Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Who - Who's For Tennis? (UPGRADE)



The Who – Who’s For Tennis?
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

May 2020 UPGRADE

Side A:
1.  Glow Girl
2.  Fortune Teller
3.  Tattoo
4.  Silas Stingy
5.  Dogs
6.  Call Me Lightning
7.  Melancholia

Side B:
8.  Faith in Something Bigger
9.  Glittering Girl
10.  Little Billy
11.  Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
12.  Sunrise
13.  Magic Bus


Upgrades to this April 2020 are:
  • Updated source for “Glow Girl”, “Fortune Teller” and “Melancholia”. 
  • Dropped “Girl’s Eyes”, “Early Morning Cold Taxi” and “Shakin All over” from the album.
  • Added “Tattoo”, “Silas Stingy”, “Glittering Girl” and “Sunrise” so the album will fit in Who’s Lily’s continuity. 
  • Widened stereo field of “Call Me Lightning”.
  • New stereo mix of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”
  • New edit of “Magic Bus”, a hybrid of the long and short versions

Next in a series of social-distant-reconstructions is my upgrade of the proposed and promptly withdrawn 1968 album Who’s For Tennis? by The Who.  Originally intend as a proper studio album (or live album, as some maintain) that would have been released in-between The Who Sell Out and Tommy, the idea for the album was scrapped and the recorded material instead came out as either single releases or remained in the vaults.  This reconstruction draws from numerous sources to create a completely stereo, cohesive album, utilizing the best mastering available and is volume-adjusted for aural continuity.  Also, a completely new and unique stereo mix of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was created, unavailable elsewhere and exclusive to this reconstruction.  This revised version is meant to follow Who’s Lily, so there is no overlap between the two albums. 

Riding as high as they possibly could from 1967’s The Who Sell Out, a concept album recorded to emulate British pirate radio stations, The Who embarked on tours of Australia and the United States throughout 1968, biding their time until their next concept album.  During this time, Pete Townshend began composing what he believed could be his magnum opus, a rock opera that spanned an entire album-length (rather than a single-song ‘pocket-opera’ such as “A Quick One While He’s Away”) about a deaf, dumb and blind kid (who sure played a mean pinball).  Such a lofty project required time to compose and demo properly, and the album was set to be recorded that fall.  But in an attempt to keep up with their British rock contemporaries such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Kinks who could release an entire album of material every year, the question was proposed: what album would The Who release in 1968 to fill the stopgap until Townshend’s rock opera, which at best would be released in early 1969?

Thus The Who’s manager and producer Kit Lambert proposed an album entitled Who’s For Tennis? to be released that July of 1968, meant to capitalize on the upcoming Wimbledon Championships.  The album would have included all new recordings as well as any number of the relevant outtakes from the previous year’s Sell Out sessions, which had produced a wealth of non-LP material.  In January and February of 1968, The Who recorded Townshend’s “Faith in Something Bigger”, “Glow Girl” and “Little Billy”, the later written for the American Cancer Society for an anti-smoking campaign.  Also recorded during these initial sessions was a very old Who song originally dating from 1964 called “Call Me Lightning”, and bassist John Entwhistle’s own “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, yet another ‘scary’ children’s song.  After embarking on their spring tour of the US directly after the February recording sessions, The Who returned to the studio in May and June and recorded seven more tracks: Townshend originals “Dogs”, “Melancholia”, “Magic Bus”, “Joys” and “Facts of Life” as well as live staples of old blues covers “Fortune Teller” and “Shakin’ All Over”. 

With twelve new studio recordings in the can, the absurd idea of Who’s For Tennis? was eventually withdrawn as the summer drew upon The Who.  Instead of an entire album, just three of the tracks trickled out as single-releases: the US single “Call Me Lightning” b/w “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and it’s UK counterpart “Dogs” b/w “Call Me Lightning”.  Neither single charted particularly well, becoming long-forgotten Who singles.  There was also some discussion of a live album of The Who’s performance at The Fillmore East to be released in Who’s For Tennis?’s place (some sources claim the Who’s For Tennis? concept was this live album rather than a studio album of the 1968 recordings) but the performances were a bit too sloppy and were set aside.  The final decision was to instead release the single “Magic Bus” as well as two cash-grab compilations: The Magic Bus: The Who On Tour in the US, and Direct Hits in the UK.  The decision paid off, as “Magic Bus” became a long-time fan favorite and live staple for The Who for years to come.  This was enough to bide the band’s time until Townshend could see, feel, touch and heal his rock opera into fruition, even as much as pillaging the outro of the now-canned “Glow Girl” into Tommy’s “Overture/It’s A Boy”. 

The remaining tracks were left unheard for years, with each slowly trickling out on anthology collections: first on Odds and Sods in 1974; then on Rarities volumes 1 & 2 in 1983; and finally the Maximum R&B boxset in 1994.  Aside from the tracks that remain in the vault to this day (“Shakin’ All Over”, “Joys” and “Facts of Life”), Who fans have just enough material to reconstruct what this theoretical 1968 stopgap album would have been.  Various fans’ track sequences tend to utilize the same 12-or-so tracks recorded during this period but the actual track sequences fluctuate wildly, as there never was a finalized tracklist.  The only concrete information we have (beyond a title) is that it would have been a ‘preachy’ album (a reference to the inclusion of “Little Billy” and “Faith in Something Bigger”) and the album would have opened with “Glow Girl”.  Keep in mind that allegedly Sell Out outtakes and non-LP tracks would have been used as filler on Who’s For Tennis?, which could have included any of the following songs: “Pictures of Lily”, “Doctor, Doctor”, “Glittering Girl”, “Hall of the Mountain King”, “Sodding About”, “Early Morning Cold Taxi”, “Girl’s Eyes”, “Summertime Blues” and “Someone’s Coming”.  What would have actually been on Who’s For Tennis?  While there is no possible answer, we can certainly know what is on this reconstruction!

For the purposes of this (updated) reconstruction, we will obviously use the eight studio recordings from 1968 that are available.  But to fill out the album, we will use the four songs recorded in October 1967 (“Glittering Girl”, “Tattoo”, “Silas Stingy” and “Sunrise”) as those would have been recorded a month after the theoretical Who’s Lily album.  We will include them here, so that both reconstructions could fit in the same continuity. 

Side A begins with the only clue Pete Townshend has left us: the album starts with “Glow Girl”, which would have also been a single, here sourced from the best-sounding version 2015 SHM remaster of Odds and Sodds.  Following is “Fortune Teller” taken from the 2011 SHM remaster of Who’s Missing.  Much like their live shows, “Tattoo” follows, from the 2014 remaster of The Who Sell Out, as well as “Silas Stingy”.  Mellowing down a bit, the unique stereo mix of “Dogs” taken from the Maximum R&B set is next, followed by mod-rocker “Call Me Lightning”, using the true stereo mix again found on Maximum R&B, but with the stereo spectrum widened slightly.   Side A closes with the epic rocker “Melancholia”, the superior mix taken from the 2011 remaster of Who’s Missing. 

Side B opens with Townshend’s admittedly preachy “Faith in Something Bigger” from Odds and Sods, followed by the remake version of “Glittering Girl” from October 1967, from Sell Out.  Next is a song that seemed a bit ahead of its time in terms to social acceptance to the health hazards of smoking: “Little Billy”, using the superior master from Odds and Sods.   Next is a completely new stereo mix of the otherwise mono “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, created when syncing up the two different mono mixes, both taken from the 2011 SHM remaster of Who’s Missing.  Some phasing happens during the third verse, which I left in because of its appropriate timeliness.  Next is Townshend’s essentially-solo recording “Sunrise”, again from Sell Out.  Closing the album is my own unique edit of “Magic Bus”, using the body of the common stereo mix from Then and Now, but with the extended middle section taken from the mono mix on The Who Hits 50. 

With cover art brilliantly reimagined by Jon Hunt (thanks Jon!) as the icing on the cake, we have twelve songs evenly spread over two sides, in tandem with their previous three albums.  And what of the quality of this audio tennis match?  The most points scored here is for the drastic change from mod-pop into full-blown rock icons.  Here we hear the band beefing up their sound and more importantly Roger Daltrey shifting from the slight, short-haired teen-pop singer of “I’m A Boy” and “Substitute” into the wailing, bare-chested, long-haired rock star of Tommy, Who’s Next and Quadrophenia.  Listening to the album, we now see how The Who went from Sell Out to Tommy.  But taking the album into a whole, we can understand why Who’s For Tennis? was left out: while there are some great songs here, the album as a whole is pretty weak, scatterbrained and honestly a bit corny.  Regardless, this reconstruction offers a missing piece of The Who’s history, an excellent addition to their album discography as it, at the very least, collects a number of non-LP songs that would be quite an annoyance to gather piecemeal.  Let the match begin! 




Sources used:
30 Years of Maximum R&B (1994 original CD master)
Odds and Sodds (2015 SHM CD remaster)
Sell Out (2014 HDTracks stereo remaster)
Then and Now (2004 original CD master)
The Who Hits 50! (2014 Geffin Records)
Who’s Missing (2011 SHM CD remaster)



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