The Who – Closer To Queen Mary (Killing Floor KF 98003 / 4)

Closer To Queen Mary (Killing Floor KF 98003 / 4)

Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA – December 10th, 1971

Disc 1 (64:57):  I Can’t Explain, Substitute, Summertime Blues, My Wife, Baba O’Riley, Bargain, Behind Blue Eyes, Won’t Get Fooled Again, Baby Don’t You Do It

Disc 2 (60:22):  Magic Bus, Overture, Amazing Journey, Sparks, Pinball Wizard, See Me Feel Me, My Generation, Naked Eye

Touring for Who’s Next was a unique time for The Who.  Unlike the previous couple years, when they were performing live their rock opera Tommy, this was a time when they seemed more interested in cementing their live reputation rather than communication their artistic vision on a deep and meaningful level.  Gone were both “A Quick One While He’s Away” and the prolonged Tommy suite.  In were wild, raunchy live shows with the material from the latest album.

1971 ended with their second three week tour of the U.S., this time focusing upon the south and west coast starting on November 20th in Charlotte, North Carolina and ending on December 15th in SeattleMost popular is the December 10th Long Beach, California show.  

Seven songs, “I Can’t Explain,” “Baba O’Riley,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Baby Don’t Ya Do It,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “My Wife” and “Bargain,” were released on a single LP Closer To Queen Mary (TMOQ 71039) in 1972.  It was subsequently repressed several more times, all with the same title, on Closer To Queen Mary (K&S RECORDS 017), Closer To Queen Mary (Blockbuster TMQ71039), and Closer To Queen Mary (Box Top Records). 

Some titles paired the live show with demos from the Lifehouse project including Closer To Queen Mary / Genius Of Pete Townshend (TMOQ 7504), Closer To Queen Mary / Genius Of Pete Townshend (TMOQ). 

Killing Floor issued Closer To Queen Mary in 1998 and it remains the only silver pressed version of this popular show.  It is the first time the entire show has been made available and the sound quality, described as “poor” for the vinyl, is definitely good to very good on the compact discs.  It is a treble-leaning, top heavy recording but still is able to capture the energy and charm of the show.

One of the more famous concerts in The Who’s career, an eyewitness describes his experience of the show, claiming:  “I was at the concert at the Long Beach Civic auditorium on 10.12.1971. I almost didn’t make it in as my friends had tickets and I didn’t. I was contemplating my plight outside of the Auditorium when luckily I hooked up with a scalper who sold me a ‘bleeder’ ticket for a reasonable price.

“So there I was up in the rafters ready to take on my favorite band. Out came the Who (I don’t believe there was a warm-up band). Pete Townshend was wearing a silver jump suit and had a cherry SG strapped on. Daltrey was in blue jeans and a worn T-shirt. Moon literally did cartwheels the entire length of the stage to get to his drum set.

“John looked rock star and stoic. Townshend strummed a few raw distorted chords and the show began! The set opened with ‘I Can’t Explain,’ and from there the night ROCKED.  I do believe that’s the loudest concert I ever witnessed. It was SO loud … but it was so good. I will always treasure that night.”

“I Can’t Explain” and “Substitute” open the show.  Daltrey introduces the next song by saying that “we’d like to do a song now from somebody else’s past” before introducing Eddie Cochrane’s “Summertime Blues.”

The band are ferocious and the audience extremely roudy, and before “My Wife” Daltrey has to engge in crowd control.  “I’ll tell you one thing, up in the front, there is a lot of people getting crushed” he tells them before giving the audience specific instructions for moving back. 

“See what power rock and roll stars have” Townshend quips and then, in response to come comments, shouts:  “This is a fucking rock n roll concert, not a fucking tea party!” (This comment was later used to introduce the Thirty Years of Maximum R&B box set).

Their attempt at producing excellent rock and roll shows lead them into long jams on songs, introducing novel ideas into their jamming.  It’s this ethic which prompted LA Times critic Robert Hilburn to describe them as “the greatest show on earth” in his review of the December 8th show in San Diego.

Before “Won’t Get Fooled Again” Townshend rants about “west coast guitarists” who don’t “boogaloo” and proclaims himself “King.”  Unfortunately the tape is cut during the story.

Tommy is reduced to a five song medley in the latter half of the show, and the concert ends with “My Generation” and an abrasive version of “Naked Eye.”

Killing Floor package Closer To Queen Mary in a miniature replica of the old vinyl by issuing the discs in a single pocket cardboard sleeve with an insert pasted on the front cover.  It comes in various colors, manila, pink or blue cardboard slipcase with either a yellow or white paper insert / label on the back. The discs are lime green and greenish brown in color with the song titles either abbreviated or deliberately misspelled.

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