18 Jul 2023
The Who Announce Super Deluxe Multi-Format Release For Who’s Next | Life House
Lavish Set On Which Pete Townshend Foresaw The Birth Of The Internet And Virtual Reality, Features Dozens Of Unreleased Treasures
The suite of songs by The Who on which, more than half a century ago, Pete Townshend foresaw the invention of the internet, of virtual reality and pandemic-style lockdown, is to be heard as he intended for the first time. UMR will release Who’s Next | Life House as a lavish, multi-format Super Deluxe edition on September 15, now available for pre-order HERE.
Featuring 155 tracks, of which 89 are previously unreleased and 57 feature fresh remixes, the set will delight longtime Who fans with its long-sought, complete picture of Townshend’s incredibly prescient songwriting, while captivating a new audience with his visionary description of a future that has, in many ways, come true. It features all of his songs, in their many stages of development, from the abandoned, audacious Life House project, started in 1970 as a follow-up to The Who’s epic Tommy, and from the undisputed rock classic of 1971 that it evolved into, Who’s Next.
Across the course of ten-CD and multiple vinyl sets, Who’s Next | Life House sets out Townshend’s extraordinary vision of a world beset by climatic catastrophe and pollution, leading to a curtailing of personal freedom that will be all too familiar to the pandemic generation. Decades ahead of his time, he details how the population is then seduced and sedated by access to an entertainment “Grid,” piped into every home via the use of virtual reality experience suits.
In his introduction to the new editions, Townshend describes Life House as “a portentous polemic about the coming of a nation beaten down by climate issues and pollution.” He then explains how “an opportunist and autocratic government enforce a national lock-down in which every person is hooked up to an entertainment grid.” Music itself then becomes an inconvenient diversion, “a very real distraction to the subjugation of the population in suits,” with fascinating consequences. Songs that depicted a dystopian world in which faceless corporations control our lives may have been fiction at the time, but they have come to be more like documentary.
The unfulfilled project, which Townshend conceived as one part film script and one part blueprint for a live musical experiment, brought him to the edge of a breakdown. But, as he writes, “some wonderful music came from the project, and the idea has always held me in thrall, partly because so many of the strands of the fiction seem to be coming true.”
Listeners will hear, for the first time, how that concept folded into Who’s Next, widely regarded as not only one of the greatest albums in the band’s astonishing catalogue, but a seminal moment in music history. Here, The Who’s instinctive, scintillating cohesion reached new peaks, Townshend’s brilliant creativity as one of rock’s great auteurs brought thrillingly to life by Roger Daltrey’s unsurpassed vocal performances, John Entwistle’s visceral, fluid basslines and Keith Moon’s fiery potency on the drums.
The Super Deluxe edition of Who’s Next | Life House will contain 10 CDs, all remastered from the original tapes by longtime Who engineer Jon Astley, plus a Blu-ray Audio disc with newly-created Atmos and 5.1 surround mixes of Who’s Next and 14 bonus tracks by in-demand artist and producer Steven Wilson.
Highlights of the 155-track format include Townshend’s demos for Life House; The Who’s 1971 session recordings at the Record Plant in New York; sessions at Olympic Studios in southwest London from 1970-1972; and, for the first time, two newly mixed and complete 1971 concerts from London’s Young Vic Theatre and San Francisco’s Civic Auditorium. Timeless highlights of those sessions and performances include ‘Baba O’Riley’, ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, on which Daltrey created the most awe-inspiring scream ever heard. Those classics continue to illuminate Who concerts to this day.
The box set also contains a 100-page hardback book with Townshend’s aforementioned introduction and new sleeve notes by Who experts and compilers Andy Neill and Matt Kent. Also included is Life House – The Graphic Novel, a newly commissioned, 172-page hardback book overseen by Townshend that tells the story behind the project. Completing the set are a 20” x 30” poster of a Who gig in Sunderland, England, on 7th May, 1971; a 25.5” x 34.25” poster of a date at Denver Coliseum, Denver, CO on 10th December, 1971; a 20-page concert programme from the Rainbow Theatre in London on 4th November, 1971; a 16-page programme from the band’s October/November 1971 tour of the UK; a collectible four pin button set; and an 8” x 10” colour photo of The Who with printed autographs.
The album will also be available as limited edition 4-LP and 3-LP sets, featuring, respectively, the first-ever complete release of the San Francisco concert from 1971 and vinyl replicas of Townshend’s original Life House acetates. The original Who’s Next album will also be available as a 1-LP half-speed remaster completed at Abbey Road Studios, and in other exclusive single vinyl versions.
With the hugely anticipated September 15 release of Who’s Next | Life House, one of rock’s great last untold stories is finally about to be recounted in full.
More information about the various formats here.
THE WHO & LIFE HOUSE
By Pete Townshend
1971. Life House was a double-barrelled project. One part film script, the other part the plan for a live musical experiment to be carried out at the Young Vic Theatre to be filmed and incorporated into the fictional movie.
After the success of Tommy, providing The Who with a very powerful and uplifting concert piece as well as a hit album, I tried to create an audacious music project that would replace it musically for stage and album. I hoped too for a movie. I framed Life House as a portentous polemic about the coming of a nation beaten down by climate issues and pollution. In a sci-fi setting an opportunist and autocratic government enforce a national lock-down in which every person is hooked up to an entertainment grid, provided with solace, food, peace, and spiritual succour. The population could enjoy this Grid safe at home, using virtual reality experience suits. Life experience programmes would be provided by a co-opted entertainment industry and piped down tubes and wires to every home.
Music is discovered to be a very real distraction to the subjugation of the population in suits. Slowly it is removed from the programming. Rebels and renegades who refuse to be compliant ride around in crude converted buses and vans, listening to rock ‘n’ roll. It is the rebels who begin to hear rumours of the “Life House,” a place somewhere in London where live music is being performed, and an outlandish experiment was taking place.
One aspect of both the story and the hopeful plan for the Young Vic live music experiment was for me as a composer to act as a computer to create tailor-made compositions for selected audience members who attended a series of workshops at the Young Vic. Two good examples of the kind of music I hoped to compose are the electronic music backing tracks of ‘Baba O’Riley’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. In the story a new leader (partly based on myself, and partly based on several technical advisors I was working with at the time) put on a series of concerts, where such tailor-made music is created, and eventually would be piped into the government Grid to allow the oppressed population to break free.
A side bar of the fiction is that many participants in the government Grid project begin to advance spiritually, partly because of the sheer number of lifetimes they can enjoy squeezed at high-speed into every moment they remain incarcerated. When the Life House experiment does reach its target, and music is secretly piped into every individual’s experience suit, a universal uprising with immense spiritual and congregational impact takes place. In the Life House itself, down at the Young Vic, the participants all disappear to a higher level.
Earlier, I used the adjective ‘audacious’ to describe my plans. In fact, the fiction and the experiment were both flawed, and neither were properly realised. But some wonderful music came from the project, and the idea has always held me in thrall, partly because so many of the strands of the fiction seem to be coming true.