Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

2. The WhoLive At Leeds

We’ve been playing The Soft Bulletin live, and you have to consider that chain of events where you make a record but then you have to become the people who play it in front of people. When I saw The Who play live in 1977, that was really a moment that changed music for me; it was no longer music, it was like a deeply religious power to me. They were still doing these songs from Tommy, in a sense like they were on Live At Leeds, where it was just utter chaos, [and] utter release. And even though people would say that at the time that I saw them they weren’t at the peak of their powers, they were powerful enough on this night. That was a life-changing, fucking devastating couple of hours of music. I walked out there like I’d changed heads.

And it’s like that on Live At Leeds. They start to discover that psychic energy: they’re feeding off each other’s energy, looking at each other, listening to each other, letting that be the reason the songs sounded the way they did. And that’s hard to do, to be an intuitive musician – you have to surrender and say yeah, it’s like this, and that’s a motherfucker, what if it sucks? You have to trust that you have it in you. So when I hear Live At Leeds I’m always reminded that these are young guys, they didn’t know that they were playing at their peak, they were just playing what they felt like playing. And the way that the volume goes up, and the way they even lose themselves – the playing is so intense that they even lose the tempo – but they leave that in the record and that’s what’s music’s about. It’s not just something that’s kept in time, it’s people making a racket. Fuck, sometimes it’s out of control. There’s moments like that on ‘Magic Bus’ or ‘My Generation’, moments in those jams that I think are some of the greatest moments of that type of rock & roll. There’s that invisible energy guiding them through this. In 1970 you probably had not heard music like that ever.

Selected in other Baker’s Dozens: Rat Scabies, Mike Watt
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