The suite of songs by THE WHO on which, more than half a century ago, Pete Townshend foresaw the invention of the Internet, of virtual reality and pandemic-style lockdown, is to be heard as he intended for the first time. UMR will release "Who's Next/Life House" as a lavish, multi-format Super Deluxe edition on September 15, now available for pre-order.
Featuring 155 tracks, of which 89 are previously unreleased and 57 feature fresh remixes, the set will delight longtime WHO fans with its long-sought, 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. It features all of his songs, in their many stages of development, from the abandoned, audacious "Life House" project, started in 1969 as a follow-up to THE WHO's epic "Tommy", and from the undisputed rock classic of 1971 that it evolved into, "Who's Next".
Across the course of ten-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." Music itself then becomes an inconvenient diversion, "a very real distraction to the subjugation of the population in suits," with fascinating consequences. Songs that depicted a dystopian world in which faceless corporations control our lives may have been fiction at the time, but they have come to be more like documentary.
The unfulfilled 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."
Listeners will hear, for the first time, how that concept folded into "Who's Next", widely regarded as not only one of the greatest albums in the band's astonishing catalogue, but a seminal moment in music history. Here, THE WHO's instinctive, scintillating cohesion reached new peaks, Townshend's brilliant creativity as one of rock's great auteurs brought thrillingly to life by Roger Daltrey's unsurpassed vocal performances, John Entwistle's visceral, fluid basslines and Keith Moon's fiery potency on the drums.
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 and 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 May 7, 1970; a 25.5" x 34.25" poster of a date at Denver Coliseum, Denver, Colorado on December 10, 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 U.K.; a collectible four-pin button set; and an 8" x 10" color 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 September 15 release of "Who's Next/Life House", one of rock's great last untold stories is finally about to be recounted in full.
More information about the various formats is available at shop.thewho.com.