All fans of the Who know this story: after the success of their rock opera Tommy, head cook, bottle washer and songwriter Pete Townshend decided to outdo himself and announced that the band would be pursuing a project called Lifehouse.
But after that initial proclamation, history gets fuzzy. Lifehouse was partly literary genius and partly trashy pulp science fiction; partly an appeal to the best in the individual human spirit and partly based on the audience as lowest common denominator; partly computer-assisted musical wizardry and partly rock ‘n’ roll — and totally hard to understand.
Fascinating, but in the end, the whole thing got away from him. Eventually producer Glyn Johns was brought in for a salvage operation. This resulted in Who’s Next, considered by many to be one of the greatest rock albums of all time.
But even though it used a lot of the existing material, it wasn’t Lifehouse. Since then, fans, critics, and even Townshend himself have tried to reconstruct the original concept using studio bits and outtakes, live performances and the original demo tapes.
But don’t over think this one. Sometimes the best art has to keep its sense of mystery intact. Still, a little jigging of the ol’ playlist yields the basic outline of how Lifehouse might have gone.
We’ll call this …
Pure and Easy* (from Odds & Sods)
Love Ain’t for Keeping
Naked Eye* (from Odds & Sods)
Getting in Tune
Behind Blue Eyes
The Song is Over
Won’t Get Fooled Again
Start Side One with “Pure and Easy” (available on the CD reissue of The Who’s Odds & Sods compilation); follow that with the first three songs of Who’s Next; then substitute “Naked Eye” (also from Odds & Sods) in place of “My Wife,” John Entwhistle’s sole but excellent contribution. Side Two then runs as usual except insert the Side One leftover “The Song is Over” just before “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
And there you have it: All of Townshend’s contributions to Who’s Next are maintained, most of the album’s running order stays as is, and the two additional tracks give a bit more order to whatever story one might want to construct. Of course, if you’re that much in need of another rock opera, you could just skip ahead to Quadrophenia.