Pete Townshend

Wild Action: Solo Live at London Roundhouse April 14, 1974

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Though Pete Townshend had already recorded as a solo artist (on his debut solo album, Who Came First, and as a contributor to limited-edition records affiliated with Meher Baba), this April 1974 show was his first actual solo concert. While it's wholeheartedly recommended to serious Who/Townshend fans for its sheer historical value, this bootleg is problematic as both a performance and a recording. First, the sound quality, though not bad and reasonably listenable, is far from perfect, sounding somewhere between a subpar soundboard and a good audience recording. Second, the one-man-band setup of this gig wasn't conducive to either the best sound or the best performance of the material, with Townshend playing his guitars (electric and acoustic) and clavinet to the accompaniment of a rhythm box and prerecorded tapes. Particularly on the numbers where he plays electric guitars, the guitar is too dirty and distorted, as well as edging into the clarity of the vocals; the use of backing tracks and the rhythm box, too, gives a slight sense of artificiality to some of the proceedings. Arguably, he might have been better off doing the whole thing on solo acoustic guitar, though the "unplugged" concept didn't really exist back in the mid-'70s. All those serious reservations taken into account, it's still interesting to hear him do solo versions of numerous Who classics -- including "The Seeker," "Substitute," "Happy Jack," "Pinball Wizard," "My Generation," "Magic Bus," and the more obscure "Tattoo" -- with commendable passion. Even more interesting, however, is the presence of several songs Townshend and the Who hadn't recorded, including covers of Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter," Bob Dylan's "Girl from the North Country," Jimmy Reed's "Big Boss Man" and "Going to New York," and, most unexpectedly of all, Veronique Sanson's "Amoureuse." Though the sleeve lists "I'm a Man" as one of the tracks, it's not a cover of the Bo Diddley classic, but something even more interesting: the quirky, proto-feminist Townshend original "Join My Gang," which had been covered on an obscure 1966 single by Oscar, though the Who never put out a version of their own. As another odd sidelight, there's also a segment where Townshend plays tapes of early demos of "My Generation" (predating the Who's faster version) to the audience, though it would be better to hear these as sourced from the tapes themselves, rather than as a tape of these played over speakers to a concert audience.