Adam 12

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The Who’s studio albums make up one of the greatest discographies in popular music, but none of them matched the raw power of ‘Live At Leeds.’ In recent years, the Who’s concerts have featured Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey with five other musicians, and sometimes, a full orchestra. Back then, they made more noise with just John Entwistle and Keith Moon. These days, you can buy an extended version of ‘Live At Leeds’ with 30+ songs. The original tracklist included just six: three covers (“Young Man Blues,” “Summertime Blues” and “Shakin’ All Over”) and three originals (“Substitute,” “Magic Bus” and a 14-minute long “My Generation”). And while we should be grateful for every last second that was captured for the full length, it was the original six-song version that inspired most of the hard rock and heavy metal bands of the ‘70s (and surely alienated some of the Who’s early-’60s mod fans).

May 16, 1970. The Who decide the best way to follow up their 1969 rock opera Tommy is with a live album. And boy, are they right.


I wrote about Live at Leeds for my Summertime ROCK series last year, and of course the seminal album landed on our list of Rock’s Greatest Live Albums (you won’t be surprised when you see where it ended up). So what else can be said about this vital album 50 years on?


It’s the simplicity of Live at Leeds that always blows my mind. It captures The Who at their absolute live peak, and it captures them as they were at the time: a four-man rock juggernaut. No backing musicians, no frills. Just Daltrey, Townshend, Entwistle, and Moon. And the crowd wasn’t even mic’d up, so the focus throughout is on the performance and only on the performance.


Live at Leeds has, in recent years, been re-released as a sprawling, 33-song epic, but the original release was just LP: 6 songs, 37 minutes in change. Again, simplicity. Townshend mixed it, choosing only the best performances, not giving preference to hits or singles. It truly is a live masterpiece. Relive it below.