The Who: Live At Leeds (1970)

One of the greatest, loudest live albums of its era, not to mention one of the most creatively packaged.

Kronomyth 5.0: Live, out loud.

The Who were the smartest rock & roll band in the world. That was the subtext of Tommy. Live At Leeds had a different purpose: to establish that The Who were also the loudest. Recorded at the University of Leeds on Valentine’s Day, the original concert was a chatty affair, an evening with the auteur (Pete Townshend) and his jester (Keith Moon). The setlist was surprising, including quite a few old R&B chestnuts. The concert also featured little of Tommy, but found time for a full staging of “A Quick One, While He’s Away.” Subsequent reissues of Live At Leeds presented the full concert, which gives a very different impression than the original, edited elpee version: a forty-minute blitzkrieg of maximum rock and roll that stood as one of the loudest, heaviest concerts on record.

When The Who knocked Deep Purple out of the Guinness Book of World Records in the mid seventies for the title of the loudest band on earth, it affirmed what the listeners of Live At Leeds already knew. The original elpee was also one of the most creatively packaged live albums, being presented in a folder cover with no less than a dozen separate inserts including various letters and concert receipts. At first glance, the album seemed silas stingy; I imagine Lou Reed fans felt the same when they first viewed the track listing of Rock n Roll Animal.

Once the needle hit those black grooves, however, listeners were blown away with explosive performances. If the original version of “My Generation” was a thrown gauntlet to the older generation, their live version of “Young Man Blues” was a live grenade. A quick version of “Substitute” sweetens things up before the band launches into two more frontal sonic attacks, Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” and Johnny Kidd’s “Shakin’ All Over.” Townshend’s intent may have been to pay honor to the past or to revise it, I don’t know, but the whole thing smacks of revolution.

The second side features two extended medleys centered around “My Generation,” which features parts of Tommy, and “The Magic Bus.” They’re exponentially louder than the originals, with the guitar, bass, drums and vocals all in overdrive. In fact, I would tell you that John Entwistle and Keith Moon achieve the impossible here, creaming the rhythm section of Cream in energy and ability. Townshend also does his best talking with a guitar in hands, conceding nothing to the top guitarists (Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page) of the day. Despite the additional material, the expanded concert version is actually less impressive; the original version distilled its power better. You’ll probably need to buy both: the first because it’s one of the greatest, loudest live albums ever, the second because The Who were one of the greatest rock and roll bands, period.

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Original LP Version

A1. Young Man Blues (Mose Allison) (4:45)
A2. Substitute (Pete Townshend) (2:05)
A3. Summertime Blues (Eddie Cochran/Jerry Capehart) (3:22)
A4. Shakin’ All Over (Johnny Kidd) (4:15)
B1. My Generation (Pete Townshend) (14:27)
B2. The Magic Bus (Pete Townshend) (7:30)

Expanded CD reissue version
1. Heaven And Hell (4:30)
2. I Can’t Explain (2:16)
3. Fortune Teller (2:34)
4. Tattoo (2:51)
5. Young Man Blues (4:56)
6. Substitute (2:07)
7. Happy Jack (2:13)
8. I’m A Boy (2:40)
9. A Quick One, While He’s Away (8:25)
10. Amazing Journey/Sparks (7:34)
11. Summertime Blues (3:20)
12. Shakin’ All Over (4:15)
13. My Generation (14:45)
14. Magic Bus (7:22)

The Players

Roger Daltrey (vocals & harmonica), John Entwistle (bass guitar & vocals), Keith Moon (drums), Pete Townshend (guitar & vocals). Produced by Jon Astley; original recording produced by The Who; remixed by Andy Macpherson and Jon Astley.

The Pictures

Design and art direction by Richard Evans.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, 8-track and reel-to-reel tape on May 16, 1970 in the US (Decca, DL 7/D6/ST74 9175), on May 23, 1970 in the UK (Track, 2406 001) and in 1970 in France and Germany (Polydor, 2480 004) with gatefold/folder cover and inserts; reached #3 on the UK charts and #4 on the US charts (RIAA-certified 2x platinum record). US elpee version features a folder cover with 12 separate inserts. 8-track features different track order. Also released on elpee in 1970 in Taiwan (PRC, PRC-5070) with unique cover.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1973 in the US (MCA, MCA-2022).
  2. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in 1980 in the US (MCA, MCA/MCAC-37000).
  3. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in the US (MCA, MCA/MCAC-1577).
  4. Re-issued on cassette in the UK (Polydor, SPEMC 50).
  5. Re-issued on cassette in Saudi Arabia (747 Pop, 8366) with unique track listing and 10 total tracks.
  6. Re-packaged with Who Are You on 2-for-1 cassette in the UK (Polydor, 3574-089).
  7. Re-packaged with Who Are You on 2-for-1 cassette in 1982 in the US (MCA, MCAC2-6913).
  8. Re-issued on compact disc in Canada (MCA, MCBBD-31196).
  9. Re-released on expanded, remixed compact disc and cassette in 1995 in the UK (Polydor, 527 169-2) and the US (MCA, MCAD/MCAC-11215) with 8 bonus tracks.
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1 thought on “The Who: Live At Leeds (1970)

  1. Details – Both versions of the album listed above have long-since been supplemented by a two disc version with the Tommy sequence on Disc Two and everything else on Disc One. But the Tommy stuff falls victim to Genesis syndrome (i.e: some vocals were re-recorded decades later). And there are those who maintain the audio has been cleaned up too much. A bigger problem is that even on the two-disc edition, Shakin’/My Gen/M-Bus haven’t been restored to full-length.

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