February 14th, 1970 was one of the most important days in rock and roll history. Why you ask? Well, because of one concert, performed by The “Horrible” Who, “Live At Leeds”. “Live At Leeds” is said by some, including myself, that it is the best live concert album ever. The sound is great, the quality is excellent, and the band’s playing is exceptional. Now, I’m not trying to give a rundown on how the performance sounded, but it was pretty damn good. But I'm not here to talk about the bass dominated Heaven and Hell, Magic Bus, or even the 15:00 minute My Generation rendition. I’m here to talk about the side of Live At Leeds that only some people know, the epic second disc to the concert, the disc they do a rendition of Tommy. The second disc of “Live At Leeds” is what makes this album the best live album ever. The Who played the rock opera Tommy between A Quick One, While He’s Away and Summertime Blues. Now on to the review……..
The Who is-
Roger Daltrey- Vocals
Pete Townshend-Guitar, Vocals
John Entwistle-Bass, Vocals
The Story of Tommy
I’m going to give a brief summary of what Tommy is about. Tommy is about a boy who is deaf, dumb and blind. At the beginning of the story, Tommy’s father, Captain Walker, was supposed to be lost. While Captain Walker is supposedly lost, Tommy’s mother finds a new boyfriend. One day, Captain Walker comes home while Mrs. Walker’s boyfriend is there. Captain Walker kills him, which leads to Tommy becoming deaf dumb and blind. Even though Tommy is deaf dumb and blind, he learns the game of pinball, and instantly becomes a pinball wizard. While Tommy is kicking peoples assess at pinball, Tommy’s parents try to find a cure for the boy, but nothing helps cure his problem. After seeing numerous people, Tommy’s parents get fed up, and they break a mirror. Because of this, Tommy somehow becomes free. He is instantly becomes a star. He soon throws away his stardom, and realizes his love for his family.
By the New York Times"the best live rock album ever made."
The second disc starts with the applause and talking of Townshend that is very common in the first disc. After a bit of talking and fooling around from the band, the music starts with the beginning of Tommy, Overture. Overture is a musical intro to get the album started, combining parts from 1921, See Me, Feel Me, Go to the Mirror, Christmas, and We’re Not Gonna Take It. Towards the end of Overture, a guitar solo takes over the song. Pete eventually shouts out “Captain Walker didn’t come home, his unborn child will never know him. Believe him missing with a number of men, don’t expect to see him again.” Pete quickly wraps up the solo, as the band goes into It’s A Boy. The Ox (John Entwistle, for those of you who don’t know.) starts off 1921 where the piano would start it on the studio Tommy disc. Roger takes the helm at vocals, booming strong lyrics through the microphone. Amazing Journey comes next, and is by far one of the best on the album, mainly because it sounds more free flowing than on the album. Pete pulls out some great riffs, and John has the thunderous bass sound going as well. Roger sounds great, singing: “Sickness will surely take the mind where minds can't usually go. Come on the amazing journey and learn all you should know.” Amazing Journey leads into the monstrous instrumental Sparks. The layering of the guitar and the bass is exceptional, as each have stellar parts. Sparks is probably the darkest track thus far on the album, but is still exceptional. Eyesight to the Blind is filler, as well as my least favorite on the second disc. The lyrics are annoying, even though Roger does a good job with them. Once again the guitar and bass is great, as it makes up for a crappy song.
Christmas is up next. It is about Tommy’s worried parents, and how they want to find a cure for him as soon as possible. Christmas has one of the most upbeat tunes on the album, even though it goes in and out of darker parts. Roger’s emotions grow more intense as the song goes on, leading to an abrupt ending. There is an odd transition from one of the most upbeat songs on the album, Christmas, to one of the most solemn and depressing sounding songs, the Acid Queen. It starts with a mysterious sounding guitar part, as the bass and drums soon follow. The lyrics are haunting, adding another aspect to the song. “I'm the Gypsy the acid queen. I'll tear your soul apart. Gather your wits and hold on fast, Your mind must learn to roam. Just as the Gypsy Queen must do, You're gonna hit the road.” At this point in the story, Tommy’s parents are taking him to a gypsy to see if she can cure him using drugs. Next is the classic off Tommy, Pinball Wizard. Everybody knows the guitar part to this song. Keith does some excellent drumming, and John’s bass is stellar throughout, making Pinball Wizard one of the best sounding songs on the second disc.
The next two songs, Do You Think It’s Alright, and Fiddle About, deal with Tommy’s uncle, Uncle Ernie. Tommy Can You Hear Me follows, as the band sings. “Tommy can you hear me, can you feel me near you? Tommy can you see me, can I help to cheer you? Tommy, Tommy, Tommy, Tommy.” Pete sings the next song, There’s A Doctor. The husband finds a doctor that can supposedly cure Tommy. The results follow in Go To The Mirror, as the doctor finds that Tommy is “incurable”. Roger’s vocals are strong, and Pete’s guitar part as well as John’s bass part blends nicely together to create another solemn sounding song. Smash The Mirror follows, with smooth vocals, and a bass driven part. At this point in the story, Tommy’s parents are fed up with Tommy, and throw him at the mirror, where he becomes free.
Miracle Cure is a simple song where Pete is singing “Extra, extra read all about it, pinball wizard, in a miracle cure. Extra, extra read all about it, extra.” Sally Simpson is a four minute filler that is mostly guitar driven. That leads into one of the best songs on the album, I’m Free. I’m Free is a lot faster than the Tommy version. Pete’s guitar goes well with Roger’s vocals, making a nice mix. Tommy is singing about how he has become free. Tommy’s Holiday Camp is a one minute filler that Uncle Ernie (a.k.a. Pete) sings. The last song on the second disc is by far my favorite of the album, We’re Not Gonna Take It. Its got the same tune from the opening of the album. Roger vocals are fitting in the first part of the song, as Pete and John rock out. After the first part of the song, the song becomes darker, as it goes into See Me, Feel Me. Roger sings “See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me” four times at the beginning, then goes into a more sophisticated part, where Roger sings “Listening to you, I get the music. Gazing at you, I get the heat. Following you, I climb the mountains. I get excitement at your feet. Right behind you, I see the millions. On you, I see the glory. From you, I get opinions. From you, I get the story.” Everybody intensifies as the song grows more and more, until it slows down when Roger sings the last verse, and the other guys play the last notes of the opera, which then brings Tommy and the second disc of “Live At Leeds” to an end.
Only two words can describe the awesomeness of the second disc of “Live At Leeds”: mind blowing. As I said earlier, the sound is excellent, and the band’s playing is exceptional. If you don’t already have “Live At Leeds”, I would suggest getting this, the deluxe edition, because aside from getting the first disc, you get this one as well. Even though the first disc of “Live At Leeds” is a classic, you really can’t judge Live At Leeds as the best live album ever until you’ve heard the second disc of “Live At Leeds”.