mics weren't properly connected, which resulted in intermittent pops that rendered four of the eight tracks (kick drum, snare, bass, and guitar) unusable for much of the event; the concert lasted more than ninety minutes longer than the length of the original record.

Thankfully, when the technology needed to declick the corrupted tracks became available, Astley and Macpherson jumped at the opportunity to fix many previously unlistenable performances. After baking the original analog tape to prevent it from shedding, Astley recorded the eight original tracks onto a Mitsubishi 32-track recorder, then recorded an additional eight tracks from there against time code onto a hard disk recorder. Using Cedar Audio's DDC-1 Declicker to fix the existing clicks, Astley was able to bring the damaged tracks back in time when necessary during the remix process.

"On the original recording, you'll hear the clicks, and this is in fact why Pete couldn't use ëHeaven and Hell' and any of the Tommy stuff [when Townshend mixed the original record]," recalls Astley.  "ëA Quick One . . .'
was very bad, 'Tattoo' was very bad, ëFortune Teller' was very bad. He couldn't use any of those on the original recording because of all the clicks. It was amazing. The bass track on ëHeaven and Hell' was actually clicking all the way through the song, and I guess people heard it in the audience  - maybe that's why they're so quiet."

With all of the tracks finally made usuable, Astley and Macpherson set about remixing the entire concert; on isolating the individual tracks they were delighted, if not surprised and even amused, by much of what they heard. "There was only one track of ambience," says Astley, "and it's not a very nice-sounding ambience, but its funny because the record needs it to make it the way the record is. You wouldn't choose that kind of ambience on a live recording. It's a very, very odd- sounding record, and that [ambient track] is part of the charm. That's probably why it doesn't sound like anything else."

Pridden goes a step further, believing that this quirky ambience and mic bleeding are what make the record sound so fantastic. "The leakage is terrible," he says, "but when it all comes together, it's like the teeth of a comb. Bear in mind, they were very loud, and there were real problems with separation - but it made them sound bigger. It breathed. If you set a mic in front of an amp, it doesn't sound like that. Basically, the sound on Leeds is a freak."

One big part of the Who's sound during this period was their use of tape loops onstage, but since the concert was being recorded to multitrack rather than two-track, Pridden decided to keep everything dry and add effects only during the mixing process. To recreate the sound of the original recording, Astley and Macpherson devised similar-sounding delays in the studio. "The band used them as timing devices to play off the loop. They'd play off the slapback as it came through the P.A.," he explains. "So Andy and I recreated a lot of things that they had done live. Both of us had seen the band in the Sixties and Seventies and were big fans of what Bob was doing [running tape loops for the band], so it wasn't a big deal."

Since Astley and Macpherson were recreating certain aspects of the original recording, they decided to ask John Entwistle and Roger Daltrey to re-record some of the vocal tracks twenty-five years later!  "They'd actually gone back in the studio and done backing vocals to double the live stuff on the original album," he says, "so for things like ëHappy Jack,' which wasn't on the original, I [either] had to make do with the vocals that were there or mend a couple of things."  (Entwistle sang "Heaven and Hell," and Daltrey re-sang the "My name is Ivor, I'm an engine driver," on "A Quick One . . .")

While the band's nearly fifteen-minute version of "My Generation" may stand as the greatest single performance in the live-album catalog, it's their overall stamina and unflagging drive that are the most impressive throughout Leeds. It's awe-inspiring to think that even this extended release doesn't include the majority of the material - almost fifty minutes worth - from that evening's performance of Tommy, but that's only because the band wanted a single CD and was unwilling to break up the performance midway. As Pridden sums up, "It was a bloody great gig. They were being serious about recording, and I think they got the nervousness over recording out in the States so that it made no difference to them at all."  It sure sounds that way.


The stage being set up in 1970.


Return to my home page.