Super Deluxe Edition of the band’s 1971 classic comes out on September 15th
The Who collection that fans have been waiting over 50 years for has finally come to fruition as Universal Music Enterprises (UMe) announces the release of Who’s Next / Life House on September 15th.
The band’s fifth album was originally conceived as an elaborate concept album where Pete Townshend apparently foreshadowed the Internet, virtual reality and a government-levied lockdown akin to the pandemic. However, this lofty follow-up to 1969’s Tommy was shelved in favor of Who’s Next, long considered to be one of The Who’s greatest studio efforts punctuated by such radio hits as “Baba O’Riley,” “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
Featuring 155 tracks, of which 89 are previously unreleased and 57 feature fresh remixes, the set will delight longtime Who fans with its complete picture of Townshend’s incredibly prescient songwriting, while captivating a new audience with his visionary description of a future that has, in many ways, come true.
Across the course of 10-CD and multiple vinyl sets, Who’s Next / Life House sets out Townshend’s extraordinary vision of a world beset by climatic catastrophe and pollution, leading to a curtailing of personal freedom that will be all too familiar to the pandemic generation. Decades ahead of his time, he details how the population is then seduced and sedated by access to an entertainment “Grid,” piped into every home via the use of virtual reality experience suits.
In his introduction to the new editions, Townshend describes Life House as “a portentous polemic about the coming of a nation beaten down by climate issues and pollution.” He then explains how “an opportunist and autocratic government enforce a national lock-down in which every person is hooked up to an entertainment grid.” Songs that depicted an Orwellian world in which faceless corporations control our lives may have been far-fetched at the time, but they have become closer to reality as the far right rallies for authoritarian control.
The unfinished project, which Townshend conceived as one part film script and one part blueprint for a live musical experiment, brought him to the edge of a breakdown. But, as he writes, “some wonderful music came from the project, and the idea has always held me in thrall, partly because so many of the strands of the fiction seem to be coming true.”
The Super Deluxe edition of Who’s Next/Life House will contain 10 CDs, all remastered from the original tapes by longtime Who engineer Jon Astley, plus a Blu-ray Audio disc with newly-created Atmos & 5.1 surround mixes of Who’s Next and 14 bonus tracks by in-demand artist and producer Steven Wilson.
Highlights of the 155-track format include Townshend’s demos for Life House; The Who’s 1971 session recordings at the Record Plant in New York; sessions at Olympic Studios in southwest London from 1970-1972; and, for the first time, two newly mixed and complete 1971 concerts from London’s Young Vic Theatre and San Francisco’s Civic Auditorium. Timeless highlights of those sessions and performances include “Baba O’Riley,” “Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” on which Daltrey created the most awe-inspiring scream ever heard. Those classics continue to illuminate Who concerts to this day.
The box set also contains a 100-page hardback book with Townshend’s aforementioned introduction and new sleeve notes by Who experts and compilers Andy Neil and Matt Kent. Also included is Life House – The Graphic Novel, a newly commissioned, 170-page hardback book overseen by Townshend that tells the story behind the project. Completing the set are a 20” x 30” poster of a Who gig in Sunderland, England, on 7th May, 1970; a 25.5” x 34.25” poster of a date at Denver Coliseum, Denver, CO on 10th December, 1971; a 20-page concert program from the Rainbow Theatre in London on November 4, 1971; a 16-page program from the band’s October / November 1971 tour of the UK; a collectible four pin button set; and an 8-inch x 10-inch colour photo of The Who with printed autographs.
The album will also be available as limited edition 4-LP and 3-LP sets, featuring, respectively, the first-ever complete release of the San Francisco concert from 1971 and vinyl replicas of Townshend’s original Life House. The original Who’s Next album will also be available as a 1-LP half-speed remaster completed at Abbey Road Studios, and in other exclusive single vinyl versions.
With the hugely anticipated release of Who’s Next / Life House, one of rock’s greatest unreleased albums finally gets the release it deserves.
VIDEO: The Who “Baba O’Riley”