The Who Letter of the Week – No Record I Own Ever Did That!

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This week’s letter came from a long time customer of ours, Dan. When he ordered this album he left the following note in his order comments – This is one of my favorite albums of all time!! One of my personal desert island discs. Can’t wait to hear it!. I’m not sure his ears were prepared for what was about to happen though. Read on to see what Dan thought of his Very Hot Who’s Next.(We have added the headings you see between the paragraphs.)

Hey Tom,

Just listened to the Very Hot Stamper of “Who’s Next” and thought I’d drop a little note: Holy FUCK that was POWERFUL!!!

No record I own ever did that

And I’m talking bone-rattling, earth-shaking, sock-you-in-the-gut POWERFUL. I’ve always known that The Who were one of the most intense bands in the history of rock n’ roll. Hell, everybody knows that and it’s part of the reason we love ’em so much. But with this record, I experienced the sheer physical force of their music like I NEVER have before. I couldn’t believe I heard bass notes hang in the air and resonate for long stretches. Bass notes never just hang like that! No record I own ever did that.

But this particular slab of vinyl offered more than just low-end power. Its grooves exploded with such energy, dynamics, and pure EXCITEMENT that I was honestly concerned my cartridge was going to jump off the record and say “Sorry, this is just too much.” Remarkably, it held up for the whole wild ride.

The Classic — Almost Comical

Anyhow, after that shockingly great experience, I (reluctantly) spun the Classic version of this album for comparison purposes. You’re right, there’s no going back. The difference is almost comical. On the track “Going Mobile”, while it certainly has well-defined bass and great detail, it sounded like a different take – a much worse take. The conviction in Townshend’s singing and guitar playing had been sucked out, as if he was bored of his own new song. I would have been sad hearing it if I didn’t know there was much better copy sitting on my shelf.

So thank you for helping me take a dozen GIANT steps closer to the true sound of this phenomenal album. Oh, and here’s a question that occurred to me as I was writing: why is it that audiophile reviewers (other than those crazy folks at Better Records) never seem to describe how much they were blown away by the LIFE and ENERGY of a Who record, whether new or old? Something’s amiss….

Dan

Dan, thanks for your letter. Something is amiss all right, that’s for damn sure. How BAD does your stereo have to be not to be able to tell what’s so good about the best originals and what’s missing from the Heavy Vinyl and other audiophile versions? Wait, don’t tell me, I know the answer — exactly as bad as mine used to be about fifteen or twenty years ago. As I wrote in one of the commentaries for this record,

A recurring theme here at Better Records has to do with the phony sound of audiophile records that we used to like, and the more natural sound of regular records, which are the ones we like now. This is another example. The better your equipment gets, the fewer so-called “audiophile” pressings you will want to have in your collection.

Pure excitement is what we live for here at Better Records. The number of Hot Stamper commentaries that focus on the LIFE and ENERGY (often in all caps, natch) of the Hottest of the Hot Stampers numbers well into the hundreds. They are all over the site, mostly on records that have sold to people like yourself who want to FEEL something when they play their favorite music on LP.

You put your finger right on it. This is the sound that is almost completely missing from the modern audiophile reissue. It reminds me of the way Michael Palin described his poorly chosen accountancy career in the Lion Tamer sketch. “It’s dull, dull, dull. My god it’s dull, it’s so deadly dull and tedious and stuffy and boring and desperately dull.”

Couldn’t have said it any better myself. Putting one of those Heavy Vinyl reissues on the table is positively sleep-inducing. The CDs of The Who that I own are the same way. I don’t know where we went wrong but I do know we can’t get there from here. We need to go back to The Originals — British, German, Domestic, whatever — to know what the hell Who’s Next is supposed to sound like.

Thanks for your letter. Glad you liked our Hot Stamper!

Best, 
TP

If you’re in the market for a Hot Stamper pressing, you may be in luck. Click here to see what we currently have on hand.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Baba O’riley
Bargain
Love Ain’t For Keeping
My Wife
The Song Is Over

Side Two

Getting In Tune
Going Mobile
Behind Blue Eyes
Won’t Get Fooled Again

AMG 5 STAR RAVE REVIEW

Much of Who’s Next derives from Lifehouse, an ambitious sci-fi rock opera Pete Townshend abandoned after suffering a nervous breakdown, caused in part from working on the sequel to Tommy. There’s no discernable theme behind these songs, yet this album is stronger than Tommy, falling just behind Who Sell Out as the finest record the Who ever cut.

Townshend developed an infatuation with synthesizers during the recording of the album, and they’re all over this album, adding texture where needed and amplifying the force, which is already at a fever pitch. Apart from Live at Leeds, the Who have never sounded as LOUD and unhinged as they do here, yet that’s balanced by ballads, both lovely (“The Song Is Over”) and scathing (“Behind Blue Eyes”). That’s the key to Who’s Next — there’s anger and sorrow, humor and regret, passion and tumult, all wrapped up in a blistering package where the rage is as affecting as the heartbreak.

This is a retreat from the ’60s, as Townshend declares the “Song Is Over,” scorns the teenage wasteland, and bitterly declares that we “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” For all the sorrow and heartbreak that runs beneath the surface, this is an invigorating record, not just because Keith Moon runs rampant or because Roger Daltrey has never sung better or because John Entwistle spins out manic basslines that are as captivating as his “My Wife” is funny. This is invigorating because it has all of that, plus Townshend laying his soul bare in ways that are funny, painful, and utterly life-affirming. That is what the Who was about, not the rock operas, and that’s why Who’s Next is truer than Tommy or the abandoned Lifehouse. Those were art — this, even with its pretensions, is rock & roll.