The Who – L.A. Forum 1973 2nd Night Mike Millard Master Tapes (Wardour-493)

L.A. Forum 1973 2nd Night Mike Millard Master Tapes (Wardour-493)

The Forum, Inglewood, CA, USA – November 23, 1973

Disc 1 (65:26) Pre-Show, Intro, I Can’t Explain, Summertime Blues, My Wife, My Generation, I Am The Sea, The Real Me, The Punk And The Godfather, I’m One, Helpless Dancer, 5:15, Sea And Sand, Drowned

Disc 2 (73:02) MC, Bell Boy, Doctor Jimmy, Love Reign O’er Me, Won’t Get Fooled Again, Pinball Wizard, See Me Feel Me, My Generation, Let’s See Action, Magic Bus, Naked Eye

For the past year and a half I have been actively following the weekly installments of “The Lost and Found Mike the MICrophone Tapes” presented by the JEMS collective. As most know by now, they are actively releasing recordings made by Mike Millard from known lineage tapes, some coming directly from the master tapes. This series has been going on for some time, but has really picked up steam with the discovery of a stash of Mike’s actual master tapes but in all reality, the series has been releasing music to the masses from some seven years ago. There was anticipation as to what recording would be the “centennial” release, for the history of this recording and background information I am again referring to the liner notes of this historical installment, and recording.

“To celebrate this milestone, we have selected Mike’s very first recording as our 100th release: The Who playing the second of two shows at The Forum on the Quadrophenia tour.

Jim thinks Mike may have attempted or tested concert recording even earlier, but this Who show is tape number one on his list and likely his first successful attempt at recording a complete concert. As you’ll see in Jim’s notes, Mike was pretty hard on his early work, and like the Moody Blues last week, The Who ’73 may not be the sonic marvel so many of his later recordings are (have you heard Edgar Winter Vol. 94 yet? Damn.), but is a gem in its own right. Judged by the standard of most 1973 audience tapes, especially of The Who and their deafening PA, Millard’s capture is highly listenable, albeit with a few caveats.

Mike talks frequently throughout the recording, not yet learning as all tapers do the importance of staying quiet when you are the closest person to the microphone. He recorded the first 80 mins of the show on a TDK D-180 cassette (as I did myself the first time I tried to tape a show), the rest on a D-90. D-180 tape is as thin as it gets and after 48 years, it took some effort to get the tape to play through properly and even then there were considerable pitch issues. Professor Goody spent considerable time addressing those and getting the pitch of the recording to an acceptable place. He has been a stalwart partner in the Lost and Found series and this one really needed his expertise.

Mike’s masters also had a lot of dropouts, starting at the end of the first tape and occurring more frequently across the second tape. Many are short, less than a second, but there were some much longer gaps of several seconds. Upon close examination, we recognized that the dropouts were not silent; the audio was still there, only -25-35db lower than the surrounding material. Rather than leave these in as cuts or silence them, we have attempted to restore the missing parts by amplifying the low signal.

That sounds simple, but doing so creates a massive increase in noise and hiss which then require more fixes and corrections. You will notice every one of the dropouts, but you will also hear the music that was previously lost through the fuzz. That compromise to preserve as much music as possible, even if it sounds crappy, felt like the right one for this recording. In its best moments, which include nearly all of the first 80 minutes and long stretches of the final 70 minutes when it isn’t dropping out, Mike’s recording is good. There is mild distortion which was unavoidable given the gear he was using and the volume of the concert, but the music comes through. The fidelity of the tape is on the narrow side, but Entwhistle’s bass is there as is Keith Moon’s ever-ringing cymbal once you tune your “bootleg ears” to the sound. Samples provided.

And what a show it is. The Quadrophenia tour setlist is outstanding, featuring what is ostensibly a full performance of the album (free of any backing-tape playback issues this night as sometimes occurred in 1973), plus slices from Tommy, Who’s Next (though curiously not “Baba O’Riley”), a long, jammy “Magic Bus,” the rareish “Let’s See Action” and “Naked Eye,” and two romps through “My Generation.” Online setlists for this show have “Baby Don’t You Do It” as the final song of the set, but it seems pretty clear from Mike’s recording that the show ends with “Naked Eye,” as his tape keeps rolling for a few minutes and we clearly hear lights-on, go-home music playing.

Just before he shuts down the deck, the recording captures this exchange between Mike and a nearby fan:

Fan: “Did you get it all on tape?”
Mike: “Want my number?”
Fan: “What?”
Mike: “My number is 528-8308, 528-8308, 528-8308”

That’s the same phone number Jim’s mother wrote down in a phone message when Mike called after meeting Jim at a Yes show four months later. We hear one more comment from Mike before the recording runs out:
“I think we’re done now. I’m turning off the power. Don’t tell anybody.”

Here’s what Jim R recalled about The Who at The Forum, November 1973:

Volume 100. We finally made it. A special show has been set aside for this week: The Who at The Forum, Friday, Nov 23, 1973, Mike’s first recording. Mike often referred to this tape as “The Dark Ages,” but there is no getting around its historic significance. It was the start of an era and, to borrow a baseball analogy, victory number one for a future 300 win pitcher.

Allow me to set the scene.

On the Quadrophenia Tour, The Who played The Forum on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, November 22, and Friday, November 23. Mike and I separately attended the same show on Friday, the day after Turkey Day. Living at home, my mom would not approve of us going to a concert on Thanksgiving, a family event. So the Friday show was my only choice. We did not know each other yet. That would come at a Yes show in early 1974. I have come to learn Mike attended the first night, which was meant to be his debut recording, but he had technical issues with his recorder. It was at that show that he met Barry G, who would become another member of Mike’s inner circle for a time. Millard also shot photos that first night, two of which are featured on the included artwork.

The Who’s label mates Lynyrd Skynyrd opened the concerts. Their debut album featuring “Freebird” had come out a few months earlier so that was an added bonus in hindsight. At the time I did wonder: Who are these guys and what’s with four guitarists? The Quadrophenia Tour was extremely popular and there was super high ticket demand. With only two SoCal dates, The Who surely could have sold out additional Forum concerts. But at the time, two nights in an arena was the de facto maximum for major acts like Jethro Tull, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. Over the next couple of years, that would expand to multi-night stands, with the Stones, Zeppelin, Tull and Pink Floyd all playing longer runs in LA in 1975. That same year, Elton John took it to the next level by moving up from arenas to playing Dodger Stadium.

Even at the time, I knew we were witnessing a special show and it was privilege to be there. The Who had reached superstar status. The previous tour behind Who’s Next was their breakout. I remember talking to someone who attended the Long Beach December 1971 show and how blown away he was. It took almost two years for them to return, a long time in that era of concert touring. Pete Townshend had already built a reputation as someone who smashed up guitars and amps, and on this night he didn’t disappoint. Of course Keith Moon was not far behind in obliterating his drum set. Then you have Roger Daltery swinging his microphone around with maybe 20-feet of cable. The Who performed with an edge. High energy. Explosive. Dynamic. With great songs to boot.

As far as the recording, you’ll notice Mike is talking quite a bit, having not quite figured out proper tapers decorum. Because you can hear so much of his voice, Mike referred to his first recording as “amateur hour.” In fact, it is the only tape on his list rated “Bad,” which presumably places it lower than “Poor,” a rating given to a handful of other tapes. But we have already established that Mike was his own worst critic. The Who show is quite listenable, and hearing Millard on his own recording 48 years later now feels like an historic artifact. “Mike The Mike” Show No. 1. History in the making. It was my honor to pen this. Cheers to my buddy Michael G. Millard.”

So there you have it, the history of one of Mike’s earliest recordings. As described in the notes Mike begins recording well before the show and you can hear a conversation, assuming that’s Mr. Millard. A quick pause and we are treated to the stage introduction and the band reading themselves. Even from the beginning of I Can’t Explain you realize this recording falls easily into the good category and is very listenable and enjoyable. The vocals, guitar and bass are clear in the mix with Moon’s drums low in the mix, the drums become more audible as the recording goes on. It sounds like Mike was a bit farther back from his “sweet spot” so often described in “The Lost and Found Mike the MICrophone Tapes” which means the sound is better balanced and you get a bit more audience, the audience are primed and ready for The Who, there reaction between songs is loud and gives a great idea of the energy being generated by the performance. Summertime Blues follows and raises the energy level, the band are happy to be back in Los Angeles.

The oldies section continues with a bass centric My Wife, Entwistle’s bass is nice and clear, his unique tone fights for lead instrument against Townshend’s Les Paul and we are the clear winners. The song is a bit loose and they jam just a bit, My Generation also features a bit of improvised jamming, the band are starting loose to get warmed up before they get in the click track and backing tapes that are used to keep them in time during the Quadrophenia section. The crowd cheer as the pre-recorded tapes are played signaling the new music, the band launch into a furious version of The Real Me, Moon has completely removed the cobwebs of the Cow Palace show a few days prior, The Punk And The Godfather follows on its heels and is as energetic making for an extremely strong beginning to Quadrophenia.

Pete gives an introduction to I’m One, if Quadrophenia had one drawback, American audiences didn’t seem to fully understand the English story line, hence the introductions, simply spoken tell the story of youth angst. The backing tapes can be clearly heard during Helpless Dancer and the band sound in sync with them quite well. Keith does some superb drumming during 5:15, the band sound rather subdued during the performance, Moon interjects some power to the song, the latter tempo change is in contrast to the power of the first part. The introduction to Sea And Sand finds the audience a bit impatient during the quiet parts, a bit chatty but the band play a great version of the song, the power of Entwistle’s playing comes through.

Roger’s doing an introduction to Drowned, Mike can be heard saying “what’d he say” in a moment of pure hilarity. I am sure when he listened back to this recording he understood the importance of keeping quiet. The audience give Moon a huge ovation when he is introduced as part of the introduction to Bell Boy. He sounds great vocally and he gives the concert back a bit of energy, something that has been diminished with the Quadrophenia section. Much of Love Reign O’er Me is lost, only the last 1:50 remain certainly due to a tape flip. The songs conclusion brings an end to the Quadrophenia section and was certainly one of the highlights of the set. Keith’s introduction to Won’t Get Fooled Again brings the house down, the audience is back and ready to go. The song has some dropout issues which are easy to hear, I am in total agreement with leaving them in, while not sonically pleasant, to remove them would have left awkward cuts, you hear them at 3:15 to 3:21.

It’s obvious the audience loves the hits, Pinball Wizard keep the energy flowing, the high drama of See Me, Feel Me brings the house down, the crowd claps and sings along, they bring this energy to My Generation, free of the click tracks and backing tapes, the band improvise at will, the result is a dynamic and bombastic version of Rhythm and Blues. Let’s See Action is a curiosity to these North American audiences, the song was released as a single between Won’t Get fooled Again and Baba O’Riley and was not released in the US. A quick one that is almost a teaser for the well received Magic Bus. The wooden stick percussion instrument comes clear in the mix, the throbbing bass acts as time keeper and Pete just riffs along, Roger adds some nice harmonica and vocal improvisation comes from the band. There are several drop outs in the second half of the song, they are well handled, the mastering giving the listener the best chance from a sound and listening perspective. The concert ends with a 9 minute version of Naked Eye, the 19,000 strong gives the band a massive ovation, and as eluded to in the notes, Mike lets his recording machine run for a couple of minutes after the show, you can hear music being played over the P.A system as the crowd still applaud.

The packaging features inserts covered with photos of the previous nights performance, The Who played two nights at the forum, Millard successfully recorded the second night. Sadly, Wardour did not try to use any photos included with the original torrent, it should be noted that these photos were part of artwork and not by themselves. Still the rear cover featured an actual photo taken by Mike, would have been a great inclusion. Nonetheless, the artwork is very nice and is, of course, housed in a slim lined jewel case. This release is a historical document for Millard enthusiasts as well as a great performance by The Who.

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