The Hypertext Who  
Overature
This site is a public resource celebrating The Who. It is not sponsored or formally affiliated in any other way with The Who or the band's members, management or other representatives. In accordance with laws regarding copyright and other forms of intellectual property, material excerpted and posted on this site is strictly for nonprofit research, scholarship & commentary about The Who, its members and their activities.

I'm One

Success Story

Guitar and Pen

Goin' Mobile

My Generation
Article Archive
Bibliography
Who Associates

See Me, Feel Me

Join Together
Odds & Sods
Chat Room

The Seeker

A Legal Matter
A Word about Copyrights
Privacy Policy

Bargain
The Who Official Merchandise

Article Archive › Lifehouse -- An Interpretation (1999)

Lifehouse -- An Interpretation

Dave LeBoeuf

thirteen@the-spa.com

2/1/99

 

The early '70s marked Townshend's foray into synthesizer technology, the first results of which are found on Who's Next, The Who's watershed 1971 release, which has since become a staple of 'classic rock' (e.g., '70s rock) format FM radio. After suitable breathing space, Townshend had intended to follow up Tommy with an even more ambitious sci-fi multimedia project entitled Lifehouse, but the failure of this unmanageable project to materialize (which consequently shattered Townshend's confidence and sent him into a deep depression) led to the surrogate release of Who's Next, an album comprised of selected songs from the Lifehouse project. Townshend's technical skills on piano were improving, while his interest in the sonic possibilities of the new technology in electronic synthesizers served as a fresh and futuristic vehicle for him to compose by. Enamored with Terry Riley's Rainbow in Curved Air (1969), in which a variety of organ sounds are altered in pitch and the recorded tape spliced and 'looped' into unusual rhythmic patterns, Townshend began similar experiments at home, utilizing sounds from analog equipment such as the ARP 2600. The looped patterns he developed became the groundwork for such songs as "Baba O'Riley" (the title of which pays homage to both Meher Baba and Terry Riley) and "Won't Get Fooled Again", both instances in which the actual synthesizer tracks Townshend created at home were used on the final studio recordings. [Other looped patterns stemming from these early synthesizer experiments appear on subsequent Who and Townshend solo albums, such as Odds and Sods (1974), Who Are You (1978) and Psychoderelict (1993)]. Townshend's great enthusiasm towards the liberating potential of this new musical technology in sound generation, recording, and composition (as well as its promise of greater public accessibility, given evolving economies-of-scale) was to be translated into the Lifehouse storyline.

"The power of rock music as a liberating force is completely untapped," Townshend commented prior to embarking on the Lifehouse project, "I've seen Who concerts where the vibrations were becoming so pure that I thought the world was just going to stop, the whole thing was becoming so unified. But you could never reach that state, because in the back of their minds everybody knew that the group were going to have to stop soon, or they'd got to get home or catch the last bus or something... We have invented the fantasy in our minds -- the ideal -- and now we want to make it happen for real. We want to hear the music we have dreamed about, see the harmony we have experienced temporarily in rock become permanent" (Townshend, in Barnes, p. 99). Reflecting his interest in various Eastern philosophies of music, particularly that of Sufi Inayat Khan, in which all of reality is believed ultimately to be composed of musical vibrations, Lifehouse represented Townshend at his most idealistic phase, where he seemed to believe that music could be a literal and direct catalyst for spiritual enlightenment. (An excellent description of Inayat Khan's philosophy of a musical cosmology can be found in "The World Is Sound: Nada Brahma", by Joachim-Ernst Berendt). Lifehouse was to be a multimedia extravaganza, an integrated process of audience-artist interaction, and one that, it was hoped, would ultimately culminate in a single musical experience blending together film, music, storyline, philosophy and listener. Townshend intended the finished product of this evolutionary, participatory process -- a single live performance -- to be presented to the rest of the world via live telecast and then made into a feature film. "The Lifehouse idea really was very simple," Townshend writes in the reissued Who's Next liner notes, "it was a portentous science-fiction film with Utopian spiritual messages into which were to be grafted uplifting scenes from a real Who concert. I was selling a simple credo: whatever happens in the future, rock and roll will save the world." (Who's Next reissue liner notes, 5/7/95).

In his overly ambitious, Scriabin-like attempt to realize in actual terms the basic form of the Lifehouse storyline, Townshend negotiated with the Young Vic Theatre in London and successfully secured longterm occupancy of the theatre for initial development of a grandiose idea: it was hoped that through a series of intimate 'rehearsals' with the same selected audience, a musical piece could be collaboratively written. At a Young Vic press conference on January 13, 1971, Townshend announced the aim of the project: "We are intending to produce a fiction, or a play, or an opera and create a completely different kind of performance in rock. We are writing a story and we aim to perform it on the first day we start work in this theatre... About 400 people will be involved with us and we aim to play music which represents them." [Melody Maker, January 23, 1971, as quoted in Atkins' liner notes to Who's Next reissue].

Townshend intended to employ various electronic synthesizer equipment in much the same way that the hero of his story does -- helping each audience member create their own 'sound'. (The opening synthesizer pattern on the song "Baba O'Riley" represented for Townshend what he thought such a translation of Meher Baba's vital statistics might sound like). The Who's management were even able to secure a deal with Universal Pictures to put up $1,000,000 to $2,000,000 towards financing a film of the entire Lifehouse project and story.

The Young Vic rehearsals, however, were a disaster. Invited members of the public turned out to be largely hard-core Who fans who, unruly and uninterested in Townshend's ideals for an interactive musical expression to evolve, shouted instead for old Who standards such as "My Generation". In desperation, The Who obliged, and the sessions turned out to be no more than standard Who performances. "Indeed, there has always been some confusion about what Townshend expected to achieve in reality by playing at the Young Vic," writes John Atkins in the liner notes to the recently reissued Who's Next, "and what he had imagined happening in the film script. The Young Vic shows ultimately remained little more than public rehearsals, and took their toll on Pete Townshend's confidence." Atkins, Who's Next reissue liner notes. The strained relationship during the Lifehouse project between Townshend and Kit Lambert, longtime band manager and creative cohort, has been duefully pointed out by Townshend himself as a major factor in the project's failure to materialize. Townshend has never hesitated to point out how instrumental Lambert was in both the initial formation and subsequent development of Tommy, and it was the absence of Lambert during the early stages of Lifehouse that, Townshend believes, doomed the project to failure. "Kit Lambert had always helped me obtain from my co-workers the necessary act of faith to see a project through... I believed in genius, symbiosis and miracles. I needed Kit." (Townshend, liner notes of Who's Next reissue).

Even the synthesizer and sequencing technology that Townshend put so much faith in for the project was nowhere as advanced as it needed to be in a pre-MIDI 1971. Townshend has since noted how at the time he was trying to move the Lifehouse project forward, although the sounds and the concepts were there, "the computer technology needed to process all that information just wasn't." ["Lifehouse: The One That Got Away", 1996 BBC radio special].

The Who had already begun recording songs for the Lifehouse storyline -- some were released on Who's Next, others as miscellaneous singles and B-sides. With the role of producer and sound engineer becoming more pronounced in a developing era of album-oriented rock, successful producer-engineer Glyns Johns had been brought in for the Who's Next sessions. Johns, quite conscious of the role played by the master engineer amidst the new technological environment of studio recording, has noted how "It's the way that the engineer hears the piece of music. He injects a tremendous amount into the atmosphere... Any record, to my way of thinking has to have, has to give you a mental picture when you hear it. I think the engineer's job is to present a mental picture in sound that he thinks suits the number and the artist." [Frith, Simon. Sound Effects, p. 112]. In the case of Who's Next, the result was a great success. The various tracks had little of the narrative continuity of the Tommy album (or, later, the Quadrophenia concept album); each song on Who's Next was relatively self-contained, and the release of the album as a single LP was received as a non-conceptual album by the public. Who's Next went on to sell millions of copies (it is their biggest selling album in the U.S., but Tommy remains their biggest worldwide success) and is still widely regarded as one of the best produced, best 'sounding' rock albums of all time, certainly the best produced album in The Who's discography. The rich texture of sounds found on the album -- the nuances of Townshend's power chords, expressive guitar soloing, acoustic guitar work, and synthesizer tracks; the stylized and frenetic drumming of Moon (whose drum sounds were more widely separated and better captured than on Tommy); the gut-wrenching screams of vocalist Roger Daltrey (his best singing to date) -- combined with the wide range of dynamics in each of the album's songs led to Who's Next becoming a benchmark in rock album production. In "Baba O'Riley", for instance, a hypnotic looped sythesizer track provides a raga-like modal thread, beginning and remaining undisturbed throughout the song. After several measures of this synthesizer pattern at the song's beginning, a powerful I-V-IV chord progression is layered on top, leading to Moon's gradual settling into common time. Daltrey's lead vocals on the verses and choruses are nicely contrasted with Townshend's expressive guitar solo and range-stretching singing during the song's bridge section ("Don't cry, don't raise your eye, it's only teenage wasteland"). The song builds in intensity towards its "whirling dervish" ending, accelerating into rapid 2/4 time while violins enter to provide a klezmer-like feel, building speed and momentum until all instruments land abruptly and are muted on the resolving beat.

***

"I've got a kind of pivot idea, basically based on physics, closely linked with the things mystics have been saying for a long time about vibrations in music. Basically, it's about someone trying to discover the note that is everything, the essence, if you like, a musical sort of infinity It's a cyclic idea It's about a set of musicians, a group, who look like The Who, and behave remarkably like The Who, and they have a roadie who is desperately interested in ideals for humanity He's fantastically serious, but the group isn't. Anyway, this group find a note which, basically, creates complete devastation. And when everything is destroyed, only the real note, the true note that they have been looking for is left. Of course, there's no one left to hear it; except the audience, of course, who are in a rather privileged position." [Pete Townshend, Disc and Music Echo, 24 October 1970; as quoted in Generations, Issue 17, p. 8].

Through various script revisions, Townshend provided Lifehouse with a basic storyline involving a dystopian future society (akin to the totalitarian government's satiation of the populace in Huxley's Brave New World) where the "better off" in a highly stratified, two-class society live in underground cities, protected from the pollution and environmental destruction lying on the surface. Wired into the government-controlled "Grid", these people live materially-comfortable but spiritually-empty lives inside their sensation-rich 'experience suits' (pleasant 'virtual reality' experiences provided by the Grid). Amidst the desolation and destruction on the Earth's surface live the 'outsiders', dissidents and individuals too poor or unwilling to live by the Grid's passive lifestyle. (These figures parallel those confined to "the Prole area" in George Orwell's 1984 as well as the John Savage character in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World).

A small, further marginalized group live on the outskirts of this futuristic decay, practicing simple musical creation, a lost art form to the underground urban masses and a "ritualistic practice" deemed subversive by the government. Among these "outsiders" is Lifehouse's chief protagonist, Bobby, a roadie for an old rock and roll band of yesteryear. As the lead character in the story, Bobby pursues something of an ancient, mystical vision of music's potential to reach the 'Lost Chord' or 'Universal Note'. By immersing himself in the latest and best technology available (appropriated from the government), and through his exploration of astrology, ancient Egyptian texts, etc., Bobby fervently pursues his alchemical vision, eventually getting word out of a live concert scheduled to take place soon, an event in which the Lost Chord will hopefully be reached, to the enlightenment of all in attendance. Vital statistics from each audience member (heart rhythms, brain waves, etc.) are to be translated via computer into respective notes, phrases, or chords, and these individualized sounds are then to be combined and processed by the computer into a single chord, "a celestial cacaphony of sound" that is the Universal Note (or the "Lost Chord" of Sufist cosmology).

A confrontation eventually takes place at the spiritually charged Lifehouse event, wherein "Jumbo" (also known as "Brick") who heads the governmental wing in charge of enforcing the Grid, arrives at the Lifehouse. Bobby is apparently shot, but just as he falls from the balcony the Universal Note is reached -- as the Lifehouse participants catch him in their arms they all, Bobby included, disappear, having reached a transcendant metaphysical state. All that is left is Bobby's "blood-stained sequined gown" (BBC special).

There should be no mistake that the Bobby character is based very much on Pete Townshend himself. There is a self-reflexive nature to Townshend's Lifehouse project -- that is, there is a dual nature to its storyline, in which both the writer/composer and "reader" are themselves characters (see the "double barrel shotgun" discussion in Atkins, Generations #17). Lifehouse failed to materialize in '70-'71 and was, for the most part, shelved indefinitely. According to Townshend (BBC Lifehouse special), Daltrey's belated excitement over Lifehouse's concepts and potential led to the the project being briefly resuscitated prior to the Who Are You sessions. True to the "double barrel" approach, Townshend's script revisions placed storyline events 200 years into the future. In what we might call Lifehouse II, or the second incarnation of an ever-evolving storyline, citizens reflect upon Bobby's long-ago event that was eventually "crushed" by "the great Jumbo the First" (BBC Lifehouse special).

In dialogue with an elderly woman, a younger generation idealist (presumably "Spinner"), grateful that the past "rebellion" had been crushed, nonetheless holds a philosophical vision very similar to Bobby's. But whereas Bobby sought, appreciated, and found integral the two-way, interactive and direct experience of music, Spinner puts his faith in a radical revamping of the Grid to serve similar purposes (e.g, enlightenment, liberation, etc.). The latter mirrors Townshend's belief (conveyed in the BBC Lifehouse special) that as our consumer culture becomes increasingly passive and individualistic (e.g., each of us getting experiences, knowledge, and awareness in isolation via our home computers and satellite dishes), any individual capable of deploying these media to successfully simulate (to the extent that such is possible) the direct experiences of "liberation" (as exemplified by Bobby's Lifehouse event) will possess an unparalleled "power".

By revising the script to incorporate two distinct temporal phases of the Lifehouse idea, Townshend in effect distances himself (Bobby) from any potential future actualization of its metaphysical concepts and precepts. As the Spinner character begins planning another Lifehouse event (this time to be broadcast illegally over the Grid), the elderly woman attempts to convince him to see his 'vision' in a new, more historically 'accurate' light. She recalls how she was but 12 years old when her Grandmother attended the original Lifehouse event, and that the attendees were known as 'the Musos', people who, like herself, believed music to be irrevocably "in our blood", innately seeking expression in a way that no Grid program could ever possibly hope to fully replicate. (It is important to note that Townshend intended Lifehouse as both a commentary about the commercialism occurring in the entertainment industry at the time -- e.g., the routinization of one LP a year from established rock acts and the music industry's increasing ability to guide or 'dictate' popular tastes and preferences -- and as an ultimately optimistic but cautionary tale about technology's ability to either liberate or subdue human creativity. Of the time-worn, archetypal dimension to this notion of authority seeking to suppress the 'dangers' of art and music, it is also worth noting that, as Richard Shusterman writes in his book Pragmastist Aesthetics, page 53, "Plato condemned art as deceptively unreal partly because he feared its power to penetrate and contaminate the human soul and thereby corrupt proper action. Artistic creation and appreciation were both conceived as a form of irrationality, artist and audience being linked in a chain of divine possession whose source was the Muse.")

Let us briefly turn to Psychoderelict. Through the between-song dialogues of Spinner and Athena (coming through the dreams of protagonist Raymond Highsmith -- see the Psychoderelict press release), we are given the basic story structure that Lifehouse II was to follow. It appears that Athena, who has inherited Jumbo's well-intended but ultimately-alienating plans for the Grid as an alternative to the polluted wasteland above, has tried to make the Grid a nexus for personal growth and evolution. Spinner, however, rebels and seeks to alter this organized government attempt to 'better' society. Townshend writes:

[W]e learn that Gridlife is a futuristic musical about a global Virtual Reality system which provides its subscribers with entire lifetimes of karmically tailored experience. ATHENA, the controller of the Grid, uses a jingle to promote her Gridsuits as safe havens from the heavily polluted atmosphere. But the young hero, SPINNER, is concerned that Athena has too much power and is distorting the truth. He plans to expose her and lead a rebellion." [Townshend, Psychoderelict press kit].

During "Meher Baba M4 (Signal Box)", we hear Spinner begin to convey his plan:

My name is Spinner. Athena, the controller of the Life Experience Grid, is neglecting her job. She makes experience programs. These implement virtual reality systems. The programs are fed to anyone wearing Gridlife suits. They are for refuge from pollution or radiation during Grid-sleep curfews. The programs replace life.

The song "Early Morning Dreams" depicts the current state of Grid programs, an advertisement for "The Grid", and more of Spinner's philosophy:

ATHENA: You are safe from harm on The Grid. You are safe from harm

GRID EXPERIENCER: This is the dream that I wake up dreaming

Lovin' my lover under dawn-pink skies

A perfect design that I wake up scheming

What I recall when I first open my eyes

ATHENA: You will receive life programs that precisely suit your needs and desires. Our planet is challenged. Decent people need to be protected. So, enjoy the present while we hope for the future. Slip on to the Life Experience Grid today.

GRID EXPERIENCER: This is the tune that you're always hearing

What you'll remember when you've broken the ties

We're dancing together as the sun is appearing

Again and again you awake in surprise

MAN IN AD: Phew. That was some life. I wanted it to go on forever.

WOMAN IN AD: Me too. I enjoyed it.

MAN IN AD: Yes. And in the next program we'll get the balance we need to continue our evolution...

SPINNER: Athena controls newspapers, TV stations and all media, including the Grid. You're all consumers. And I belive you need truth to develop morality and decency. The Grid always provides facts, but facts don't always reveal the truth.

After the song "I Want That Thing", we hear Spinner's definitive plans:

SPINNER: I've planned an alternative. I will secretly commandeer one of the Gridlife studios and stage a live rock concert for every single person wearing Grid suits. That's fifty percent of the world's population. The result will be amazing. Everyone who experiences the concert will slip out of their suit and come to the show. They will be drawn to it. This will produce the biggest live concert audience in history.

Towards Psychoderelict's end, during "Meher Baba M5 (Vivaldi)", Spinner's philosophy echoes the original sentiments of Bobby in Lifehouse I's songs "Pure and Easy" and "Getting in Tune":

SPINNER: You will each hear your own song, each your own note, your own vibration in the cosmos. All of you will know one another through the other songs. You will blend and get in harmony. As you blend, your song will change. And at the end, your music will turn into a sound so complete, that it will show us that we all are one. Free. We are in tune.

During the penultimate song on Psychoderelict, "Baba O'Riley (Demo)", Spinner further elaborates his musical cosmology:

SPINNER: Music and vibrations are the basis of everything. They pervade everything. Human consciousness is reflected by them. Atoms are vibrations between positive and negative forces. Some very subtle, some complex, but, it's all music. Soon, we will switch in the whole world. Every person wearing an experience suit will share this adventure with us.

Ray High's voice-over ends the song with a desciption of the final events at Lifehouse II before he is interrupted in the studio by Ruth Streeting:

RAY: The crowd rush in. Three circles closing fast to form a perfect cushion as he lands. As Spinner hits the crowd and the long, sustained final chord suddenly ends...

RUTH: Ray, I've cut all this. Go straight to twenty-eight.

Listmember Bob Nomad has previously put forth to the list an interesting possible interpretation of this passage (and Psychoderelict in general) with respect to the concepts and evolution of Lifehouse:

I don't pretend to have "the" answer. IMO, PsychoD represents Pete's then-postmortem of the idea in which "Ray" [of the "Sally and Ray" who open "Lifehouse I" by "going mobile" across the teenage wasteland in a beat-up, old vehicle -- D13] has become an artist trying to chronicle the story of Lifehouse. He is co-opted, however, by the greed and ambition of business and the popular press so that the essence of the story -- transcendence through live music -- literally is cut from the story in order to make a more palatable product for distribution across the Grid.

I believe Bob may be correct in his interpretation and the following excerpt from the Psychoderelict press kit seems to support him:

"Ray finally gets to record his Gridlife project. We hear Spinner, in a scene from Ray's dream, explain that everything in the Universe is composed of music and vibrations, and that soon the whole world will experience their adventure. Ray's story closes as he compares the deceit of today with the optimism of the time when he was composing Gridlife. He longs for a return to the values and visions of the early '70s." [Townshend, Psychoderelict press kit].

In effect, Townshend creates another "meta"-level of self-reflexivity.

***

To the best of anyone's knowledge, story and plot in each stage of Lifehouse were not developed beyond minimal sketches and allusions, and we are left with spotty and rather incongruous storylines that, as we speculate and postulate in an attempt to elaborate, may be no more than grasping at straws.

In several interviews during the inception of Lifehouse, Townshend intimated that the numerous songs he had composed for the project were to act simply as starting-points for what he hoped would be music composed jointly by audience and band, that is, resultant music from audience interaction. (See Generations, Issue 17). But given that this is all we have to work with, the following is my best estimate of song inclusion and order for what would be the original Lifehouse. I include various excerpts from Psychoderelict in the song sequence with the intent of it "fleshing out" the original Lifehouse storyline:

 

1. Baba O'Riley

From Townshend's narration at the beginning of the BBC Lifehouse special, we learn that the Lifehouse film would have opened with this song -- opening credits would roll, the camera following the movements of a beat-up vehicle making its way across the wasteland. In the vehicle is Ray, Sally and their kids (apparently, they're from Scotland, where the air is still clean), on their way to try and secure, possibly via black-market, a chart-reading for a new, personalized Grid program. (There appears to be a shortage of novel Grid programs being provided by the government). The kids are whining that they want to go back home 'to Scotland' and Ray reassures them that they will be going home -- where they can see friends Dave and Mary -- just as soon as they get the chart done. The very fact that Sally and Ray have ventured out -- endangering themselves -- shows how discontented they are with their current Grid-lives. They show the same scepticism and apprehension towards the 'outside' that Mary and Dave initially have, but are ahead of the latter couple in being fed-up earlier on. Sally and Ray seem to gravitate towards Bobby's project before Mary eventually does.

As the opening song, "Baba O'Riley" provides the basic setting of a desolate, "teenage wasteland". "Sally, take my hand," Ray says, "we'll travel south crossland". There is a vague rumbling in the outskirts, a movement with individuals feeling compelled to gather and coalesce in hopes of the chance (or promise?) at 'spiritual revolution'. Biblical terminology is used throughout Lifehouse and occurs in this song when Ray tells Sally "The exodus is here, The happy ones are near " (The "happy ones" likely referring to the Musos, a marginalized cult-like group that still practice the past art of "rock and roll music").

In one interview, Townshend described the outsiders as follows: "There are regular people, but they're the scum off the surface; there's a few farmers there, that's where the thing from 'Baba O'Riley' comes in. It's mainly young people who are either farmer's kids whose parents can't afford to buy them experience suits; then there's just scum, like these two geezers who ride around in a battered-up old Cadillac limousine and they play old Who records on the tape deck... I call them Track fans." (Pete Townshend, as quoted in The Who by John Swenson).

The profound influence of Sufi musician and philosopher Inayat Khan on Townshend's own thought is perhaps best conveyed in this song, with its mixing of hypnotic modal raga with the powerful I-V-IV chord progressions typical of Townshendian rock and roll. (As a sect of Islam, Sufism invokes more explicit mystical beliefs. Rather than focusing on the 'Five Pillars of Islam', Sufis seek ultimate religious experience through mystic trances or altered states often induced through twirling dances or the "whirling dervish"). Although Townshend seems to have scheduled "Baba O'Riley" at the beginning of Lifehouse, the song's trance-like, "whirling dervish" ending would have been most appropriate for Lifehouse's ending, when the crowd and the music reach a heightened emotional (and metaphysical) state, culminating in an explosive moment upon which they reach Nirvana and "disappear". (It is for this reason that I believe one of the Psychoderelict instrumental tracks, such as "Baba O'Riley (Demo)", should finish the Lifehouse song sequence, after "The Song is Over".

 

2. Goin' Mobile

Within the context of Lifehouse, the song depicts Ray and Sally in their air-filtering "Road Warrior"-type vehicle crossing the landscape. They appear to be a bit apprehensive about their trek, worrying they might accidentally upset the Grid by interrupting the Grid-line cables leading to various underground homes they pass:

I don't care about pollution

I'm an air-conditioned gypsy

That's my solution

Watch the police and the tax man miss me

NOTE: John Atkins cites Townshend's career as a travelling musician, and his experience living the "gypsy life" in a mobile home, as inspiration for the song "Going Mobile". (Generations, Issue 17, p. 8).

 

3. Water

With further "scene-setting" needed early in the story, "Water" depicts further the wasteland features that exist aboveground:

The foreman over there hates the gang,

The poor people on the farms get it so rough,

Truck drivers drive like the devil,

The policemen they're acting so tough.

They need water

Indian Lake is burning,

The New York skyline is hazy,

The River Thames is turning dry,

The whole world is blazing

 

4. Time is Passing

On the outskirts of the Eliot-like wasteland, the Musos are creating and enjoying homespun, "folksy" music (hence the "folky" feel of the song's beginning) . This song acts as an early description of this marginalized group from which Bobby will emerge with his vision.

I'm playing my guitar while my sister bangs the jar

The glass sets up a sound like people laughing

It's going to my brain and it's easing all my pain

I must hear this sound again 'cause time is passing

I'm walking by the sea and the shingle sings for me

The crabs are swimming down among the starfish

The rocks all clatter down and the seagulls fly around

But the whole trip rubs it in that time is passing, passing

Find it, I got to hear it all again...

My heart has heard the sound of harmony

Blind to it, as my tears fall again

It's only by the music I'll be free

There's something in the whisper of the trees

Millions hear it, still they can't believe

There are echoes of it splashing in the waves

As an empire of dead men leave their graves

Don't listen to people talk, don't listen to 'em selling souls

Don't listen to me or words from men above

Don't hear it in your needs and don't hear it in your greeds

Just hear it in the sound of time a passing

Find it, I got to hear it all again

My heart has heard the sound of harmony

Blind to it, as my tears fall again

It's only by the music I'll be free

 

5. Getting in Tune

As the the campfire revelry of "Time is Passing" concludes, a logical scene to emerge would be for Bobby to be playing "Getting in Tune" by himself, testament to the seriousness with which he takes music's potential. We see and hear the first seeds of Bobby's vision being sown:

I'm singing this note 'cause it fits in well

With the chords I'm playing

I can't pretend there's any meaning here

Or in the things I'm saying

But I'm in tune

Right in tune

I'm in tune

And I'm gonna tune

Right in on you

I've got it all here in my head

There's nothing more needs to be said

I'm just bangin' on my old piano

I'm getting in tune with the straight and narrow

 

6. Early Morning Dreams

Having already been introduced to Sally & Ray, the Musos, Bobby, and other facets of the wasteland aboveground, now would seem a logical place to 'introduce' the listener to life underground, amidst the Grid.

"Early Morning Dreams" (although from Psychoderelict) serves as an advertisement and description of Grid experiences (from the point of view of a couple -- probably Dave and Mary) and I consider the song's inclusion into a Lifehouse I storyline a warranted possibility; the only thing "messing up" its inclusion is Spinner's references to Athena (part of Lifehouse II), if one even deems this a point of confusion. While the narration from Spinner helps clarify the storyline, including the version from the 'Music Only' version of Psychoderelict -- which deletes the 'advertisement' as well as Spinner's dialogue -- would obviate the Athena reference-problem.

This is the dream that I wake up dreaming

Lovin' my lover under dawn-pink skies

A perfect design that I wake up scheming

What I recall when I first open my eyes...

This is the tune that you're always hearing

What you'll remember when you've broken the ties

We're dancing together as the sun is appearing

Again and again you awake in surprise...

You feel so tender - you feel so wet

You feel so secure - so deep in love and yet

The feeling is fleeting

You're a fugitive, safe at last

Your heart is beating

Will you relive the recent past?..

Early morning dreams come true

I've proved it now that I'm here with you

You, here by my side

I'm siding with you

Early morning dreams come true...

 

7. Mary

As a couple living safely underground, Dave and Mary are probably meant to be contrasted with Sally and Ray, also a couple living underground but who have recently ventured into the wasteland out of frustration with their current Grid lives. The uneven pace with which the respective relationships and philosophies of the two couples evolve are hinted at in subsequent songs "Mary" and "Love Ain't For Keeping".

In his article on Lifehouse in Generations #17, John Atkins writes of the those living underground vs. those living aboveground:

The two sides -- officially forbidden by the establishment to fraternise [sic] -- did occasionally in various circumstances come into contact, and some social interaction took place. In the tradition of Romeo and Juliet, a relationship developed between a male and female who came from either side of the barrier, which triggered many dramatic scenes and brought to a head a subplot which addressed the intractable problem of doomed love. (Generations, #17, p. 18).

While I do believe this to be the case in the Lifehouse storyline, I think that the song "Mary" refers to Dave and Mary living underground. While some have argued that a 'relationship' of some sort develops between Jumbo/Brick and Mary, I have yet to find any convincing evidence or reasoning to support this idea. It is also possible that the lyrics of "Mary" are meant to convey Bobby's (or some other outsider's) desire for her; their is certainly a 'doomed love' theme in the lyrics of "The Song is Over", for instance. The lines in "Mary" about the "hole in your coat" and the singer's memories of an impoverished youth where "my brother slept on the floor" could apply to Bobby or some other outsider, but would apply equally well to Dave if he were characterized as someone who 'worked hard' to provide Mary and himself with a safe, underground Grid-linked home.

Dave (who will later in the story be opposed to Mary's interest in attending the Lifehouse event) has worked hard to provide himself and his love with 'safety' from the pollution above, and his well-intentioned 'materialism' has even tainted the nature of his affections towards Mary. Note the rather 'possessive' qualities to the lyrics, the extent to which his securing of her as a partner is something of a deserved prize to compensate for the injustices of his youth:

Mary, you are everything a man could want,

And I want you, Mary...

When I look at the hole in your coat.

I have to love you more.

I remember when I was a child

And my brother slept on the floor...

Oh, I know that the sun don't shine

Down on every man.

But when a woman let my brother down.

I swore one day I'd land me one Mary...

 

8. Can't You See I'm Easy

To the extent that this song was intended for Lifehouse, it seems to be further characterization of Dave and Mary's strained relationship, this time from Mary's point of view:

(Why can't you see I'm easy?)

Just take what you need

(Why can't you see I'm easy?)

Just leave enough for me

I don't care anymore

I just want an end to war

(Why can't you see I'm easy?)

There's so very little left

(Why can't you see I'm easy?)

I need a little rest

I won't fight every gain

I just want to end my praying

(Why can't you see I'm easy?)

Got no ax to grind

(Why can't you see I'm easy?)

Even if I ain't your kind

I can't say what went wrong

I was right in every song

I was a-writin' ooh

(Why can't you see I'm easy?)

Why can't you see?

(Why can't you see I'm easy?)

I'm easy, yeah

(Why can't you see I'm easy?)

Why can't you see?

(Why can't you see I'm easy?)

 

9. Love Ain't For Keepin'

As a contrast to the nature of Mary and Dave's relationship, we cut back to Sally and Ray (the same couple from "Baba O'Riley") getting less and less worried about the perceived hazards of living above-ground. They appear to be gravitating more towards what will become Bobby's aesthetic, and may have already met and joined the camp of the Musos:

Layin' on my back

In the newly mown grass

Rain is coming down

But I know the clouds will pass

You bring me tea

Say "the babe's a-sleepin'"

Lay down beside me

Love ain't for keeping

Black ash from the foundry

Hangs like a hood

But the air is perfumed

By the burning firewood...

 

10. Too Much of Anything

As a possible interpretation of this song's significance for Lifehouse, Bob Nomad has posted to the list -- "As the Grid became more pervasive, the sheer weight of participation began to subvert the promise of virtual paradise just as sheer numbers degraded the physical environment and have clogged the internet. Which suggested "Too Much of Anything" and the official dilemma expressed in 'Behind Blue Eyes'".

While this might certainly be the case, I believe that this song comes from Bobby, who realizes he's on to something, but in the process appears to be "burning out" in pursuit of the vision (much as Townshend himself "overloaded" during Lifehouse's inception):

I think these hands have felt a lot,

I don't know, what have I touched,

I think these eyes have seen a lot,

I don't know, maybe they've seen too much.

I think this brain has thought a lot,

Searching, trying to find the crutch,

I think this heart has bled once too often,

This time it's bled a bit too much.

Too much of anything, too much for me,

Too much of everything gets too much for me.

I can't remember before '49,

But I know that '48 was there,

My ears let in what I should speak out,

Hmmm, there's something in the air.

Ooh, I've overloaded on my way,

Bye, bye, bye, bye, you better keep in touch.

Think your ears hear a whole lot of music,

And like me they've caught a bit too much.

Too much of anything, is too much for me,

Too much of everything gets too much for me.

I think these hands have felt a lot,

I don't know, what have I touched,

I think these eyes have seen a lot,

I don't know, maybe they've seen too much.

I think this brain has thought a lot,

Oh, searching, trying to find the crutch,

I think these ears hear a whole lot of music,

And like me they've heard a bit too much.

Too much of anything, is too much for me,

Too much of everything gets too much for me.

 

11. Electronic Wizardry

Assuming this is the same exact piece that is in "Psychomontage" (the section that begins with a sequenced piano riff), this would be a good spot for it to act as a sufficient "bridge" between Bobby's rather dour spirits in "Too Much of Anything" and the celebratory "Join Together". By remaining in the 'piano' mode, we have an evolving flow from Bobby's meanderings in "Getting in Tune" which can effectively represent the moment of Bobby's revelation on how enlightenment is to be achieved, namely, through a live event, a 'House of Life' event.

 

12. Join Together

Bobby suddenly achieves a revelation of sorts. Believing he is on the verge of 'discovering' how to create the Lost Chord, he puts the word out of how it will take place and of the participatory context in which it must take place:

When you here this sound a-comin',

Hear the drummers drumming,

I want you to join together with the band...

There's a million ways to laugh,

And every one's a path,

Come on and join together with the band...

You don't have to play,

You can follow or lead the way,

I want you to join together with the band.

We don't know where we're going,

But the season's right for knowing,

I want you to join together with the band

It's the biggest band you'll find,

It's as deep as it is wide

Come on and join together with the band...

 

13. Relay

Word spreads about Bobby's philosophy and a planned 'House of Life' event, as governmental spies get wind of it:

You can hear it in the street, see it in the dragging feet,

The word is getting out about control,

Spies they've come and gone, the story travels on,

The only quiet place is inside your soul .

Relay, things are brewing,

Relay, something's doing,

Relay, there's a revolution,

Relay, relay, hand me down a solution, yeah.

Pass it on, pass it on, pass it on, hey you, pass it on

 

14. Meher Baba M4 (signal box)

I would suggest placing this instrumental here -- just after "Relay" -- or just before "Relay".

 

15. Naked Eye

For the longest time, I had always taken this song to be representative of Mary departing to the Cut Theatre without Dave. But the lines with "Find me a woman" and "When you cover up your nuts" shot that interpretation to the ground! I now think "Naked Eye" would best be placed as a representation of an elated Bobby -- having gotten his Lifehouse idea off the ground and into motion -- calling "a spade's a spade" with his antagonist Jumbo (also known as Brick). It is Jumbo who "holds the gun", Bobby who "holds the wound", and the theme of not entirely trusting what 'seems to be the case' may refer to Bobby's appraisal of Jumbo's amnesty offers (see "Won't Get Fooled Again" below):

Take a little dope

And walk out in the air

The stars are all connected to the brain.

Find me a woman and lay down on the ground,

Her pleasure comes falling down like rain,

Get myself a car, I feel power as I fly,

Oh now I'm really in control,

It all looks fine to the naked eye,

But it don't really happen that way at all,

Don't happen that way at all.

You sign your own name and I sign mine,

They're both the same but we still get separate rooms,

You can cover up your guts but when you cover up your nuts,

You're admitting that there must be something wrong,

Press any button and milk and honey flows,

The world begins behind your neighbor's wall,

It all looks fine to the naked eye,

But it don't really happen that way at all,

Nah nah no, don't happen that way at all.

You hold the gun and I hold the wound,

And we stand looking in each other's eyes,

Both think we know what's right,

Both know we know what's wrong,

We tell ourselves so many many many lies,

We're not pawns in any game, we're not tools of bigger men,

There's only one who can really move us all,

It all looks fine to the naked eye,

But it don't really happen that way at all.

 

16. Won't Get Fooled Again

Jumbo, after learning of Bobby's philosophy (spreading quickly among the populace), attempts to put a stop to it diplomatically, offering Bobby (and the rest of the Musos?) an amnesty of sorts, which would include their being given Gridlife homes. It is an offer that Bobby steadfastly rejects (as amounting to an inauthentic "sell out"), providing his idea of a single, live concert event with a newfound urgency. The battle lines are now clearly drawn.

We'll be fighting in the streets

With our children at our feet

And the morals that they worship will be gone...

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution

Take a bow for the new revolution

Smile and grin at the change all around

Pick up my guitar and play

Just like yesterday

Then I'll get on my knees and pray

We don't get fooled again

 

17. Behind Blue Eyes

Bob Nomad has posted to the list -- "Jumbo was in charge of the Grid and ultimately responsible for its content as well as keeping people plugged into it instead of running around having original, individual experiences. BBE represents his view of the situation, where he is resented for heavy-handed tactics like suppressing individuality outside the Grid but feels he is just making the best of a bad situation for the general welfare. A song about isolation & frustration from the dictator's viewpoint, perhaps ..."

The Jumbo character, although something of an "enemy" to Bobby and the Musos, is nonetheless presented in a sympathetic light. He is torn internally, between his duty towards the state (the route he believes we must take for progressive change) and the worthy intentions of Bobby and his followers.

I'm of the impression that with the character of Jumbo, we are getting Pete's commentary on the New Left of the late '60s and early '70s -- e.g., those individuals who prescribed radical political ideas and actions as the only effective means for needed social change. Despite the best of intentions, Townshend seemed to believe that any systematized attempt to alter the natural, organic structure of society (for the presumed "bettermnent" of all) would ultimately end up in deceit and ruin, where "the new boss" would be the "same as the old boss". The road to hell, Pete might also say, is paved with good intentions.

 

18. Let's See Action

Bobby, now determined that "the show must go on", hopes for a rallying by the people and a successful turn-out for the planned event at the Cut Theatre:

Let's see action, let's see people,

Let's see freedom up in the air,

Let's see action, let's see people,

Let's be free, let's see who cares.

The song's bridge depicts Bobby exhausted from his tireless assembling and organizing of the all that is necessary to carry off the Lifehouse event (which also includes eluding spies and police capture). The imagery also paints Bobby's couragous efforts as the early signs of his inadvertently being propelled (ala Tommy) into Messiah-status with the people:

Give me a drink boy and wash my feet,

I'm so tired of running from my own heat,

Take this package and here's what you do,

Gonna get this information through

 

19. I Want That Thing

The primary reasons I include this Psychoderelict song (the "Music Only" version) in the Lifehouse I sequence are: a) the Lifehouse-era synthesizer work at the song's beginning, b) the song's serving to illustrate Mary's determination to attend the Cut Theatre event and, c) as a song based around a basic 12-bar blues structure, it would complement "Baby, Don't You Do It", which is Dave's response to Mary's plans. Mary reads to Dave descriptions of the upcoming Lifehouse event and she interprets it as much more promising, direct, and "real" than the sterile experience programs of the Grid; she expresses her strong desire to attend, to which Dave objects, worried about possible dangers that might accompany such a venture (e.g., pollution, illegality, etc.). Mary is insistent on her plans to attend [BBC Lifehouse special].

Free ride to the house of life

Free ride to the house of life...

I work hard at my job

I save and I save

I know what I deserve

After all that I gave

You know I want that thing

You know I want that thing

Put aside a little money

Almost every day

When I think that I'm close

It just gets further away

You know I want that thing

I want that thing

Free ride to the house of life (I want that thing)

Free ride to the house of life (I want that thing)

Free ride to the house of life (I want that thing)

Don't know if it's truth

Don't know if it's lies

I just can't be aloof

To what you advertise

You know I want that thing

I want that thing

I can't wait

Any longer to choose

If I can't get my own

Gonna have to take yourse from youze

I want that thing

I want it, I want it, I really want that thing

Free ride to the house of life (I want that thing)...

 

20. Baby, Don't You Do It

While this cover song was being played by The Who as far back as 1965, a blistering version of it was recorded during the NYC Lifehouse sessions. The song acts as a nice 'dialogue' counterpoint of Dave trying to discourage Mary from attending the Cut Theater event.

(It is also worth noting that "Eyesight to the Blind", also a cover song, was included into the Tommy storyline).

 

21. I Don't Even Know Myself

A significant contrast, as people from the Gridlife underground begin to arrive at the Cut Theater (quite optimistic of Lifehouse's potential and 'promise'), Bobby asks them not to look up to him as some sort of messiah -- he is, after all, just as much of a seeker as they are. The lyrics also hint at further spy activity and police pursuit on the part of Jumbo:

Don't listen to the words I say, weighing up if I'm enlightened,

Don't shiver as you pass me by, 'cause mister I'm the one who's frightened,

The police just came and left, they wanted me and no one else,

Don't pretend that you know me 'cause I don't even know myself

There's only five who know my real name,

And my mother don't believe they know it,

What she called me is the way I'm staying,

And no one'll ever know it

 

22. When I Was A Boy

As a John Entwistle song recorded during the Lifehouse sessions, this song (if it was intended for Lifehouse) could arguably be placed either here or adjacent to "Too Much of Anything". If placed next to the latter, I feel you'd have two songs too similar in content and tempo, which is why I've chosen this location in the sequence. This song could just as easily be eliminated; Quadrophenia, after all, was recorded with every song written by Townshend... not an Entwistle song in the lot:

When I was a baby I hadn't a care in the world,

But now I'm a man, my troubles fill my head,

When I was five it was good to be alive,

But now I'm a man, I wish that I were dead.

My how time rushes by,

The moment you're born you start to die,

Time waits for no man,

And your life's spent, it's over before you begin.

As I sit here at my window,

My life comes back to me,

It's been so long since the good days,

It's been so long.

And I count up all the wasted years,

The hopes and the fears,

The laughs and the tears,

And I wonder, I wonder, I wonder what went wrong.

When I was a boy I had the mind of a boy,

But now I'm a man, ain't got no mind at all,

When I was in my teens I had my share of dreams,

But now I'm a man, ain't got no dreams at all.

 

23. Meher Baba M5 (Vivaldi)

I like the idea of placing these instrumentals in locations where they might be used as allusions to Bobby's imagination and/or internal thoughts on the form and structure of the Lifehouse event. The accordion-sounding loops in this piece keep it "folksy" and direct, within the company of the Musos.

 

24. Here For More

In the wake of Jumbo's various attempts to thwart the Lifehouse event from taking place, Bobby reminds the attendees that each person is "here for more" than he or she realizes and that, despite the various obstacles put in their path, the process towards enlightenment must continue:

You take a step in the right direction,

But the man knocks us down on the floor,

And although he may think we are broken,

We'll get up and take two steps more.

 

25. Ladies in the Female Jail

While I have yet to obtain lyrics to this song, if it were truly intended for Lifehouse, it would probably refer to Mary getting detained by the police at some point in her journey to the Cut Theatre. I have seen this title alternatively titled "Riot in the Female Jail", which might indicate Mary escaping from jail during such a riot. I have used the title "Ladies in the Female Jail" per John Atkins' article in Generations #16 (see quote in #2 of 'Questions' below).

 

26. Bargain

The sentiment in this song could be Bobby (or some other 'outsider') yearning for Mary, but it is more likely Dave missing Mary intensely before he himself departs (too late) for the Lifehouse event. (We do know from the BBC Lifehouse special that Dave is somehow eventually detained by Jumbo and put in a basement cell, for after Bobby and the crowd disappear during "The Song Is Over", Jumbo goes to check on Dave but finds that he too has disappeared).

I sit looking 'round

I look at my face in the mirror

I know I'm worth nothing without you

And like one and one don't make two

One and one make one

And I'm looking for that free ride to me

I'm looking for you

 

27. Keep Me Turning

In the Psychoderelict press kit, the following information about the abandoned Lifehouse project is written: "Several subsequent albums contain songs from the project, including: Who's Next, Who Came First, Rough Mix, Who Are You, Empty Glass, Scoop, and Another Scoop." Also, more than one concert (including one of his 1993 shows at the Wiltern in Los Angeles), Townshend introduced "Keep Me Turning" from Rough Mix as a Lifehouse track.

The song seems to be Mary still trying to get to the Theatre, having missed various leads, etc. Apparently, there is a sizeable pilgrimage of potential Lifehouse attendees taking place -- resources are being used up and there are rumours that there might not be enough room for all to attend. [I have bolded what I take to be the most significant lyrics]:

River's getting higher

No wood for the fire

They saw the messiah

But I guess I missed him again

That brings my score to a hundred and ten

The water's getting closer

Better ring up the grocer

Stack up the potatos

Oh, Jack are you ever coming back

Will your operatic soul turn black?

Keep me turning, oh keep me

Keep me burning, for your sun

Keep me turning

Don't you leave me till the very last

Keep me turning, I'm hanging on

Stop me yearning, I've had enough

Keep me turning

While I hand in my backstage pass

Children are smiling

Parents are wining

Bow tie tying

For the big day ahead real soon

Is there really gonna be no room

I've got a ticket

Just gotta get past the picket

They say that the trick is to walk in backwards

Like your walking out

I guess the lord's wearing glasses now

Keep me turning, Oh keep me on

Keep me burning, For your sun

Keep me turning

Don't you leave me till the very last

Keep me turning, I'm hanging on

Stop me yearning, I've had enough

Keep me turning

While I hand in my backstage pass

Keep me turning, Oh keep me on

Keep me burning, For your sun

Keep me turning

Don't you leave me till the very last

Keep me turning, I'm hanging on

Stop me yearning, I've had enough

Keep me turning

While I hand in my backstage pass

Keep me turning...

 

28. Put The Money Down

With much the same messiah and water imagery as in "Keep Me Turning", this song is probably referring to Dave also trying to get to the theatre. (It could be from Mary's perspective as well, but I think serves better dramatic purpose when coming from Dave. Also, in "Keep Me Turning", Mary "has a ticket" for the event, whereas Dave, in his last-minute haste, probably doesn't). Having also been served with delaying tactics by the authorities, Dave (or Mary) note that:

I got lost in the back streets, trying to get here tonight,

The police were asking questions, they took me to the wrong place twice.

I even lost my passport, and I forgot my name and town,

But now I'm here by the water, put the money down.

Sandwiched between the Christ/Messiah imagery, we also learn that Dave/Mary has picked up at least one other person (a juggler, perhaps to help create the communal feel of the medieval European 'carnival') who is also on his way to Lifehouse:

It was a beautiful day in Columbus when the fences fell

But the five loaves and the fishes ain't going to be much help,

I got a hungry juggler here who wants to be at the head,

Before he walks the water he wants his bread.

Further indications of the large number of people making their way to the event are found in the line:

Oh, mommy, mommy, please may I go downtown?

He's gonna walk on the water,

Put the money down.

I haven't quite figured out, however, how the first-person line, "I don't know if I trust you as you try to shoot me down, before I walk on the water, put the money down" fit into the picture (it might occur at some point when Jumbo arrests Dave), nor the line about "There are bands killing chickens...").

 

29. Meher Baba M3 (Instrumental)

In the standard Psychoderelict release, we hear a cheering crowd in the background, as well as the chant, "We want a universal grid!", which seems to allude to the ongoing Lifehouse concert.

The "Music Only" version of this song (which I'd go with) keeps the chant, but loses the cheers and Spinner's narration.

 

30. Pure and Easy

There once was a note, pure and easy,

Playing so free, like a breath rippling by.

The note is eternal, I hear it, it sees me,

Forever we blend it, forever we die.

I listened and I heard music in a word,

And words when you played your guitar,

The noise that I was hearing was a million people cheering,

And a child flew past me riding in a star

At the 'House of Life' event, the music is being created and Lost Chord is fast approaching, as are Jumbo and his troops. The fanciful image of the child "riding on a star" is meant to convey the ineffable degree of bliss experienced with Nirvana close at hand. The sound of "a million people cheering" is a sentiment Townshend sought to express from a vivid dream he once had, a dream which acted as perhaps the single largest inspiration for him to embark on the Lifehouse project. In tandem with Townshend's entire career of paradox and self-criticism, the heady pursuit of the Lost Chord -- the very attempt to 'intellectualize' it -- can only come at a price, that of abdicating humanitarian action. From his road-trip journal, Townshend recounts a "dream within a dream" he had one night, a fascinating dream-like exploration into the heart of what he felt the lost chord might sound like:

...I heard something distant that seemed to reflect my almost orgasmic feelings of pleasure. Years before, I had experimented with a tape recording of dozens and dozens of piano performances, sweeping and glittering over the entire chromatic scale. I then mixed them all together as one and the result was an almost unidentifiable sound, but of great beauty and mystery. A sound like waves crashing, or distant wind over a summit, but musical. In fact, on occasion a glimpse of detail within the deluge manifested, and piano could be clearly heard.

This new, remote sound I heard in my dream had similarities to my experimental work. It sounded like a breath being gently sighed away, but the listener's ear seemed inside the mouth of a lion. Listen to your own breath. Breathe out in a quiet place and hear the beauty of and complexity of the sound. The slightest change in the shape of your mouth chamber, the tiniest movement of your lips, and the breath becomes a song or a word. A thousand harmonics are thrown up like glittering reflections on the surface of a sunlit bay. In the mystic's "Om" is contained every sound, and every sound within a sound. Every ingredient that contributes to the source of the primordial desire to even make a sound is contained in that one word. [Townshend, Pete, "The Punk Meets the Godmother", Rolling Stone, N. 17, 1977, reprinted in Rock Music in America, ed. by Janet Podell, H.W. Wilson Company, New York, 1987. Also available at www.the-spa.com/thirteen/townshen.htm].

Townshend recounts how in this dream the beautiful, mysterious sound began to move closer to him, and how he felt the desire to 'analyze' the sound, to 'break down this sound' so that he could 'remake it for the whole world to hear'. Utilizing a water metaphor that he would re-use throughout his career -- especially on Quadrophenia -- Townshend writes:

Recklessly, I plunged deeply into the music. As I became submerged, it became slightly more coarse; it was, indeed, like diving into the sea. The feeling of the sharp, cool water is always a shock when one has spent an hour gazing languidly at the sunny surface of the waves.

In the dream, Townshend comes to the revelation that the sound he is hearing is not something like a million pianos but is rather some variant of the human voice, and so he presses further into the sound's core. But just as he is expecting the intrinsic nature of this apparently 'simple' sound to make its ultimate essence known, something very unexpected occurs:

Then, in a second, the whole world seemed to turn inside out. My skin crawled as I recognized the unit elements of this superficially wonderful noise. I could not believe what I heard. As I tore myself away, I felt I was leaving sections of my self behind, caught up in the cacophonous dirge. I tried to wake myself, but only succeeded in breaking through a superficial level -- no longer a dream within a dream, merely a nightmare. A game, a ghastly trick perpetrated on me by my own mind. A vitiated and distorted play of my ego to stunt my trust in nature's beauty, kill my appetite for the constant, for the One within the many, the many within the One... For the sound that I was hearing was the Niagran roar of a billion humans screaming.

This final image is changed, however, in the song 'Pure and Easy', to "a billion people cheering", in conjunction with Townshend's hoped-for outcome of the Lifehouse experiment as an unparalleled positive, liberating but also unifying experience. The negative sentiment original to Townshend's dream is, however, dealt with in the line, "Distortion becomes somehow pure in its wildness, The note that began all can also destroy".

 

31. The Song is Over

Townshend's narration in the BBC special dictates the final confrontation between Bobby and Jumbo taking place with this song. Jumbo and his men 'crash' the 'House of Life' event; Bobby is shot in the fray, but as he falls from the balcony and into the audience, the grand unified sound being translated by the synthesizing computer attains the 'Lost Chord', causing Bobby and the audience to physically disappear as they enter a higher, transcendent level of reality. All that is left behind is Bobby's blood-stained sequined gown. [BBC Lifehouse special].

I would suspect that in a film version of such a final scene, there would be unifying cuts between Bobby, Mary, Jumbo, and Dave (in his cell). According to the BBC special, Jumbo goes on to check the basement cell in the House of Parliament, where Dave is imprisoned, only to learn that Dave too has disappeared. If this is the case, the following lines may have emanated from Dave before he 'joined in spirit' those at the Lifehouse event:

The song is over

It's all behind me

I should have known it

She tried to find me

Our love is over

They're all ahead now

I've got to learn it

I've got to sing out .

Dave laments both that the love between he and Mary may be over and that the Lifehouse attendees have apparently 'gone on to the next level'. In a final instantiation of one's newfound faith conquering an earlier scepticism, Dave decides that he too has "got to learn it, I've got to sing out". He is apparently successful, as Jumbo discovers an empty cell:

Searchin' for a note, pure and easy

Playing so free, like a breath rippling by

 

32. Baba O'Riley (Demo)

The extended Pete Townshend demo version of "Baba O'Riley", which contains no lyrics, could serve as a nice 'bookend' to Lifehouse's opening track, and in so doing, might serve to convey those aspects of the Lifehouse moment-of-transcendence that cannot be suitably expressed in lyrics.

 

***

 

QUESTIONS -- UNRESOLVED ISSUES

 

1. In the Psychoderelict press kit, the following information about the abandoned Lifehouse project is written: "Several subsequent albums contain songs from the project, including: Who's Next, Who Came First, Rough Mix, Who Are You, Empty Glass, Scoop, and Another Scoop." What song(s) from Empty Glass seem to fit into Lifehouse? I believe that before the release of Empty Glass, the Who occasionally performed "Keep On Working"...

2. "Long Live Rock", "Is It In My Head?", "Love Reign O'er Me" -- Regarding Lifehouse, John Atkins writes in Generations #16:

The Who had booked time at Olympic Studios in May and June 1972 to once more work with Glyn Johns. Townshend's songs were Lifehouse and post-Lifehouse compositions. Some had been recorded in early 1971 whilst others were fairly new. We do not know what the album resulting from these sessions would have contained in detail, but the following 14 songs are likely contenders: "Pure And Easy", "Relay", "Join Together'', "Too Much Of Anything", "Naked Eye", "Love Reign O'er Me", "Long Live Rock", "Water", "Time Is Passing", "Mary", "Put The Money Down", "Is It In My Head?", "Can't You See I'm Easy" and "Ladies In The Female Jail". All but the last two songs are known to have been completed. "Wasp Man", also completed at these sessions, cannot be taken as a likely album track. When recording work was nearing completion, the feeling that the album wouldn't achieve a consistent level of quality led to its being scrapped.

While "Long Live Rock", "Is It In My Head?", and "Love Reign O'er Me" may have, in earlier forms, been intended for Lifehouse, their eventual inclusion on Quadrophenia would appear to preclude their inclusion into Lifehouse. The songs have been fitted to a new context for Quadrophenia and, for the listener, are indelibly linked to the story of Jimmy the Mod. I would argue that this is not the case, for instance, with a song like "Slip Kid".

3. "Slip Kid" -- This may be about Spinner, or some other individual with similar sentiments. The "second generation" may refer to the second generation of individuals who share the Musos' philosophy. Alternatively, this song may be referring to a 'riff' between the older, more pacifist Bobby (the "soldier at 63") and a younger, more militant Muso or Lifehouse attendee (the "soldier at 13"). If the younger individual is a Lifehouse attendee, the song might be best placed somewhere near "Put the Money Down". If the younger individual is a Muso, the song might be best placed midway through Lifehouse.

The song may also be about Jumbo (the older individual), who is otherwise underdeveloped given our current song selection. The bridge lyrics could be interpreted as the younger individual refusing Jumbo's amnesty offers, a staunch refusal brought to a head in "Won't Get Fooled Again":

Keep away old man, you won't fool me

You and your history won't rule me

You might have been a fighter, but admit you failed

I'm not affected by your blackmail

You won't blackmail me

In any event, the following lines from "Psychomontage" (compiled Psychoderelict out-takes) also appear significant:

Slip kid, slip into experience suit

Give up all your phoney freedom now

Slip kid, slip into your gridlife suit

The grid seat cover can slow things down

 

Slip Kid (full lyrics)

I've got my clipboard, text books

Lead me to the station

Yeah, I'm off to the civil war

I've got my kit bag, my heavy boots

I'm runnin' in the rain

Gonna run till my feet are raw

Slip kid, slip kid, second generation

I'm a soldier at thirteen

Slip kid, slip kid, realization

There's no easy way to be free

No easy way to be free

It's a hard, hard world

I left my doctor's prescription bungalow behind me

I left the door ajar

I left my vacuum flask

Full of hot tea and sugar

Left the keys right in my car

Slip kid, slip kid, second generation

Only half way up the tree

Slip kid, slip kid, I'm a relation

I'm a soldier at sixty-three

No easy way to be free

Slip kid, slip kid

Keep away old man, you won't fool me

You and your history won't rule me

You might have been a fighter, but admit you failed

I'm not affected by your blackmail

You won't blackmail me

I've got my clipboard, text books

Lead me to the station

Yeah, I'm off to the civil war

I've got my kit bag, my heavy boots

I'm runnin' in the rain

Gonna run till my feet are raw

Slip kid, slip kid, slip out of trouble

Slip over here and set me free

Slip kid, slip kid, second generation

You're slidin down the hill like me

No easy way to be free

No easy way to be free

No easy way to be free

[Thanks to David Barling <dmbarling@email.msn.com> for his help in formulating these ideas].

4. "Who Are You" -- The synthesizer work of this song is clearly from Pete's early Lifehouse recordings, but the lyrics are unrelated to Lifehouse. It is worth noting, however, the following lyrics from "Psychomontage", delivered against synthesizer patterns identical to sections of "Who Are You":

Who am I, where am I, who are you and you

Who am I, where am I, who are you and you

Who am I, where am I, who are you and you

Who am I, where am I, who are you and you

 

5. "905" -- As part of the Who Are You sessions, this John Entwistle song may have been intended for a second incarnation of Lifehouse (Lifehouse II). Bob Nomad has speculated -- "A disillusioned young adult -- '905' -- flees the cities and experience-suits for the countryside and finds the remnants of those who apparently were turned out of society in order to balance numbers of people with the available resources of the Grid. He's already started some organized resistance when he encounters the survivors -- the Musos -- and schemes to bring originality back to the Grid through the medium of a rock concert."

 

6. Humor in Lifehouse ("Waspman", "My Wife", "Suspicion", etc.) -- John Atkins notes that at one point in the early development of Lifehouse, consideration was given to adding an element of humor, perhaps akin to Keith Moon's 'Uncle Ernie' (and, later, 'Bell Boy') character. Atkins writes:

Pete confirmed that he was hoping Keith Moon and Viv Stanshall (ex-Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and fellow prankster of Moon) would develop a comedy element in the concept. In fact, in December 1970, Moon and Stanshall had recorded a single together called "Suspicion", so Stanshall might well have been approached with this suggestion by The Who. Another likely candidate for the role would have been Murray Rowan, a British comedy performer and close friend of Keith's, who was also tentatively drawn into the project after making a couple of albums for Track records. [Atkins, Generations #17, p. 12].

It would be interesting to see if the song "Suspicion" melded with the Lifehouse storyline (perhaps portraying Keith as a dim-witted member of Jumbo's forces?). Although "My Wife" was recorded during the Lifehouse sessions, I not sure how seriously we should consider it as a candidate for Lifehouse. Ditto for "Waspman".

 

7. The sole remaining Psychoderelict instrumental I did not incorporate into the song sequence above is "Baba O'Riley (Demo)". My only reason for this is that it is not included in the "Music Only" version of the album, and the standard version has both a voiceover from Ray High (describing the final moments of the Lifehouse concert when the crowd rushes in to catch a falling Bobby) and the studio interruption by Ruth Streeting. Both of those factors make it somewhat 'uncomfortable' for the above Lifehouse selection.

 

 

 

This page has been viewed 14710 times since 2007-10-16.


The logos and trademarks used on this site are the property of their respective owners
We are not responsible for comments posted by our users, as they are the property of the poster

Interactive software released under GNU GPL, Code Credits, Privacy Policy