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Teenage Wasteland: The Who At Winterland 1968 and 1976

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Teenage Wasteland: The Who At Winterland 1968 and 1976
Edoardo Genzolini
256 Pages
ISBN: # 978-0764367359
Schiffer Books
2024

Teenage Wasteland: The Who At Winterland 1968 and 1976 is much more than simply contiguous chronicles of two concerts by the iconic British rock band. As with the deceptively attractive dust cover, half in flat and half in glossy finish, the 256 pages of photos and text within 8.75 x 1 x 11.25 inch hardcovers combine to offer a penetrating look inside the machinations of a group widely misunderstood, to a great degree, throughout its history.

In collecting writing and images depicting this pair of pivotal The Who concerts, author Edoardo Genzolini moves way beyond simply documenting his observations and sharing info from years of research. His passionate 'Introduction' is a marked contrast to the icily academic 'Foreword' by author/journalist Joel Selvin, while interviews such as the one with Sunn Amplifiers' Buck Munger—accompanied by photos of The Who bassist/vocalist John Entwistle used for advertisements—provides unusual perspective into the operations of increasingly sophisticated concert tours of the era.

Multiple stage shots carry more than a little of the sensory assault The Who generated in their live performances. Even the less-than-pristine shots on page 139 reveal The Who's early, pop-art appeal, while the various angles of the pictures on page 109 also intimate the dynamism of the quartet in action. At the same time, the comprehensive nature of the narrative illustrates how the band and its music changed over the course of the eight years covered in Teenage Wasteland.

Moving from the seminal power-pop storytelling of "Tattoo" and "I'm A Boy" to the often grandiose concepts of Tommy (Decca, 1969) is more than just a quantum leap in style. It's a metamorphosis of attitude, not only within the volatile quartet about itself and its work, but its audience(s). In February of 1968, the foursome was less than a year away from the public debut of their famed rock opera, equally eager to fulfill not only chief songwriter Pete Townshend's artistic ambitions, but the whole group's desire for greater commercial success.

As covered with meticulous scholarship here, almost eight years later to the day, The Who had achieved that massive breakthrough of popularity from the aforementioned title, a success from which they ascended even further with the release of Who's Next (Decca, 1971). Its main songs largely taken from Lifehouse, another magnum opus of guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Townshend's that did not see the light of day as a whole via The Who, the record's achievements nevertheless ratified the evolution of rock as art, not just commerce.

Moving inexorably and begrudgingly toward the status of a nostalgia act following the lukewarm initial response to Quadrophenia (Decca, 1973) subsequent and less expansive The Who recordings did not wholly replace the band's stage show as was the case with the prior two releases. But that was deservedly so: while latter-day titles such as The Who By Numbers (MCA, 1975) and Who Are You (MCA,1978) contain some fine material and performances, next to nothing on them has proven as durable as selections from the masterworks. Understandably, culls from those records are sparse at best, as shown on the setlist of page 222.

Yet if the latter-day photos by Sansara Nirvana-Murphy prove anything, it's that the kinetic nature of The Who's performances grew, almost in proportion to the drop-off in the ambition of the records. Few pictures here are definitive, but the image of Townshend on page 93 is a portrait to behold, indeed, it is one of a small number here that links this publication to The Who: The Official History (Virgin Books, 2015).

In fact, with its plethora of granular particulars, The Who At Winterland 1968 and 1976 may be in some ways a superior companion piece. The book is equally satisfying whether perusing the photos alone or reading the text by itself, largely because .there is a cinematic quality to the flow of its ten chapters plus the notes (and even the bibliography and index as sources of historical facts). Many camera sequences radiate a sense of time-elapsed photography and in so covering the activities in advance of the main events of 1968, such intervals deliver data about the earlier appearances in the vicinity (including Monterey Pop in June of 1967); those storylines are as revelatory in their own way about the growth of The Who as the sequence(s) of later events that lead up to the 'sequel' of almost a decade later, The underlying profundity of mere passing reference to the 1976 shows as the last such occasions with the late Keith Moon is all the more striking for its understatement (the drummer passed a little over two years later).

With its emphasis in providing what is, for all intents and purposes, a missing link in The Who history, Teenage Wasteland works as a panoramic snapshot of sorts. In this respect, it may not be an item for casual fans of the band, who might miss the familiarity of previously-published photos. But it is otherwise ideally suited for those followers of the Who who have thought long and hard about the band as well as its output on stage and in the studio. That demographic will thus savor the novel nature of the images, all the more so as the material derives from fans like themselves.

Comparison of performances from the threshold of the band's peak with those from the downside of its wide success also reflect the musicians' fleeting ambivalence about what they're doing, especially that of Townshend (in marked contrast to the staunch support of lead vocalist Roger Daltrey). The latter's was (and still is) a steadfast belief in The Who as an extraordinary unit unto itself, a perception only heightened in its import as it is shared by the foursome's most faithful admirers.

Therein lies a progression all its own, set out in stark relief through the main comparison of the two appearances in San Francisco venue commandeered by famed impresario (now deceased) Bill Graham. Through promotion of these shows, plus prior appearances at his smaller Fillmore West venue, the latter nurtured the British band's love affair with the city and the fans within it: witness inclusion of a December '71 concert as part of Who's Next / Life House Super Deluxe Edition (UME, 2023). 'Louder and longer' indeed.

The occasionally blurry quality of the images inside The Who At Winterland 1968 and 1976, as well as those on the front and back inside covers, communicate the whirlwind aspect of the Englishmen's stateside sojourns. And a shot of keyboardist/composer Joe Zawinul, a member of Cannonball Adderley's band in the Sixties (yet to form the groundbreaking fusion band Weather Report with Wayne Shorter), punctuates Graham's scope in billing a diversity of performers in those nascent days of concert production.

In its own indirect way, the placement of that candid photo reinforces the sensation that, whether or not the reader is listening to The Who's (or anyone else's) music while reading Teenage Wasteland, the nuance of sound reverberates through the pages, whether roaring at the high decibel levels of its main subject or otherwise providing a calmer soundtrack for contemplation and absorption of the subject matter at hand.

In a direct reflection of the multi-leveled appeal of this labor of love, both its covers are representative of the personnel in the band and its music. The flat and glossy finish of the dust cover is a mirror of the group's dynamic range, while the red cloth of the hard cover, imprinted with gold foil embossing, is emblematic of the passion underlying the attention to detail in the iconic British band's best material and musicianship.

Taken together in enclosing the content of Teenage Wasteland, the outside of this weighty tome effectively introduces, summarizes and punctuates what is inside, inviting close and repeated inspection thereof.

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