Big Who fan? Richie Unterberger's WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN: THE WHO FROM LIFEHOUSE TO QUADROPHENIA (2011) will tell you just about everything you need 2 know about that troubled period in the early '70s when The 'Oo was trying 2 find a follow-up 2 TOMMY. And in the process they created some of their very best work.
Not without hassles, however. LIFEHOUSE was supposed 2 B this huge multi-media presentation (concert/video/album/documentary/etc.) that even 40 years later Who leader/guitarist/songwriter Pete Townshend still can't quite pin down. Most of the songs from the project ended up on WHO'S NEXT, some dribbled out as excellent singles over the next coupla years ("Join Together," "The Relay"), & some trax were still turning up on Townshend solo albums 30+ years later -- check the synthesizer instrumentals on PSYCHODERELICT, supposedly created during the early '70s.
No question the songs included on WHO'S NEXT are the band's best, most lasting work. Producer/engineer Glyn Johns is credited 4 suggesting putting LIFEHOUSE's best songs on 1 album, & he was right. But the evidence is, if The Who'd made it a 2-disc set it woulda been a killer.
After dribbling out singles thru '72, Pete came up with QUADROPHENIA, which seems 2 have mellowed in the band's estimation since the gyrations 2 get it done & toured at the end of '73. Engineer Ron Nevison had previously taken a beating 4 the supposedly cluttered mix, overloaded with sound effects, swamping Roger Daltrey's vocals. Nevison seems OK with it now, & surviving band members R way less harsh about it years later. Bassist John Entwistle had such reservations about the album that he re-dubbed his bass & horn parts & remixed the trax 4 the 1979 movie-soundtrack version. That version seemed clearer & punchier 2 me at the time, but there's never been NE question that summa the songs R outstanding: "Love, Reign O'er Me," "Bell Boy," "5:15," "Doctor Jimmy," "I'm One," "I've Had Enough," "The Real Me," etc. The best of them R breathtaking.
Unterberger provides lotsa detail about the recording of QUAD, & plenty about the on-stage soul-searching that Townshend & Daltrey went thru during the tour that followed. In fact, Unterberger quotes a TON of sources 2 get this story told, & hits almost all the major LIFEHOUSE and QUADROPHENIA stories I remember along the way.
Tho Townshend had a nervous breakdown during the LIFEHOUSE period, we don't hear that much about it. The only story Unterberger misses is Pete's reminiscence about walking in2 a hotel room 4 a meeting about the project, seeing every1 in the room suddenly turn in2 giant lizards, & then wanting 2 jump out the window....
The only major problem I saw is that there Rn't NE current interviews with Townshend & Daltrey 2 add 2 the old stories. Maybe Unterberger couldn't interview them, or didn't think he needed 2. There is some new info in connection with the LIFEHOUSE CHRONICLES box set that Townshend sold thru his website 4 awhile, a decade ago. But that's the most recent info included in the book.
Other Minor Disappointments: No discography. No list of songs intended for LIFEHOUSE.
But Unterberger writes very well -- I knew his name from reviews for ALL MUSIC GUIDE, among other places -- & his book is as well-researched as anyone could ask. It might be just a touch thin on the emotional end -- I woulda loved some current interviews with Pete & Roger about how they feel about these songs, looking back from 40 years later.
These R all minor reservations, however. If you're a big Who fan you might wanna track this 1 down. It's the best book on the 'Oo I've read since Dave Marsh's exhausting BEFORE I GET OLD -- & there were still things I wanted 2 know at the end of THAT one, too....
This is also the 2nd impressive book I've read from England's Jawbone Press -- the 1st was the Bill Bruford AUTOBIOGRAPHY I reviewed here a couple years back. Like Bruford's book, WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN includes a good selection of period photos, sharp graphics, & not a single typographical error in the whole book. Nice 2 see some1 doing the job right these days....
Coming next: Enthusiasm! -- & a review of Jason Weiss's ALWAYS IN TROUBLE: AN ORAL HISTORY OF ESP-DISK.