Pete Townshend gave fans of The Who that follow his Instagram account an inside look at his recording studio yesterday. In a very friendly manner and utilizing his cellphone as all Instagram accounts do, Pete Townshend presented in four short segments a look at his recording studio while explaining that during the past three nights he was up to the wee hours of the morning working on particular tracks for the 50 year anniversary reissue of the band’s legendary album Whos Next and Lifehouse projects. While freely admitting that because of covid, the anniversary edition will not be released in 2021 during the 50th anniversary, he was hard at work preparing the album’s release for 2022. While an announcement of such a loved album’s reissue is huge news in itself, it was the way that Pete Townshend presented the news in such an intimate setting that made this so special….especially for Who fans.
For recording enthusiasts the Instagram presentation also served as a trip down memory lane with some of the vintage audio equipment that Pete Townshend showed off. The highlight of the clips was an old Studer reel to reel tape machine that Pete Townshend described as an 8 track but looked more to us like a 24 or at least 16 track machine. The reason behind Townshend showing off the machine was to explain the complicated process in taking the tapes and converting them to digital audio. Complicating this process was the fact that Pete Townshend and the Who along with their audio engineers used DBX sound processing during those early 1970s recording sessions.
DBX Noise Reductions processors were a common piece of audio equipment used during the classic rock era. Tape machines were very noisy and added high end hiss on many recordings. It was an issue with all tape recorders and some more than others. The DBX processors were designed to filter out the frequencies that caused the hiss. While many artists and producers embraced DBX, many others felt that DBX processors also changed the EQ on recordings coloring the sound and also eliminating so much desired high end in the cymbals and other high pitched instruments on the recordings. Additionally, if you used a DBX machine to eliminate hiss and high end you would need the same machine or equivalent to restore it. That is what Pete Townshend was explaining in the video as to what he was attempting to do with the master tapes that would provide the audio in the deluxe reissues of The Who’s Who’s Next and Lifehouse projects.
It was very interesting to also see the reel to reel tape boxes and how beat up and old they were. He spoke of the long version of “Baba O’Riley’” without vocals (the greatest rock song ever recorded in our opinion) as well as seeming to be pretty excited about the song called “Ambition,” which may wind up being the gem of this reissue.
Pete Townshend seemed to be in a very good mood as he obviously enjoys being able to broadcast directly to his fans. A showman is always a showman. He even joked about how young and handsome he looked after saying he was sorry if he looked so tired which he was.
The band’s legendary album Who’s Next was first released on August 14, 1971. It would contain two of The Who’s most famous songs of their career in “Baba O’Riley’” and ” “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Additionally songs such as “Bargain, The Song Is Over and Behind Blue Eyes” would become huge Who standards. A remastered version of the album was released on CD in 1995 that contained bonus track in addition to the newly remastered original album. Once again in 2003 another reissue was released in a deluxe version that was a two cd set that contained alternate tracks as well as a live show recorded in 1971.
The Lifehouse Project was based on an album that was never released that was supposed to be a science fiction rock opera and also served as a follow up to the band’S mighty Tommy two record set which was also turned into a motion picture in the mid 1970s. Many of the songs from the projects wound up being released instead on the Who’s Next album. Pete Townshend has spoke often about the Lifehouse Projects and released multiple configurations of the project over the years. It was all ultimately released in 2000 on a six CD set entitled Lifehouse Chronicles. It will be interesting to see where he is going with the upcoming anniversary issue of the project that was never released in 1971.
Pete Townshend Takes Fans On Intimate Tour Of His Studio article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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