THE WHO - Concert Memories From the Classic Years 1964 to 1976 by Edoardo Genzolini

Memories of The Who in their prime do not f-f-fade away. They linger in the minds of those lucky enough to have seen them during the period covered by this 304-page, large format book, now translated into English from its original Italian; yet another shining testament to the lasting impact the group had on fans and a reminder of how genuinely inspiring they were to behold.

        Edoardo Genzolini was certainly inspired, so much so that he’s spent half a lifetime conceiving his book, his inspiration seeing their performance in the Woodstock movie at the age of 13. But the effect The Who had on him was more profound than simply enjoying their landmark Woodstock set on celluloid. He connected with The Who emotionally as well as physically, and his book stands as a tribute from both the heart and the head. I think it’s his way of simply saying thank you to them, for the music, the memories and the lasting influence they’ve had on his life.  

        To this end Genzolini writes introductions to each chapter that cover what The Who did, or tried to do, or wanted to do, in the years covered by the book, expanding on how their ambition somehow went beyond simply making records and performing concerts. Each intro is followed by first person accounts of shows, some by crew members who worked at theatres where The Who performed or fans who were present, a few of whom helped in some way, or somehow got backstage or to a hotel where the band was staying, just to say hello. Most such encounters are described in fascinating, personal detail, with one-on-one conversations repeated verbatim, some profound, some trivial, some hilarious. Many accounts reflect the characters of the individual members and how open they were to chatting with fans, and the impact this openness had on them, and it is clear from them all that close encounters with Pete, Roger, John and Keith are not easily forgotten. 

        Most of these accounts are illustrated by scores of pictures, many hitherto unseen, mostly black & white but some colour, of The Who on stage or its members backstage, often accompanied by the fans themselves. The quality of the photos varies from professional standard to amateur snaps taken with cheap cameras, but to have so many, upwards of 450, I hadn’t seen before, is a genuine treat, regardless of quality. Turning the pages, I was reminded of Jeff Stein and Chris Johnson’s 1973 photo book, simply titled The Who, another labour of love I greatly admired, though Concert Memories is a far more ambitious undertaking. 

        Although this book purports cover the years 1964-1976, there is an inevitable emphasis on the middle period, the years 1968, ’69, ’70, ’71 and ’73, that many consider to be The Who’s zenith. Of the shows described, some are among the most important The Who ever played – Woodstock, the IOW and both Fillmores in 1969 (there’s a whole chapter on Bill Graham and his Fillmores East and West), Leeds and Tanglewood in 1970, the Oval in 1971 – but all are very special in their own way to those who were there. 

        In a book as large as this it’s difficult to pick highlights but I chuckled at the story told by Christine Curry from Detroit whose friend Cindy went to the hotel where The Who were staying after their show at the Grande Ballroom on March 9, 1968, and spent the night with Keith Moon. “She told me that while she was in bed with him, he talked to his wife on the phone!” reports Christine. Then again, there’s Sally Mann Romano’s account of how in 1968 she left the Whiskey in LA with John and Keith in a rented Porsche, only for Keith, who was at the wheel, to abandon it at an intersection with the engine still running, apparently because he felt they could get to his hotel quicker on foot.

        Among the pictures are two from stage at the Anaheim Convention Centre, on September 8, 1967, which the author claims to be the only known shots of John smashing a bass, while Dennis Quinn tells how Pete dropped a white Fender Stratocaster into his hands from the stage at the Fillmore East in New York on April 5, 1968. One fan reports breathlessly that Roger permitted him to try on his tasselled outfit backstage. 

        There are several reports from the May 1969 shows at New York’s Fillmore, including the one where fire broke out next door, the notorious incident that resulted in Pete spending a night in jail for bashing a plain clothes cop with his guitar. “[The following night]… the tension in the Fillmore before The Who walked out onstage was unreal,” reports Mark Saull. “The energy was like something I’ve never experienced before or since. The Who were so powerful and intense it was intimidating. I remember looking at people in the audience, standing with their fists clenched, gritting their teeth like they were on a thrill ride. [The Who] looked 10 feet tall.”

        While many of the most profound anecdotes are to be found from the 1969-70 era, one from a Quadrophenia show in 1973 stands out. Guy Perry reports that at the Cow Palace, San Francisco, on November 20, 1973 – the show where Keith collapsed and had to be replaced by Scott Halpin – Pete, determined, no doubt, to compensate for his errant drummer, executed… “thirty-plus consecutive windmills during ‘Naked Eye’, an astonishing moment.” 

        These are but a tiny fraction of the delicious memories recalled, every one of them a testament to how unforgettable The Who were in their prime. 

        The book closes with reports from the “Day On The Green” shows in Oakland on October 9, 1976, and a handful of pics from Seattle Coliseum a few days later. Finally, legendary Who disciple “Irish” Jack Lyon writes movingly about how he flew to London on hearing of Keith Moon’s death, his reaction to the news and the atmosphere in Who central during this unhappy time. At the start of the book Jack had written about The Who’s last night at the Goldhawk Social Club in Shepherds Bush in 1965*, so his closing tribute to The Who’s drummer adds a touch a symmetry to a book that Pete himself writes admiringly about on the front cover flap.

        I am happy to add my own recommendation too. Published in hardback by Schiffer Publishing, The Who: Concert Memories isn’t the cheapest Who book on the market – the RRP on the back is $59.99, and in the UK Amazon are offering it for around £40 – but it’s among the very best, lovingly compiled by a true fan for true fans, those who understood the power of The Who and their music, and what it still means to those, like me, who experienced it when this wonderful group made music and performed shows that were unrivalled in rock. 

*Jack’s piece about The Who’s last night at the Goldhawk was actually commissioned by me for use in the booklet accompanying The Who: 30 Years of Maximum R&B, the 1994 4-CD box set I co-produced. At the time Pete felt it was unsuitable because of its depiction of violence. 

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