The Who Play “Who Are You”

who_are_you_album_coverListen to this track by former mod representatives turned classic rock institution The Who. It’s “Who Are You”, the concluding song that served as the title track to their 1978 album Who Are You. That record would represent the end of an era for the band when drummer Keith Moon passed away a month after it was released. The attached rendition of the song here is featured in the 1979 documentary The Kids Are Alright.

In some ways, this song and its album marked the end of an era for rock music, too. By the end of the seventies, popular music was exponentially dividing into multiple streams including punk, new wave, and disco. Certain tracks on this album make direct reference to that. Meanwhile, the band itself was struggling along after a three-year recording hiatus with Moon’s health in visible decline. The dynamics between musicians and in turn between the band and the production team that included Glyn Johns and Jon Astley were beginning to fray at the ends as well. These were not easy sessions. Perhaps this was the result of a shot of self-awareness at being among the second generation of rock musicians beginning to sense the end of their prime period.

As usual on this particular song, guitarist and head songwriter Pete Townshend’s well-trodden themes of image, identity, and truth are firmly in place. This time, they come with a bona fide autobiographical component to the story that perhaps goes against expectations when it comes to old rockers versus new punks.  Read more

The Who Play “The Real Me”

The Who "The Real Me"Listen to this track by former ’60s mod pin-ups turned rock-operaist foursome, The Who. It’s “The Real Me” as taken from their 1973 epic record Quadrophenia, a study in subculture and identity, and arguably their last significant release as the original quartet.

And how perfect that the album was based upon the idea that the group presents something of a unified entity, with the story of Jimmy the Mod really being a reflection of each Who member.

In this respect, this song is really the centerpiece to the record that Townshend envisioned; four identities shaping one, with the real identity being something harder to define.

Yet it is this idea that a “real” identity can be found when those of likemind gather together as a group that lays at the heart of the album, and later the film. But, in the end, it can be about identity as a whole, and our need to be a part, perhaps, of something bigger. But, what? Read more

Mose Allison Sings ‘Young Man’s Blues’

Here’s a clip featuring jazz pianist and rhythm & blues stylist, singer, and songwriter Mose Allison, with a song he wrote and recorded in 1963 . It’s “Young Man’s Blues” a lament for the titular young man who once ‘had all the money’. Luckily, thanks to a 1970 cover version by the Who on their Live At Leeds album, pretty soon Mose Allison had all the money, too. The song is taken from Allison’s Mose Allison Sings album.

During a time when having a cross-over career from the jazz world to the world of R&B was looked upon as commercial suicide, Mose Allison was a fearless artist who’s music defied the high walls between genres and audiences. He was born in the Mississippi Delta in 1927 and took to the musician’s life at a young age.  By the 1950s, his skills as a pianist were being employed while in jazz bands with Stan Getz, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, and Gerry Mulligan.

But Allison’s feel for the blues allowed him to gain the attention of R&B fans too, including many rock players, from Van Morrison, and later to the Clash, and Elvis Costello.  As mentioned this particular tune, a jazz-inflected number that features Allison’s laid back tenor drawl and light-as-air piano lines, was ripe to be transformed into the monster rock assault by the Who, who made it a part of their live set, and later recorded it for their monumental Live At Leeds album. When he got the royalty cheque, he was convinced it must be mistake.

This perhaps shows that anything held together by the base ingredient of the blues can be interpreted and re-interpreted in any other musical milieu that has that same base ingredient.   Yet, it also proves the song’s writer to be ahead of his time, in being able to see that common thread and build it into his music, despite the difficulties of being able to successfully do so in the early 60s.

While the decades rolled on from the 50s to the 90s, Allison continued to be an active recording artist and performer, with a dedication to putting out records that was perhaps contrary to his lack of widespread recognition among pop music fans.  At the age of 82, he’s released a new record this year, Way of the World produced by Joe Henry on Anti-Records.

In this 21st Century when mixing styles and writing songs which are open to stylistic interpretation is common, Mose Allison has in many ways come home.

For more information about Mose Allison, check out

You can review or preview the music on the Mose Allison on MySpace.


Classic Rock: And the Brand Played On and On

This is a special treat for me, and the first in a series of guest blog posts from music writers I know and admire.  I’ve asked a few of my writer friends to submit some of their scribblings to this humble Delete Bin.  And some of them have agreed to do so.  In this case, Geoff Moore of Calgary Alberta, a novelist, music fan, and Montreal Canadiens nut, talks here about the milking of legacies in rock.  What happens when rock bands become rock brands?  Lots of things …


Rock ‘n’ roll’s pushing 60 if you date its birth from March 3rd or 5th, 1951 when Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm cut ‘Rocket 88′ in Sam Phillips’ Memphis recording studio under the guise of Jackie Brensten and his Delta Cats. That culture-quaking distortion ripping through your speaker grille comes from a guitar plugged into an amp that had been damaged en route to Sun, somewhere out on Highway 61. Born to be wild maybe, but time manages to tame most of us.

Most rockers didn’t live fast, die young and leave beautiful corpses. No, legions of rock bands have soldiered on, advancing well beyond their best-before dates in ragged columns to the beat of their current drummers. Some have even returned from the dead, or hiatus. Some have been cloned. And some, God help them (and you if you bought a ticket), some are like demented zombies, they just won’t quit. ‘I hope I die before I get old.’ Pete Townshend wrote it and Roger Daltry spat it out, but it didn’t happen. Not to them anyway. They’re older than rock itself.

The Who is a duo by virtue of attrition however and many wholigans maintain they’re simply not the Who without Keith Moon and John Entwhistle. But when Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry do perform or record together the result is unmistakably Whooey. Because of this, it seems fair that the pair continue to leverage the band’s name and all the mod pop art iconography associated with it on their souvenir merchandise.

The outfit has been able to maintain its identity with a shred or two of integrity intact and still possesses enough cachet with music audiences that they’re able to work if the mood strikes Pete or Roger needs the money. There have already been umpteen farewell tours and at one point Townshend even retired from music to work for a book publisher. It seems odd to contemplate life without the on again/off again, phasing, battling existence of the the Who in some form or another. They remain a constant for fans of a certain age, something that was and somehow always will be.

But as fans of Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd and Genesis will sigh to you, they can’t last forever. Or can they? Amazingly, despite death or disbandment, you can still pay good money for a live performance of a Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd or Genesis show thanks to a hereto unforeseen back-catalogue marketing asset: the tribute band. They attract our sons and daughters who came of age listening to our old records. They attract some of us for various reasons, curiosity or nostalgia perhaps, or maybe it’s the sheer exhilaration provided by beloved music that’s not Memorex.

Some of these acts merely studiously replay the original material as recorded while others add an element of theatre and recreate their meal tickets both visually and sonically. Layers of disbelief must be suspended as that fellow up on stage in the dress and the fox mask is playing Peter Gabriel playing a character. A through the looking-glass choreographed illusion. It’s A Kinda Magic painstakingly recreates specific Queen tours – set lists, costumes, props – you name it. Endorsed by Freddie Mercury’s personal assistant! gush their newspaper ads.

You have to assume a neophyte would come away with a good sense of the spectacle that was Queen and that a lifelong fan could have some hazy, pot-marred memories enhanced by the performance. It looks like Queen, sounds like Queen and even acts like Queen. But it’s not Queen. (Off topic but related: do tribute acts have their own, sort of, tribute groupies? And what of a performer’s ego, would it be, say, Zeppelin-sized? Questions best left to ponder on another day.) Things get down-the-rabbit-hole weird and maybe a little sleazier in that murky no band’s land somewhere between the resurrected Who and It’s A Kinda Magic.

When does a band cease being itself and mutate into something akin to its own tribute band? A brand, if you will. Or simply a rip-off. Thin Lizzy came through Calgary (AB) a couple of years ago – sort of. The newspaper ad featured a close approximation of the band’s familiar logo only, nothing else, no photos, no names. Phil Lynott, the band’s creative force, passed away in 1986. When the Thin Lizzy broke up in 1984 Lynott and drummer Brian Downey were sole remaining original members. The list of former Thin Lizzies is almost as long as the Montreal Canadiens’ all-time roster.

The group that put on a concert here was led by one John Sykes who joined Thin Lizzy in 1982. According to, the band’s ‘official’ web site, Thin Lizzy’s final performance took place in Germany in 1983. The existence of John Sykes’s Thin Lizzy is not ‘officially’ acknowledged, like black ops and cabinet-sanctioned wet work.

The Yardbirds played an Edmonton (AB) area casino this past winter. Singer Keith Relf has been dead as long as he lived, 33 years. As for Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page – whatever happened to those guys?. Shelling out to see rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja and drummer Jim McCarty will only guarantee you one thing, the backing vocals on their version of ‘Heart Full of Soul’ will sound authentic. You’re not getting the Yardbirds, you’re getting a couple of former Yardbirds (the ‘other’ guys in the group’s 60s promotional photos) who call themselves the Yardbirds covering the Yardbirds.

Wonder how the new material goes over (even the Who had trouble selling Endless Wire to its middle-aged audiences)? Beware Mike Love this summer, state fair aficionados and rural casino habitues. The ticket reads Beach Boys but only one guy up on that stage actually sang on every track included on that new compilation you purchased last week at Wal-Mart. Enjoy the last original Beach Boy in his dotage. Funny, he probably hasn’t changed his stage wardrobe in 45 years and went from California teen to retired Arizona snowbird in no moves. Hawaiian shirts get old fast.

Nothing’s as it was or as it seems. Enjoy the show. Caveat emptor.

Geoff Moore is the author of Murder Incorporated, a novel about the advertising industry. He lives in Calgary, Alberta.

Pete Townshend Plays Solo and Acoustic: “Drowned”

Here’s a clip of Who guitarist/visionary and rock opera guru Pete Townshend with a solo acoustic take on his song “Drowned”, the studio version of which appears on the Who’s 1973 concept album Quadrophenia.

The album Quadrophenia off of which the song “Drowned” is taken was meant to communicate two concepts.  The first was the lifestyles of the mods in the mid-60s, a scene in which all of the members of the Who were involved.  The second concept attempted was to capture something of the personalities of the band, with four disparate outlooks and personas existing in the same space.  Typically, these concepts were considered to be ponderous by many, including members of the Who.  Yet, the story was compelling enough to make this record success, inspiring a film in 1979 starring Phil Daniels, and (of all people) Sting.
The album Quadrophenia off of which the song “Drowned” is taken was meant to communicate two concepts. The first was the lifestyles of the mods in the mid-60s, a scene in which all of the members of the Who were involved. The second was an attempt to capture something of the personalities of the band, with four disparate outlooks and personas existing in the same space. This second concept was considered to be ponderous by many, including members of the Who. Yet, the story was compelling enough to make this record success, inspiring a film in 1979 starring Phil Daniels, and (of all people) Sting.

The reason the Who is in the upper echelon of British Invasion bands is that they helped to expand the possibilities of what a rock band means, and what a rock song can be about too.  This doesn’t simply refer to head writer Townshend’s penchant for lofty and ambitious rock operas and concept albums, although these forms certainly became his main areas of concern by 1969.  I think the underlying influence they had was making rock music into something which could be confessional as well as visceral.  Rock music, Townshend proved, could be used as a vehicle for self-examination.

This approach began with the 1969 album Tommy, and the live versions of the story which came afterward.  Ultimately, that album and the ‘rock opera’ to follow, had more to do with its writer than it did with a mythical deaf dumb and blind kid.  But, with 1973’s Quadrophenia, Townshend wasn’t just telling his story.  He was attempting to take on the stories of everyone he grew up with including, and maybe especially,  his band mates.

With this tune, I think there’s a nakedness to it that is even more apparent in his solo acoustic takes, which he’d performed in a number of settings as a solo artist by the 1990s.  On the surface, this is a song about the teenage mind, the driving need to belong, to matter, to align one’s identity with something greater.  This is what it means to be ‘drowned’ in this song – to be subsumed by something powerful, something that is elemental, and able to deliver one from the crushing reality of isolation often felt most keenly by teenagers.

In the story, our young mod hero Jimmy finds himself at the sea in Brighton, the city which was the epicentre of the war between mods and rockers.  There he waits to catch a glimpse of his hero, king of the mods Ace Face.  Yet what he feels is bereft, lonely,  and with the overpowering need to be included, to belong.  To me, the visuals of this are so important.  To see a middle-aged Townshend singing this tune, is to see that the sentiments in it go well beyond the confines of the story being told.  And his latter-day performances of this song ultimately illustrate that the need to find belonging and meaning goes beyond age too.  This is what it is to be human, to feel the overpowering drive to make a connection with something bigger than oneself.

For more, check out this interview with Pete Townshend from Rolling Stone magazine from 1968, before anyone was holding his feet to the fire for daring to get old after he’d made it clear that he hoped he wouldn’t. His main concern in 1968 was his work on a concept that he wasn’t sure he’d be able to communicate properly – Tommy.

Contrast that interview with this interview with Pete Townshend  in 2003, when his ‘research’ into child abuse caused him some bother with the law.  It seemed that his struggles to come to terms with his youth would be lifelong pursuit that would continue to lead him down some pretty thorny paths.


The Last 24 Hours of Keith Moon

Keith MoonI watched an episode of Final 24 on some entertainment channel or other (I think it was E!) which covered the last 24 hours in the life of Who drummer Keith Moon.

Moon had been living in an apartment in London by 1978, owned by Harry Nilsson, and the place where Mama Cass Elliot died in 1974 of heart failure. He was on medication to help him curb his craving for alcohol, a problem which had reached a point where his position in the Who, as well as his other relationships, was in jeopardy of going south. The pills were prescription.

The quandary that Moon found himself in the day before was the fact that he’d been invited by Paul McCartney to the before-party and premier of the new film the Buddy Holly Story. It was an ‘everyone is going to be there’ event. Yet Moon was worried about being able to stay off of the booze. He decided not to go.

Unfortunately, Moonie also had a problem with cocaine, a package of which arrived the afternoon before his death. Rock stars can order cocaine as if they’re ordering a pizza, as one interviewee stated. After indulging himself, he changed his mind about the party, and he and his girlfriend, Annette Walter-Lax, went. Somewhere in there, he also ingested a few tablets of his anti-alcohol meds.

At the party, he was surrounded by friends (including Kenney Jones, the drummer who would replace him in the Who), who noticed that he wasn’t the Keith they knew. He was more withdrawn, and less than his “Moon the Loon” persona had once defined him. Eventually, he had a couple of glasses of champagne.

Part way through the film, Moon and Annette decided to go home for an early night, another uncommon thing in Keith’s life. He got home, watched a movie, took more anti-alcohol pills, ate a meal, and went to bed. In the night, he was restless. He took more medication, having lost count of the dosage by now. He went back to sleep. Because he began to snore, Annette left the room to sleep on the couch.

In the morning, Moon asked her to make breakfast, being uncommonly hungry as he had been the night previous. She did. He ate, and went back to sleep. And that was it. He died in his sleep. The coroner found 26 undissolved tablets in his stomach.

The thing that struck me about this chain of events was Moon’s own addictions to drugs was not the direct cause of his death. I think it was his addiction to maintaining his own sense of who he was supposed to be. People expected Moon the Loon, and he needed to live up to that, it seems. It’s possible that he would have fallen to a similar fate eventually. But the real catalyst was his need to live up to his own image, be at that party, be that guy.

It struck me too that he must have been very lonely too, not really allowing himself to give very many people a real picture of who he really was, and not really having the emotional maturity even to approach changing his outlook. The tragic thing was that Annette said that he was a very gentle, loving person at heart.

And that many told her afterwards that he was planning to ask her to marry him, that he had told many people at the party that he was going to do it the next day. Knowledge of that must be terrible. I know that the program may be aimed at those looking for salacious ‘rock star burns out for good’ type stories. But, I was left saddened.

Watch Keith Moon In Action

Moon is one of my favourite drummers – a totally chaotic approach to the drum kit, never settling on an obvious backbeat, yet keeping time and being musically interesting as well. His style is actually more like jazz drumming.

In the program, they showed side by side footage of Moon and Gene Krupa and the visual results are undeniable. Both drummers were reveling in their drumming, a visually dynamic display of prowess and showmanship. In terms of rock music and rock drumming, he was irreplaceable. Take a look at this clip of Keith Moon playing drums to see what I mean.

Keith Moon