PETE TOWNSHEND The Lifehouse Demos (1970) – Not A Bootleg, Officially Released By Pete

The Lifehouse Demos (1970)
Pete Townshend’s “As Is” Masterpiece


FIRST POSTED IN 2007 The Lifehouse Demos might
have been recognized as the greatest solo album ever made… if Pete Townshend had released these performances when he secretly recorded them in 1970. Forget the eventually abandoned Lifehouse project’s reputation as an unfinished “failure,” and resist your natural temptation to compare these tapes to later, heroic Who recordings, and you’ll discover a stunning, fully realized, tour de force brimming with so much creativity, so much energy… so many guitars, that early landmark self-made LPs from contemporaries like Todd Rundgren or Paul McCartney simply pale by comparison.

Arranged and recorded by Pete at his inspirational zenith, these recordings are breathtaking. Not quietly acoustic Scoop-like demos, but fully fleshed out recordings. To hell with the Lifehouse “concept,” it’s Townshend’s multi-faceted performances that are revelatory. In Daltry’s hands these songs became anthems, in Townshend’s they become emotional anthems. His rudimentary drumming (like Todd’s & Paul’s) is Ringo-simple as he layers multiple guitars, vocals, keyboards and his groundbreaking “Baba O’Rileysequencer demos into an unheralded pop masterwork. For comparison, imagine 1970’s McCartney as a 3LP set, all with the quality of “Maybe I’m Amazed.” This music should be as historically revered as Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, also from 1970. Instead, these tapes just exist… largely unheard, except by the faithful. That the 25-year-old Townshend recorded most of this by himself, immediately following Tommy, just boggles the mind.

The 2000 6-CD box set,
Lifehouse Chronicles (HERE… the source of these demos, and ripped from the original discs), was well worth the Sterling until collector’s prices kicked in. It’s bursting with unused & rearranged material, string sessions, new re-mixes and a 2-CD live radio play. The first two CDs, however, are these sacred songs and glorious demos… “Pure And Easy,” “Bargain,” “Goin’ Mobile,” an endless array of now iconic material. It’s rare when you can pinpoint the exact moment of the very pinnacle of a great artist. For Pete Townshend, this moment is untouchable. Maybe… by anyone.

THE LIFEHOUSE DEMOS 1
Teenage Wasteland
Goin’ Mobile
Baba
O’Riley
Time Is Passing
Love Ain’t For Keeping
Bargain
Too Much Of Anything
Music Must Change
Greyhound Girl
Mary
Behind Blue Eyes
Baba
O’Riley (Instrumental)
Sister Disco

THE LIFEHOUSE DEMOS 2
I Don’t Know Myself
Put The Money Down
Pure And Easy
Getting In Tune
Let’s See Action
Slip Kid
Relay
Who Are You
Join Together
Won’t Get Fooled Again
Song Is Over

49 Comments

  • 1
    W
    June 12, 2007 - 22:43 | Permalink

    .
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    Find it all HERE.
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  • 2
    schlep
    June 13, 2007 - 21:21 | Permalink

    Wow – the first 10 seconds of 'Goin' Mobile' convinced me! Nice one.

  • 3
    JBL
    June 19, 2007 - 21:23 | Permalink

    Pete has said that the reason "Who's Next" sounded so good was that he started out with good sounding demos. These discs reveal that to be an understatement–on the whole, they're release-worthy, and as good as anything on his Who Came First LP.
    Why he's never given them anything more than a for-fans-only release is beyond me….well, maybe because they're for fans only…redundancy check, please.

  • 4
    JBL
    June 19, 2007 - 19:09 | Permalink

    What did everyone think of "Endless Wire"?

  • 5
    JBL
    June 19, 2007 - 22:13 | Permalink

    On the score of production, there's no doubt that these demos, their instrumentation straightforward with plenty of space, benefit from a cleaner, more robust sound than Tommy (which sounds quite thin) but in no way approach the zillion dollar sound of Quadrophenia. It nuances & layers threaten overproduction, but still reveal the muscular presence of the individual band members, who all play to their strengths throughout the album.

    And that's the other thing these song don't possess–the Who playing them. Townsend's take is revealing, and he's clearly considered the tunes fully– but the Who as a playing unit was at its absolute prime when he cut these, and that's ultimately what makes the finished versions so beloved–they kick as when the band plays them.

    That brings me to my question to Willard and others- how do these demos rate vs the Young Vic Concert?

  • 6
    Capt. Willard
    June 20, 2007 - 05:34 | Permalink

    Hey jbl,

    Comparing Pete's demos to final Who recordings isn't really fair. You can't compare Pete to Moon (as a drummer), or to Daltry (as a vocalist). Besides, an artist's demos are rarely as good as the finished product. What's more telling… is to compare Pete's Lifehouse Demos of 1970 to what his contemporaries were doing at the time.

    In 1970, George Harrison was praised for rock's first triple LP, All Things Must Pass. People were amazed at the quality and quantity of his material. But… look at what Pete was doing at the same time… BY HIMSELF. After completing the already ambitious Tommy, Pete wrote, arranged and recorded a FULL 3 Lps (not two… and a jam LP) worth of incredible songs – every instrument, every arrangement by Pete. Completely finished before the Who (or anyone else) ever heard it. The Lifehouse Demos have better sound, better quality and a bigger vision.

    In 1970, Paul released "McCartney." At the time it was a novel idea that Paul recorded all the instruments himself. But… listen to the sound. "McCartney" mostly sounds like home, 4-track demos. Enjoyable but basic. Campare it to the Lifehouse Demos. Night and day. What Townshend was accomplishing at home, qualtiy wise, was so far ahead of his contemporaries it's embarrassing.

    It would be a few years later before Todd Rundgren would popularize fully self made LPs. Again… listen to the sound. Everyone knows the tinny, ping-ponged sound quality of 70s multi-tracking. But… Townshend's demos sound unbelievable. Stunning, crisp & clear. The only way you can tell it's not a full band is Pete's limited drumming abilities.

    Sure, Lifehouse's songs would not have become as iconic had Pete released this material himself in 1970. But, the ground breaking accomplishments of others (like Paul, Todd and George) would not have seemed as ahead of their time had the world known what PT was already up to.

    Again… resist the temptation to compare these recordings to the astounding Who. Think instead, about what Pete Townshend was doing BEFORE the Who versions, all by himself, out of earshot of the world. It's a testament to Townshend's ego that he didn't just go solo (others have left the nest with far less). He was smart enough to know the Who could do a better job than he could on these songs.

    But… has anybody even come near what Pete has accomplished here? There can't be many examples that even come close. I'm still looking for just one example from ANY artist that can match Pete's long lost solo brilliance of 1970.

    Thanks for commenting.

  • 7
    Capt. Willard
    June 20, 2007 - 19:28 | Permalink

    Hi jbl,

    I thought Endless Wire was a pleasant surprise. Stronger than I would have imagined and almost no embarrassment factor – which, as we all know when it comes to 60+ rockers, can happen at ANY time. (Kudos, too, to the Stones, who probably made their LAST decent album with A Bigger Bang. Unless they go stone-cold blues, it's surely all downhill from here.)

  • 8
    JBL
    June 20, 2007 - 20:03 | Permalink

    I think you've got it about right on Endless Wire. I think it's ultimately an album to be more appreciated than loved. The material is generally good, with no attempt to curry favor from the youngsters. Indeed, Pete kept the rapping to himself for that bizarre remix of Who Are You on the other Lifehouse discs. Probably the only real ill-advised moment was his Tom Waits impersonation, marring the otherwise pleasant "In the Ether".

    Aside from pointless regrets about absent bandmembers, I do miss a stronger presence from Starkey on the disc, as I've always felt him to be a more than able and quite sympathetic drummer for the Who. Finally I do wonder why it took quite so long for the LP to get off the ground…and why it received practically no attention when it did.

    I haven't heard a stones album since "Voodoo Lounge", which I don't remember anything from but the title… so is A Bigger Bang worth exploring, or is just knowing it's decent enough?

  • 9
    JBL
    June 20, 2007 - 18:24 | Permalink

    Willard you make some interesting points. I too agree that it's unfair to compare these demos to the final versions–that's the point I was trying to make. I went back and listened to this vs. the Young Vic concert-the first time The Who played any of this material live–there's surprisingly little overlap actually. Keith actually suffers the most, though I guess it's not surprising–he didn't know the changes that well and was probably pickled to boot. But "Too Much of Anything" rates better with the band as they handle the transitions to the C&W section a bit more organically. The YV Concert also contains the mighty "Water" & the definitive version of "Naked Eye", which I was surprised not to have heard on the demos, actually.

    Anyhow, none of this takes away from Pete's accomplishment in these demos. The fact that he had laid out "Who are You" so thoroughly at that time is quite incredible. This is in any event one of the best demos collections by any artist, if not the best…

  • 10
    Capt. Willard
    June 20, 2007 - 19:24 | Permalink

    Hi jbl,

    I could be wrong, but I think we're all actually in agreement on this… just (naturally) coming at it from different angles.

    Of course, it's also natural to compare… whether it's the greatest guitarists, best bands or, in this case The Who vs. Townshend.

    For me… I've always liked The Who and respected Townshend. But, when I first heard these tapes in 2001, I became a Townshend fanatic. Besides the indelible material… and the overall accomplishment… It's the SOUND of these demos. They are clean and – for lack of a better word – more "pop" than post-60s Who. To make up for his lack of dynamics on drums and vocals, Pete added loads of guitars – acoustics, riffs, leads, accents… almost everything but power chords (not to mention all the keyboards). It changes everything about these songs. The mood, the feel, the subtleties are all different. I really like that aspect of it.

    For me… I've already stated my case. I'm just stunned that Pete did all this on his own. Concept to tape, in less than a year after Tommy. And nobody ever even heard it. Nobody knew HOW MUCH he was putting into the Who. Even his own ego took a back seat to the band.

  • 11
    Anonymous
    June 21, 2007 - 22:19 | Permalink

    unbelievable!!

  • 12
    Capt. Willard
    June 21, 2007 - 22:24 | Permalink

    What… Pete?
    Or, all our babbling?
    Thanks for stopping by.

  • 13
    Anonymous
    June 21, 2007 - 23:25 | Permalink

    fantastic piece of musical history!! thank you a million times for this.. looked for years.. townshend is soulful.. blissful… again, thank you so much!!! zenwindow

  • 14
    Anonymous
    June 29, 2007 - 12:20 | Permalink

    I first heard some of this on the famed "Genius of Pete Townsend" LP. Great to have more of it — and without the pops and clicks!

    Ace

  • 15
    Sermo
    August 13, 2007 - 08:36 | Permalink

    The way you describe this really sounds sensational. So maybe I'll get out of my boat to grab this, no matter what the dangers might be… I really believe this is a very good piece of music, and I always felt sympathetic towards Townshend anyway. Thanks for the post and for all the information about it.

  • 16
    Anonymous
    August 17, 2007 - 03:34 | Permalink

    Are the same takes as on the 6 disc Townshend demos boot?

  • 17
    Capt. Willard
    August 17, 2007 - 05:45 | Permalink

    Wouldn't know.

  • 18
    Amanda and SuperAmanda™
    September 11, 2007 - 15:00 | Permalink

    Those demos are always close by in my life. Great post. Pete Townshend rules.

    Love Super Amanda

  • 19
    Anonymous
    September 25, 2007 - 05:30 | Permalink

    Great post. I really enjoy listening Pete Townshend. He' a great musician.
    Thanx a lot!
    Pythagoras

  • 20
    scurfie
    October 4, 2007 - 10:33 | Permalink

    Great post. Thank you. Just my 2 cents, I feel sorry for all those who never had the privilege of seeing/hearing The Who live. The Who with Keith Moon that is.

  • 21
    Jaybee
    December 14, 2007 - 14:57 | Permalink

    While I agree that these demos are interesting and very, very good, there has to have been at least a little bit of revisioning on Pete Townshend's part…….'Who are You?' for example was written about a meeting he had with a couple of the Sex Pistols in a London club….unless he has a time machine, there is no way he wrote a demo of it in 1970/71!!!

  • 22
    Capt. Willard
    December 14, 2007 - 15:33 | Permalink

    Hi Jaybee,

    Personally, I don't know about the song's origin. Possibly… he revised what the song was about once it was released in 1978. In his introduction to the Lifehouse Chronicles Box Set, he references the song by saying… "A subsequent re-write brought forth 'Who Are You' and 'Join Together.'" But, calling these demos "interesting" is a slight. If you HAD a time machine… it would prove that these recordings are nothing short of astonishing.

  • 23
    JayBee
    December 15, 2007 - 23:43 | Permalink

    Hi Willard
    I wasn't making a slight-I'm a huge Townshend fan and have all of his solo stuff, even the godawful 'Psychoderelict'….and as I said the demos are very, very good! What's astonishing to me is how little the other members of the band brought to the songs-yes, they could obviously play and sing their own specialities better than PT, but if you listen to the 'Scoop' series, they never change so much as a note from the demo recordings…..whether that was due to PT refusing to agree to any changes, who knows! ;))

  • 24
    Capt. Willard
    December 16, 2007 - 00:21 | Permalink

    Hi JayBee,
    I wouldn't be surprised. I wouldn't want to try and make suggestions to anyone that could churn out what Pete could – especially with it already finished in his mind.

  • 25
    WZJN
    September 25, 2008 - 02:36 | Permalink

    I just want to thank you for all the hard work putting this up – I appreciate it. And then to get quality comments back and forth – well, it's great to be in the midst while it rages!

  • 26
    Michael
    November 22, 2008 - 04:09 | Permalink

    Thanks for this music, Willard, and thanks to all for this comment thread…

  • 27
    MoreLove
    March 26, 2009 - 14:40 | Permalink

    Willard asked for a comparable bit of genius by an artist recording in the 70s all by himself. I'd offer Stevie Wonder, whose early-mid 70s albums all feature layered solo recordings, all of them brilliantly, passionately arranged and performed.

    One thing about the Pete stuff no one has mentioned is that when Pete sings he brings an emotional depth and authenticity to the songs that Daltry can't get close to — that's what has always made Pete's solo work essential for me, including Empty Glass, Deep End, Who Came First, and the demos I've known for decades from the Scoop series. That said, I also love The Who versions of these songs, but for different reasons. Thankfully, I don't have to choose between solo or band versions because I can have both. Thanks for posting these, Willard.

  • 28
    Capt. Willard
    March 26, 2009 - 15:46 | Permalink

    Well said, and Wonder IS a great example of one whose work attained a higher degree of do-it-all brilliance. Stevie's prime would come a couple of years after this but that's splitting hairs (he WAS blind for cryinoutloud). His 72-76 run of albums were unparalleled. You've reminded me that I was limiting my thought process to rock and roll, which is always a big mistake. For me, Innervisions is one of the all time greats. Thanks for commenting.

  • 29
    oldduder
    April 16, 2009 - 00:27 | Permalink

    By Jimminy Willard, your site continues to thrill and astonish me. This is great stuff and I couldn't agree with you more, regarding all your commentary. You have impecable taste and once again, muchos gracias for sharing. If i could, i'd pitch my virtual tent on your blog and live off all the tasty tunes!

  • 30
    Capt. Willard
    April 16, 2009 - 00:50 | Permalink

    Thanks Duder.
    Go on and pitch a tent. That's what it's all here for. Thanks for commenting.

  • 31
    buzzbabyjesus
    May 29, 2009 - 19:17 | Permalink

    There are a lot of posts here, so I may have missed something, but I don't think anyone mentioned that at least two of these versions were released on "Who Came First", Pete's first solo album (1971?). I haven't heard it since 1974 so my recollection is fuzzy, but I know "Pure and Easy" and "Let's See Action" were both on it. Anyway, thanks, Willard, this is the shit.

  • 32
    Gerard
    June 21, 2009 - 21:05 | Permalink

    Thanks for you're upload!

  • 33
    Anonymous
    October 2, 2009 - 15:28 | Permalink

    This set is out of print now. What is the best way of trying to get ahold of it? I can't find it anywhere!

  • 34
    Capt. Willard
    October 2, 2009 - 16:07 | Permalink

    I'll post it next week. If you're after a physical copy, it looks like you'll have to troll Ebay.

  • 35
    Anonymous
    October 2, 2009 - 21:21 | Permalink

    Thanks a lot Willard. I can't wait to listen to all these. PT is my favorite.

  • 36
    Tony O
    October 7, 2009 - 20:21 | Permalink

    Thanks for another great post. I knew PT was producing good demos but I had no idea they were THIS good.
    I love this blog.

  • 37
    Miles
    October 9, 2009 - 22:15 | Permalink

    Willard…

    You're moderator comments in response to JBL and others are spot on, and should be included in the official text of the post itself.

    Townshend's personal life (has been/was/still is?) so intertwined with The Who that if ever there was one who truly lived for the music, it was he. The two are inseparable. In addition to these remarkable demos, don't forget the additional excess of material that he released in the 'Scoop' series as well. Some of it's contents may habe been superfluous, but the quality of it's production was also top notch, and head and shoulders above others marketed as finished products. God bless Pete Townshend.

    BTW — Did I ever tell you that my wife had a running correspondence with him during this exact period?

    As a major fan of The Who, Vivian Stanshall, Oscar Wilde, and The Three Stooges, she's quite a gal. Long story short, she wrote to Pete expressing her emotional connection to the teenage angst conveyed in Quadraphenia, and told him of her own experiences. He took a genuine interest in her story and replied with a myriad of questions and a few tales of his own awkward adolesence which mushroomed into a series of roughly a half dozen letters banged out on a Smith Corona/Remington/Olivetti or some other archaic keyboard of the time. He shared his newfound interest in Meher Baba and imparted a few words of advice and encouragement to her. She still has them today.

  • 38
    What the Parrot Saw
    October 10, 2009 - 08:54 | Permalink

    Just a quick comment. While I'm a huge fan of the 'Oo in their prime, discovering The Genius of Pete Townshend boot in the late 70s turned me into a stone fan of Pete's. His latter solo material is hit or miss–and he is not above being a little affected at times–but the Lifehouse demos are absolutely stone brilliant. Perfectly realized, and placing this within Macca's and Rundgren's similar work at the time… well, its not how history played out. But its how it should have.

    The band's versions (covers, almost) are some of their best work- but it still semi-pales. There is a spirit at work here that is absolutely unique.

    That boot's title was no hyperbole.

  • 39
    3410
    October 18, 2009 - 02:19 | Permalink

    Re: Who Are You
    I think I read somewhere (perhaps even on eelpie.com) that some of these recording (Lifehouse Chronicles d1 & d2) are as late as '78. The songs are all Lifehouse-related and were written in that period, but a few were not demoed until some years later.

  • 40
    Capt. Willard
    October 18, 2009 - 02:25 | Permalink

    I'm too lazy to dig out the book, but it seems like 3 or 4 of the last tracks on disc 2 were tinkered with or overdubbed. I don't remember exactly. The other discs contain plenty of overdubbed stuff, and he's got plenty of obvious notations about the dubs/years on some of those tracks.

  • 41
    badassmuthafka
    November 4, 2009 - 14:35 | Permalink

    These are absolutely amazing and inspiring. I think I dreamed about one day hearing these as I read about them in some books about the Who (I was obsessed with them growing up).
    Thanks so much for posting. I'd love to hear some live Quadrophenia-era stuff if ya have any sometime.
    Thanks again!!

  • 42
    Anonymous
    December 11, 2009 - 04:07 | Permalink

    …and the holiest of all holy grails. This is so amazing. A thousand thank yous for this one. Been searching years for this one.

  • 43
    bammike
    December 23, 2009 - 17:19 | Permalink

    This may be just bit off-topic, but is there ever going to be a 5.1 surround release of Quadrophenia?
    I had read about it being in the works, but it never materialized. Anyone who has not experienced the 5.1 remix of Tommy is definitely missing an awesome experience.

  • 44
    Anonymous
    March 7, 2010 - 06:37 | Permalink

    Me again-again,

    All is well with PT-L1. Just re-booted and the fresh system worked perfectly.

    You ROCK!!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for posting those. I'm a life-long Pete and Who fan. Just for the sake of sharing, I met John Entwistle in a club show here in San Diego. He autographed my Alembic Bass(almost identical to his version). I also got to see Pete's Psychoderelict show in Los Angeles when he toured.

    Thank you again – I am soooooooooo happy!!!!

  • 45
    Capt. Willard
    March 7, 2010 - 15:21 | Permalink

    Cool, thanks for the follow up and the comment.

  • 46
    Rhod
    April 24, 2013 - 22:16 | Permalink

    Great share that I should have grabbed earlier.Thanks Capt W

    Regards

    Rhod

    • 47
      Willard
      April 25, 2013 - 02:05 | Permalink

      Don’t forget the 6CD box set this came from.

  • 48
    Supersonic75
    July 26, 2013 - 22:20 | Permalink

    Thanks so much. Fantastic post; haven’t heard the demos in years.

  • 49
    Nick
    September 29, 2014 - 10:12 | Permalink

    Thank U

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