I love rock music, and I love live albums, and this might be the best live rock&roll recording ever. I’m not claiming the whole album’s a Song of the Day (and anyhow, there’s been a baffling parade of re-issues and remasters and so on). But I am going to double up and recommend two songs: I Can’t Explain and the My Generation Medley. The first because it’s a pure pop gem, the second, even though it’s way long, because inhabits the joyful heart of the music I love.
Live At Leeds was recorded on Valentine’s Day in 1970; it’s messy, chaotic, and full of brilliant moments. Most of the re-issues don’t add much over the original 5-song lineup, with the single exception of I Can’t Explain, which is a useful reminder that before the Who got all high-concept and artistic, they were really good at pop singles. The performance here is polished and sharp, with a lot of respect for the original material. You can hear Keith Moon singing the high harmony line behind Daltrey.
But that My Generation medley, wow; a Dionysian explosion of passion, electrified strings, and over-the-top drumming. It’s also a bit special to me because they dip briefly into the See Me, Feel Me/Following You bit from Tommy. I saw the Who live just once; and it was a fine show, and the emotional highlight was that sequence. What they used to do is, when they switched into “Following you…”, they switched the lights from the stage to crowd, and the band sang the words to their audience. I’m sentimental, but still, that was super moving.
Anyhow, I sat up late last night listening to the medley, and here’s what I scribbled down: “guitar starting at 5:50; chords at 8:43; drum coming in at 10:00, power chords 10:54; heaviest chord ever at 11:30; then 12:42!”
Links · Spotify playlist. I Can’t Explain on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify. My Generation medley on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon. There’s no video of the medley, but here’s a particularly sharp take on I Can’t Explain.