Wikipedia dubs Live at Leeds “the first live album by English rock band The Who,” hence rendering it amongst the initial wave of live albums, all time. It follows the Grateful Dead’s Live/Dead, in this regard, by one year, and Jefferson Airplane’s Bless its Pointed Little Head by the same span. For whatever reason, the Beatles never released any live albums, having conspicuously ceased touring for their whole career after about 1963 or so.
As far as The Who live albums go, Live at Leeds is solid but perhaps not the no-brainer favorite, with Young Vic Live, the de facto “album” which comprises the latter parts of the deluxe version of Who’s Next, making a strong case. For whatever reason, anyway, earlier, I had the strong impetus to choose my definitive The Who track, and their incarnation of “Summertime Blues” from Live at Leeds just seemed like the perfect rocker for that mission. It’s got an energy about it that’s like a self-deprecating reckless abandon signature to the band (sort of like Eminem’s self-immolating brilliance but a little more assimilated to society), all hashed around that simple, Apollonian chord progression that seems to exude that, even though this life stuff is giving me a bunch of lemons, I know this rock and roll thing inside and out and that’s what my costume will be for hacking through it.
Some other favorite tracks by The Who for me include “Baba O’ Riley”; “Won’t Get Fooled again” and “Behind Blue Eyes,” but these have pretty much all been ruined from being overplayed or, even worse, from Limp Bizkit covering them (and the cover becoming overplayed). The Who is a band perenially heralded by Eddie Vedder as one of his biggest musical influences, Vedder then being one musical contributor, among many, to the end results of Pearl Jam songs. Some solid early singles include “Magic Bus”; “The Seeker”; “Substitute” and “Pinball Wizard,” the last culling from the band’s perenially sovereign classic, Tommy (1969). All of these, though, are a little cutesy, and not as muscular, compared to “Summertime Blues.” “Who are You” is a great, expansive rocker laden fully with some whammy bar prowess, but it’s almost like it comes too late in their career, at 1978, to lord over the rest of their catalogue. Well, maybe I’m just prejudiced against growth, albeit growth that comes replete with a shnockered trip to the drunk tank and some fisticuffs with the air.
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