Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Who - Rock is Dead - Long Live Rock

The Who – Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  Relay
2.  Long Live Rock
3.  Is It In My Head?
4.  Put The Money Down
5.  Join Together

Side B:
6.  Cut My Hair

This is the final entry in a series of alternate Who albums, a reconstruction of the unreleased album Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock, a project scrapped in 1972 for sounding too much like Who’s Next.  Intended as a concept album about The Who themselves, the idea was further developed the following year into their seminal double album Quadrophenia.  Rather than simply emulating Pete Townshend’s original demo sequence for Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock, this reconstruction attempts to replicate what The Who had intended for the album just before abandoning it during their European Tour in August 1972: standalone singles on Side A and a rock opera occupying all of Side B.  All the best and most dynamic masters were used and all tracks volume adjusted for continuity. 

1971 was a landmark year for The Who, releasing Who’s Next—born from the ashes of the aborted Lifehouse album—and achieving some of the band’s greatest hits throughout the year.  After a brief but much-deserved break after the Who’s Next Tour was completed, the band slowly began to regroup in the spring of 1972 to plot it’s follow-up.  Although creative mastermind Pete Townshend swore to the media that he would never tackle another long-form concept album after Tommy’s success and Lifehouse’s demise, he had a jumble of concepts bouncing around in his head, waiting for the opportunity to use them.  Drawing from several alleged unrecorded Lifehouse leftovers and additional newer compositions, Townshend recorded demos that charted out the entirety of this next Who album, provisionally titled Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock.  A final 40-minute compilation tape of Townshend's demos contained: “Relay”; “Get Inside”; “Love Rein O’er Me”; “Woman’s Liberation (Riot in the Femail Jail)”; “Long Live Rock”; “Is It In My head?”; “Put The Money Down”; “Can’t You See I’m Easy”; and “Join Together”.

Heading into Olympic Studios with Glyn Johns in May 1972 to properly record band versions of Pete’s Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock demo album, the band tracked suburb versions of “Join Together”, “Relay” and “Is It In My Head?”.  The following month, three more of the songs were tracked: “Long Live Rock”, “Put The Money Down” and “Love, Reign O’er Me”.  At this point in time, a conceptual theme emerged and was applied to the project: an autobiographical history of The Who themselves.  Early brainstorming included plans to musically represent the various eras of The Who: from early-60s Mod to late 60s neo-psyche to early 70s stadium rock.  This idea was quickly discarded and the band instead stuck with a jumble of songs vaguely about themselves or their rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, particularly in “Join Together” and “Long Live Rock”. 

While The Who seemed to have a good start on a new album, the band themselves were not so sure.  Reviewing the six songs properly tracked—as well as the remaining songs from Townshend’s Rock is Dead demo that still needed to be recorded (the flimsy faux-Eastern “Can’t You See I’m Easy”, the meaningless whimsy of “Get Inside” and the abysmally dismal “Woman’s Liberation”)—the collection seemed as a pale imitation of Who’s Next.   Wanting an album of more substance, Townshend told Johns that he wished to write another rock opera to at least occupy one whole side of the album, with the best of the material from the Olympic sessions occupying the other.   Needing more time to write the opera, the album’s release date was postponed from August to December and “Join Together” was released as a single in June, an apparent preview of the upcoming album.   After tracking a throw-away Keith Moon original entitled “Wasp Man” for future B-side use, the band embarked on a brief tour of Europe in August, debuting both “Join Together” and “Relay” and touting them as a part of their upcoming album.  While promoting the tour, Townshend dropped hints of the rock opera he was in the process of composing, claiming it was about teenage adolescence and reminiscent of earlier mid-60s-era Who singles, and was to be called “Cut My Hair”. 

By the end of the tour in September, Townshend began to have doubts about the intended Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock album.  Most of his thoughts centered on the rock opera provisionally titled “Cut My Hair”; as he added new sections to it, the piece began to outweigh the collection of songs recorded at Olympic in the spring.  It is at this point when Townshend’s plan changed: instead of having one side of standalone songs vaguely about the history of The Who with a mini rock opera about adolescence on the other side, Townshend combined the two concepts into one.  Going as far back as 1971, Townshend had always wanted to make a single album that embodied the character of each individual member of The Who, so this was woven into “Cut My Hair” and expounded into the length of one whole album.  Now, the adolescent protagonist of the rock opera became a schizophrenic, harboring the four personalities of  The Who: Townshend (the “good boy”), Daltrey (the “bad boy”), Entwhistle (the romantic) and Moon (the madman).  That autumn, Townshend continued writing new pieces for the opera, with Rock Is Dead – Long Live Rock’s own death signaled by the single release of “Relay” b/w “Wasp Man” in November 1972, a stopgap as Townshend bought time to polish off this song cycle. 

Early 1973  saw The Who build their own 16-track recording studio out of an old church, dubbed Ramport Studios.  By March Townshend had completed demoing his new song cycle and The Who convened at Ramport in June to record their opus.  Aside from “Is It In My Head?” and “Love, Reign O’er Me”, nothing from the previous year’s Olympic session was used.  The resulting album—now titled Quadrophenia—became what many hail as the band’s masterpiece, a seamless double album with a concept more comprehensible than Lifehouse but musically more impressive than Tommy.  While Quadrophenia is certainly the last great work of The Who, is it the real album it could have been?  Can we join together the castaway material and revive Rock is Dead? 

The most obvious way to reconstruct Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock is to simply gather the six songs from the 1972 Olympic sessions and pair them with Pete’s demos of “Get Inside” (found on the Quadrophenia box set), “Woman’s Liberation” and “Can’t You See I’m Easy” (found on bootlegs), and sequence them as per his demo reel—and possibly even throw on “Wasp Man” for good measure!  The problem is that this assemblage becomes a very weak album and one can understand why The Who scrapped it.  As a more interesting and musically fulfilling experiment, we will instead attempt to construct Townshend’s August concept of having the “Cut My Hair” rock opera filling an entire side of the album and leaving the best of the Olympic sessions to their own side.  But what exactly would have the mini rock opera “Cut My Hair” consisted of? 

Luckily, recording dates for Pete Townshend’s demos are stated in the Quadrophenia box set.  Plowing through the data, Townshend had essentially demoed the album over two distinct periods, separated by The Who’s August 1972 Tour (roughly spanning April-July 1972 and October 1972-March 1973).  Based on this, it is reasonable to believe that any material demoed during that first period was meant for the “Cut My Hair” mini-rock opera, since it occurred before Rock Is Dead’s death in September.  These would include: “Drowned”, “Anymore”, “Joker James”, “Cut My Hair”, “Four Faces”, “We Close Tonight”, “You Came Back”, “Dirty Jobs” and “Doctor Jimmy”.  Using a supposed imaginary timeline, this reconstruction assumes The Who wrapped Side A of Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock before the tour, but required additional time to properly record Side B’s mini rock opera; thus any material recorded the following year in the Quadrophenia sessions proper is fair game. 

Side A (the standalone singles half) begins as Townshend’s demo of Rock is Dead does, with “Relay”, here the full-length version taken from The Who Hit 50.  This is followed by the title track, “Long Live Rock”, taken from the 2011 SACD remaster of Odds & Sodds.  “Is It In My Head?”—here considered its own song separate from any concept, as was originally intended in 1972—follows, taken from the 2012 SACD remaster of Quadrophenia, the original 1973 mix of the song.  “Put The Money Down” from Odds & Sodds is next, with Side A concluding with “Join Together” from The Who Hit 50.   

Side B (the rock opera half) consists of an edit of “Dirty Jobs”, “Cut My Hair”, “Doctor Jimmy” and “Love, Reign O’er Me”, all taken from the 2012 remaster of the original mix of Quadrophenia.  Much like “A Quick One While He’s Away”, all four tracks are crossfaded into one 20-minute continuous piece, more or less about adolescence.  We will hope for a suspension of disbelief from the listener and request to set aside the knowledge of Quadrophenia's plot.  Here, the "Cut My Hair" mini opera describes a teenage protagonist who works a dead-end job and receives guff about his hair and clothes from his elders.  He laments his self-destructive nature and at it's conclusion, has an epiphany that only love can save him.   

This resultant Rock is Dead – Long Live Rock becomes a midpoint between Pete’s scrapped nine-song demo reel and the eventual Quadrophenia album.  It becomes a much better listen minus the atrocious “Women’s Liberation/Riot In The Female Jail”, and including what could be thought of as a condensed Quadrophenia itself on Side B.  And with that, let love reign o'er you.  Special thanks to Jon Hunt for his original artwork, found on his blog. 

Lossless FLAC (part 1, part 2)

Sources used:
The Who - Quadrophenia (2012 SACD remaster – original mix)
The Who - Odds & Sods (2011 SHM remaster)
The Who – Hits 50! (2014 Geffen Records)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Rolling Stones - Could You Walk On The Water?

The Rolling Stones – Could You Walk On The Water?
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  19th Nervous Breakdown
2.  Sad Day
3.  Take It Or Leave It
4.  Think
5.  Mother’s Little Helper

Side B:
6.  Goin’ Home
7.  Sittin’ On A Fence
8.  Doncha Bother me
9.  Ride On, Baby
10.  Looking Tired

Happy Easter!  In honor of this bunny-hopping holiday, I give you a reconstruction I’ve actually been sitting on for nearly three years now.  This is a reconstruction of the unreleased 1966 Rolling Stones album Could You Walk On The Water.  After Decca Records refused to release such a blasphemous album title, the band restructured the album into their seminal Aftermath album.  This reconstruction gathers all of the best sounding masters of the source material and is presented all in mono, as it was meant to be heard. 

By 1965, The Rolling Stones had become one of the biggest rock bands in the world, proving their value with innovative British interpretations of American R&B music.  In an attempt to keep up with their contemporaries—self-contained bands that wrote their own songs—manager Andrew Loog Oldham pushed the band to compose their own material.  Specifically focusing on creating a song partnership between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the tactic proved successful as Jagger/Richards-penned singles “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, “Get Off Of My Cloud” and “As Tears Go By” were all major hits.  But what of their albums?  Up until then, the Rolling Stones’ albums had been a mixed bag of rock and blues standards with only a sprinkling of their own material.  Possibly taking a cue from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones set out to record an album by the end of the year consisting of all original material. 

While on their fall North American tour in 1965, the band filed into Hollywood’s RCA Studios in December to record the new material they had been composing.  At least nine songs were finished during these fruitful sessions, including: “Doncha Bother Me”, “Goin’ Home”, “Mother’s Little Helper”, “19th Nervous Breakdown”, “Ride On Baby”, “Sad Day”, “Sittin’ On A Fence”, “Take It Or Leave It” and “Think”.  Not only was the band impressed they were able to record nearly a full album of solid, original compositions in a week, but the songs themselves featured impressive exotic adornments by guitarist Brian Jones.  Growing bored of simply playing guitar, Jones literally picked up a number of unusual instruments to contribute, such as an autoharp, harpsichord and koto, giving the songs a colorful, proto-psychedelic flavor.  Finally "Goin Home" was noteworthy as one of the longest continuous performances in recorded rock music thus far, spanning over 11 minutes!  Two tracks from the sessions were selected as a single to be released in February, “19th Nervous Breakdown” b/w “Sad Day”.

Marveling at the results of the RCA sessions, Oldham and the band vied to rush-release all nine finished songs plus a tenth track (the quaint Out Of Our Heads outtake “Looking Tired”, recorded three months prior) in March as Could You Walk On The Water.  Featuring entirely original compositions—as well as the current hit “19th Nervous Breakdown”—the album was supposed to feature cover art from a California reservoir photo shoot and a deluxe gatefold with pictures taken from their recent American tour.  Unfortunately, Decca Records balked at the title, afraid that the name of this decidingly American album would offend the American religious, allegedly stating, “We would not issue it with that title at any price!”  As Oldham negotiated the release of the album, The Rolling Stones continued to tour relentlessly while continuing to compose new material.  As the proposed album release date of March 10th began to close in, it was obvious Could You Walk On The Water would not rise above its own title; with Oldham finally giving in to Decca, it was decided the compilation Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass) would be released in its place in the United States and The Stones reevaluated the shelved album. 

Fortunately, there was a silver lining in the failure of Could You Walk On The Water to launch, as the day before its scheduled release date the band returned to RCA Studios to cut another batch of original material.  This second set was more impressive than the first, which included: “Flight 505”, “High and Dry”, “I Am Waiting”, “If You Let Me”, “It’s Not Easy”, “Lady Jane”, “Long Long While”, “Out Of Time”, “Paint It Black”, “Stupid Girl”, “Under My Thumb” and  “What To Do”.  Brian Jones again adorned The Stones' brand of rock with such exotic instruments as a dulcimer, marimba and a sitar.  Now with 21 new songs in total, The Stones combined the best of the December 1965 and March 1966 sessions into one 14-track album.  With “Paint It Black” the lead single in the US market and “Mother’s Little Helper” the lead single in the UK market (both backed with “Lady Jane”), the album—now titled Aftermath—was released in April to critical and commercial acclaim, marking The Rolling Stones’ first masterpiece.  Aftermath not only became one of the greatest albums from the British Invasion era, but stood head-to-head against other legendary rock albums of the time, including Highway 61 Revisited, Rubber Soul and Pet Sounds.  But is it possible to resurrect Could You Walk On The Water, the album that was 'passover' by both Decca and ultimately The Stones themselves?

Luckily the tracklist of Could You Walk On The Water has been published and nearly all of the tracks have been released, allowing many listeners to reconstruct the album.  The difference here is that we will exclusively be using the original mono masters for all songs, as the stereo mixes of the material leave much to be desired, featuring an antiquated soundstage.  Side A opens with “19th Nervous Breakdown” taken from Singles 1965-1967, since The Rolling Stones in Mono boxset used an inferior master with excessive noise floor in-between vocal lines.  Following is “Sad Day”, taken from the Stray Cats discs of the In Mono box set.  “Take It Or Leave It”, “Think” and “Mother’s Little Helper” close out Side A, all taken from the Aftermath disc of In Mono. 

Side B opens with the full-length mix of “Goin Home” from Aftermath.  Although some sources claim there would have been an edited version of the track on the actual Could You Walk On The Water album, I chose to include the full 11-minute version, making Side B about 6 minutes longer than Side A.  While that may seem in err, remember that Side B of the US version of Aftermath was also 6 minutes longer than its side A!  Next is “Sittin’ On a Fence” taken from the Flowers disc of the In Mono box, followed by “Doncha Bother Me” from Aftermath.  “Ride On, Baby” again from Flowers follows, with the album concluding with the as-yet-unreleased “Looking Tired” taken from the bootleg More Stoned Than You’ll Ever Be but collapsed to mono and EQd to match the rest of the album. 

Sources used:
More Stoned Than You'll Ever Be (bootleg CD, Scorpio Records)
The Rolling Stones in Mono (CD boxset, 2016 ABKO Records)
Singles 1965-1967 (CD 2004 ABKO Records)

 flac --> wav --> editing in Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included