"young man blues"
by the who
live in lisbon, 24 november 1996
Song X, May 1997"well a young man, he ain't got
nothing in the world these days..."
This month, Five Horizons takes another side trip in PJ land to bring you a gem from the 1996 European tour: a cut from the rare and infamous final show by "The What." (If we have to explain the joke, you haven't been paying attention!)
"Young Man Blues" is one of those legendary Who numbers. Whether as one of the high points of Live at Leeds, one of the best moments of Who's set at Woodstock, the equally excellent version on The Kids Are Alright, "Young Man Blues" is definitive Who: Daltrey's snarling, sexy, bluesman-wannabe vocals, perfect interplay of bass and drum, and ample opportunity for Townshend to go wild and innovate.
Just when I thought I'd heard everything, and that nothing could possibly top any of the above-listed versions of YMB, last week I had the opportunity to see the Who's set from the Isle of Wight Festival. Every version is different in intensity yet retains the same fierce spirit, and every version manages to tear the place apart, completely. *Every* single time.
The song, a cover of a traditional blues tune by the great Mose Allison, bears almost no resemblance to the original number except in spirit. Which is, of course, the definition of any great cover tune. And the Who's cover of YMB tells you as much about the Who as any of PJ's greatest cover tunes ("Baba O'Riley," "RITFW," etc.) tell you about PJ. It tells you what they care about, what inspires them, and what they quintessentially inspire to as a band and as musicians. Cover songs are where they can wear their hearts on their sleeve, without giving as much away as they would have to (and might not want to) in an original. And most importantly, it's the place where they can have fun, whether it's PJ running around the the stage like madmen during "RITFW" or "Baba", or Pete running around the stage and Roger twirling the microphone during "Summertime Blues" or "Twist and Shout."
the whatThe What consisted of Eddie, Kim Warnick, Kurt Bloch and Mike Musberger from the Fastbacks (and for our featured selection, Jeff joined them on bass). They played several shows during the 1996 tour, the first one being the 11/5/96 Vera show. The setlist during the Lisbon show was more old-school Who than the Vera set (and the audience certainly seems more polite). On the next night (11/25) members of PJ joined the FBX during their opening set, with Ed joining them for "Leaving Here," going all out for the occasion, as these video stills show:
young man bluesOn 11/24, The What's set starts off in great, light spirits, with the early Who classics: "I Can't Explain," "The Kids Are Alright" and "My Generation." [Editor's note: hey, how about a version of "Substitute" sometime, guys????]. The songs are dead on, perfect note for note both musically and in attitude (which is, of course, the most important thing...) Then Jeff joins them (introduced as Ed's brother "Willy What") and they careen into YMB.
And your heart stops.
And the goosebumps start to rise on your arm.
It is *that* good, that amazing, that just plain old fucking TRANSCENDENT. Close your eyes and it could be the 'Oo in their prime that you're listening to, except for the fact that it couldn't be anyone but Eddie Vedder singing. It is that pure and that perfect.
Then again, we expect nothing less.
May's Song X
To hear it, you'll need:
a copy of "Young Man Blues" in MP3 format [mp3 - 3,632K].Enjoy!
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