The Music Must Change

The question came up the other day at some disreputable forum I frequent: What movie, book, and album would you take with you to a deserted island? The very first disk that came to my mind was Who Are You.

Who Are You is one of the few albums I can – and have – listened to over and over and just never get tired of hearing. It’s hard for me to say exactly what it is that has had such lasting appeal to me. I just find the band sounding extremely powerful and the lyrics among the best Pete Townshend has written.

I first got Who Are You for my sixteenth birthday, about a year after it had been released. I think my journey towards hard-of-hearingness started when I would put headphones on and blast this music night after night. I reset the needle time and again to hear all of the weird sounds of “Music Must Change,” from the creaking to the fluttering. I puzzled over the weird irony of “Not to be Taken Away,” the stencil on the chair in which Keith Moon sits on the album cover. And of course I just stood in awe of the entire album.

There are very few other albums that, 30 years later, I can still listen to start to finish, knowing that I know every note and every beat, and still look forward to hearing them.

When I found this collection of Who Are You demos, I immediately grabbed it, knowing it would be fascinating listening. I wasn’t disappointed. Townshend performs all of the songs solo, mostly on guitar and keyboard, along with what I assume to be prerecorded backing tracks.

According to the information I could gather, these were recorded during 1977-78 (Who Are You was released in August ’78). Most of these songs would end up on Who Are You, while others would appear on Townshend’s 1980 solo album, Empty Glass. The last two tracks, “Affirmation” and “Baba O’Riley” are older, of course, from 1971. This version of “Baba O’Riley” is a synthesizer demo. Some of these tracks, I think, have seen commercial release as bonus tracks on various Who reissues.

Who Are You.mp3
Love is Coming Down.mp3
New Song.mp3
Sister Disco.mp3
Never Ask Me.mp3
I Like It the Way It Is.mp3
Love is Wine.mp3
Broken Nails.mp3
Keep on Working.mp3
Guitar and Pen.mp3
Music Must Change.mp3
Empty Glass.mp3
No Road Romance.mp3
Baba O’Riley.mp3

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At 10:59 PM , Blogger Stevie's Shining said...

The links dont go anywhere?

At 11:16 PM , Blogger Chris said...

Amazing post! I've always loved The Who, and especially Townshend. His music always has a bit more of an interesting sound to it when he sings it himself.

Thank you so much!

At 11:28 PM , Blogger Nigel said...

Nice post. I know what you mean about some records never getting old. Who knows how many times I listened to "The Kids Are Alright" when I was in high school. I'm looking forward to hearing these demos. You might be interested to know that there are "Lifehouse and "Quadrophenia" demos over at www.captainsdead.com

At 4:04 AM , Blogger Yves said...

So great,
thank you for this nice post...

At 1:16 PM , Blogger ergonaut said...

Your absolutely right. Who Are You is never too far from my finger tips. I had the same feeling when I first saw the cover art with Moonie sitting in the folding chair with those ominous word stencilled upon the back...reminiscent of the Lynnrd Skynnrd album cover for 'Street Survivors' which was recalled after the plane crash in '77.

At 10:33 PM , Blogger aikin said...

stevie - best I can tell they're all working OK.

chris - thanks!!

nigel - I was just checking out those tracks at Captain's Dead. Great stuff!

yves - thank you!

ergonaut - yeah - I'd forgotten about that Skynyrd cover. That disappeared from shelves pretty quick after the plane crash.

At 12:48 PM , Blogger Bird said...

Brilliant collection, thanks for posting these! Having final resurrected my turntable with new needle, I've been going through my old collection, and have been really pleased to rediscover albums that I LOVE but have lost track of. Who Are You is indeed one of them. Beginning to end an amazing journey. I was trying to find an mp3 of "Music Must Change" which lead me to your post. Yeah! Thanks!

At 6:10 PM , Blogger Stefano said...

Hi, I'm looking for Who backing tracks, preferring keyb-only one's.
Any hint?


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