The Who – MSG 1974 (Bell Boy NY.11674A/B)

MSG 1974 (Bell Boy NY.11674A/B)

Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – June 11th, 1974

Disc 1 (73:47):  Intro., I Can’t Explain, Summertime Blues, Young Man Blues, Baba O’Riley, Substitute, 5.15, Behind Blue Eyes, Tattoo, Boris The Spider, Bell Boy, Doctor Jimmy, Won’t Get Fooled Again, Pinball Wizard, See Me Feel Me

Disc 2 (31:28):  mc, My Generation / My Generation Blues, The Punk And The Godfather, Drowned

With the band committed to the filming of Tommy throughout 1974, The Who released the compilation LP Odds & Sods and were limited to playing a mere fourteen concerts.  Most visible was the London show at Charlton Athletic Football Grounds, but the last four (and the only US shows) were in the middle of June at Madison Square Garden in New York. 

The four shows, on June 10th, June 11th, June 13th and June 14th are considered to be a legendary run of shows in the band’s live career.  The band were rusty and Pete Townshend was drinking heavily (and living in a different hotel than the rest of the band), but each concert was better and better.

Each of the four nights were taped from the audience, but surprisingly have scarcely been released.  The opening night is available on CDR on After The Ground (Midnight Dreamer MD-156A/B). 

MSG 1974 on Bell Boy documents the second night of the set on Tuesday, June 11th.  Utilizing a tape by Jerry Moore and recently posted online, it is very good and clear with a good live sound.  It is very top heavy, however, favoring the higher frequencies and at times the drums and bass sound very thin.  (Enhancement of the bass would propel this into the truly amazing category).  This is really a minor concern for such a great sounding recording. 

The last time The Who toured in 1973 they were promoting Quadrophenia, their latest rock opera.  As such the setlist centered around a generous slice of numbers from the piece.  The shows in 1974 were much more diverse with an emphasis in the early part of the show on their late sixties show.

“Young Man Blues” is an excellent workout, but “Baba O’Riley” is tentative and riddled with mistakes.  “We’re all wasted” a self-conscious Townshend jokes afterwards.  

But things definitely improve with a very good “Substitute.”  Daltrey calls it “a very oldie… I think from about 1966” and complains, saying “we’d like to carry on with a number we recorded last year on an album called Quadrophenia.  Some stupid record company released it as a single and it did nothing” while introducing “5.15.”  It was played as the final song on the first night, but is performed much earlier in the set.

Keith Moon gives a long introduction to “Behind Blue Eyes,” telling the audience “New York?  I was born here!”  After shouts of “bullshit” from the crowd Moon continues by saying, “if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.”  And Townshend dedicates “Tattoo” to “everyone in the audience who had tattooed ‘The Who’ somewhere on their body.  In other words, these two pricks down here…”

Two more Quadrophenia numbers, “Bell Boy” with Moonie having much fun and “Dr. Jimmy,” follow.  Daltrey misses a cue in the latter almost ruining the song, but the band catch on early and they continue without any problems. 

A long “My Generation” closes the set with a reference to its blues arrangement and blazing off the skull improvisations from Townshend. 

The audience are given an encore, a rare treat for a Who concert.  “What can we play?” Daltrey asks when they come back onstage.  They pull out two more Quadrophenia tunes, the brilliant “The Punk And The Godfather” and “Drowned.”  Neither were played the previous night and both would be incorporated into the main set for the next two New York shows.

MSG 1974 contains a long quote from journalist Chris Charlesworth about the New York shows, stating specifically that the band never quite jelled.  These may not be the greatest concerts The Who ever did, they are certainly full of energy and excitement and are worth having.  It would be great to see the other New York shows pressed onto silver disc.   

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