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The Who – San Diego 1976 Mike Millard Master Tapes (Wardour-452)

San Diego 1976 Mike Millard Master Tapes (Wardour-452) 

San Diego Sports Arena, San Diego, CA, USA – October 7, 1976 

Disc 1 (41:27) Intro, I Can’t Explain, Substitute, My Wife, Baba O’Riley, Squeeze Box, Behind Blue Eyes, Dreaming From The Waist, Magic Bus 

Disc 2 (58:23) MC, Amazing Journey, Sparks, The 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 / My Generation Blues, Won’t Get Fooled Again 

The last leg of the tour supporting The Who By Numbers LP consisted of nine dates on the West Coast of Northwest America and Canada. The band played several stadium dates during 1976, the final two were for Bill Graham at the Alameda County Stadium in Oakland, California. These were afternoon concerts that found The Who sharing the bill with Bay Area’s finest, the Grateful Dead. The short tours’ only other concert in California was just prior to these concerts at the Sports Arena in San Diego, the subject of Volume 60 of The Lost and Found Mike the MICrophone Tapes and this release from Wardour. First a word from our sponsor: 

The Who, Sports Arena, San Diego, CA, October 7, 1976

The Who was also one of Millard’s favorite bands and he taped them on several occasions starting in 1973 (his very first recording) and through the band’s 1989 Tommy tour. That body of work includes this recording of the band’s performance in San Diego, the second stop on a nine-show final leg of the 1976 tour that would prove to be Keith Moon’s last. 

Who setlists in 1976 were heavy on Tommy material thanks to the success of the Tommy film, rounded out by several greatest hits selections and a couple of songs (“Squeeze Box” and “Dreaming From The Waist”) from the band’s current album, The Who By Numbers. The result was a satisfying if predictable show and that’s a good description of the San Diego performance. Virtually any Who show with Keith Moon has merit and while the band moved rather quickly through the set, the versions of the songs themselves are strong throughout.

Millard arrived late to the show and missed the first two songs (“I Can’t Explain” and “Substitute”), plus the top of Entwistle’s showcase, “My Wife.” As luck would have it, another master tape of the San Diego show recently surfaced on TTD and we’ve included the two missing songs and a patch from the third to complete the performance. 

Mike himself rated his Who ’76 recording “Poor,” and like other tapes given similar grades the reason is that he was too close to the stage (Row B) and wasn’t picking up the Who’s extremely loud PA. The result is an unbalanced sound that gets a lot of Entwistle’s bass amp and/or monitor and other on-stage sounds like Daltrey’s tambourine, but not a lot of Townshend’s guitar, Roger’s vocals and Moon’s drums. Through mastering I’ve been able to restore more of those elements to the mix, though not as fully as desired. That being said, Millard’s pull is far from a poor recording and better than many ’76 tapes I’ve heard including the alternate source we’ve borrowed from. Because Millard is capturing sound straight from the stage, you’ll hear a lot of interesting details lost on other recordings. And if you’re the kind of person who frequently utters the phrase, “Entwistle’s really good, man,” you’re in luck because Mike’s tape documents The Ox’s virtuosic playing brilliantly. Samples provided. 

Here’s what Jim R recalled about The Who in San Diego 1976: 

Mike and I attended The Who concert on October 7, 1976. Unfortunately, it was at the San Diego Sports Arena known for its crappy sound. As usual, Mike drove us from OrangeCounty down to San Diego.

This was a highly anticipated concert. It was our first time to “see them right,” namely with the Nak 550 and good seats. Their previous local arena show was on the Quadrophenia Tour in November 1973. We both attended that night but did not know each other yet. We did see them several months prior to San Diego at Anaheim Stadium in March 1976. Mike didn’t record because the show was general admission and he couldn’t guaranty his taping location. 

The San Diego date was the only local arena show on the ’76 tour, the last to feature the “Classic Lineup” with Keith Moon. I can’t recall why the first couple songs were missed, more than likely we had trouble getting the equipment in. The band was in fine form and Keith Moon was quite talkative throughout. He is a maniac on drums and John Entwistle is a lead guitarist who happened to be holding a bass. I hope you enjoy the show. 

To my knowledge this is the only concert to date where JEMS used a secondary source to provide a complete concert for the The Lost and Found Mike the MICrophone Tapes. There are several recordings that are incomplete and typically are presented as they are, this volume was done to commemorate the passing of JEMS’ Jared Houser and one could also assume they had the secondary source at their fingertips. 

As stated in the notes, Mike’s recording is incomplete missing the opening two songs I Can’t Explain and Substitute and the first 15 seconds of My Wife. The alternate source used to fill the gap is a very good quality audience recording. It is slightly distant and muddy and distorted yet clear enough to discern the individual instruments and vocals, has noticeable hall echo and tape hiss, its balance is perfect and is a fine complimentary source. Millard’s recording, as noted above, is very good, clear and detailed with its main issue being the balance. Recorded very close to the stage on John Entwistle’s side he is the main instrument in the mix followed by guitar, vocals and finally drums. While I have not heard the un-doctored recording, the sonic restoration performed by JEMS certainly brings out the best of this show and while not perfect, is a very listenable document. 

The set list for the By Numbers tour found very little deviation and would be consistent with what was played during their 1975 and 1976 concerts with the only diversity being during the encores. The first source provides a gauge of the atmosphere in the Sports Arena, it’s electric! The lights are down the band explode onstage with I Can’t Explain, Townsend plays frantic leads and the whole sounds quite muscular. The band are in fine shape, Moon’s fills during Substitute are spot on, the first recording actually clears a bit after the first minute of the song. Roger greats the audience…”Hello San Diego…it’s been a long time…almost too long”. The transition from the first source to the Millard source during My Wife is abrupt, there is no crossfade which is fine, this is after all a Millard recording. It does take Mike about half the song to get his gear rolling and leveled the way he liked. There was certainly some shenanigans about as just prior to Baba O’Riley Daltrey tells the audience “hey cool it down the front here” and based upon comments near Mike, “Oooh Shit”, it was a typically rowdy Who audience. 

There are only two songs from the By Numbers record in the set, the first being Squeeze Box, with The Ox’s bass being in the forefront, it is interesting to hear his playing on this song, his signature fills more lead than rhythm. Keith Moon introduces Behind Blue Eyes and there is commotion near Mike, thankfully there is a reprise during the mellow beginning of the song. Just before the heavy part you can hear an M-80 explode in the back, a bit of West Coast ambiance. Dreaming From The Waist is the second song from By Numbers and is the stronger of the two played. Clocking in at over nine minutes Magic Bus is a nice mellow jam with all four “Oo’s getting involved with Daltrey playing the harmonica as a lead instrument. 

As usually Keith introduces the Tommy segment, the medley is a crowd favorite and its inclusion is well received and played yet certainly used to promote the feature film released the previous year. It is very dynamic with arguably some of the strongest elements of opera, Sparks is excellent, Entwistle’s bass is thundering and Moon’s drumming is superlative. The ending of We’re Not Gonna Take It into See Me, Feel Me is dramatic and the audience respond with a huge ovation as Roger sings the first line and an even louder one after the rousing ending seemingly shakes the foundations of the Sports Arena. After a rousing version of Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues and 12 minute version of My Generation that features a jam on Join Together and a blues rendition of My Generation, the band end the concert proper with Won’t Get Fooled Again. The alternate recording is used for the first 1:26, despite the screams and chants for more, there would be no encore as generic music is played over the PA system. 

Robert Hillburn of the L.A. Times commented in his review of the concert:

“No One plays with as much ferocity and splendor on a good night as The Who, and The Who had a good night Thursday. The Who’s repertoire continues to reflect the youthful urgency and passion that has long been at the heart of Rock and Roll.” 

The packaging features official graphics and live shots, Wardour did not use the Jim R photographs, unfortunate yet understandable as the photos he took included with the original torrent were used on the torrent artwork. It’s a shame as Jim captured incredible photos of the band in full flight. Based upon his photos and the ones used for this set, they are all wearing the same clothes but I do not know if they are from the actual concert. Pics on the discs, numbered sticker you know the drill. The recording will keep the casual fans at bay but for Millard enthusiasts and Who fans, this is a nice title to consider. 

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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