Another Who review from my archives, written originally for Tony Fletcher’s ijamming website, now upgraded a bit.

Last week [a Monday in September 2007] I was lucky enough to cop a ticket to the premiere of Amazing Journey at London’s Kensington Odeon, after which there was a Q&A session with Pete’n’Roger and the film makers, Nigel Sinclair and Paul Crowder, conducted by Jeremy Clarkson of the TV motoring show Top Gear, who’s evidently a fan of The Who.
         This film is not like The Kids Are Alright or 30 Years of Maximum R&B Live, nor – I suppose – is it meant to be. It is intended as a linear bio-pic of The Who, beginning with their births at the end of WW2 and ending with Pete & Roger’s Who in 2007. Clips of The Who performing at various stages in their career and hundreds of still photographs are linked by scores of sound bites, principally from Roger and Pete, and, thankfully, 85% of the movie deals with the original band.
         Who fans interested principally in seeing film of the group in concert will be disappointed, though there is some fantastic, hitherto unseen, footage from the Railway Hotel in Wealdstone (August 11, 1964), about eight minutes of The Who as The High Numbers shot by Kit Lambert; as far as I’m aware the earliest ever footage of the group performing live. There’s also newly uncovered live footage of Tommy material from their London Coliseum concert (December 14, 1969); the first ever film from Leeds University (February 14, 1970), albeit only a few minutes of b&w footage from the crowd over which the music is dubbed; and ‘Who Are You’ from Kilburn (December 15, 1977). Outtakes from footage filmed specially for The Kids Are Alright feature Keith on the beach near his Malibu home and at his ribald 31st birthday party at a nearby restaurant.
         It seemed to me that much of the concert footage has had the music overdubbed, but with choppy editing, camera angles constantly changing and the camera zooming in and out all the time, it’s difficult to tell what is genuinely being played live and what isn’t. Personally, I’ve always felt that The Who onstage was exciting enough without the need for fancy camerawork which, to my mind, distracts from the tension created by what they played and how they played it. Nevertheless, the music sounds fantastic, especially in the cinema where Surroundsound pumped it out at mega volume. However, throughout the entire movie I don’t recall seeing The Who perform one complete song uninterrupted from beginning to end.
         Aside from Pete’n’Rog we hear from John (old interviews, including an extract from the one I did for the 30 Years video) and Keith (filmed at Tara in 1973 by the BBC while he’s playing a pinball machine), plus Chris Stamp, Bill Curbishley, Mike Shaw, Glyn Johns, Richard Barnes, Shel Talmy, Dougal Butler, Keith’s mum Kitty and sister Leslie, John’s mum Queenie and son Chris, Roger’s wife Heather, John’s first wife Alison, promoter Harvey Goldsmith, Mike McInnerney (fellow Baba lover and Tommy sleeve designer), Kenney Jones and Bob Pridden. All have fascinating things to say. The same cannot be said of Sting, the Edge, Eddie Vedder, Steve Jones and Noel Gallagher, none of whom have anything particular enlightening to say other than how much they like The Who, and I couldn’t help but wonder how many of them actually saw the group with Keith on drums. Jones’ recollection of Pete turning up drunk at the Speakeasy in 1977 was a nice touch, Gallagher’s down-to-earthiness raised a laugh and, predictably enough, Sting was especially vacuous. "The Who wouldn't have been The Who without John." Well, you don't say! 
         Naturally I’d have preferred less chat and more music, especially as it went on for two hours which was about 30 minutes too long. The new interviews with Roger could have done with editing a bit, and Pete – as ever – was more articulate and candid but hardly revelatory, though both spoke frankly about John’s dodgy financial affairs and both paid handsome tribute to their fallen colleagues. Much of the rest of the live footage had already appeared in Kids… and 30 Years (or live at the Isle of Wight 1970), though it has been cleaned up for Amazing Journey.
         I enjoyed it, but then again it would difficult for someone like me not to enjoy a Who movie at first viewing, but the fact is I shall probably not watch it repeatedly as I have with Kids and 30 Years (and my Tanglewood and other ‘unofficial’ DVDs), simply because I much prefer continuous live footage over talking heads. I will somehow acquire the DVD which promises some interesting extras on a second DVD. What I would really like, of course, is the complete show from the Coliseum 1969 but I’m not going to get it this time.
         [The second DVD, which I didn’t see on night but acquired later, features the footage from the Railway Arms in 1964 uninterrupted. The High Numbers play ‘Ooh Poo Pah Do’, a hit for New Orleans pianist Jessie Hill in 1960, and ‘I Gotta Dance To Keep From Crying’, a 1963 hit for The Miracles. And what a band they were! Elsewhere, in a feature provocatively titled Six Quick Ones – which suggests our lusty friend Ivor was more proactive than originally thought – there are profiles of each individual Who member, a piece entitled Who Art Thou which places the group in the context of their time and place, and a look at the present day, ie 2007, band. Much of these are made up of outtakes from the film itself.]
         After the movie Pete and Roger came on to the stage (Townshend arrived via the cinema’s back entrance as the film finished and left the same way to avoid waiting paparazzi). Clarkson read out questions that had been e-mailed in from fans but all were fairly trivial and the duo batted them off with practiced ease, especially those about future plans (there aren’t any!). Pete was eloquent in his defence of old bands getting back together, specifically Led Zeppelin, but the most interesting exchange occurred when a fan asked about whether they still went back to Acton. In the course of the answer, Pete confessed to having once kissed one of Roger’s sisters while Roger revealed that back in the early sixties when The Who were first starting, he offered refuge at the Daltrey family home to a local villain who was on the run from the law!
         Afterwards there was a knees-up at a local restaurant which Roger and Heather Daltrey attended but Pete went home, as he generally does. I ended up chatting with Dougal Butler who’s always good company at these affairs, while Richard ‘Barney’ Barnes, Alan Rogan, Mike McInnerney and Richard Evans were among the other Who faces present.


Brian in Atlanta said...

I always got the feeling that Amazing Journey is the way Roger wanted to tell the Who story, all linear and lots of explanation. He disliked Kids for that reason but Amazing Journey does a lot to show why the Kids approach was better. Just get out of the way and let The Who be The Who.

max252513 said...