The Who – Charlton 1976

Charlton 1976

Charlton Athletic Football Ground, London, England – May 31st, 1976

Disc 1 (42:36):  I Can’t Explain, Substitute, My Wife, Baba O’Riley, Squeeze Box, Behind Blue Eyes, Dreaming From The Waist, Magic Bus

Disc 2 (55:34):  Amazing Journey, Sparks, The Acid Queen, Fiddle About, Pinball Wizard, I’m Free, Tommy’s Holiday Camp, We’re Not Gonna Take It, Summertime Blues, My Generation (including Join Together), Won’t Get Fooled Again

The Who’s set at the Charlton Athletic Football Ground in London in 1976 was their second appearance there in three years.  During a long and rainy day which saw Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Little Feat, The Outlaws, Streetwalkers, and Widowmaker play, The Who put on an epic, blistering set before 80,000 (or 60,000 depending on the source) fans.  This show is also among the very last Who shows in the UK with Keith Moon (after this they would play shows on June 5th in Glasgow, June 12th in Swansea and December 15th, 1977 show at Kilburn in London for the film The Kids Are Alright). 

There was some violence and confusion at the venue due to forged tickets and gatecrashers.  Many with real tickets were not admitted and, for compensation, were given a free ticket to the Swansea show instead.  The Who’s set was delayed when a few in the crowd attempted to scale the lighting towers in the hope of gaining a better view.   

Charlton is well known in the machismo discussion of rock and roll prowess since they played using a 76,000 watt Tasco PA built for them which helped them to set record in the Guinness Book Of World Records as the loudest band in the world. The sound level fifty meters from the stage measured 120 dB and they would be surpassed in the eighties by Manowar. 

With such power the taper was able to produce a very good and clear recording of the event.  He sat about two thirds of the way across the pitch and to stage right.  On this recording the crowd nearby the taper can be heard clearly singing along and one guy obsessed with “Bellboy,” but don’t really detract from the music and the only serious cut is after “Magic Bus” cutting off the opening notes of “Amazing Journey.”

Pete Townshend runs on stage playing the opening notes to “I Can’t Explain” and the band run on stage after him.  According to eyewitnesses Roger Daltrey slips on the wet stage.  After “Substitute,” in a sarcastic tone Townshend says, “thank you for getting wet” and after a nasty version of “My Wife” he taunts the audience, saying “so you’re wet.” 

“Well you ain’t!” someone by the taper shouts.  Another song from Who’s Next “Baba O’Riley” follows and Townshend apologizes for no violin.  “Squeeze Box” is introduced as their latest single from Who By Numbers and gets the wild audience singing along with the chorus, something many audience had difficulty in doing. 

A ten minute version of “Magic Bus” filled with cutting jamming closes the first set and Keith Moon gets into a long introduction for the second half.  “Shut up!”  he shouts at Townshend.  “You’d think you’ve got some kind of vested interest. I’ve seen your vests, and they stink…underneath this I’m totally nude, Peter! I don’t need any of your great flowing poncey robes. I don’t need all your glittering sequins to be a star! I don’t need to jump in the air, flash what little crotch I’ve got.  And I must admit I’ve had no complaints.”

The Tommy section lasts for about a half hour of the total show time.  Townshend’s guitar in the transition between “Amazing Journey” and “Sparks” is among his best.  Moon does his “Uncle Ernie” bit in “Fiddle About” and “Tommy’s Holiday Camp.”  During the finale “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” when they hit “See Me Feel Me” the lights are dimmed and a notable light-show occurs.  With smoke coming out from behind the drums, there are approximately six lasers shooting through the smoke to the mirrors on the light towers around the entire stadium. 

Then a red tracer beam hits the first light and simply bounces off the other lights and returns towards the stage and when the song reaches its climax spotlights from behind Moon light up the sky.  The full force of 80,000 people clapping and singing along produces one of those amazing moments of magic that are beyond words.  The five minutes of “See Me Feel Me” along are worth it.  “Fuckin’ brilliant” someone by the taper says afterwards.

“Summertime Blues” sounds banal after that, but the long jam on “My Generation” is classic Who as they get into “Join Together” and a segway into the closing number of the night “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”  The opening chord, keyboard and laser show at the beginning again fire up the audience as they clap and sing along. 

It’s funny to hear them imitate Daltrey’s famous scream at the end of the song and even a crowd that size can’t diminish the power of Roger’s voice.  They stretch out the final crashing note and leave the stage.  “Thanks, good night” Daltrey says as they leave the stage. 

There are two minutes of the crowd chanting “we want the Who” afterwards and although they rarely did encores, they didn’t come back out.  An mc is audible at the very end of the tape thanking everybody for coming.  Given the rarity of this show, Charlton 1976 is a tremendous release, one of the best to come from the no label people. 

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  1. Between 1970 and present I witnessed about 700 concerts and saw almost everybody. This thrilling performance was the greatest thing I saw.
    I only recently heard this, and it lives up to my memory. Nobody, not the stones/zep or anyone else perfomed with such brutal grace

  2. I agree, this is a great release for Who fans. A nice raw audience source that picks up a good balance between the band and the enormous crowd. This is also very complimentary to the incomplete Swansea soundboard where Charlton 1976 is vitually complete.


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