John’s Birthday Party (Heart Breaker HB 810 1/2)
Alameda County Stadium, Oakland, CA – October 9th, 1976
Disc 1 (46:15): I Can’t Explain, Substitute, My Wife, Baba O’Riley, Squeeze Box, Behind Blue Eyes, Dreaming From The Waist, Magic Bus
Disc 2 (60:10): Amazing Journey, Sparks, Acid Queen, Fiddle About, Pinball Wizard, I’m Free, Tommy’s Holiday Camp, We’re Not Gonna Take It, See Me Feel Me, Summertime Blues, My Generation/Join Together, Won’t Get Fooled Again
The Who played two shows in Oakland in October 1976 as part of The Day On The Green series of concerts organized by the late Bill Graham. “Day On The Green #7 & 8″ was the final event in 1976 and featured the billing of The Who with The Grateful Dead on October 9th and October 10th. Beginning at 11 AM the sets were played in the daylight before fifty-thousand fans (at least).
The first of the two on October 9th coincided with John Entwistle’s thirty-second birthday. Oakland are among the very last Who concerts with Keith Moon on drums and many consider this to be the band’s live peak. A big deal is made about them playing with stalwarts of the San Francisco music scene The Grateful Dead and even the late comedian George Carlin was in attendance.
Heart Breaker is the only silver pressing of the show. They use a very good and clear audience tape made close to the the speakers. It is top-heavy and a bit thin sounding, but there is minimal audience noise and it captures the atmosphere of the event very well. There is a cut and repeat before “I’m Free” and a small cut 10:54 in the “My Generation” jam.
Bill Graham’s introduction wasn’t recorded. The tape starts off right when the band begin “I Can’t Explain.” It’s a bit sluggish but things warm up very fast. Roger Daltrey greets the crowd, saying “Howdy! This is a little bigger than Winterland. Let’s just call it a substitute.”
After “Substitute” Daltrey continues to enthuse about the size of the crowd and mentions some problems they’re having onstage. He introduces Entwistle, saying it’s his birthday and Keith Moon sings “Happy Birthday.” Daltrey lists the songs he’s written including “Boris The Spider” and “Uncle Ernie,” but “the most horrible is ‘My Wife.'”
The Who are in a jamming mood and interject the song with a long, heavy jam session in the latter half of the song. Another song from Who’s Next follows, “Baba O’Riley.” This version is notable for Daltrey (or Entwistle) harmonizing with Pete Townshend during the “don’t cry / don’t raise your eye / it’s only teenage wasteland” bridge.
The first half of the show ends with an eleven minute jam on “Magic Bus.” Townshend plays a long surrealistic jam in the middle, bending the song past comprehension.
Afterwards Keith Moon introduces the Tommy suite. He calls it “a project started several years ago and we’re still trying to finish” and the “definitive” version of the piece. Despite his claim, at this late date it’s merely a shadow of it old self. Clocking in at about a half hour, it’s more like the Tommy Cliffe notes than the real work emphasizing only the most well known songs.
Not that it is a bad thing. Playing the entire album in this setting would definitely test the patience of the audience. The narrative of the piece is lost, but the arrangement recalls the majesty of the piece and is a good piece of nostalgia.
Afterwards, they jam more on their rock songs. Townshend refers to “My Generation” as “a hymn… and a her.” The long piece contains a reference to “Join Together” in the middle before a return to a bluesy rearrangement of “My Generation” and a perfect segue (announced by Moon on tympani) into the final song of the show “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
John’s Birthday Party is packaged in a double slimline jewel case. The inserts are printed on only one side, leaving the other white. Heart Breakers did this also on their Toronto 1975 release for some reason. The second Oakland show was also released by Heart Breaker on Johnny B. Goode (Heart Breakers HB 946-1/2). The quality isn’t as good, but these two form a nice pair of titles documenting these important shows.