#565: The Who – I Can’t Reach You

Just when one Who song has been done, another comes quickly around the corner. ‘I Can’t Reach You’ comes right after ‘I Can See for Miles’ on The Who Sell Out, and as I type this I’m slowly realising the contrast between the two. The latter expresses a narrator’s confidence in their ability to see all things, whereas the former witnesses one who’s trying their hardest to gain any sort of communication with a particular entity they want to get close to. Also, ‘I Can’t Reach You’ is one the daintiest compositions on the whole album which is a sudden change coming after the chaos of the preceding song. Clearly a lot of thought was put into the order of the tracklist. I’ve listened to this album for about seven years now and that’s just crept on me.

There’s a child-like innocence I sense when listening to this song, possibly aided by the foregrounded light piano that leads the melody and the fact that Pete Townshend sings here. At this point Roger Daltrey hadn’t fully developed his trademark howling vocals of the 70s so there’s not a large difference between the two’s vocal abilities on the album, but Townshend’s higher register lends this particular song a softer and vulnerable touch.

The song is the first on the album to use lyrics/music that would then be appear on the following album Tommy through the ‘see, feel, hear’ section of the chorus. ‘Sunrise’ does it. ‘Rael 1’ does it. ‘Glow Girl’ does it too, if you own the 1995 release. Other small, small things to look out for when listening is John Entwistle’s heavenly harmony vocal during the chorus, Keith Moon’s yet again going crazy on the drums – so much so that he lets out a scream before a drum roll around 2:32 – and the sneaky key change that occurs during the instrumental break which you won’t realise would have happened until Townshend brings in the final chorus. It’s all nicely tied together. One of my favourites on the album.

My iPod #563: The Who – I Can See for Miles

Another old one. ‘I Can See for Miles’ is the seventh track and single from The Who Sell Out – the band’s third album overall – released in late 1967. I’m in that group, figuratively speaking, that rates the album as one of their best. Well, a lot of people would say that too. But I think it’s miles better than Tommy. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. All four members have more or less equal vocal duties on here and sound like they’re having a good time on every song (all 23 of them if you own the 1995 remaster/remixed edition). Plus this was the apex of The Who’s power-pop phase before they became the hard rock staple from the 70s onwards. Every song is just very entertaining.

The song concerns a narrator who, in basic terms, does not like to be taken for a fool and is number one when it comes to being observant but this is exaggerated to make it seem as if they are an all-seeing entity that can see far beyond any boundary. ‘I Can See for Miles’ is meant to sound massive. Pete Townshend described it as “the raunchiest, loudest, most ridiculous rock and roll record you’ve ever heard”. In some ways, the performance lives up to its description. I’m sure there are at least two drum takes by the manic Keith Moon on here, with drum rolls and various cymbal crashes overdubbed for full effect. It contains a memorable chorus characterised by rising vocal harmonies. There’s a guitar solo that consists of only one note. And there’s a key change for the last verse and chorus. You’d think it had everything to make it a great hit.

Apparently not. It peaked at ten in both the British and American singles charts in its day. Some would be thrilled about that, but Townshend was not too particularly happy. Despite how well (or not so) it did commercially, one can’t deny its audacity and ferocity. It also influenced Paul McCartney to write ‘Helter Skelter’ which is not so bad.

Below is a clearly mimed performance the band did for French TV in 1968.

My iPod #435: The Who – Glow Girl

“Glow Girl” closes out the 1995 reissue of “The Who Sell Out, The Who’s third album which was originally released in 1967. The song was recorded during 1968, and was planned to be on an album entitled “Who’s for Tennis?” which obviously never came to be. It captures the band at their most poppy phase with jangly guitars and sweet vocal harmonies that last throughout the song, but still manages to contain that rock edge via the swaggering basslines and erratic drum fills.

Despite the light and heartwarming tone the song details the scene where people are getting on a flight which unfortunately crashes shortly after taking off. But after an instrumental break of guitar string scrapes the song comes to the pleasant conclusion in which the “glow girl” is born. To a “Mrs. Walker”, funnily enough. That caught me by surprise when I listened to it for the first time too. Does that mean Pete Townshend just stole bits from this track and “Rael 1” and inserted them into “Tommy”, or did he have that music planned all along? Who knows.

The thing I know is, after more than an hour or so of great music and a few mock adverts, “Glow Girl” with its pleasant overtones and silly mock-Sgt.Pepper locked groove is the perfect way to cap off the “Who Sell Out” listening experience.

My iPod #426: The Who – Girl’s Eyes

“Girl’s Eyes” is a song recorded during the making of The Who’s third album The Who Sell Out, which went on to be released in 1967. The song did not make it onto the original album’s tracklist. Though it did appear in the extended tracklisting when the album was remastered and remixed years later in 1995. The track is one of the very few Who songs to be written by the ever-eccentric Keith Moon. He couldn’t sing very well, but you’re still able to hear him take lead vocals in the right channel with bassist John Entwistle singing along with him in the left.

After a false start in which someone blows over the top of an open bottle and Moon hurriedly says “Hello” to the listener (maybe to test the microphone or something), the track eventually gets going and is driven by a delightful piano and acoustic guitars, but Moon and Entwistle do their business on their respective instruments too. The track concerns a fangirl who Moon sees at every show the band perform at, but he clearly doesn’t care about her as much as she about them. He wonders if he could have the audacity of hurting this girl if they were ever to meet, though whether this actually happens is not revealed as the lyrics pretty much end there. I also think that Moon couldn’t think of a true ending to the song’s music, as the band improvise an ending where each member eventually gives up playing after a few reiterations of the song’s chord progression.

This song’s a-okay. Moon was always meant for the drums, of course, but this track shows that he could actually write a good tune as well too.

My iPod #307: The Who – Early Morning Cold Taxi

Today’s track is “Early Morning Cold Taxi” by The Who, one that wasn’t released on an album when the band were making music in their heyday. I heard the song when listening to the 1995 Remixed and Remastered version of “The Who Sell Out“, the band’s third album released in 1967.

What the song title actually means is beyond me. I never really think about it that much. Maybe the phrase just fit the melody of the song or whatever. “Cold Taxi” wasn’t written by Pete Townshend, who obviously wrote pretty much everything The Who did, but instead a guy named Dave Langston who was the band’s first roadie. The song is actually credited to both him and lead singer Roger Daltrey, but Daltrey didn’t actually do much. He didn’t write any of it at all really.

But this isn’t a bad thing. “Cold Taxi” is a nice poppy number with, what I think are vocals done by both Daltrey and bassist John Entwistle, the former being in the right side of the ‘stereo field’ (that is how it’s described, right) and the latter on the left. Got great vocal harmonies and a sweet melody, an innocent little ‘ooooh’ bridge section and a few key changes here and there. It’s a nice song.

The song is about three minutes long, and ‘cos of the whole radio concept the album’s supposed to have it is followed by a thirty second Coke jingle that the band actually recorded for the company all those years ago. It does take the momentum out of the track, but it is a rocking advertisement for a drink.

My iPod #51: The Who – Armenia City in the Sky

Hola todo el mundo. Como estás?

Muy bien.

I made another post about The Who a few days ago, so have a look at it if you want.

In that post I mentioned that Summer 2010 was when I began to listen to The Who, and recognised them for the ball of talent that they were back in the day.

However, I had only listened to a few songs by them. In order to get a sense of what their music was about, I would have to listen to one of their albums.

But which one? Where do I start?

Now, I knew that their ‘magnum opus’ was considered to be their album ‘Who’s Next‘. It contains two of their most well known songs, and it is the one where each member had reached their peak at their positions. Together, there was no stopping them.

For me, there was something that prevented me from listening to it. I don’t why. I think it’s just because I had only heard of those two songs, and if people only liked the album for them then what was the point?

So what better way to start my Who experience…. than with their 1967 release, ‘The Who Sell Out‘? Seeing its article on Wikipedia, I saw the praise that it received (full marks by the ones listed), the whole radio concept thing amused me, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to listen to it.

It’s probably their most under-appreciated album. It is their only release where a majority of songs are not written by Pete Townshend and not only sung by Roger Daltrey. Everybody gets to sing, I have the 1995 remastered version which features ‘Jaguar’ with lead vocals by Keith, and ‘Girl’s Eyes’ which is written by him and sung with John Entwistle. It’s really one of my favourite albums.

“DUUUUUH-DUH Monday……..” is the first thing you hear when listening to ‘Armenia City in the Sky’, the first song of the album. The Who Sell Out incorporates radio adverts that were transmitted on a rogue radio station, ‘Radio London’, which would normally be broadcast from a boat in the middle of an ocean. This ‘Days of the Week’ interlude carries on until Sunday, which is when a weird backwards guitar fades in, and boom. The actual song begins.

Another unusual thing about the song is that it’s not actually written by any members of the band. In fact Pete’s chauffeur, Mr John Keen, wrote the song and is also singing it along with Roger Daltrey. Although it’s hard to make it out, seeing as there is this weird pitch shifting effect that is used on the vocals. Maybe they didn’t want people to know that someone who wasn’t in the band was singing.

Listening to it with headphones is another weird experience. You basically have Keith and John playing the rhythm section in the left channel, whilst there are these backwards trumpets and hazey backwards guitars playing in the other. That along with the lyrics, for example:

‘The sky is glass, the sea is brown, and everyone is upside down,’

makes this song one of the trippiest from the album.

I guess as it was 1967, this was supposed to a spoof of the psychedelic material that was coming out, only because this is the only song on the album that uses that sort of drugged-up-on-LSD sound. The others are solid songs that don’t try to sound like it at all.

The solo is backwards too, so that screeching bird-call in the middle is still a guitar. After two repetitions of the title, the band maintain the pace and rhythm, a weird insect-sounding voices says ‘Freak out, freak out’ and the song ends with an explosion that echoes into the next radio transmission.

All in all, it’s a perfect start to a perfect album.

This is how the backwards sounds in the song sound originally.

Until next time.

Jamie.