New Year's Eve 1966
Max in 1966
On December 30th 1966 The Who played their final live date for the year at London's Roundhouse.
The Roundhouse is literally what it sounds like --a "roundhouse" a technological marvel used in Victorian days to reverse a railway engine directly on the track by turning it around 180 degrees. It remained as a freezing cold empty relic from the glorious days of steam power and an unlikely venue for a New Year's Eve outing. The building had recently been re-discovered and was being used as a venue for alternative "concerts" .
Whereas it could be argued that The Who were at their zenith in 1966 having had three chart singles and a widely respected second album, the truth is that The Who were past their prime. One year earlier had seen The Who as the undisputed leaders of the London scene. That year had seen them rise from small club gigs to regular TV appearances releasing singles and an album that pushed the boundaries of pop music to the limits. The Who were the heroes of the mod underground in 1965.
In 1966 The Who were touring provincial ballrooms performing as a "pop group" however newer and more radical "bands" began to get the attention of the London audience. The Cream were pushing the limits of R & B with extended musical improvisation, The Pink Floyd were the darlings of the art school crowd and The Move from Birmingham had developed a stage act with a finale that involved the destruction of a TV set with a fireman's axe. Somewhere amongst all of this mayhem, an extra-terrestrial from Mars called Jimi Hendrix had recently landed introducing a style of performance that was the "buzz" of the elite .
In terms of pop culture, The Who were no longer icons. Pop-Art was dead and mod fashion had become mainstream . Carnaby Street was becoming a tourist mecca. The Progressively alternative crowd was shopping for recycled Policeman's capes at "I was lord Kitchener's Valet" Physcedelia was "in" except nobody really knew what it was!
I'm not sure how I learned about the concert but I would suspect it was from a fly poster which was the normal way of promoting concerts at the period. The billing of The Who, Pink Floyd and The Move on the same night was certainly unusual, in fact it resembled a battle of the bands as The Move already had a chart single with "Night of Fear". This was the background for the concert, which created a turning point for the Who.
The Venue was cold and damp and so was the audience. On reflection it seems to me that normal people would find a better place to be on a new year's eve It appeared that the Who had similar thoughts. Keith had arrived on the early side and started to thrash at drums that were behind the temporary stage that was being shared with The Pink Floyd. I was close enough to see that he had an angry expression. It took ages for the equipment to be set up. The group was using a mixture of both old and new Marshall amplifiers. They even had one of the older style 8x12 all-in-one cabinets on stage !
The group finally got on stage and played "Batman" while the roadies chucked smoke bombs onto the front of the stage. They opened up with "Run,Run,Run" with Pete using his new blonde 12 string Rickenbacker. As far as I remember, they played "So sad about us"," Happy Jack", "See my Way" finishing with rather a lame "My Generation" complete with more smoke bombs. The power died at least twice during the set leaving the musicians on stage looking at each other . As this was a Pyschodelic event there was a strobe light that was used extensively on Pete until he made it perfectly clear that he was not pleased. The group were only going through the motions. There was no connection with the crowd. What could you expect with a "pop group" playing to a self styled psychodelic audience ?
As far as I know, The Who never played a live show on New Year's Eve again. There is also something a lot more significant about this date. The Roundhouse was used to turn trains around 180 degrees, from this date onwards the Who were themselves to make a 180 degree turn . The Who ceased being a "pop-group" and became a rock and roll "band".
Max The Mod Max Ker-Seymer
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