The Who – New York 1979 Finals (no label)

New York 1979 Finals (no label)

New York 1979 Finals presents the final two Who shows in New York in September 1979.  As such, it is a companion volume for New Jersey 1979 and New York 1979, completing the complete documentation of their first American shows with new drummer Kenny Jones.  And like the other two, these utilize the JEM masters which are the best available quality of these important shows and both of them make their silver pressed debut.

This period may have been unfairly neglected by collectors who insist the only authentic vision Who died in 1978 with the passing of Keith Moon.  This judgement of the band insists they are merely a great live act and entertainers.  It neglects the fact that Townshend, et al were artists whose creation transcends the members of the band and who use rock music and live performance as a vehicle for their message.  And like all good art, theirs transcends the individual members of the band and assumes a timeless quality.  Jones changed the dynamic of the music the but the band as an idea survived.

Charles Shaar Murray makes the cogent observation, in reviewing the Kampuchea concert several months later, that “The Who have been around for a bit, but their present audience is young(ish) and sharp(ish)….no sense of time warp descends as The Who slope on….The axis has shifted one way, though: Kenny Jones’ instrumental style allies itself more with Entwistle’s stolidity rather rather than Townshend mania, and John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick’s keyboards seem too obtrusive for comfort

“But the distinction between new and old Who seems more blurred than over: this ‘Oo exist purely in the present. It’s just that the present is in the past (am I going too slowly for you?)…Pete Townshend is a contemporary of The Rolling Stones; he’s also a contemporary of The Clash. He’s a contemporary of anyone who’s done anything good and worthwhile in rock and roll since 1965. It’s food for thought, mobsters – if you wanna be a hero, just follow him.”  (New Musical Express, January 5th, 1980).

Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – September 17th, 1979

Disc 1 (77:11):  Intro., Substitute, I Can’t Explain, Baba O’Riley, The Punk And The Godfather, Boris The Spider, My Wife, Sister Disco, Behind Blue Eyes, Music Must Change, Drowned, Who Are You, harmonica / drum / bass solo

Disc 2 (75:58):  My Generation, Magic Bus, Pinball Wizard, See Me Feel Me, 5:15, Long Live Rock, My Generation,  Shakin’ All Over, Please Don’t Touch, Sweets For My Sweet, Pretty Vacant, Cat’s In The Cupboard, Won’t Get Fooled Again, The Real Me, Sparks, Big Boss Man, Dance It Away

The September 17th show makes its debut on silver disc in this collection.  It is the more interesting of the series given the events in the middle and is also the longest.  The taper was relatively close to the stage and produced a very good recording.  There are several minor cuts between tracks and one in “Magic Bus” as 5:47.  Otherwise it has the complete concert.  

It begins with a very rowdy New York crowd who are loud enough to annoy Townshend.  After “Baba O’Riley” he yells at the audience, “fucking shut up!  I’m not fucking deaf.  This is called ‘Punk And The Godfather.’  You’re the punk.”  After “Boris The Spider” they add another Entwistle tune, “My Wife” played for the first time in this series.   

Townshend introduces the horn section after “Music Must Change,” and explains how they and the keyboards allow them to play more music from Quadrophrenia before they proceed to “Drowned.”  At the end of “Who Are You” Townshend cuts his hand and leaves the stage bleeding profusely. 

Roger initially says that they’ll take a five minute break but instead they stay onstage and jam for about eight minutes.  After a jam which featured 2 drum solos and Roger on Pete’s guitar, Roger decides to lead the audience in a “My Generation” sing-along.  “We’ve been singing all night.  Let’s here you sing some.  Let’s here you sing ‘My Generation.’  C’mon John, you know the key.” 

When they finish “My Generation” Daltrey says, “What else shall we sing?”  Jones and Entwistle then start the rhythm for “Magic Bus” and they play that for a while.  Townshend comes back onstage in the middle and the audience go nuts (you can hear people by the recorder shouting his name. 

“Magic Bus” segues right into the Tommy duo, “Pinball Wizard” and “See Me Feel Me.”  At the end Townshend jokes about his injury, saying they’re lucky for the Garden having “a good ice-hockey man.”

The “My Generation” blues leads them into “Shakin’ All Over” where Daltrey sings a few lines of “Please Don’t Touch” by Johnny Kidd And The Pirates (“Don’t you touch me baby ‘cos I’m shakin’ so much”).  Townshend leads them into the “Louie, Louie” riff before they get into “Sweets For My Sweet” by The Drifters. 

A surprising inclusion is “Pretty Vacant” the Sex Pistols with Townshend doing his best Johnny Rotton impersonation.  The medley and show ends with a rather sloppy “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”  The encores start with a great “The Real Me” and continue with one of their best instrumentals “Sparks.”  The “Dance It Away” rap closes the long evening.  “Thanks so much for hanging in on a difficult night,” Townshend says at the end.  At close to two and a half hours, this would be the longest Who show until they reformed in 1989.

Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – September 18th, 1979

Disc 1 (49:46):  Intro., Substitute, I Can’t Explain, Baba O’Riley, Punk And The Godfather, My Wife, Sister Disco, Behind Blue Eyes, Music Must Change, Drowned

Disc 2 (66:53):  Who Are You, 5:15, Pinball Wizard, See Me Feel Me, Long Live Rock, My Generation, Dreaming From The Waist, Magic Bus, I Am An Animal, Won’t Get Fooled Again, The Real Me, Shakin’ All Over, Roadrunner

The final night in the Garden is also the shortest of the five, clocking in a just under ninety minutes.  The recording is a very good to almost excellent audience recording which is arguable the best of the seven in this series with no cuts in the music.

It begins in a very quick pace with brisk versions of “Substitute,” “I Can’t Explain,” and “Baba O’Riley” with a very pretty Townshend guitar solo before the “teenage wasteland” section.  Entwistle’s “Boris The Spider” is dropped from the set on this night.  “Just deciding what to do, hold on” John tells the audience during a very short delay after “The Punk And The Godfather.”  Daltrey chimes in, “I just said to John that we’ll play whatever number you want to play as long as you’re the one who’s written it.  And John’s always like this with decisions.”  “Alright, we’re gonna do ‘My Wife'” Enwistle finally says. 

Each of the shows in the Garden featured it degree of chaos in the audience.  With people standing on their chairs in the floor section a fight breaks out during “My Wife.”  Pete notices it first and stops playing followed by the rest of the band.  Daltrey yells “Why don’t you fucking break it up” before going into the crowd to break it up.  He later asks a girl to get off her chair so those behind her could see.

The show lags a bit in the middle, but there is a tremendous version of “Who Are You” and after which Daltrey jokes, “We’re The Who.  And to prove it I got a badge that says so.”  “Love Live Rock” is given a punk treatment yet again. 

“This song don’t need no introduction, so I’m not gonna do one.  So there” is Daltrey’s petulant introduction to “My Generation” which starts off the final medley.  This leads into a delicate version of “Dreaming From The Waist” and a guitar and harmonica heavy version of “Magic Bus.”  A two and a half minute run-through of “I Am An Animal,” which would appear the following year on Townshend’s solo album Empty Glass leads into “Won’t Get Fooled Again” which is much tighter than the previous evening.

After the first encore “The Real Me” Townshend approaches the microphone and says, “If any of you were here last night you would have seen a very special sight.  Roger Daltrey playing the guitar while I was getting my hand fixed.  So I thought I’d buy him a little present.  COME ON, TOERAGS BRING THE FUCKING THING!!!”  After the roadies (noisily) wheel out the present they launch into “Shakin’ All Over” and the final song for New York, a wild and raucous version of “Roadrunner.” 

Like the other two titles, New York Finals 1979 is essential for every Who collector.  The no label people have been manufacturing sterling Who silver titles.  These four are perhaps the best 1979 titles to come out in a long time and hopefully they will continue with adventurous releases in the future. 

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