Classic Rock Review

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The Who ‘Live at Hull’- Monday 16th February 1970 By Malcolm Holt


tommyI know that it has taken a long time to write a gig review from over 38 years ago, but rest assured that the memories are just as vivid now as they were back then. I was a young 17 year old and I spent 15s (that’s 75p in real money) to see The Who perform Tommy live at Hull City Hall on 15 February 1970.

The Who had released the double album in May 1969. It was the story of a ‘deaf, dumb, and blind boy’ and was the first piece of work to be called a rock opera.
The band featured the classic line-up of Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon. Tommy was of course sold on vinyl in those days and being a double album, it featured four playable sides.

2The Who had embarked on a world tour to promote the album and during August 1969 they performed at the Woodstock music festival. This was not without controversy, with the band allegedly only agreeing to appear after being paid. Their set was interrupted by activist Abbie Hoffman trying to give an impromptu speech before being persuaded to leave the stage by Townshend.
The set ended with Townshend throwing his battered Gibson SG into the crowd where it was caught by a guy called Kurt Pfeiffer. Apparently the guitar was later retrieved by a roadie for salvage. Townshend’s guitars were regularly retrieved and repaired for future use.

When the band returned to England at the end of 1969, they wanted to release a live album from the tour. They had no desire to sift through endless hours of recordings to find the best bits and it was rumoured that Townshend actually destroyed the tapes to prevent bootleggers making a fortune. However, Roger Daltrey later stated that this was not true. Instead the band decided to record two specific gigs for the planned live album and these were Leeds University and Hull City Hall.

3The gig at Hull City Hall was absolutely awesome, with Daltrey swinging his microphone with venom, Townshend showing off his windmill style of guitar playing, Entwistle looking as cool as ever, and Moon drumming like a man possessed. The noise was the loudest I had ever experienced.

They took us through the drama that was Tommy and threw in the classics Substitute, Summertime Blues, My Generation, and Magic Bus.
Photograph by Chris McCourt
For those younger readers, you will not find Who tracks called See me, feel me and Listening to you, they are parts of the song We’re Not Gonna Take It.

To the subsequent dismay of everyone living in Hull, it was later reported that there had been ‘technical problems’ with the recording at the City Hall. It was announced that the bass playing had not been recorded, due to some wiring slip-up, so the Leeds gig would be used for the live album instead

The band members themselves had agreed that the acoustics in the City Hall were superior, but they had no choice but to use the Leeds recording.

4The Who’s Live At Leeds album was released in May 1970 and became an instant success and the rest, as they say, is history. Well, not quite. Since the album’s release, the conspiracy theorists have been busy trying to find evidence of a cover-up.

It was widely rumoured that some of the album did actually feature material recorded at the Hull gig and some believe that the album was in reality all recorded there, with the record company thinking that ‘Live At Leeds’ would be more marketable than ‘Live At Hull’.
To add insult to injury, The Who returned to Leeds University in June 2006 to replicate that famous night.

5The Who’s band career has always been more of a soap opera at times and sadly two of the original line-up were casualties of their own success. Keith Moon died in 1978 from an accidental overdose of medication prescribed to prevent seizures brought on by his withdrawal from alcohol. John Entwistle died of an alleged drug-induced heart attack on the eve of the band’s US tour in 2002 in his room at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas.

There is little doubt in the minds of all those who were at Hull City Hall on that February night in 1970 that they were robbed of the opportunity to have been part of a great milestone being achieved in the recording industry.

6The album was a huge success and received critical acclaim. It helped to put Leeds on the music map and left Hull out on a limb, which was not unusual at that time.

For The Who the year 2009 will mark the 40th anniversary of the release of Tommy and a year later Live At Leeds will reach the same milestone. It has been well-documented that the Hull City Hall gig was considered to be the better of the two used for recording the live album and only a ‘technical hitch’ deprived the city of its place in musical history.

7Well, a lot of water has flowed past the city in the Humber since 1970, but to the fans who were there at the City Hall that night, Live At Leeds should always have been Live At Hull.

However, like the thousands of other fans who turned out that night, on 16th February 1970, to see The Who, I can proudly say ‘I was there’.

As for the true story behind the making of the Live At Leeds album, I guess if you asked Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend about it today, the obvious response would be ‘I can’t explain’.

December 23, 2013 - Posted by | The Who Live At Hull 1970 |

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